The Stories We Tell Ourselves

      27 Comments on The Stories We Tell Ourselves

I hope this post isn’t too much of a downer. But it might be.


Because it’s a little off-subject and might not have the comic snark you’re used to if you come here often. If you are new (hi!), just know this isn’t the norm and I will get back to the business of boards eventually. I’m still in Kid vs Kat vs Karen mode.

But here it goes anyway.

A man died in front of me a week ago.

His funeral was yesterday but I didn’t go because I had to work and I didn’t really know him.

But I was thinking about him. Because I witnessed the last moments of his life.

I crew on a 36 foot sailboat and I’ve been on the same boat for 9 years with mostly the same people (give or take a few over the years). That’s most of us in the picture from a happy time last year (I’m in the white hat).

We do organized races out of the yacht club on Wednesday nights and we do some weekend races throughout the spring and summer.

We had a race last weekend and since I was between boards (yay), I was happy to be able to participate in the Saturday race. We usually need 8 or 9 people to race and we were short a person. So one of the women on our crew asked along this guy Doug because she sails with him on another boat.

We all show up on time and gear up the boat. I shook Doug’s hand and said “Hi” as did the rest of us. It was a pissy, rainy day but once you’re a sailor it really doesn’t bother you. As long as you have your wet weather gear, it’s all good. At least it wasn’t too cold.

They usually try to get in 3 or 4 races on the weekends. We finished our first one and did pretty well. Then it’s clean up the lines, grab a sandwich and wait for our next start. We were in our 5 minute countdown and almost in the last minute to start when Doug was suddenly lying down in the cockpit.

Not moving.

First, it’s “Dude, you okay?”, then it’s “Did he hit his head?”. But when we rolled him over, we knew it wasn’t good.

We start motoring in to the yacht club and called 911 (thank goodness for cell phones in emergencies). We lie him down and the woman who is friends with him performed CPR.

But the boat can’t go any faster.

You can’t do anything but watch and hope. It’s such a shock and so unexpected, you’re in denial. No, no, no he’s going to snap out of it. He’s going to be okay. We’re going to have beers with him one day and talk about this.

And the boat can’t go any faster.

Even though it was only about 15 minutes till we reached the dock and the emergency workers who were there to meet us, it seemed like forever.

They worked on him for quite some time. They eventually got some vital signs. They took him up to the ambulance.

Yes, yes, yes…he’s going to be okay. Please.

Fifteen minutes later we get the call that he had died up in the parking lot.

But we all really know he died on the boat with us. From a severe heart attack. He was 57.

I shook hands with this man in the morning and less than 4 hours later he was gone.

Sad. Horrible. Live altering.

One of those things you know you’ll never forget.

Then the questions start in your head.

Why today? Why with us? What if we were further out? What if it was one of us? Why, why, why. Then there’s those big ones. The ‘what am I doing with my life?’ ones. Yikes.

We tell ourselves stories everyday.

I don’t mean the movies and cartoons. I mean all the stuff that goes on in our heads that may or may not be true. That are not fact-based.

Stuff like “I suck.”, “I’ll never get a job.”, “Everyone hates me.” On and on. Are these facts? No, they’re stories. These kinds of stories can be damaging and do us no good.

But sometimes we need the other kind of stories. The better kind.

I need a story for Doug.

Even if I knew all his ‘facts’, I’d still need this story. Just to deal with what happened.

My story for Doug is that he was a sailor. That he’s been sailing for many, many years and he loved it. That it was a twist of fate he ended up on our boat with a crew of new friends. That maybe he was destined to have that severe heart attack on that particular Saturday. Race or no race.

That maybe he lived alone. That maybe he would have been alone if he hadn’t come sailing with us that day. And if he had been alone when that heart attack hit him, no one would have known for a while. And that would have been even more horrible.

That he never knew what hit him and he didn’t feel any pain. That at least he was on the water, doing something he loved when this happened. Among fellow sailors that loved it too.

And he wasn’t alone.

Are these the facts? Doesn’t matter.

I just need to keep telling myself this story. For me and for Doug.

Rest in peace sir.

Thanks for reading. (I’ll try to be funnier next time. Promise.)

27 thoughts on “The Stories We Tell Ourselves

  1. Tyler Hayes

    Sorry you had to write this. I’m more sorry you experienced this. I imagine you find yourself lost in thought more lately, though maybe not; that’s really just me projecting how I would feel in this situation.

    Just keep asking those questions and keep moving. Answers will come, eventually.

    Until then, don’t worry about being funny. You don’t owe your readers anything; we come here to read your words, whatever they may be.

  2. Jessica

    Wow – powerful stuff. I love the story you wrote for Doug – for yourself. Because we’re human we can’t stand to experience this stuff and not make it meaningful in some way. Thanks for sharing your experience. (BTW – found you through @victoriashmoria)

  3. Karen J Lloyd Post author

    @ Tyler – Thanks. Yes, me saying I’ll be funnier next time is just another story I’m telling myself. That people will say “What’s up with THIS?” even though that’s probably not true.

    @ Jessica – Yes, we need it to mean *something* to help us deal. At least for the time being. (Ms. Shmoria rocks 🙂 )

    @ Christina – Thanks sweetie. 🙂

  4. Davina

    Intense experience, Karen. It’s funny how people say these kinds of things really put things into perspective… and yet, they bring up so many questions. We just never know, do we? Take it easy.

  5. Tzaddi

    Oh Karen, thank you for sharing this story. I hope you’ll have many wonderful moments on the water this season and I imagine that you will appreciate them even more for having been through this.

    Stories are powerful indeed.

    My head has been full of stories this week too. One of my dogs died and it was such a shock. 3 yrs old. Just an upset tummy, right? She’ll be fine after a visit to the vet. No, no, no. Gone. What if…? What if…? Heartbreaking.

    I’ve been so aware of the preciousness of each moment. How fortunate I am, and how I sometimes squander that fortune through inattention to the beauty of the moment or otherwise.

    I think the most important story she has left me with is about experiencing life fully. It’s also a reminder: Carpe diem!

  6. Daniel Scott

    What an incredible experience Karen! — thank you for sharing such a life changing event with everyone … it really made me stop and realize how all the things I experience every day fit together and are combined to be the sum of ‘my life’ story … and now, even though I never knew him, Doug’s life has made an impact on mine (through reading this post) — as I put myself in your shoes and imagine what I’d feel/think if I had experienced what you did … well, … you’ve given me a heck of a lot to think about and I’d like to send out my heartfelt Thanks in return … to both you and to Doug.

  7. Karen J Lloyd Post author

    @ Davina – Yes. Perspective. You got it. 🙂

    @ Tzaddi – Aww man, I’m so sorry about your pup. I know the pain of losing a pet and it hurts so so much. They’re our family too! 🙁

    And yeah, I think our crew has a new weird bond because of this. We’re not really ‘social friends’ outside of sailing…but we’ve shared something very few people do as a group.

    @ Daniel – Wow, thanks for that. You don’t really think you’ll affect anyone else by writing this kind of thing. I was even a little worried about it. But I’m glad I did. I needed to. You’ve very welcome.

    And more sadness. My BF’s grandpa passed away today. Different kind of circumstances (expected, peaceful, with family) but still sad.

    Bye, Poppa. You were one cool dude.

  8. Friar

    Holy sh*t. That’s a really powerful story.

    My Dad went like that. I didn’t see him die in front of me. But he was lying there in the bed, still warm, when I got called home by Mom.

    I suppose if your time is up, that’s the best way to go…instantly with no suffering.

    Though it doesn’t make it easy for everyone else who’re left behind to deal with what just happened.

  9. Karen J Lloyd Post author

    “Holy sh*t” is right.

    I actually thought of your dad’s story later on. Same kind of sudden-ness.

    In the words of one my crew mates over some (much needed) drinks later….”Lucky bastard.” (Said with respect.)

    I truly think he didn’t know what hit him. The jib sheet (rope) was still in his hand. Unbelievable.

    Just the week before over Easter, there was a long distance race in super crazy winds (50-60 knots). (We weren’t in it.)

    But a boat capsized with 6 crew. Two of them were floating in the ocean away from their boat (very far from land) and were in the water almost 20 minutes and getting hypothermic.

    Another race boat just *happened* to come by and spot them and with much danger and effort, eventually rescued both of them. And the coast guard happened to be close by and rescued the others at the boat.

    These two men could have very easily died that day and came very close. But it wasn’t their time.

    Then there’s Doug in light winds, on an easy day and this happens.

    When it’s your time, I guess it’s your time, huh? Crazy stuff.

  10. Marcia Hornbeck

    “Light winds and easy days.” The ups, the downs. The pulling in and letting out of the sails. We try to savor the moments of life and honor the people we love because we know that this is what makes a life. The awesome WHAM moments–Can any of us are ever be ready for these? (Maybe the characters in our stories can . . .)

    My condolences to you for your friend and thanks for sharing this story.

  11. Todd Jacobsen

    I can’t add anything more to what’s already been said, but I’m happy that this particular post gave me something to put in my back pocket.

    Glad to see you’re doing well, old friend. My sincerest condolences for your loss, but also my congratulations on your moment of clarity.

    I sometimes wish they happened more often, those moments when all things random seem to connect into a life lesson.

  12. Jason Burley


    I find it that there are moments…most of which are not nearly as powerful as this one (for lack of a better term)…that cause someone to think about these stories that we tell ourselves.

    For example, let’s say that you are on your way from work and you see someone that appears down on their luck asking for change to get something to eat. If I were to be the person coming home from work, I would give myself quite a few stories. Some of which only last no more than a sentence while others can be a bit grandiose, yet completely logical.

    I suppose it’s the way that life tells you that it goes on and you’re living it.

    My condolences to you and Doug’s family. Thanks a lot for sharing. (By the way, I found your blog while looking for storyboard templates.)

  13. Karen J Lloyd Post author

    @ Marcia – That was lovely. Thank you.

    @ Todd – Thanks buddy. Every so often I guess we all need a little wake-up call. Life is short and all that. I’ll be soaking up every little moment of my June Hawaii trip when this contract is done. 🙂

    @ Jason – Welcome! It can be amazing how many little stories we tell ourselves from day to day when you really think about it. And they change and grow as we do I guess. Thanks for dropping by.

  14. Chris Kawagiwa

    Such an unfortunate happening…
    I have known and been in perspective-altering situations concerning the ocean as well…my thoughts go out to you.

    Thanks for showing a way to constructively redirect one of life’s most unexpected certainties. It sure shows how deep and affecting storytelling can be and how vital it is.

  15. Marcie Begleiter

    Thanks for the story karen – puts it all in perspective, right? And for its being off topic, yes and no. We all need to remember that time is limited – and this can help, I think, in getting us to appreciate what we have and also work for what we imagine and desire. It’s sad but not to think of Doug checking out doing something he clearly loved. I. for one, hope to leave with so little pain and at work or play rather than slowly fading in bed. Carpe Diem!

  16. Jaden

    Thank you for sharing your story. It is ok to not be funny all the time.

    It is nice to hear when someone dies doing something they love. We are all going to die, so at least if we are doing something we enjoy with interesting people, you can’t beat that. Most people probably die in much less happy circumstances from illness or accident.

    I like to think that when a person dies, it is to teach a positive lesson to those who remain. Nothing like death to make us appreciate life.

  17. Todd Jacobsen

    …and wouldn’t you know it? A day after I post on this thread, I get an email (yesterday morning) saying one of my best childhood friends had passed away the evening prior, in his sleep, at age 46. He leaves two kids, ages 10 and 7.

    Since I come from a really small town, and everyone knew this guy had joie de vivre to spare, it comes as an absolute shock to everyone.

    Carpe Diem, indeed.

  18. Karen J Lloyd Post author

    @ Chris – That’s why I love storytelling so much. Whether fiction or from real life, stories are powerful. And are a huge part of our lives.

    @ Marcie – So much perspective. Especially as you get older! Enjoy what you do. Laugh, play, don’t sweat the crap. Because you just never know.

    @ Jaden – Yes, there is something for his family to be grateful for at least. He didn’t suffer at all. It happened so fast. Very nice thoughts Jaden. Thanks.

    @ Todd – Oh. My . Goodness. I’m so, so sorry Todd! Those kinds of stories are just heartbreaking. Great guy, young kids, so young. So sad. Sending my condolences right back to you.

    Okay, April 2010 can end now please. That’s enough already!

  19. Aidan Casserly

    Not an easy thing to deal with at all…and you’re absolutely right about the stories we tell ourselves to cope with the world and things that we will simply never grasp (like when it’s “our time” to go).

    I think there is a lot more to what we do as storytellers than draw funny pictures and quick jokes; the story you’ve told here really does stay with the reader and makes us all stop and think.

    And, while I guarantee this is going to sound wrong, it is nice to see you in “non-comic snark” mode; not that I don’t like your personality (I wouldn’t keep pestering this blog if I didn’t), but this is a side of you I’ve never seen, and never expected to see.

    The further I go into the entertainment industry the less I see people willing to say what’s on their mind or even how they feel about something (I’m in Burbank now, so there’s more than a few LA phonies about). Despite all the false faces and people pretending to be faultless money-makers, I still think our first and foremost job is to be human beings, and that means sharing experiences, emotions and thoughts with others, whether they’re “good” or “bad” (those terms are in quotes because they’re pretty abstract ideas anyway). You’ve definitely done that here; it’s a very brave thing to do and it means a lot.

    Thank you for sharing this story, and thank you for being honest and open to your readers. If this doesn’t get more people reading this blog…well, then there’s always the Comic Snark we all love so much!

    Good show, Karen.

  20. Pingback: Just Make It Look Good | Karen J Lloyd's Storyboard Blog

  21. Lucy

    Yeah, I feel for you, Karen. My sister died right in front of me, from illness, and the fact that she’d been ill for quite some time didn’t help a bit. There were no last words, no angel choirs, no nothing. Just gone. I lost the last of my (conventional) religion on that day.

    The thing is, when something like that happens, you say to yourself “Life is short, it’s really really short, and what am I doing with mine?” And you decide that you’re going to take chances, you’re going to do what you’ve always wanted to do, and you’re going to quit that job you hate.

    But then the bills come, and time passes, and you find yourself still on that treadmill to oblivion.

    What do you do then?

    I haven’t a clue. Not a damn clue.

  22. Karen J Lloyd Post author

    Hi Lucy,

    Wow, I’m so sorry about your sister. Watching a loved one suffer from illness has got to be the worst. No words.

    I haven’t got a clue either. Maybe sometimes it’s just the little things we can do. Maybe it doesn’t always have to be the BIG change (though it’s nice to think about).

    Things like getting outside on a gorgeous day. Cutting toxic people out of your life. Finding some time in your week to do something that makes you happy.

    I think if we can get to a point where we don’t regret too much, feel we’ve taken some chances, enjoyed ourselves and loved a few special people, then maybe we’re doing OK.

    But this month has got me thinking, that’s for sure.

    Thanks for dropping by.

  23. Stev

    Hi again, KJLl!!, omg I show sorry for this experience, but do not let this get you down, you just have to get on with life, and thanks for doing this blog, the incredible truth is that we can contact you, you are very kind indeed!, greetings, thank you for making storyboards kid vs kat, is my favorite show!

  24. Lucy

    this is life karen. i love your story for Doug. anyways, thank you for the storyboard blog. My Boss, wants me to do a storyboard, and i was like O_o what? storyboard for basic portal learning materials then i was like o_O… i’m going crazy, im an information management major. thank you for the blogs. more more more stories/articles to come dear. 🙂


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