Well, here we are again. December 31. We’re coming up on that kind of trippy moment where the day, month, and year all change over at the same time. We’re at the end of one chapter, and we’re about to turn the page and start a new one.
Okay so speaking of chapters. Books are made up of chapters.
Okay so speaking of books.
We generally don’t start reading books from the middle. We start from the beginning, of course. However, if we were to pick up a new book, open it to the middle and start reading, we wouldn’t be surprised when things didn’t make sense. We wouldn’t know anything about the characters. We wouldn’t know who they were, let alone why they were the way they were. We wouldn’t know what they had been through or what storyline they were in the middle of now.
And without going back and reading the first half of the book, we would intuitively just understand that we didn’t have the whole story.
People are kind of like books.
You’re in the middle of living out one of the chapters of your life, and everyone around you is doing the same. Every single person. And as you interact with the people around you, you become a sentence in their story and they become a sentence in your story. And then you both go on and become sentences in other people’s stories, and they in yours. And those people’s stories are written around the people they came across before they came across you. And so on and so forth.
It’s basically just a big jumble of words and sentences and paragraphs without any context. It’s messy.
We spend a lot of time stuck in our own books trying to make sense of our own stories. Our own brilliant, devastating and everything in between, stories. Our stories consume us, and because they do, and because beyond our own books is that big jumble of words and sentences and paragraphs without any context, we lose sight of all the other stories taking place around us.
While we’re keenly aware of how other people are written onto the pages of our own lives, sometimes we forget that the reciprocal is also happening. We often don’t get to read more than a sentence or a paragraph of someone else’s book, and so we forget that they’ve lived through pages and pages of their own brilliance and devastation and everything in between.
Every interaction we have with another person is like picking up their book and starting to read it from the middle. There is always more to the story.
You’re probably familiar with the YouTube Rabbit Hole. You know how when you watch something on YouTube, suggestions about what to watch next show up…and then you watch one of those…and then that next video has more suggestions…and you open a few in new tabs but each new video in each new tab has its own suggestions…and then all of a sudden it’s 3am and you have 20 tabs open and what have you even spent the last five hours of your life doing and on that note what are you even doing with your life???
Trying to make sense of the stories of the people around us, that big jumble of words and sentences and paragraphs, well it pretty much goes the same way. Is that person upset because of what you said? Or is it because of what that other person said to them yesterday? Or is it because what that other person said yesterday reminded them of that terrible thing that happened last year? And on and on because of all the words and sentences and paragraphs and all the people walking in and out of each other’s books.
It’s a rabbit hole of its own. We will never know the whole story.
But we really don’t need to.
The last meeting I had with my health mentorship program students was centered around my story. After I’d rambled on for a long time about a lot of things that had happened, one of the students commented on how one of the challenges of clinical practice is that they’ll never have the opportunity to actually get a patient’s story. Not just the part of the story that explains why the patient is there and what they need that day, but their whole story. The story that includes how they got to where they are.
The demands and time constraints of their jobs mean they will never get to know the whole story. But I’m going to tell you, now, what I told them, then:
You don’t need to know what someone’s story is to know that it exists.
The thing is, no matter how long we’ve known someone or how well we know them, we will never read every single word of their book. Most of the time we don’t even get to read an entire chapter, but rather we get a few sentences here and there. Maybe a paragraph or two.
But that can be enough. Because we don’t need to know what the story is. The pages are still there even if we never read them, and recognizing that is what makes all the difference. Simply remember that the story exists. And respect its existence.
Other people’s stories.
Our own, too.
And so. Here we are once again. The day, month, and year are all about to change over all at once. New sentence, paragraph and chapter. But our lives continue. The stories continue. Mine. Yours. Everyone’s. None of them more important than any other.
May 2018 be the year we honour them all.
10, 9, 8, 7…
Turn the page.
6, 5, 4…
3, 2, 1.
Happy New Year!