Words and photography by Jennifer Kresina
I was angry for a long time. The anger, red hot, simmering and boiling inside of me, stayed long after he was gone, starting a new life in a far-away land. I let it stay there, nursed it even, because I was scared of what laid underneath: hurt. If I wasn’t careful and let the flames of anger die down to softly glowing embers, the hurt would swell up, crashing over me like a giant wave. As the wave came down, it brought, floating within, a sea of memories: the unanswered messages for days, the times he made plans and stood me up, the way his actions and inactions spoke much louder than his words, the way he left without even saying goodbye.
My memories of the painful and slow breakdown of our relationship always left me with the same question, “Why did he treat me this way?” A small voice deep in my subconscious would say, that somewhere, somehow, along the way, after the years of being friends, the months spent in confinement together or in the strange new world of corona, he decided that I wasn’t good enough. After trusting him, letting him in and allowing myself to be vulnerable, I was rejected. The thought was too painful to bear.
The more I pushed the memories away, the more persistent they became. Alone, in the late hours of the night, I found myself searching for that fatal flaw. Maybe my life was too complicated. Maybe I wasn’t attractive enough. Maybe my job wasn’t good enough. Maybe I wasn’t funny, kind or fun enough. These thoughts were painful and unwanted. I needed to push them away, so I would pour myself a glass of whiskey and wait for the anger to come and with it, that sweet amnesia.
“There is no objective, almighty truth. There is only life as we see it. We are, in essence, the stories that we tell about ourselves.”
Whiskey indulgent nights became more frequent as the questions of my self-worth kept rearing their ugly head. I was in a freefall, a continuous downward spiral of bitterness and negativity. I was plagued by self-doubt and growing tired. Tired of fighting. Tired of trying to prove myself. Tired of everything this year had brought us.
One particularly lonely night, on the phone with my sister, the whiskey not quite strong enough to keep my demons at bay, I repeated these questions. Confused, she asked me what I was trying to prove because I was none of those things. With my thoughts spoken aloud, that little voice of self-doubt suddenly seemed so silly and absurd. Why did I care what he thought of me? Why did I assume that I even knew what he thought of me? I realized that I had been trying to write his story, but from my perspective. I had no real idea of what his side of the story was or his reasons for treating me the way he did and I probably never would. Why was I letting what someone may or may not think about me influence my feelings of self-worth?
Emerson once wrote, “There is properly no history, only biography.” There is no objective, almighty truth. There is only life as we see it. We are, in essence, the stories that we tell about ourselves. Our internal dialogue of what we can and can’t do, of what we are and aren’t, determines the limitations or the endless horizons of our future. The narrative we write of ourselves, of being unlovable, too fat, too thin, too tired, too stupid, too slow, too old, too good, too broken, will become, inevitably, our truths. We have the power, like any good storyteller, of making the imaginary real, of making manifest our own destiny, of changing the truth if we change the story.
This past year gave us plot twists that no one, not even the best writers, could have anticipated or imagined. We were all caught off guard. Most of us lost something. Some of us lost everything. We were divided, alone and in fear. Although this past year can’t be erased or rewritten, each and every one of us can turn the page and start a new chapter. Let us throw away the pages of the narratives that don’t serve us and delete the can’t, aren’t, shouldn’t, wouldn’t and couldn’t.
As this year comes to an end, my wish and my hope, is that each and every one of us will take pen in hand, with determination and conviction, and write the story of our future. Stories in which we are not victims, but survivors. Stories of the compassionate world we will create and the loving, worthy and caring characters we will be within it. Stories of how our greatness, our talent, our compassion, for ourselves and for others, will be fully realized. It’s time to throw away the pages of the narratives that don’t serve us. If there’s one thing we learn from this year, let it be the knowledge that we control the narrative of our lives and we, therefore, have the power to shape our future. As we ring in this New Year, let us remind ourselves that now, more than ever, is the time to start writing stories worth reading.