I suppose life feels a little claustrophobic right now. We are being encouraged to stay inside our homes as much as possible; we are restricted on where we can go and who we can see, and when we do go out to do our shopping, our lips and noses have to be smothered against the fabric of our facemasks.
Not only has the pandemic brought pressure, disruption and heartbreak, I think this feeling of claustrophobia is heightening our lack of freedom – we feel as though we aren’t and can’t be in control of our life right now.
But have we ever really been in control? Freedom seems to be what we are searching for, yet how can we ever feel free if we are imprisoned by the need of control?
There was a time when I used food and exercise to almost prove to myself that I had my life under control. Ironically, the more I tried to control what I ate, the calories I consumed, the weight and shape of my body – who I was – the more I swerved and skidded. Eventually it caused me to crash. I thought that since it was my life, I was the one who had the most control over it. But it turned out that there was in fact even a limit to how much control I had over my life.
The problem with control is that when we don’t have it, it causes fear and anxiety, stress and panic; we become overwhelmed and think that we cannot cope.
Does being unable to control our lives have to be a bad thing? There is something quite comforting and fascinating about the beauty of a world, full of unknown possibilities. We need to let go of the idea that we are required to have all of the answers; needing to create, and always be on top of, the perfect plan for our lives. Because we don’t. There already is a plan. There has been one all along. We already have a story.
We are all like hardback books, the ones with a sleeve that can easily rip, crumple and fall off. No matter how much damage is done to our sleeve, even if we lose it altogether, there is still a hardback cover underneath, protecting the heart of our story. But because we become engrossed in our flimsy sleeve, we forget just how strong our actual cover is. It is easy to focus on the sleeve because isn’t that the window in which the world views us through? What good is our plain hardback cover if it isn’t full of colour and images or if it doesn’t read ‘bestseller’ above the title? Don’t we need our sleeve to sell ourselves; to prove to others that our story isn’t one of failure – that it is good enough? Maybe we believe that without our sleeve (our reputation, looks or achievements) we aren’t anything…
Perhaps we are trying to make our sleeve look like someone else’s so then our story will become more like theirs too. More popular. More beautiful. More successful. But even if we were to go as far as to swap the sleeve of our story with a different one, even if it was from a novel that had won the Booker Prize, it still wouldn’t change the actual story inside.
If you were to pick up a book, rip out some of its pages or scribble out the ending, replacing it with your own, it wouldn’t change the story because you weren’t the author – it isn’t your place to change someone else’s work. The story has already been shared with the world. People already know it. The same goes for you. Your story has already been written. Your book has already been published. It was published the day you were born. You can’t rewrite history. You can’t change a published novel.
Although, if change is what you are looking for, you will find change within your story. Changes have to exist in a story, otherwise it wouldn’t be one. New characters will be introduced, scenes will be set in different places and a variety of emotions will emerge (which will most likely be accompanied by a change in weather to reflect them). Change will always be happening – it has to take place in order for the protagonist to learn and grow. If they didn’t, it wouldn’t be a story.
Maybe the protagonist will change during the story. Maybe they become a vegetarian, dye their hair pink and start listening to a new genre of music. And we too can make changes in our lives without having to change who we are as long as our intentions weren’t built on the belief that we weren’t good enough.
When you turn the first pages of new book, even though you haven’t read the ending, there already is one. Someone else already knows what happens in the end because they have read it before you, yet somehow it’s still real and personal to you as you read it. But since we can only read up to how far we are in life, we find ourselves going back over our past chapters. We get caught up in our regrets and what we wish we could have done differently, leading us to believe that we need to completely re-write our story. We think that we need to change, otherwise the rest of our story will continue to be one of failure.
But our purpose in life isn’t to create the ending to our story. It isn’t to make sure it is one of success either because we don’t need our story to become a bestseller. I believe that our purpose is to share our truth that is hidden inside our story…