Naked from the Knees Up: The Stories We Tell Ourselves

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This one time I took off every stitch of clothes except my shoes and knee-high socks to cross a stream of knee-high water. Well, to be fair, I had a giant sombrero on my head as well.

As with all my ridiculous stories, I was running with my drinking club with a running problem. It was Cinco de Drinko and we hit a water crossing. The end of the trail and burritos were in sight and I was desperate to be done. I let two of my friends convince me that it was too deep to wade across; I’d have to swim. If I didn’t want to stand around in wet clothes, one of my friends offered to run my clothes the quarter mile down to the bridge. (I could have thrown a boulder — or my bundle of clothes — and hit the other side of this stream.)

In all honesty, I wanted to stop running and walk the long way across the bridge. My self-imposed problem was that I had set trail a couple weeks back where I made everyone swim across a creek. No biggie if I jumped in with them, but I had to back-track to grab the van and play designated driver. I felt crippling guilt that I had made them do something terrible (that they LOVED) and was looking for an opportunity to pay them back. So, I was going to swim this stream!

As both Jewish and Irish Catholic by heritage, I talk a lot about having cornered the market on guilt. The real bummer is that it’s true. I feel guilty for leaving too much food on my plate because the wait staff might think I didn’t like it. I have extensive conversations in my head with the cop who never pulls me over for going eight miles an hour over the limit. I tell my boyfriend I miss him even when I don’t because I feel guilty that I don’t miss him. Mind you he accepts and appreciates my need for solitude. What the f*ck? I will lie to protect feelings that are in no danger of being hurt.

My guilt tape is probably even older than my “you’re fat” tape. So, ladies, when does that one start getting programmed into us? Ten year’s old? Twelve?

I do not blame my parents. I label their religions but it’s more likely that it came from my empathy and my internal locus of control. Translation, “I am responsible for what you feel.”

I have carried and continue to carry that tape playing in the back of my head. I am only conscious of a small portion of the decisions I make based on this orientation. The more aware of it I become, the more astonishing it is the number of decisions it holds an influence over.

I would like to replace it with another story but all the others feel false. Of course, I don’t think I’m responsible for what you feel, but I feel that I am responsible for what you feel. I am the old lady at the casino hitting that “spin” button on the slot machine. And I will go until my retirement account is empty.

The lesson to be learned is held in the aftermath of my creek crossing. As soon as I got out, a friend offered me his sweatshirt and another his banana hammock (I’ll let you guess which one I took). The two friends who convinced me to disrobe (one of which I’m now dating) checked in with me to be sure I was okay with it all. They never thought I would do it! The whole group applauded me for being such a sucker and sang me a song. I am often regaled and celebrated with tales of this foolishness and celebrated with love for my silliness.

I might fall. I might feel like I’m alone or that it’s my job to take care of the emotional stability of the world around me. But the reality is, if someone gave me a harsh word, I could have 800 sweatshirts and banana hammocks at my disposal. There are at least 100 people I could call on the phone right now who would sign me a song. There is a man who wants to spend every day of his life with me because of my silliness. I have support. I have more support than I know what to do with.

The one caveat is, if I’m not obviously stark raving naked, I might have to ask.

Written by

Productivity/mastermind nerd, coach in Seth Godin’s Akimbo community, inbound digital marketer, former mental health professional, Hasher & Airbnb owner.

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