Let Go of the Story in Your Head

Selfie of Adam in front of Costa Rican landscape overlooking Pacific Ocean and Uvita Beach

I got COVID for my birthday this year.

Yeah, no shit.

I drove about four hours from where we live in Panama to Uvita, Costa Rica (plus two hours of hellish border crossing that required more paperwork than adopting a child). Spent a few nights there at the beach by myself — I really enjoy my own company. Then I made another four-hour push to San Jose to rendezvous with my wife who was flying back from the states just in time for my birthday.

We had a couple nights booked in the city where we would galavant through the museums and markets — take in some art and culture. My birthday is the one day of the year when my vegan wife will accommodate me to a steakhouse and watch me take something down like a lion in the Serengeti. I was definitely looking forward to this.

Next, we had a few nights booked at some new-age hippy, organic, jungle farm, yoga retreat center where they listen to the flowers and sing to your chakras and whatnot. Waterfalls, butterflies, hammocks, and chocolate. I’m into it.

However… I must’ve scooped the VID on a street empanada en route, and I started feeling like dog shit literally hours before her flight landed. I quick-fast started slamming vitamins, supplements, advil, sudafed, hot tea, lozenges, and anything I could throw at it. Surely this isn’t coronavirus, I thought. I had been so careful.

But Rebecca had an at-home test kit in her luggage that I promptly took (just in casies), and sure enough, that thing was double-line, A+ positive with no room for ambiguity.


Why Accepting Reality Is Helpful

I think suffering lives in the space between reality and the way you think life is supposed to turn out. Our expectations and the stories we create about ourselves and our experiences can often hold us hostage in a painful shit-cycle of non-acceptance, self-pity, and indignation. They can also convince us to make some poor life choices that ultimately harm ourselves and others.

It’s also my personal experience that all self-destructive coping mechanisms stem from a desire to avoid reality — resistance to existence, if you will. So at that moment, in our hotel room in San Jose, 10:00 pm on the eve of my birthday, we decided to cancel everything and drive home first thing in the morning.

But even before that, I had to notify a few people of my test results. I just had lunch that day with a dear friend, his wife, and his ten-year-old daughter. I had hugged all of them and chatted with them for hours. Oof. I felt so embarrassed and guilty to have exposed them all to my funky-ass germs. But here too was a story in my head about how perfectly cautious and considerate I was. Had to let that story go, along with the story of the Costa Rican birthday week I had been looking forward to.

Why Crying Is Helpful

Developmental psychologist Gordon Neufeld writes in Hold Onto Your Kids about the “tears of futility” that bridge the gap between frustration and acceptance, leading to maturation and growth. Those tears act like some kind of neurotransmitters that allow your brain to register that your “story” isn’t aligned with reality anymore. It’s like the tears themselves usher in the acceptance we need to move forward.

People who can’t cry (or refuse to) usually feel emotionally stuck, numb, or stunted in some way.

My wife must’ve arranged for everyone to mail my birthday cards to where she was staying in the states (we don’t have addresses and mailboxes in Panama). Her unyielding thoughtfulness lends itself frequently to gestures like this. So on the morning of my birthday, she handed me a big old stack of birthday cards and said, “These are all from the people who love you.”

And that’s when the tears came.

Yeah, our Costa Rican vacation and my birthday week were trashed. There was a strong chance I had infected some other people and an even stronger possibility I was gonna pass it on to my wife. I was about to spend my whole ass birthday driving back to Panama with a 3M mask strapped to my head. And I’d likely spend the next two weeks locked in our guest room by myself.

But all that paled in comparison to the love I felt while reading my cards. And every tear felt like evidence of my indisputable worthiness and lovability. I just knew in my bones there was nothing I could do or not do at that moment that could make any of those people love me less.

And perhaps this was just the reminder I needed — to never stop loving myself, no matter what.

Letting Go of the Story

I cannot overstate the lengths we went to in order to drive our car across the border. We had to get documents drafted and notarized, purchase additional Costa Rican insurance. Had to visit various municipal buildings — treasury, customs, transit authority, etc. and obtain obscure documentation to verify import taxes from fourteen years ago and all kinds of mundane shit (all not in English, mind you). I literally needed to have a copy of the receipt from when I purchased our license plates. Who the hell keeps that receipt? This all took a solid month to prepare.

Then the border itself was an absolute dumpster fire that I won’t even get into. But suffice it to say it’s a God’s honest miracle that anyone crosses that fucking border, ever.

And yet, after months of research, planning, preparation, time, money, and effort, this abrupt plot twist could have caused a lot more havoc than it did. My wife could’ve murdered me with a tire iron, for example. But thank God we both actively work at becoming the most compassionate versions of ourselves and regularly practice accepting what is.

I’m very grateful that Rebecca was able to let go of her story about how our vacation was supposed to turn out, too. When she gets sucked into a story that doesn’t match reality, it’s easy for me to assume it’s my job to smash reality with a hammer until it makes her happy. This is an old habit of mine that seems to operate in direct proportion to the amount of shame I’m currently feeling.

But when I love and accept myself unconditionally, I can extend that same love and acceptance to her, to others, and to whatever circumstances I find myself in.

Stories: For Entertainment Purposes Only

My wife just called me on the phone from upstairs (because I’m quarantined) and asked what I was up to. I told her I was writing this week’s blog article.

“About what?” she asked.

“Getting COVID for my birthday — it’s a good story.”

She laughed in disbelief.

“Ok,” I admitted, “so maybe right now it’s a terrible fucking story because we’re still in it. But one day, it’ll be a good story. I’m pretty sure.”

“Yeah, one day,” she said, “but not today.”

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Published by Adam

Mentor, coach, speaker and educator for over 12 years. I have recovered from and triumphed over many obstacles and afflictions. It brings me tremendous joy to help others overcome similar circumstances so they can live their best lives.

8 thoughts on “Let Go of the Story in Your Head

  1. Adam, you never cease to amaze me with your honest, raw words. Feel better, take care of yourself and happy(ish) birthday

  2. Wishing you a happy new year of being Adam, and blessings to the beautiful Rebecca. ❤️

  3. Every lap around the sun is a blessing, glad those messages shook away the black cloud Covid disappointment party. Love you homie.

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