Rewriting

I recently saw Everything, Everywhere, All at Once. I loved this movie about tackling one’s issues through the awesome power of accessing other lifetimes in parallel universes to find the badass skills and tools needed for the current situation. It got me thinking about how rewriting is the key to changing one’s attitudes.

In my view, the movie reflects a few things happening in today’s world: the ADHD everything everywhere all at once of our complicated lives, the many world(view)s ready to ensnarl us, the sheer lunacy of all the moving parts we need to dodge, the desire to find out-of-box solutions for the things that just aren’t working for us anymore.

I geeked out and used the movie as a thought exercise. What might happen if I used this timeline magic to go back and rewrite past events that didn’t work out so well for me? Events where I made mistakes, or where my good intentions played out badly? What could I bring to those events then using the badass skills and tools I have now?

When I revisited my cringeworthy stories, I tried to see the other players’ sides, imagined other interpretations I didn’t think of at the time, recast the narratives to be gentler on others, and on myself. I asked myself what I learned from the experiences, even if the learning was tough. Even if the learning was simply that I never did those stupid things ever again, and never will. The events are in the past, so the memories and the attitudes are all that’s left. I can’t change the attitudes of others, but at least I can rewrite my own attitudes if they are holding me back.

A central theme of the movie is to find love and compassion for others, even if they are misguided and dangerous. The protagonist Evelyn will not harm her crazy daughter, even though she is being pressured to do it to save all the universes. She wants to find the keys to help her daughter change. In the crazy world of everything everywhere all at once, there are always more keys to try.

Evelyn discovers that unconditional love is the only way to defuse her daughter’s craziness, and calm all the universes. My thought experiment reminded me that love is at the heart of rewriting my own stories. Compassion, understanding, surrender, forgiveness—for others, and for myself. It’s only when your heart decides it’s OK that you can change the story and make it OK.

Keywords to explore: recapitulation therapy, ho’oponopono

Mind

The human mind, the brain ego, is a curious thing. It never stops. It is capable of amazing ingenuity to push the world in new directions (Shakespeare, Einstein, Galileo, da Vinci, Mozart). Or it can languish in a dark place of circular logic, negative thoughts, and imaginary dragons—until the human it’s attached to is convinced of defeat and gives up.

Some people are blessed with a Rolls Royce mind that just gets things: processing data and weighing options without emotional attachment to come to the best conclusion, given the circumstances. Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock Holmes is a metaphor for that type of superhuman. Then there’s the rest of us, muddling along, overwhelmed with all that brain static.

Exercises to calm the mind are helpful. I’ve tried them all. Self-help books. Yoga. Meditation. Journaling. Spirituality. Philosophy. Altered states. Sleep (yay sleep!). Talk therapy (it’s fun to pay to drive people crazy, haha!). Any of these can work, with persistence and openness and patience. But you can’t really change deeply until your heart tells you it’s time.

A breakthrough for me came a few years back when a friend told me to personify that ego voice inside me, that organizer that tells me what I should/n’t do, could/n’t do, would/n’t do. Did you know that the English language specializes in these conditional tenses? When I asked a Parisian how to translate “I would do this” to French, he huffed that the French language had no such thing. English, he added, was la langue du diable.

Anyway, I was asked to personify this creature, this inner voice who always brings up conditions and limitations and defeats. I was asked to give it a name. I called it Igor. Yeah, the mad scientist’s assistant, not so original. Then they told me to shoe Igor away. Poor Igor, I thought.

The first chapter of Untethered Soul (Michael A. Singer) does a nice job of helping us understand our inner voice, what Singer calls the inner roommate. If Igor were my roommate, I wouldn’t tolerate his droning on for more than three minutes. But I can’t shoe Igor away, we are too attached.

I’ve even come to appreciate Igor. He can get annoying, but he’s the one who tells me to stop for traffic lights, pay my taxes, get my deadlines done, stay out of trouble. I need him to navigate the complicated human world, to keep me safe, to edit my words and thoughts. So I’ve accepted Igor as my inseparable roommate. I just try to make him relax when I don’t need him. I love you Igor, now go take a nap.