In This Post You Will Find:
The Stories We Tell
We all have a story that we tell about ourselves and our lives. That story usually starts with what what was told to us.
That is, stories from who raised us, narratives about our formative years, the stories about us crawling, learning to read, playing. Stories of our intelligence, creativity, our strength – or stories about how we lacked any or all of those things.
My parents love stories – my Dad in particular – and would weave threads of narrative around me, my brother, the dynamics between us, and of our travels. Every story of my childhood is entwined with stories of my brother; there are none of just me.
Once we have all started forming our memories and are able to shape our own stories, we tend to add to the versions that were already established. If people told us stories about how smart or capable we were/are, then the stories we tend to continue to tell involve that. If we were told that we were special or unique or amazing or precious, then our stories continue with aspects of that.
When we have a disability, we are told stories that stem from the culture or convictions of those around us.
Those messages can include (but are not limited to) that our disability is something that is given to us to strengthen us, that we need to overcome it, that we can or should strive to be like everyone else without a disability or maybe that disability is a beautiful and intrinsic part of who we are.
Race follows similar narratives – we are told stories that celebrate our heritage, our places of origin (especially if we are American).
As we grow older, we shape more and more of our own story, our experiences are our own and the trajectory we want our story to follow is our choice.
If – say we have a disability – we want to continue the narrative that we were told that our disability is something to overcome, then we can. If we learn about a different way of thinking or believing – that disability is a natural part of the human experience, for example – then we can choose to lean in and enjoy some of the experiences that our disability brings to us, and we can shape our stories differently.
My point is that it’s a choice. The stories we tell ourselves are choices.
When Stories Become Our Life
Our life is our story and our story becomes our life. Some people think that they are just recounting what actually happened, that the life came first and they are simply telling the story.
But really, it’s the story that comes first, because the story is the part that shapes the perspective and belief of the life.
You can look at any situation from a multitude of perspectives and you can choose what perspective you want to approach the situation from.
With that in mind, all of the stories that we tell are from the perspective that we choose to approach it, it’s how we want to tell our story.
My Car Accident: An Example of a Story, Told and Changed
When I was 4 years old, I went through the windshield of a car. My face was shredded – have scars all over my face because of this – a long scar that comes from my head all the way down my forehead and slicing through my left eyebrow. Another scar slices my lip and flows down to my chin.
The car accident itself was an intense experience. And growing up with vivid scars on my face was also an intense experience.
It was all framed in a tragic, kind of poor-Meriah way.
But this is the thing: I never really felt that. In my heart, I never really felt that it was tragic or awful. The car accident was actually one of the most deeply spiritual events of my life, and the knowledge that God exists and was with me was so intense and clear to me in that, that I have always been grateful.
Furthermore, I have also been grateful for the understanding the temporal piece of a physical body at such a young age. I went from being a really cute kid – precious and celebrated for my beauty – to being a “scarface.” I knew I was no different inside, nothing in me had changed, only this facade, so I looked at everyone in the world with new eyes. I knew that if I felt the same inside as a precious, pretty little girl and as a scarfaced “freak” then it went to show that the same must be true of others.
But the draw to make myself a victim and be tragic was strong. I liked the attention that I received as a victim, I liked the drama and tragedy of the story of the accident. I liked that my brother was so worried about me! It was great!
As I grew older, the truth of how I really felt about it all became more important to me than the fun of the drama, and you know what? I was tired of playing a victim, tired of feeling like I had no control over my life.
With this in mind, I reframed my story.
The car accident was something that happened. The result of that happening gave me four things that have profoundly impacted my life:
- an unwavering belief in and love for God,
- proud flesh
- an understanding of the temporary nature of our bodies (and how it has absolutely no connection at all with our spirit) and
- a disability.
My story has evolved. Or rather, the telling of it has evolved. I have changed how I tell it because I like the new story better.
How to Tell Your Story Differently
There are two ways to tell your story differently:
- You can tell it from a different perspective (like how I did with my car accident), or
- You can tell it from how you want it to be: tell a new story
1. Telling it from a different perspective
Telling it from a different perspective can happen through reflection. Think, feel, journal, paint, express an event or a part of your life. Reach for the threads that emerge and spin them into a new story.
I know this sounds kind of hippie-skippie, but the path to looking at events in your life from a new perspective is only one that you can take, and it’s only one that you can understand and flesh out. Do something to bring out your creativity, take your mind off whatever it is that you are looking for a new perspective on, then after engaging in creative pursuit (or meditation, yoga, etc), revisit it and something new will emerge in your mind’s eye/heart.
When that new piece has emerged, really examine it. That is likely the basis for your new perspective.
2. Telling your story how you want it to be: tell a new story
This is a powerful exercise, and I think the key to being successful with it is to stick with what feels really good inside.
What you do in this is you take a notebook or journal and you write out how you want things to be.
I’m not talking like, “I want to hear and I want my cellulite gone and I want my kids to listen to me.” Not that, because each of those sentences focused on a lack or a negative:
- “I want to hear” – focuses on not being able to hear
- “I want my cellulite gone” – focuses on something I don’t want
- “I want my kids to listen to me” – focuses on my kids not listening
Instead, I’m going to focus on how I really want things to be, and only from a positive place, and in the framework of a new story, focusing on real things that happened, and expanding on them:
- I enjoy communicating with other people and feeling a part of a community. I love exchanging ideas and thoughts and experiences and the energy of new ideas! [note: this focuses on what hearing actually accomplishes for me, NOT on the absence of actual hearing in my life]
- My body is amazing! It grew 3 children in 5 years! It has carried me up Machu Picchu and has healed after 20 years of smoking! WOW. [note: I am focusing on what my body has actually done for me that I appreciate, because I just want to move from that state of appreciation]
- It felt so good when I told the kids it was bedtime last night and within 10 minutes, they had their pajamas on and teeth brushed! They are so responsible and responsive! [note: I’m focusing on an actual event that was awesome to increase my own positive feelings and enforce my positive expectations of my kids]
In writing out how you want things or expanding on a something positive that happened, you are shifting your vibe. You are moving into a different space, relishing all the wonderful things that have come your way, celebrating the experience that is your life.
Writing What Has Not Happened: Telling a New Story
I also engage in this kind of story-telling. I write out what I’d like to have happen in the future. I describe the flowers I’d like in my garden, the trees and the vegetables that I grow. I write out how it feels to me as I garden and I can see my kids playing in their tree house, and how wonderful the sunshine feels on my shoulders.
I create new stories of how I want my life to be. Detailed stories.
Is it real? No. But it will be if I keep feeling it out.
Knowing this, I also keep space in my heart for the will of God to be done – or, in other words, for the Universe to unfold as it should. I keep this space because what God or the Universe can create is so much more amazing than anything I could; I’d rather go that route. The best things in my life have happened to me when I had a plan and was working but allowed myself to be flexible, followed inspiration and opened my life to miracles.
Your New Story
In summary, think about the story that you tell about your own life, and if that story feels satisfying to you, if it is serving you by framing you in a way that is helpful. Think about how you want your life to unfold, and the experiences that you crave. Think about how to write out what you want, how to re-shape the story that you have been telling and the story that you want to tell.
Get a notebook. You can do this.