Those who do not have power over the story that dominates their lives, the power to retell it, rethink it, deconstruct it, joke about it, and change it as times change, truly are powerless, because they cannot think new thoughts. Salman RushdieHe's worked at the shelter for a couple of years. A caring, honest guy who treats clients with dignity and respect. Intense. Kind. Fair.
"I've written a story for the newsletter," he told me yesterday. "Would you be willing to take a look at it?"
"Sure," I replied.
He stood nervously beside me as I scanned the pages. His writing was clear. Concise. Powerful and honest.
"Here's the question," I asked him when I'd finished and told him how moved and touched I was by his story. "Have you thought about how you'll feel after this story is published and staff and clients and thousands of people will have had the opportunity to read it and 'see' into your past. See your story. Will you be able to go look in the mirror and say, 'Wow. I'm one courageous, cool dude. I am proud of me."
He hesitated. "Oh. I don't know."
"Then, before I publish this, you need to think about that. What you've written is very powerful. It's honest and fresh and intense. It's very good, and, once it's published, it won't be your story anymore. It will be a story out there where people can pick it apart. It's important to know that now so that you aren't surprised if someone has comments to say that aren't what you expected, or want to hear. You have to know that 'this story'," the pages fluttered in the air between us like white prayer flags fluttering on the trail to Everest. "This story is just that, a story. It is not you. It is part of the past that made you, 'you', today. In telling it, you will inspire, and you might upset, people. Some will have judgements that are harsh that they will want to share with you. We're all human, we all do. Their judgements are just their opinions. How will you handle the criticism of a co-worker? How will you feel if someone questions the 'truth' of what you wrote?"
See, he'd started drinking at age seven. Drugs at 12. He'd been in foster care. Juvie detention. He'd done things he'd had no idea would haunt him, or bring him down to the point where he didn't want to live but, as he told me, was too scared to do anything about.
Today, he's a college graduate. A proud father. A caring husband. He is a man who has taken his past and used the pain and turmoil and the lessons learned to create great value in his world today.
"Telling this story", I told him, "is a chance to let it go, to put it out there into the universe, so that others might be inspired to change, to grow, to step away from the addictions that haunt them. In telling this story, you create space to write the new story of your life from today forward. To do that, you have to be willing to let the story go in love."
When I wrote the Dandelion Spirit, I too had to come to grips with the realization that once the story was told, once it was released to the universe, it was no longer 'my story', but simply 'a story'. It didn't belong to me. It didn't define me. It simply reflected a time in my life and the learnings and teachings of that time.
In letting the story go, I opened up space to create the new story of my life. The life I experience today where I am free to be all that I am meant to be -- living this one wild and precious life with passion and purpose, present in mind, body and spirit.
We all have stories to tell. A book to write. A movie to create of our lives. We are all creating stories, movies, books -- right now, today. It is the story of our life. Of how we are living, how we are stepping forward, backwards, sideways. How we are falling, flying, swimming. This life is our story. It is filled with dreams and hopes and feelings of sadness and joy. It is replete with wishes made upon a star that never lift off the ground. It is a story of hope. A story of passion. Of sorrow. Of blame or shame or feeling left out, left behind.
The story we tell today can only be created on the foundation we've laid in the past. The challenge is -- do we step on ground well travelled, or do we take a leap of faith to meet the path less travelled? Do we open our eyes and choose the street unknown where adventure awaits, where new beginnings open up to fresh starts, where limitless possibilities widen out to vistas of untold joy as we create a life beyond our wildest dreams.
We cannot create a new story of our life holding onto the belief that our best story is the one where we were the victim of life's follies played out upon the pages of our life being turned by some unseen hand. There are countless stories to tell, countless dreams to unfold -- but first we must let go of defining ourselves by flipping through the pages of the past, again and again, for fear of facing the blank page of today waiting to be written.
For me, the best way to do that is to keep telling stories on myself that place me as the heroine of my own life. Stories that uplift me, nurture me, strengthen me. Stories that celebrate my human being doing what I do best -- living rapturously in the moment of now being me in my all beauty, warts and all.
For me, the story of my life has just begun. This morning. Right now. Right here. It is a story worth telling. A story waiting to be told. A story worth living and celebrating. A story only I can tell.
The question is: Are you stuck on a page of the story of your life that you cannot turn? Are you willing to tell your story and then, let it go so that you can create the story of your lifetime?