A transformed story is what I want for you: that you would see your life as story, step into it with the same intent and curiosity, and even more, go about writing/living it with passionate intention, desire, honesty, and hope.
Not surprisingly, it’s what I want for me, too.
And so, this series.
Today, Part 1: What does it mean to Transform Your Story?
Here’s the short answer: You acknowledge that you’re in one in the first place!
To know and believe this to be true, to have it as the over-arching context through which you view your life, then gives you both the ability and privilege of transforming it. The longer answer is, as you might imagine, the remainder of this post.
To transform your story means that you are awake to and aware of the book in which you find yourself and the pages you are writing.
The Book: The larger story within which you find yourself – determined by all kinds of things: family of origin, gender, race, ethnicity, age, location, culture, religious tradition, cultural norms/morals/events, socio-economic status, world events, etc. You do not choose these aspects of your story. They are a given. And the more aware you are of them, the better able you are to understand why you respond in certain ways, why you’re drawn toward (or repulsed by) particular people, philosophies, or systems of belief, even why you look and sound the way you do.
“Yes, that’s so,” said Sam. “And we shouldn’t be here at all, if we’d known more about it before we started. But I suppose it’s often that way. The brave things in the= old tales and songs, Mr. Frodo: adventures, as I used to call them. I used to think that they were things the wonderful folk of the stories went out and looked for, because they wanted them, because they were exciting and life was a bit dull, a kind of sport, you might say. But that’s not the way of it with the tales that really mattered, or the ones that stay in the mind. Folk seem to have been just landed in them, usually – their paths were laid that way, as you put it.” ~ J.R.R. Tolkein, The Fellowship of the Ring
The Pages: Yours to write, to develop, to fill, to love. (And sometimes to scribble on, take a Sharpie to, or edit profusely.) Sentences to craft. Characters to shape. Dialogue to determine. Plot to build. Emotions to have. Feelings to express. Memories to heal. Dreams to dare. Hopes to express. You choose these aspects of your story. They are all yours. And the more you are aware of just how much creative license you have; how much freedom you have to choose the very particular and precise, or broad and sweeping ways in which you will write them (and live them, of course), the better.
Every person is born into life as a blank page — and every person leaves life as a full book. Our lives are our story, and our story is our life. Story is the narrative thread of our experience — not what literally happens, but what we make out of what happens, what we tell each other and what we remember. This narrative determines much of what we do with the time given us between the opening of the blank page the day we are born and the closing of the book the day we die. ~ Christina Baldwin, Storycatcher: Making Sense of Our Lives through the Power and Practice of Story
A brief example.
My book. A white woman, born in the U.S. in 1960, and growing up in a middle-class, Presbyterian-church-going home with 2 siblings, 2 parents, and some occasional pets. WAY more between the lines, but just these elements, by their very nature – and undetermined by me – determine a whole bunch of the story that is mine.
My pages. How I view these particulars, how they have shaped me, how I allow them to continue to do so or the very specific ways in which I make different and distinct choices. My responses. My resentments. My growth. My change. The pages are what I determine; what I’m writing/living.
To ignore the parts of my story that were not by choice, is short-sighted. To think that every aspect of my life is up to me, is arrogant. I need a way to recognize, allow for, and most importantly accept my context, my givens: the book in which I find myself. But to stop here is dangerous. To believe that nothing is within my control and that I can only work with the cards I’ve been dealt is, of course, depressing if not fatalistic. What I do with my reality, my story is up to me: the pages on which I write.
In every story there is a fine line between chance and choice, will and destiny, deliberateness and the hand of the Divine. And this is the stuff of great story, beautiful story, passionate story; the kind of story we love.
The same is true in yours and for you. To know where each of these elements are present, to accept responsibility and allow for grace – this is the stuff of your great story, your beautiful story, your passionate story. A story you love.
Two or three things I know for sure, and one of them is that to go on living I have to tell stories, that stories are the one sure way I know to touch the heart and change the world. ~ Dorothy Allison