Exploring your story
(and the rhino in the room)
Sometimes your life is so close to you that you can’t see a thing. There are too many alarms, calendars, schedules, and deadlines. Time runs by at a furious rate, with cell phones and work and Sunday nights in front of the TV taking up so much of your existence that… well, it’s impossible to step aside and say, “What’s really going on?”
There’s a problem, but you think it’s your imagination. At times it’s a tickle, a flicker, a blurred feeling or slight shadow of movement and nothing more. A problem isn’t real until it exists.
At times you can’t avoid it. There’s that rhinoceros in the living room and no reflection in the bathroom mirror. Rhinoceros? No reflection? God knows there’s something wrong. But you ignore the beast and absent self and maintain pace with the rest of the world. There’s no time for questions.
Occasionally you know. “Why is there a rhino in my living room, and why am I invisible in my mirror?” That’s when you stop to shake your head. There’s a deeper dilemma here, and you see it all too clearly. You have a Predicament.
What does this predicament look like? It’s not a rhino or a mirror. They’re just symptoms. Look around you! What do you see? Is it something vague, like a blood-red pigment that’s taken over your reality, with tendrils so woven into life’s details that Existence itself seems to bleed? (That’s a mouthful, sorry.) Or is the problem a pressed-down sack you carry on your shoulder each day? What’s your predicament? What problem crops up each time you stop and wonder where you are?
Once you know this, close your eyes, your existential eyes, and listen as the story unfolds…
The library of libraries is a book-filled paradise. Its walls carry the testimonies of all humans, those who’ve lived and those who will live. Each soul has his own book.
Your Book is thick with a hundred thousand words, your name printed in bright blue letters across the cover.
What’s your Book about? Where does it start, and where does it take you? What’s the tone? What vocabulary does it employ? Are there photos, pictures, graphs, musical notes, drawings, stickers (the kind that smell good), and CD’s? Is it written for you, or by you?
Nope. We don’t write our own plays. In fact, we are the actors, but we never get to read the script. What’s the storyline? Who knows? All you reckon is there’s a rhinoceros in the living room, you can’t see yourself in the mirror, and you’re struggling with a Predicament. That’s enough already.
By profession he reads: that’s what a Reader does.
The Reader doesn’t speak English, but that doesn’t matter. Your book is written in his idiom, and he knows it’s a page-turner. The Reader takes your book off the shelf.
He knows nothing of your culture. Maybe he’s from the past, a remnant from the high Classical period 2500 years ago. The Reader doesn’t understand the function of a cell phone, the meaning of identity theft, or how child support payments fit into the way things work. The terms “TV” and “Bitcoin” mean nothing to him. Online education and Tweeter-driven politics don’t, either.
Or perhaps this Reader is from a faraway future instead, a place where internet and microchips have long since been replaced. He doesn’t understand cell phones, identity theft, or child support payments either, and the terms “TV” and “Bitcoins” still mean nothing to him. Online education and Tweeter-driven politics are as foreign to him as his world is to you.
The Reader knows only wisdom, objectivity, and compassion, and he offers you these as solace. They’re gifts.
He finds a comfortable spot and starts reading.
Your book is filled with secrets, each unfolding beneath his fingers like a letter of confession, but he’s not here to judge. He might not understand every reference and supposition, but the Reader knows too much about life to render opinion. He knows you’ve suffered.
He reads of your triumphs and passions. They also unfold as he turns the page, this time standing out like proud parents sharing your greatest trophies. His compassion drives him to lean back, shake his head, and smile. Each new discovery, every good act, all goals and dreams you imagined and reached, they all make your story worthwhile. Even then, he rests on your successes temporarily. It’s the Now he’s after.The Now
It’s taken the Reader hours of obsessive reading to reach the Now. By this time he’s picked up on the soap opera, roller-coaster aspects of your life. He’s hooked. You’re his favorite character in the book, and he desperately wants to see how your story turns out.
What does the Reader see as he turns the pages?
He doesn’t carry modernity’s baggage or society’s misperceptions, but he understands complexity — without getting lost in the smoke. He can see the world for what it is: a large place filled with human beings, where rhinoceroses roam free in living rooms and mirrors don’t always reflect what’s before them.
The Reader can see the smoke too.
He understands there are tangible and wild creatures in our lives we don’t always have control over. The rhinoceros belongs to you. It also belongs to the neighbor who’s just had a car accident, the mother of three who’s dying of AIDS, the priest’s son who’s relapsed again, and the therapy dog’s urgent need to guide its master properly across the street. It’s a heavy beast, this rhino, leaving destruction in its wake.
The Reader recognizes empty mirrors too. Seeing your reflection means taking on internal battles, often horrible things, issues you really don’t want to touch with a ten foot pole. Your lack of reflection is about thoughts and feelings, where depression, rage, obsessive compulsive disorder, PTSD, and alcoholism reign, where insecurity and life questions emerge. Where am I going? What am I doing wrong?
The Reader gets it. He sees the questions for what they are, a need to survive.
Yes, we’re still with that predicament. That’s why the Reader’s here, isn’t it? He reads this section of your story carefully, considering every word, revisiting the more complicated parts and taking notes when necessary.
What does a (wise, objective, compassionate) stranger know about your dilemma? He reads it and grasps it fully. He sees it with larger eyes, broader perspective, more distant regard than you yourself ever could.
What does he say? The Reader’s language resounds with clicks and clacks, impossible dipthongs that sing at the ear and fall like math upon the brain. Somehow you understand him.
He describes your external reality in detail, his words a thread of comprehension as he weaves your story into spoken word. External reality is the world around you, right? It’s also the rhinoceros in your life, and it stands in your living room to remind you it’s there.
The Reader has oh-so-much to say. A medley of words flash past you, all linked to external reality, and as they fly by, you wonder if some of them are yours. You listen:
- Who’s sick? Is it a friend or family member, or you?
- What’s that looming deadline, the one that keeps you awake at night?
- What of the computer that needs to be replaced, the house that needs to be sold, or that report that needs to be written?
- What of unpaid bills, work stressors, education failures, and dreaded family reunions?
- What about toxic relationships?
Does this sound right? If not, who are you? What’s your world like?
The Reader leans forward. He’s emphatic. What of your internal reality, the one you see in the mirror? That’s the world of thoughts, feelings, attitudes, and sensations that reside in your head. Another flood of questions rush at you. You listen, and find that some were meant for you:
- Why do you put off this passion, the one your soul needs to stay alive?
- Where does your melancholy come from? What thought has you imprisoned behind cognitive bars?
- What about those nerves that leave people breathless and shaking? Have you reached out for help for those panic attacks?
- How about cravings and relapse that keep hitting you while you’re down?
- What about that desperate poetry that won’t make its way onto paper? You’re not writing, and it’s killing you.
There’s too much, and you listen as a whirlwind of struggle threatens to blow you away. Any of this sound familiar? If not, who are you? What internal struggle ails you?
More about your Predicament
It’s your life story, but you’re too close to life, too close to the rhino and the mirror, and all you can see is a broadened rhino horn and mirror glass without reflection.
The Reader stands a distance away. He has vision. He can see the creature’s rounded body, high shoulders and thick legs, the gray spots on its rump, the frustrated look in its eyes. The rhino isn’t happy to be part of this article. It would rather be off munching grass.
The Reader can also see you’re standing on the wrong side of the mirror. If you step out in front of it, you might get a better view.
There’s more. There always is: what can the Reader see that you can’t? Think beyond your own eyes, think and think hard. What perspective are you missing?
Imagine an outsider looking at your Predicament. He sees it from the left, right, upside down, and inside out. What does he see? Imagine your worlds shifting on their axes, external and internal worlds, then take another look.
You see questions and answers, though only some belong to you:
- Maybe problems finding work are a blessing in disguise? Could it be time to start that business you’ve been dreaming about? Or maybe destiny wants you to go back to school?
- Could your struggle with Lupus or Asperger’s or grief or a criminal history lead you to help others in the same dilemma? Consider joining an advocacy group or starting your own.
- Does your accident, trauma, tragedy, or victimization warrant sharing your story in writing? Start with page one and keep writing. Maybe it’s meant to be.
- Is your heart broken? Have faith that fortune has amazing plans for you.
- Doubting the existence of your god or gods? Perhaps destiny has challenged you to think, because thought is where you’ll find the answers you most need.
- Are your memories fading, your health waning, your looks disappearing, or your passion for life ebbing away? If it seems downhill from here, the Reader can tell you otherwise. Great moments lay ahead of you. Take a stand and fight for life. Practice thinking games and take cognitive enhancing medication. Choose to be amazing and healthy. Exercise, eat well, and take care of yourself. Never give up. No matter where you are in life, loss of passion is temporary, and temporary is tolerable.
What’s your Predicament, and what does the Reader see that you can’t? What advice does he offer? Listen for his words, my friend. Pay attention! What is he telling you?
If you aren’t sure, consider stepping outside your life, moving outside time, sliding as far away from yourself as you can, and look at your life from a distance. Do you see the size of it? Will this issue matter in ten years?
His message is like a fresh pair of prescription glasses. Suddenly your life comes into focus. You know what you have to do.
Your Reader has spent hours, if not days, absorbed in your story. Every printed word, photograph, drawing, diagram, smelly sticker, and graph has meaning for him. He feels like he’s walked in your shoes a lifetime, that you and he share kinship, and it pains him to close the book without finishing it. Like you, he can’t know the ending, not yet.
Does he share a final word? If so, is it advice, or simply a comment? Maybe it’s gratitude. “It was an honor to share these moments with you.”
With that, he’s gone. Good bye.
The rhino is gone too, for that matter, and finally you see a reflection in the mirror. It’s a soulful set of eyes that stare back at you, wise and objective and compassionate, and you realize that person is you.
Perhaps you’ve recognized the problem (something far beyond a rhinoceros and bad reflection in a mirror) but don’t know what to do about it. If so, your best bet is to deal with the problem. Change your environment, alter behaviors, use distraction, problem-solve, or think your way through it. Consider ways to change your perspective or deal with the worries. Mindfulness, yoga, tai chi, and muscle relaxation can also be helpful. If you’re still at a loss, you might want to get in touch with a therapist or counselor. They can assist you through transitions, trauma, and other problems. You don’t have to do it alone.