1 Coping Mechanism That Shrinks Your Life

Years ago, I was a commercial salmon fisherman in Alaska.

It was hard, dangerous work, with insane hours and long periods of isolation.

I loved it.

To me, it was a grand adventure.

A chance to test myself against the sea, to live as the pioneers had lived.

But not everyone on the crew felt that way.

Every year, as the season drew to a close, some would grow desperately homesick.

And then they would do something that always shocked and saddened me.

They would begin to poison themselves against the entire season.

They would ignore all the good times they had experienced throughout the summer and focus obsessively on the bad.

They did it to make the return home seem all the sweeter.

As a result, their summer in Alaska became a dead chapter in the story of their life.

We are ALL tempted to simplify our stories, to revise our own history.

We do it to avoid pain, to comfort ourselves with cozy interpretations that gloss over the complexities that make us feel things we may not want to feel, or think things we may not want to think.

But we pay a high price for doing so.

Our life shrinks.

The story of our life develops “dead spots.”

Whole chapters of our past become unavailable to us–events we cannot learn from or glean nostalgia from because we have chosen the comforting lie instead of the hard truth.

As the years go by, we treat more and more experiences as “write offs.”

We cut more and more people out of our life.

The scope of our life becomes smaller and smaller.

If this goes on unchecked, you end up an old, un-teachable man, confident in his assertions and assessments of life, yet utterly alone, estranged from the true story of his own life.

Don’t “spin” the stories that make up your life.

Don’t recast your life with breezy, compulsive retellings just to cushion your ego.

Let your stories stay messy and unresolved.

Keep your difficult relationships. Let them continue to madden and exasperate you.

The naked truth may sting you and pull you in a thousand different directions.

But your life will be rich in wisdom, love, and mystery because of it.

And that makes it all worthwhile.


  1. Stephen Marshall says

    What a great post! We need to tell the truth about our journey and own it, good and bad.

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