Have you ever noticed that when we watch a sitcom, we are engaging in two or three stories concurrently? There is usually a main plot, with at least one sub-plot woven through it. You could must about how this is testament to our culture’s short attention span, or theorize that it satisfies our need to feel bombarded with stimuli, etc etc…
But i think it’s more about mirrorring our lives.
Sometimes the main plot line is too intense. Often longer-running sitcom series will dedicate shows within their series to tackling more challenging or graver scenarios. Once the viewership has built a “relationship” with the characters and/or the show can trust that viewers no longer need to be tickled to remain interested, many sitcoms will engage in heavier, or more serious situations. During these series and episodes, subplots are often employed as comedic relief or merely a gentle reprieve from the intense bombardment of the intense situation that is taking center stage.
Over the past four months, I have discovered a gratitude of the reality that our lives are like that. Egocentric, or narcissistic as it might sound to actually put it into words… the reality is our own stories are usually the main plot. We live in our own skin, and therefore, the situations… comedic or tragic or in between. . . that WE live consume the most “screen time” the most of our thoughts, emotions and experience. Sometimes our own plot may get so intense that we forget about the “sub-plots” – – the myriads of stories being lived around, intersecting, and beside our own.
These stories are magnificent gifts.
sometimes the main story in a sitcom falls flat or run’s stuck and the subplots carry the show for a few episodes.
Sometimes our main story gets dark, or bleak or hopeless, and the stories being lived around us carry us. Sometimes when you can’t find joy in your own life, the joy that others are experiencing brings joy to your own.
the other day, I realized that although the past four months of my “main plot” have felt pretty lousy and miserable, there have been things that kept me going. I realized that there are days and weeks where the people around me whom I love have situations of their own, positive or negative that I have a role in.
God gives us these lives that he calls us to live, but he doesn’t give them to us isolated. He writes us into our own stories like any good writer writes a story… He gives us eachother he puts our stories in community and in conversation with other stories.
The gift of this is that at one time or another every one’s story will have sadness or emptiness, or even appear to be ending. . . but He has given us these other stories in which to become engaged, to laugh and love and cry and LIVE. So when your story takes a turn for the worse, don’t fixate on it!
Sometimes when someone is suffering people say, “you’re not the only person in the world who has a problem you know” . . . and this generally seems to be a callous thing to say. . . It seems to me that this phrase is typically spoken in exhaustion or exasperation from dealing with someone who is fixating on their own story. It seems to me that this phrase (which i think is rarely, if ever, spoken well) is an attempt to do something good.. something that is genuinely helpful… to encourage the person to see other people… to engage them in the subplots around them.
Rather than pity ourselves for the enourmity of our pain, seeing the stories that are being written around us and engaging them with compassion, joy, sympathy of all sorts… this can be healing! Not because you see that someone else “has it worse” than you and you feel better about your own life (tho i guess that can happen) but because you realize in those moments, that your story actually ISN’T the main story.
THESE moments.. the ones where we remember to engage in the subplots around us… they are the moments where we remember on some level of our consciousness, that our stories are all subplots to the main story. . . and all of our stories are written inextricably linked to one another’s, woven together and in and through and connected with eachother and with the main story… a story that begins and ends with Love.