By Omkari Williams
It never ceases to amaze me how we humans like to complicate things.
There must be “fantasist actor” gene in all of us. You know the ones I’m talking about. The one that makes you believe that your partner thinks you are fat because they looked at you funny when you put on that outfit. The gene that makes you think that you are about to be fired because your boss is in a bad mood. The gene that makes you think you flunked a test that you actually aced because… oh, who knows why? That gene, the one that makes a drama out of the smallest thing, can make our lives a living hell if we don’t clip its wings and keep it in check.
Letting that gene takeover is like giving the Cat in the Hat the keys to your place, pointing out the liquor cabinet and leaving for a week.
The truth is that life, without any assistance from us, is full of drama. Floods, fire, famine, war, the Oscars all happen without any input from us. If you want a sure way to be out of control of your life, invite more drama in. Conversely, while we can’t completely avoid drama and there is no such thing as total “control” over everything in our lives, we can make life more manageable and fun by leaving the drama to the nightly newscast.
Reacting to everything that comes our way with a high level of intensity wears us out, and also wears out those around us. Take a moment and think about that friend, the one whose life is always in crisis. Think about how exhausting it is to be around them, about how, at some point, you simply want to shake some sense into them. People who make every little thing a big deal are no fun to be around. There are real crises that occur in life to be dealt with; making a drama out of every little thing is silly.
I speak as a recovering drama queen.
Seriously, I could take a nothing event and make a capital case of it. I was totally addicted to my life being either fantastic or catastrophic. Not being able to maintain an even keel actually attracted the very things I thought I was trying to avoid. It wasn’t until a good friend had had enough and sat me down to tell me what being my friend was like from her end, that I started to think about the habit I had created.
Being in that state of constant upheaval required creating complications where none existed.
It pushed people away as they grew tired of the whirlwind. Most importantly, it meant I could not avoid looking at the real issues that needed to be confronted in my life. All the drama was a screen I kept between me and the world; a way to hide my shyness and insecurities. When another friend told me she thought it would be helpful if my life “looked more like a lasagna noodle and less like a roller coaster” I burst out laughing and decided to take those words as my mantra.
The shift from roller coaster to lasagna noodle required that I take the simple (and most likely) explanations for things. My boss was in a bad mood for reasons that had nothing to do with me. I am not fat so there is absolutely no chance that is what my partner was thinking about that outfit. As I engaged in the process of dialing down the drama I came to recognize that simple can be a really good thing because, in this context, simple means free of unnecessary complications.
I get to be in the real world with my friends and family, sharing experiences with them rather than creating “My Life as a Soap Opera.” It means that when real drama comes along, as it has and surely will again, I have the energy to handle it. Also, my family and friends aren’t exhausted from the crying wolf syndrome so they are able to be there for me as well.
When there is a choice between living in a state of constant upheaval and living from a place of balance and equanimity, the choice isn’t difficult. Yes, we may be in the habit of living with heightened drama, but we can create a new habit. One that opens us to living a more peaceful, thoughtful and satisfying life. All we have to do is dial down the drama.
Omkari Williams began her professional life as an actor, work that perfectly suited her fascination with story. For over 20 years she was able to explore characters, while fictional, who spoke to universal human truths. In the middle she decided to take a break and discover other aspects of life. She moved into a meditation ashram where she spent three years diving into understanding life, herself, and what it means to live in our complicated world with grace and ease.
After leaving the ashram she returned to the world of acting. Eventually, feeling constrained by fictional roles, she moved into working with politicians and entrepreneurs helping them craft and refine their message, the story that they wanted to share.
The more she studied this work, including working with executives at Fortune 500 companies to help them with their public speaking, the more evidence she found for the belief that story underpins everything in business as well as in life. Working from the premise that story is the foundation of our human experience and the bridge that connects us to others opened up new ways for her clients to engage with their clients.
Now she speaks on the importance of story, on how to share your story, and on how sharing our stories can build bridges that will save our deeply fractured world. You can keep up with her at omkariwilliams.com
Editor: Alicia Wozniak