The Grammar of Reality
Updated: Sep 14, 2022
‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
- Emily Dickinson
A good portion of people will never notice the incorrect grammar 👆🏼, (Dickinson is famous for "bad" punctuation), and 100% of us will never care.
Emily Dickinson wrote words that connect with billions of people while being openly rebellious to the universal rules of grammar.
Not because she didn’t know them, but because she didn’t like them. Because her craft was limited by them.
Understanding the grammar of reality
The night before this picture was taken I’d eaten a grocery-store box of sugar cookies. I ate a 1/4 to a half-gallon of ice cream at least twice a week. Through rising anxiety and bouts of depression, I easily justified it: someone running 60+ miles a week can eat what she wants and still keep up.
I was living a false reality: cutting corners, lying to myself and others, and believing all the while that I was at the mercy of my pitiful circumstance.
As a college student, I had terrible grammar - still do. But I was also terrible at perceiving objective reality. I saw it through the muddied lenses of comfort, convenience, and pleasing other people.
I was the elementary student, putting commas anywhere I could, and using they’re when the correct word was their.
I didn’t (or wasn't willing to) understand the laws that dictated my reality, and I certainly didn't know how to influence them.
I was at the mercy of best guesses and copying anyone who seemed to be making sense - a dangerous prospect in the time of social media. I was also at the mercy of anyone I felt the inherent desire to please - a trait that seems to run rampant through the female species.
A Slap in the Face
In early 2020 my husband and I were reading Ray Dalio's, Principles, when we came to the chapter called, "Radical Transparency."
Momentarily inspired I dared to ask Mike, "Whats the one thing I need to work on?"
He breathed deeply, and asked if I really wanted it. Scared, but still riding the Dalio high, I said yes.
"You hide bad things from yourself and from me."
Like a tonne of bricks to the gut.
It hurt so badly and I knew it was right. I'd made the white lie my constant companion as a child, and I knew the lies I told these days - first to myself so I could justify telling them to everyone else - were not quite so white.
I committed to stopping the deception on the spot.
I don't want to give you the idea that I was some rotten person. Most of my lying revolved around eating poorly, and setting goals I knew would appease other people without ever intending to realize them.
This slap in the face was the biggest lesson in 'grammar' yet, and the most difficult emotional work I've done to date.
I took it very seriously, and honestly I had little choice. Mike’s a person who will not let me off the hook - and I mean WILL NOT let me off the hook once I’ve made a commitment.
Over the next two years I learned where the commas actually go. I learned to acknowledge that a full Ben and Jerry’s every day wasn’t going to get me onto any podium. I stopped putting others’ expectations to hang out until early morning hours before my own needs for sleep and recovery.
Learn the rules, then break them
A few months pregnant by mid-2020, I began using this new paradigm to question whether I could bypass my old reality, and qualify for the Olympic Trials a few months after giving birth.
I decided to do my own research and listen to my own body (and to doctors, of course) rather than accepting the "reality" that a pregnant woman simply could not expect to do that.
“Truth - more precisely, an accurate understanding of reality - is the essential foundation for producing good outcomes.” - Ray Dalio, Principles
This commitment to learning true, objective reality is the greatest character development in my story - by far - in the last decade.
In this life you will never see a full objective reality. But when you do everything you can to come close, you gain the ability to bend it.
Learn the grammar, and begin channeling your inner Emily Dickinson.