Talk presented by Rich Hayes
Dec. 27, 2015
at Unitarian Universalist Church
Pittsfield, MA

Difficult times have helped me to understand better than before how infinitely rich and beautiful life is in every way and that so many things that one goes worrying about are of no importance whatsoever.

I gave lots of power to the notion of snow at Christmas when I was growing up. And this carried into my adult years.

If it didn’t snow my mood deteriorated. It didn’t feel like Christmas to me if there wasn’t snow, or at least it had to be cold...

Where had this come from?
I had bought into a story.

And when things didn’t unfold in the way the “story “ said it should, I suffered. I expended all kinds of emotional energy in my wishing and hoping (as if these would alter things), and then in my resisting and resenting. And of course in being disappointed.
Needless to say there were many disappointments through the years.

I fell in love for the first time when I was in High School and in my junior and senior years my world revolved around my one true love. It felt almost desperate to me at times. I wanted to be with her and the idea (fear) that she might find happiness with someone else dogged me. At the time love seemed to be about looking a certain way, saying just the right things, wearing the right after-shave, driving the "right" car. Another story bought into. More suffering.

Some of the other stories I’ve told myself are things like:
I’m no good at math, I can’t sing, I’m not very coordinated.
I find that I have had a good deal of unease and suffering based on the stories I have bought into and the ones I have told myself.

How about you?

What are some of the stories you tell yourself?

A good many of my stories originated in a time long ago and in a galaxy far, far away (my childhood).

They were based on what I knew at the time, or what others had told me or my own mistaken interpretations. And many were just plain wrong. Yet I had carried them with me into my adult life.

And I had other stories I told myself as well about the larger world and other people and the way things “should be” or how I believed they were.

Sometimes an incident from an earlier time in my life will just pop into my mind and I am reminded how I thought it was the end of the world and that things would never get better or I’d never survive.

But of course they did and I did.

I also recall some of the things that had frightened me or that I’d latched onto and worried about over and over again.
They never happened-or if they did they were nowhere near as bad as I had “awful-ized” them to be.


In my work with people who are facing the end of their life, a common theme that comes up is meaning.

What has my life meant and has it mattered? After I’m gone what will people remember about me?

Abraham Maslow wrote that the story of the human race is the story of men and women selling themselves short.

I think that when we begin to examine what stories we have been telling our self, we should also begin to ask our self what stories we’d like other people to tell about us after we’re gone.

Long after people recall what you did (job, titles, accomplishments, etc) or what you said, they will remember how you made them feel.

So in the coming days, as we prepare to say goodbye to the old year, it might be a good time to reexamine your stories. See which ones you want to keep- and let go of those that no longer serve you or others well.
None of us is here to make small of our life.

There is a greater story of which we all are a vital part and each of us has a role to play.

Our journey in this life is to create and then share the highest and best story of who we are –our authentic self-with the world.

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.
-Maya Angelou

Arundhati Roy, the author of “The God of Small Things” wrote:
“...the secret of the Great Stories is that they have no secrets. The Great Stories are the ones you have heard and want to hear again. The ones you can enter anywhere and inhabit comfortably. They don’t deceive you with thrills and trick endings. They don’t surprise you with the unforeseen. They are as familiar as the house you live in. Or the smell of your lover’s skin. You know how they end, yet you listen as though you don’t. In the way that although you know that one day you will die, you live as though you won’t. In the Great Stories you know who lives, who dies, who finds love, who doesn’t. And yet you want to know again.
That is their mystery and their magic.”

Again, I remind you, you are not here to play small with your life.

Remembering this, these are the words of Deepak Chopra,
“You have to think of your life as a kind of myth. A myth is a compelling story that is archetypal, if you know the teachings of Carl Jung. It has to have emotional content and all the themes of a great story: mystery, magic, adventure, intrigue, conflicts, contradiction, paradox.”

I wish you great adventure, mystery and magic in this coming year.