Galen Pearl

Galen Pearl

Galen Pearl

Living Fiction

You are the author of your own life story. ~Unknown

Someone asked me if I write fiction. No, I replied, and thought to myself, I don’t write fiction. I live it.

We all do. We tell ourselves stories and then believe them. Our emotions are rooted in the narrative. We react and make choices, live and love, fear and hate, enter into relationships and leave them – all based on what we have told ourselves about what is happening.

We rewrite history many times over, to punish ourselves over what we regret, to reward ourselves for good deeds that grow more heroic in the retelling, to hide our shame.

And we believe. My sister and I used to joke that our mother could have passed a lie detector test on some of the whoppers she told. She was her own most gullible audience.

Our most cherished tale is of course the most fundamental one – about our own identity. “I am the one who ….” Think of the instructions that give us a list of answers and tell us to check all that apply. All those checked answers make up the image I have of myself. Several images perhaps: the one I present to the world, the one I wish to be, the one I fear I really am.

We were asked in a spiritual direction group to “tell our story” and to listen with an open heart to others tell theirs. Revealing and tender. But still … stories. The deeper question is who are we when we drop all our stories.

Try it. Who am I? See every answer as the story it is. Go deeper still.

Who am I?

Until finally, you inevitably arrive and the only possible ultimate answer.

I don’t know.

And now we live truth.

20 thoughts on “Living Fiction”

  1. Yes, we are the author of our own life story. I thnk our lives are not fiction but true. However, I did enjoy reading your thoughts on this subject.
    I thnk we do spend a lot of time searching for truth and how we fit into our everyday reality. I have looked at who I believe I am and I have a multitude of the thoughts of what I am all about and also what I am not.
    Always love the challenging thoughts that you have that make me think a little deeper.
    Sending loving thoughts and hugs your way!

  2. How you have floored me with this reflection, Galen. My cousin's son and his family recently visited with Mom while I was staying with her. The memories he shared didn't jive with hers. She later told me that Mike was rewriting history. I tried to gently correct her, saying we all have our own personal perspective. And as you point out brilliantly here, our own fiction.
    Thanks so much for another compelling post.

  3. I remember my early thoughts about myself. Laying in bed I would wonder how life in my house would be if I had never been born. There were times I felt myself growing smaller as I pondered that question. How badly I wanted to be something beside "pitiful" which is what my Dad called me.
    I would not say my life has been fiction but actually reality and the only escape is to lean into Him for who I am, a child of the most High. He never calls me pitiful. Thought provoking.

  4. Thanks, Martha. I think we have all had that experience of remembering the same event differently from someone else. Sometimes I realize that I myself remember the same event differently at different times. Hope things are going all right for you and your family.

  5. LeAnn, thanks for offering your own perspective. You agree that we are the author of our life story, and go on to say that our lives are not fiction but true. Perhaps our lives are indeed true, but the stories we tell about our lives are just that — stories. Now you've got me thinking more deeply too!

  6. Betty, thank you for sharing your painful memory of your dad's hurtful words. The Bible says that life and death are in the power of the tongue. Nowhere is that more true than in the words of parents to their children. I'm glad that you have claimed a more loving parent. Thank you for commenting.

  7. Yes, Galen, I agree! We seem to live in a society now where people love or need to tell the story of who they are and how they got to be their present self, according to how they see it. And we are all to some extent expected to share our 'stories' at times, so that others can form an attitude towards us of affiliation, or alienation with many shades in-between – to box us in order to make themselves feel safe somehow. And yet what we think about ourselves and how we have to come to be who we are now is so subjective and fluctuating depending on how we see out past at any particular time in order to have made sense of it for ourselves. We tell ourselves that our stories are who we are, but they are just stories, as you say, highly edited versions of past events coloured by our perceptions at the time, and in the case of mental health these stories can be so destructively entrenched. So for me who we are is about our values, our feeling and what gives us meaning, not background, childhood, ethnic origin, job, or even family… a complex topic, Galen!

  8. This self Inquiry will probably always lead to 'I don't know' because we will always find that we are not our stories.It would seem that who we are, is what remains after that which is impermanent is removed. Our thoughts,emotions and bodies are in a constant flux ..changing continuously. I read recently that our biological bodies, with its cell structure will change completely in less then one year. Our thoughts and emotions are very unstable and seem more impermanent then the physical body. Is the story of 'who I am' just thought forms lodged in an impermanent memory bank?
    So, what remains? …an awareness of life as it happens.

    It has been said by others that we are the perceiver of thoughts, emotions, the five senses and physical form. We are pure awareness, consciousness itself (Spirit) having a human experience which is becoming Self aware and it is Self remembering.

    I don't know what happens to the fictional, impermanent, personal self. Can it be connected to what westerners call the soul? Does this false finite personal self somehow connect to a infinite soul and live on after physical death? Is there a process of reincarnation, as expressed in eastern thought, for the soul? How can we know. Or, does the consciousness, the perceiver,the awareness, dissolve back into the ocean of cosmic consciousness? It has been said that we are like temporary waves on an ocean. In this sense the wave is an impermanent energy form, on a vast ocean; it is in reality the ocean.
    These are all deep questions, Galen, and I love to ponder them but I, like you, will say 'I don't know'. Its all a mystery.

  9. Perfect description — "highly edited versions of past events coloured by our perceptions at the time." That's an interesting observation about the emphasis in recent times on telling our stories. WE use them to be validated in some way. It is complex because we want to be heard and seen and, as one person said, known. And we do this through our stories. By the way, I'm not opposed to stories — I love to tell them and to hear them. But there comes a point when we confuse the stories with truth. Thanks for your comment.

  10. Brian, what a wonderful exploration of these questions. I read that the life span of an emotion is only 90 seconds unless it is "fed" by our thoughts and stories. Your comment made me think about those lights that some people use at Christmas where a circular panel of different colors revolves in front of a light source, casting different colors on the wall or the tree or other decorations. Every few seconds, a different color. The light source stays the same, but the colors change. Thanks for commenting.

  11. Only a 90 second life span for an emotion, Galen. That is a very short chemical body reaction. I understand that emotion is a body reaction to thought. If we can control our thought we can influence our emotion. If we change our thoughts we change our life. One of the Indian Yogi guru's said that the feeling of bliss is a chemical release and we can train ourselves to release these chemicals with practice. We don't need external chemical stimulus, we have all we need within us. The kingdom of heaven is within.

    I like the example of the Christmas light, one light produces multiple expressions of the one source.

  12. One(Self)gave birth to the ten thousand things-
    -Tao Te Ching ch 42

    The ten thousand things rise and fall while the Self watches their return.They grow and flourish and then return to the source.
    -Tao Te Ching ch 16

    The one life (light) has spread out, over the entire universe. One has manifested in an infinite multiplicity. Each form is a fractal of the whole. We are it.

  13. I know — I was surprised by that 90 second information. I guess it takes that long for the initial chemical surge of the emotion to dissipate, at least in the absence of additional thoughts to keep it going.

  14. Its interesting that this idea of the one Self is talked about in the Hindu Upanishads written about the same time that ideas about Tao were written 500-800BCE and it referred to in the statement Tat Tvam Asi or 'You are that" . This idea of the one universal Self is the perennial philosophy that underlies all esoteric understanding in most religions and spirituality throughout history.One of my favorite books on this subject is Aldous Huxley's , 'The Perennial Philosophy'.

  15. Our thoughts are so important because it is what gives our subconscious mind directions to produce all the chemicals that run the body mind complex.This subconscious mind is often called the intuitive mind and it is what runs our whole being. The conscious mind with its thought can actually be a dangerous stumbling block to the proper smooth operation of this complex organism when it sends out negative thoughts. When our thoughts are in tune with Tao,in the flow, when we think positive thoughts, we are actually creating and sending the best chemical signals to our subconscious control center. This promotes optimum health and a greater sense of well being. The best book I have ever read on this subject is Dr Joseph Murphy's classic book "The power of your subconscious mind"

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