The thing about memory is that it can be so tricky, as we know.
It rewrites itself in mysterious ways. In the wormholes.
And every so often I set off on another internal investigation, only to discover that I am, yet again, wrong about so many things.
That second time I got fired.
The interviewer is very nice. Compassionate, curious, an asker of quiet questions.
And here we go.
The interviewer: Would you be willing to talk about getting fired from the bar? What happened there?
Me: Well, I threw a giant stack of coasters at someone’s head. Hit him straight in the forehead. Just about knocked him off his seat.
The interviewer: *cracks up laughing*
Me: You have a very infectious laugh. And yes, I guess that is kind of funny. It wasn’t really at the time. But yes. Okay.
We both giggle for a while.
The interviewer: How many coasters?
Me: I don’t know. Fifty? A pretty thick stack. I just picked them up and nailed that guy right in the head.
The interviewer: And what happened?
Me: He was stunned. Everyone thought it was hilarious. He left me a giant tip. And apologized for whatever asshat thing he had done to provoke me, which of course I don’t even remember now, even though I’m sure it was totally justified and a long time coming.
The interviewer: But then you lost your job for it.
Me: Oh god no. That wasn’t the kind of place where something like that even registered. I mean, it was out of character for me, but it wasn’t a firing offense. I don’t even think anyone cared.
The interviewer: But that’s when you left.
Me: Huh. I guess I didn’t get fired. I left.
The interviewer: Wow. And all those years we thought you’d been fired.
Me: I know! Weird, right? I didn’t get fired! But really, I probably should have been.
The interviewer: You think?
Me: I was really burnt out. And really angry. Every minute I stayed was doing more damage. It was better for everyone involved that I leave. And the person I was becoming was kind of scaring me, to be honest.
The interviewer: What was good — or useful — about leaving when you did?
Me: It was time to go. It broke a cycle. It interrupted a pattern that was hurting me.
The interviewer: And what was hard about leaving when you did?
Me: Ahahahaha. You know in a film noir when the protagonist makes some tiny, seemingly meaningless decision that then launches him into a series of irreversible consequences that ultimately lead to his doom? That’s what this was.
The interviewer: Because of this.
Me: That’s the point where it started. Everything got worse. And it kept getting worse for a looooong time before it got better.
What’s true and what’s also true?
The interviewer: Is that true, do you think?
Me: Of course it’s true! I was there. That was the first step in a chain of awful, awful events that just got increasingly more awful.
The interviewer: Alright. And what else is true?
Me: Argh. What else is true? Let’s see. That possibly all that crappy stuff might have happened anyway. Or that if I knew how to approach burnout differently, I could have avoided the cycle of doom, but I had already pushed myself so far beyond the limits that I wasn’t really there anymore.
The interviewer: Let’s talk about Herodotus.
The interviewer: You know what I mean.
Me: Oh! Direct cause and indirect cause. You’re suggesting that I’ve retroactively assigned direct cause back to this one particular day when I supposedly got fired (even though I didn’t). But actually this event might not have been a cause of what followed — or maybe only an indirect one?
The interviewer: When is it useful to tell your story? When does telling the tale of what happened to you become something positive, powerful or therapeutic?
Me: When it allows you to process your experience, release pain, identify distortions (or misunderstandings), and respond to your self-from-then with love.
The interviewer: And when are these re-tellings of our personal histories less useful?
Me: Well, when we aren’t curious. Because then we’re just solidifying and reinforcing the existing unexamined narrative.
The interviewer: What is possible here, now? What can come out of this telling of your story?
Me: I’m not sure. It’s probably useful to know that I didn’t actually get fired. And that I didn’t seal my fate of doom. And that I’m not actually in a film noir, even though that whole year was unbelievably hellish. I’m here now.
The interviewer: And how is now different from then?
Me: Oh! I see. When things are rough, I think I’m launching a Cycle of Disasters. Like in Nobody’s Fool when Sully goes on a stupid streak. What if there is no stupid streak? What if messing up once doesn’t mean it’s all going to be messed up?
Retelling the retelling.
The interviewer: How are you going to tell this story now?
Me: Uh, I threw a bunch of coasters at someone’s head and he left me a giant tip and burnout is not good for me THE END?
The interviewer: Anything else?
Me: I don’t know. I will have to pay attention and investigate the narrative to see what patterns live there.
The interviewer: You know what I like about you?
Me: I don’t know how to answer this question, but you are the best interviewer ever!
The interviewer: You interact with things. Even the painful ones. But you don’t force anything.
Me: That’s the idea.
The interviewer: I just wanted to say that you’re going about this in a really good way so that later when you think this is crazy and you don’t want to post it, you’ll remember that it’s useful.
Me: Thank you.
And comment zen …
This is my own internal process. I’m not sharing it in order for it to be analyzed, or to be told what to do or to solicit theories about what’s wrong with me.
I share it in the hope that some aspect of it will be useful for other people who are also working on their own whatever-it-is.
As always, we all have our stuff. We’re all working on our stuff. It takes time. We keep this space safe by not giving each other unsolicited advice.
Things that are welcome: your own stories and experiences (especially about how tricksy memory can be), thinking out loud about this thing that is conscious self-inquiry, apple juice.
I really want some apple juice.
That’s all. Love to all the commenter mice, the Beloved Lurkers and everyone who reads.