This past Sunday, I watched my oldest son perform wonderful songs he wrote for his new band, Original Issue. Separate from the pride and happiness in seeing him perform, it was also a purely fun afternoon. He played at a warehouse brewery I’d never heard of, with tasty beer and a chill atmosphere. The musician running the open mike event was a talented singer and songwriter and offered wonderful encouragement and support to my son and his bandmate.
He told a story about finding his own voice, overcoming shyness and insecurity when he was once singing in the middle of nowhere, belting it out with his eyes closed, only to find that when he finished his song and opened his eyes, there was a group of people who’d been listening to him. They appreciated his song, and he had an epiphany that the singing wasn’t actually about him. It was about them.
I loved this sentiment as performance advice and a huge life lesson and knew this was my next blog post!
It is not about me.
I hadn’t really thought about it with regards to my writing until today. My novels aren’t about me, and they aren’t even about my readers, since I don’t have too many of those yet! My books are about my characters, who feel like real people to me, people living in a non-reality, but somehow real people nonetheless. I write their stories because this inspiration, this Big Magic (to coin Elizabeth Gilbert’s phrase) has been granted to me, and I am honored to tell their tales.
In my work as a therapist, I am actively aware that whatever goes on in a session isn’t about me, it’s about my clients. I also often remind them that the ways people treat them isn’t about them. When people hurt us, that’s usually about them. That doesn’t make it okay, but it can help make it feel less personal and damaging, to realize that another person’s anger or insensitivity or carelessness is perhaps far more about them and their old wounds than it is about you.
Remembering that it’s not about me also helps me to be more kind and compassionate in general in my life. When I’m caught up in my own disappointments or suffering, or thinking too much about what I want, I don’t always like myself as much. Of course, there is a definite place for self-care and attention to our own needs and desires. But when I lean too much in that direction, it makes me feel alone. When I make choices to benefit others (with thoughtful consideration for myself), I like myself more, I feel connected and purposeful. I feel like who I want to be.
So, my goal as a writer and a therapist and a human being in this messed up world is to try to remember that it’s not about me.
It’s about us.