“Despite the habitual turning away, the ‘now’ is always better than the story about it…Because there is no way to engage with, move on from or handle the to-ing and fro-ing of a story.” — Geneen Roth
I got stuck on this passage in Roth’s Women, Food and God. So stuck, in fact, that I misstepped on the treadmill and nearly catapulted off the back. I read and re-read it, feeling like the words were identifiable, but the meaning was beyond my grasp. Then it sunk in. There is NOW. And then there is our STORY about NOW.
TELL ME A STORY?
Anxiety is a sign that we are either revisiting the past (“why did I have to say that to my boss?”) or projecting into the future (“have I ruined my career? How will I ever find another job? What if I end up destitute and homeless?”) We spend untold hours ruminating on our mistakes, and negatively predicting future outcomes. All of this cognitive energy prevents our presence in this moment. And in this moment, we are absolutely fine. We may be sitting on the couch, snuggled in comfy clothes, listening to soft, doggy-scented snores. We may be cutting an apple for our toddler’s snack, or folding laundry or paying bills. Whatever we are doing in this moment, we can be present to it, or we can be creating a story about it. This moment is rich with sensation, emotion, thoughts and beliefs. We can feel this moment in our bodies, through our breathing. The story is unnecessary, and yet, when I reflect on troubling moments in my life, events that still squeeze my heart with regret or pierce my gut with fear, I realize my memory is less about how I truly experienced the event and more often about what I’ve told myself about it. My story distances me from my truth. It lays a gauzy film over what I felt and thought and did, making the essence of the experience more like a waking dream than a lived event. My stories can be exciting or frightening, morbid or hilarious. But whatever they are, they communicate only a version of the truth that is so much less than the actual realness of those moments. Inside the “now”, I can feel and taste and smell and intuit the wisdom and grace that surrounds me. My story, no matter how fantastic, can never come close. My story can, and should, change over time, with insight and new life lessons that allow for new perspectives. But this moment, this now, is meant for me to live. I can leave the storytelling to someone else.