Leaning against the building that I might not be working in anymore and having just hung up from listening to a prosecutor, I felt like I was barely breathing. I had to have a reality check. My head bent down, I whispered aloud that a prosecutor had just called and told me that I was the target of a Federal investigation. Me. A target. The words reverberated around me in a deafening way. The sense that I had an immovable white circle with a bright red swirl on my back was daunting. Anyone might see it, but I would feel it.
What am I supposed to do right then, in that moment, with this catastrophic news? Running away sounded like a great option. Who would blame me? Nobody knew the news, but me and the prosecutor’s office. Crying seemed appropriate, but somehow I was too stunned to do that. Screaming seemed like a logical option, but that would only draw attention to me and I didn’t want any attention.
I needed to call someone. I needed to take one tiny step.
The story we tell ourselves
As a kid, I loved a good story. My kids loved stories too, so I had to learn to be good at it. Storytelling takes us away from ourselves and sits us down in another world temporarily.
We tell ourselves stories throughout our lives. That constant self talk in our heads. It is a collection of beliefs, values and experiences that unconsciously create a path we expect our lives to follow. When we swerve, take detours, stop or end up in the ditch, we pay attention to how poorly our story is unfolding. When all is well, we enjoy the ride.
I couldn’t tell myself a story any more. My story ended with the prosecutor’s call. It was as if the path took me over the cliff and there was no more road to follow. I decided that rather than tell myself stories anymore. I would just do my best and let the story write itself. If you have done your best, the rest is documentation.
There are an estimated 1200 criminal justice non-profits in the US. They serve an incredible mission given the shortfalls in our criminal justice system. Most people I have talked to at these non-profits do this work because justice is personal to them. Something they have read, seen, heard or experienced wouldn’t let them go. It’s the humanity of knowing that something is not the way it should be and feeling that you can make a difference.
Simple acts done repeatedly with a purpose add up. Having a community to share ideas with is remarkable.
What story do you tell yourself and how much does it mean to the happiness in your life?