I have a secret love affair with some Taylor Swift songs including this one - because it's such a perfect vignette on those “getting to know each other new love” days. There's a moment where you do the sharing of stories - and it's not just past boyfriends or girlfriends, it's stories that shaped you or are still funny years later or are “classics” among your friend or family circles. Today's post is dedicated to both the song and the concept of the stories we share - “Photo album on the counter Your cheeks were turning red You used to be a little kid with glasses in a twin-sized bed And your mother's telling stories 'bout you on the tee-ball team You told me 'bout your past thinking your future was me And I know it's long gone and there was nothing else I could do And I forget about you long enough to forget why I needed to” I told you guys in my last post about my pandemic / grief induced anxiety and my hopes of conquering it and seeing a girlfriend for dinner and drinks. Well, I'm pleased to say I did it! I met my lovely friend of 15+ years, Kate, for dinner and martinis and it was fabulous.
I have no idea why I made it out to be such a bigger deal than it needed to be…. But I'm glad I went. Glad I'm past that milestone. It was great to catch up and great to have a slice of “normal” life back. I have a book of quotes I've been collecting for decades and I thought about one in particular on my drive to see Kate - “The stories you tell about your past shape your future” She knew about my mom being sick, the ups and downs… would we need to rehash it? Nope. Not unless I wanted to - which I didn't at that moment. Maybe at another time with another set of drinks I would want to recall the countless doctors and in-patient rehabs and sweet nurses and amazing EMTs we encountered or the time I had learned so much about all of mom's ailments and could rattle off her medicines / stats / next steps so quickly that the chief of nephrology said “oh you work in medicine!”. Maybe at another time with another friend I will share what it's like to go from ‘daughter’ and ‘best friend’ to ‘patient advocate’, ‘caretaker’ and ‘primary medical contact’ overnight. Maybe I won't. Maybe those stories will merely end up swept up in the past of “my mom was on a roller coaster for 8 months before she sadly passed from complications due to sepsis”. Then I thought about when I meet someone new, be it a friend or romantic interest... What stories will I choose to tell? How will I describe my past to someone that didn't live it with me? I realized I get to decide how much access / insight I give someone I meet. Not everyone needs to know everything. And if my quote is right, I yield a lot of power in which stories I choose to share. I kind of love that concept. One of my good friends, ironically also named Kate (I have 3 Kates and I met them all through work lol) has a tribute tattoo to her dad whom she lost to cancer when she was 13. I was shocked to learn how many total strangers will ask her about it. I've never done that - tattoos are personal and I wouldn't expect someone to share a personal story just because the depiction is on their body as art. Since getting my 'mom tattoo' on the front of my shoulder I've had a half dozen coworkers and one barista ask about it - all people who know me and noticed something different then were curious enough to ask. The story I've chosen to share ranges from a simple “oh it's a tribute to my mom who passed away in December 2020” to the detailed version about her heartbeat, saying goodbye on Christmas Eve, piecing together love notes she sent us to make the phrase for our song etc. The details I share depend on both my comfort level at the moment and how interested I think the person actually is in the story. And maybe that's where I go next - I can decide which stories and which level of detail I share based on the situation. If something is painful I don't need to give the extended version, Cliff Notes will do just fine. If something I've been through might help I can choose to share what I wish I knew going in and hopefully prevent someone else from feeling as lost as I did in that moment.