Silent BobEvery notice that some people are like those dolls with the recordings in them?  You know, the one with the button in the back that you push and they say things?  Sometimes funny things, sometimes cute things, sometimes sarcastic things…  My favorite has always been the Silent Bob action figure.  It was (is?) about 12″ tall and had a button on the back.  Now the Jay figure had a button and if you pressed it he said about 5 different things from his movies, all funny, all dumb and pretty much expected.  If you pushed the button for Silent Bob, well, he didn’t way anything.  Which was all the quotes from all the movies he’d been in and a sarcastic statement on the whole talking doll thing, which is something Silent Bob would comment on.  Or at least shrug about as he tossed it over his shoulder and kept going.  It has never ceased to crack me up in its nerdy perfection.  Ahem…moving on…

People get like this over time.  If you ask them something, they start rattling off a pat answer.  Not the “Good Morning!  How are you? I’m fine, thanks,” type, but a really detailed answer about something which you can tell they’ve repeated over and over again because it rolls out of them like words from an actor.  It takes their attention and their energy and emotions somewhere else other than here, then they snap back when they are done with the recitation.  Like, “Yes, I’ve been married for 17 years.  It’s been difficult and we struggle a lot, but we make it work and it’s all worth it because of our son who’s going to college soon.”  That’s a prepackaged story that sums up this person’s identity in a nutshell.  If you prod a bit they get confused, uncomfortable, or settle in for a much longer version of the story which is just as glossy and contrived.  Or there are the shorter blurbs such as “Oh, I’ve always been fat”, “I’ve tried my best to provide for my family”, “I’m mostly a homebody and don’t get out much.”  All stories and they seem like they have developed naturally over time from experience.

But did they?  Many times these stories are not our experiences, they are given to us by family and friends and acquaintances and we accept them, try them on, give in to them and make the our own.  They are rehearsed versions of ourselves because they have to be.  Because they don’t come naturally, they aren’t organic, they don’t reflect who we actually are.  They actually point to the fact that our identity is somewhere underneath this accretion of stories.

But before we start worrying about who we actually are underneath this shell that’s been constructed for us, let’s hunt down where the shell came from.  Because figuring out who said it, ourselves or those around us can help us erase the recording connected to those buttons.  Then we can start recording new stories, authentic ones, which support us and free us and allow us to explore.  My favorite one to start with is “I don’t know” but I’m also working up to the wise sarcastic witticisms of Silent Bob.  Because sometimes the best story to tell is the one you keep to yourself.