Monday, May 11, 2015

You can't Control the Narrative

Hello. It's been awhile, hasn't it? Yeah, I took a break from social media for about a full month's time so I could work on a pretty substantial project (time-wise). Occasionally, and possibly more so with those of us in the creative fields, you need to make sure your head-space is clear for focus and creativity to get playing room. (This should be understandable to most though. I can't be the ONLY person who finds all the debates, jokes, and constant stream of images on social media as something that could fill up mind-space.)

But here is an interesting little thing that happened: Despite a pretty substantial and brief description of why I was away from it all, when I returned I found several messages with people voicing a whole number of reasons for my "social media sabbatical." (And some of it was just craziness that I won't go in detail with on here. Like, seriously weird reasons to NOT be on social media.)Taking that first day to ease back in and reading through these odd questions, I gained a realization that connects with something I mentioned a few months back about expectations:

You CAN'T control the narrative.

I think we all like to think that even in this digital age of sharing your life, thoughts, and information via the wondrous media platforms that you can in some way, shape, or form, create a story that describes you clearly to the world.

I am sorry to say, though, that this isn't anywhere close to the truth. And its not close to true not from a lack of you not going about it he right way. No. It isn't true because an individuals desire for constructing their narrative in the eyes of others can never overcome people's preconceived expectations.

For me, I told a short version of what I would be doing while away. But the expectation of others for me to be as present as I had been on social media, led them to feel that this explanation was NOT the full story. Those portions were required to be filled.

I have had at least a good half dozen friends who have shifted from a job, church, or location in the last 10 months and, on a very similar note, they have all ran into the odd and intriguing issue of "narrative control" that I'm describing here. You share your reason for doing something and think that you've placed a definitive stamp on it...only to find that one, two, or ten people have decided to look passed your statement of intent and begin attaching, deleting, or completely re-writing what is or has happened to fit their definition of a better narrative for YOUR story.

A part of me finds great concern in this. I recently watched a poetry piece where someone asked if Mandela would have done what he did and spent 30 years in jail and say what he said if he knew that after his death the very REAL things he said and did would be scrutinized and picked at and deleted and re-written (to some degree) by people trying to make THEIR sense of what his life was. I was floored by the thought, knowing full well that I have sat through (whether in person or online) NUMEROUS discussions by people doing this exact same thing. We are extremely comfortable with questioning every bit of a person, every action, every word, and every expression, taking a life and chopping it into chunks and then looking at each of them to try and structure a story that makes us feel good or infuriates us to no end. This is an acceptable practice. Kids do it, adults, everyone. We keep trying to define things and people BEYOND what they have said of themselves, beyond what they have shown. Its a common act to do and, in all personal honesty, a part of me is wondering if it is really something that we should be doing.

I'm becoming more and more of a fan of questioning what are beneficial pursuits of my time. I think its easy when you are young and still in the process of ironing out what exactly your niche is, to be spending time trying to express yourself in a way you might deem definitive. That yelling to the clouds how you'll be a captain of industry, or sports god, or a great family person, is worthwhile to do. You hope that in all your boisterous billowing, something will stick. And while you wait for that to happen, you can also talk A LOT about others and what they have done, how you would do it different, better, or more courageously.

Heh. Maybe its my age and the fact I feel I've seen so much of that (and done a lot too) that the sum of my observation is a realization of how much LIFE I've missed out on trying to "get" what others narratives are, lost time while trying to redefine others from MY vantage point of them.

I'm not trying to say I've solved this puzzle but maybe, MAYBE, when someone says something about why they've done certain things, its true. Perhaps, SOMETIMES, people are what they look like they are. Possibly, it is OKAY to trust what people are telling you is their reason for making the choices they do.

I know. Sometimes we DISAGREE with them. This will happen. We're all flawed creatures, prone to HIGH moments of emotional expression. Its what makes the human experience so interesting. Its part of what allows things to feel fresh and new. If everyone was the same, you'd lose that spice of life, the dramas would be less compelling and we would all TRY a lot less.

So, what is this post all about? You'll never be able to please everyone with everything you think, say, and do, but THAT'S OK. State your narrative and walk it. If others choose to not take it at face value, warp it to make themselves feel better, or attempt to tarnish the image you've put out there, SO WHAT? I have yet to see one person whom, by doing their very best towards themselves AND towards others, not eventually get to a place that opinions opposite, lose the sting of their sharpness. Your life is YOURS. You walk all those roads in your own feet, not anyone else.

Write your story. Make it good and keep it on your terms. I'll be praying for you every step of the way to make the most of YOUR life and to live it to the BEST of YOUR ability. That is something you can control. Your choices. So choose well, and choose for YOU.

- Conduct Lionhardt

P.S. - Below is some artwork to check out. Computer-scanner is on the fritz so, bare with these photographs.

Agent Peggy Carter. inks and water color on watercolor board. (Her show just got the 2nd season renewal so, YAY!)

 (unfinished) WWE wrestler, Dean Ambrose. inks on Bristol Board.

(unfinished) Nelvana of the Northern Lights, cos-player. Line art inks on Bristol Board.

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