Thursday, July 23, 2015

Outstoried Stories

If you have ever had the privilege of popping over to the opposite side of the world, you will have felt the joys of jet lag. The body being forced to adjust quickly to a rhythm it doesn't recognise. You don't need a long haul flight or to be surrounded by people who give nicknames to everything to understand this. Most people who work Monday to Friday enter a similar sort of rhythm. My big city rhythm involved getting up early enough to avoid a sardine can commute, and working till things calmed down to leave. I would get home just in time for an 8pm Yoga class, grab something light to eat afterwards and soon be off in dreamland. Next morning I would lock and reload. Every now and then there was the good old feeling of Groundhog day. Getting ready in the morning can blur into a series of toothpaste being squeezed onto a toothbrush that really should be replaced. 

We can get into colliding rhythms with people doing different things. Interpersonal jetlag. When you are sitting in a coffee shop all relaxed and the couple next to you are tearing 51 shades of violet out of each other, it can be tough to hum along to Jack Johnson. I think it is part of our fight or flight tendency that we adjust to the rhythm of most discontent. We look for fires to put out if they are around us before we relax.

One form of adjusting rhythms is the debrief. When I have seen something that grates me the wrong way, I feel the urge to tell someone. When I have had a bad day. When I have had a good day. By telling someone, the rhythm spreads and we aren't facing things alone. We can then move on. When people are working, this adjustment often takes the form of a 'post work debrief'. An answer to the question, 'how was your day?'.

If you, like me, have ever had a family member, friend, housemate or romantic partner who was a medic - your debriefs may be more tentative. I fast learnt that my problems never involved someone dying. My stories could always be outstoried. The advantage of perspective.

Once we are into a rhythm, once groundhog day sets in, it is easy to forget that there is a whole different world out there. South Africans, for example, may look at foreigners in the country and think they came believing the grass was greener on the other side only to get a horrible surprise. Umm, no. Do some wiki-walking about the wars in the Congo which didn't get much press. Read 'A Man of Good Hope' about one of the Somali refugees who made his way to Cape Town before the Xenophobic attacks. The grass is greener. What drives someone to uproot and search for hope? Not realising your story can be outstoried is not a uniquely South African issue. We all tend to focus on our local problems and look after 'our own'.

As a lighter example, I enjoy going to Conferences even though the presentations are normally mostly awful. They help pull me out of whatever I am focussing on and connect with other people doing other things. I enjoy watching those YouTube clips showing how small the earth is relative to other planets. How 100,000 years on earth is a relatively short blip in the story of life on earth.

Rhythm helps us focus. Disruption gives perspective.

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