Ryan: Oh, What a Lonely Boy

My friend Jeremy and I have shared the hour long commute to our teaching jobs for twelve years.  Two hours per day. Five days a week. Nine months of the year. That’s a lot of airspace to fill.    For whatever reason, we never developed the habit of listening to music or audiobooks together, though we both do those things when we drive alone.  There have been comfortable silences and brief naps (passenger only), but most of the time, we tell stories. Stories about our students. Stories about our families.  Stories about our childhoods. Stories about books and movies and TV shows. Stories about we would do if we win the lottery. We cover a lot of territory.

We’ve traveled the same route for so many years that we have come to know the physical terrain pretty well, too.  If someone paints their house, we notice the color. That farmer on Route 2? He’s got some new cows this spring. We’ve come to anticipate the Christmas decorations on certain houses going up too early in the late fall and coming down too late in the early spring.  Recently we’ve been noticing a nun in full habit driving a Volkswagen out of town as we’re driving in. We speculate on where she might be going every time. Who knew nuns could drive???

About ten years ago, we noticed a little boy at the end of a very long driveway, apparently waiting alone for the school bus.  He was just a little guy, and we had never seen him before, so we assumed he was starting kindergarten. He was there day after day and became a source of amusement for us.  He was an active little dude, splashing in puddles in the fall and throwing himself in snow banks in the winter.

At some point, Jeremy spontaneously started humming “Oh, What a Lonely Boy” from that Andrew Gold song from the 70’s.  It became the foundation of the story we told ourselves about this kid. Why was he all alone, his house completely out of sight, seemingly unattended?  Maybe his overstressed mom was taking care of his demanding baby sister while her husband worked long night shifts to make ends meet. Maybe the bugs and frogs he chased around the end of his driveway were his only friends.  

We’ve watched that kid grow up as we pass his house every day.  We don’t know his name or anything really about his life. We likely never will.  But we still sing “Oh, What a Lonely Boy” when we see him, even though he’s now a gangly, hairy teenager.  It’s just part of the story we tell each other about him.

The stories we tell can be nothing but pure entertainment, but what about the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves.  The stories that nobody else hears.  The stories that we embellish with vicious details because they are in the privacy of our own head.

You will always be fat.

You will always be alone.

You can’t do that.

You can’t have what other people have.  

There’s something wrong with you.

Why do we believe the stories that make us feel bad, weak or inferior?  Those stories are no more true than the story of our “lonely boy”. Maybe his loving parents were watching from behind a tree the whole time, ready to sprint into action if anything threatened his safety.  Or maybe he really did have overworked, neglectful parents but grew into a confident, happy young man anyway because he didn’t believe all the stories in his head.

And maybe…

You can be healthy and strong.

You will find love.

You can have everything you want in life.

You are perfect just the way you are.

Stories can be entertaining.  They can be funny. They can be frivolous or fraught with deep meaning.  They can build us up or tear us down.  Most importantly, the stories we tell ourselves can be rewritten.

The whole story of our personal transformation is in our new book, Unbelievable Freedom:  How Intermittent Fasting Transformed Our Health and Happiness, available on Amazon using the link below.