We LOVE a good story. Storytelling gets our attention. We are programmed if we only get the beginning and the middle to desperately want to know the end. That’s why soap operas and popular television series leave us after each episode with an incomplete storyline that will force us to tune in next time and the next and the next.
We also love the underdog to hero, rags to riches, relatively unknown to immensely popular stories that whip us into an emotional frenzy and feelings of “gosh if he could do it-so can I. But I know I can’t because he’s so naturally gifted”
And finally we love those folks who have managed to achieve what we THINK is impossible. Like when Roger Bannister became the first man to run a mile in under 4 minutes, or when Felix Baumgartner became the first man to free fall through space to earth or the story of the guy who in 1996 ranked the number one cyclist in the world and in the same year was diagnosed with testicular cancer; who learns weeks later that it has spread to his lungs and brain; who then starts a foundation in 1997 providing information and support to cancer survivors; beats the cancer death sentence and goes on to win the first Tour de France in 1999 followed by 6 other consecutive wins from 2000-2005.
Lance Armstrong – someone who kept us hooked for years except we also love stories with happy endings or present continuous happiness and Lance’s story has turned dark.
This is not a post about Lance. It is a post about our own stories – the ones we tell ourselves and the ones we would like people to believe. One of the lines that stood out for me in the Lance/Oprah interview was when he said he loved to control the narrative. We ALL love to control the narrative but are we telling the truth? Any narrative that we easily share is not the truth. There are the parts that we keep close, after all we say “why wash our dirty clothes in public?”
In Broken Open, Elizabeth Lesser says that the irony of hiding the dark side of our humanness is that our secret is not really a secret at all. How can it be when we’re all safeguarding the very same story? That’s why Rumi calls it an Open Secret. It’s almost a joke – a laughable admission that each one of us has a shadow self, a bumbling, bad-tempered twin. Big surprise! Just like you, I can be a jerk sometimes. I do unkind, cowardly things, harbor unmerciful thoughts, and mope around when I should be doing something constructive. Just like you I wonder if life has meaning: I worry and fret over things I can’t control; and I often feel overcome with a longing for something I cannot name. For all of my strengths and gifts, I am also a vulnerable and insecure person, in need of connection and reassurance. This is the secret I try to keep from you, and you from me, and in doing so we do each other a grave disservice.”
I know this is difficult. Rumi did too! 🙂 But most of us, Lance included, charge against different doors that appear to lead to happiness and freedom and neglect to “ram dong” the very door that will give us that which we want – the door to the self that we insist on keeping a secret.
When we hide what happens is what we’re experiencing with Lance. We can try to control the narrative up to a point and when we’re finally unable to control it – the truth surfaces and then there is chaos. When we hide our dark sides we leave people wondering: How does she have it so together? How come her marriage/family/job/life works so well? What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I get my act together? I wish I were Lance! Some people probably did! They envied the lifestyle and the goals he was able to achieve.
Elizabeth tells us “When we don’t share the secret ache in our hearts – the normal bewilderment of being human – it turns into something else. Our pain and fear and longing in the absence of company become alienation and envy and competition.”
This is MY takeaway from what happened with Lance. Dare to be vulnerable. Dare to live and not feel that you must control the narrative. Follow your own story as it unfolds before your eyes with curiosity and awe and in so doing help others to explore their own possibilities, keep pushing their boundaries and begin sharing stories that encourage everyone to unleash their own darkness and walk out of the ashes – tall, resolute, full of confidence, happy and FINALLY FREE!