Transforming Your Story – The “How”
Part 3 of a series. 12 posts scattered throughout 2014 on Transforming Your Story.
Part 1 – the “what:” 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.
Part 2 – the “why:” This is your story. You’ll decide where it goes from here.
And now, Part 3 – the “how.”
In order to transform your story, you need to consider how you came to tell it the way you do.
Have you ever listened to yourself tell a story about something that happened to you and wonder why you chose to tell it the way you did? Why you used humor, sarcasm, dismissal, emotion, or any other myriad of devices?
Whatever choice you made in that moment is not objective. The ways in which you experience the events of your life and the way in which you interpret, translate, and tell of them is always subjective; always influenced by the lenses that are yours. And one of those lenses is the assumptions you make.
We all make them: assumptions. We jump to conclusions, have opinions, feel our gut response. We can’t help it, really. It’s knowing what they are and where they come from that makes the difference.
Here’s a quick exercise to prove my point:
- When you see an online personality who appears to be completely put together and undoubtedly successful, what thoughts run
through your mind?
- When you spot a composed, attractive, and perfectly thin mom at Starbucks with her well-behaved, well-dressed children, what do you think?
- When someone passes you on the freeway, what is your directed response toward the other driver?
- When you hear someone mention the word “God,” what happens inside?
- When you watch a political debate, what thoughts formulate concerning the “opponent?”
- When following a truck with bumper stickers that offends you, what do you already know about the people inside?
I have no agenda inherent in any of these statements; rather, I list them to show how our brains so quickly leap to what we think we know, what we think we understand, what we’ve sometimes been indoctrinated to feel. Assumptions form quickly, naturally, and make their presence known. It can be a little scary, really.
These unconscious perceptions and preconceived notions have been developed and highly-honed over time – through our own and others’ voiced experiences; through the particular circumstances and cultural realities that have influenced and shaped our lives.
If this is true as it relates to the things and people external of you, it is just as true, if not more so, within.
You have interpreted the events in your past, in your own story, in a particular way. You experience the day-to-day aspects of your life with a learned-perspective. And you even consider your future with pre-determined beliefs about what can and will happen (or not).
You are living (and telling) your story within a swirl of assumptions.
Knowing the assumptions you have and do make within your own story (the “how” of how it’s told) is one of the most profound ways to transform it – past, present, and future.
A personal example:
A NOTE: My theological perspective has shifted more-than-significantly since the following story occurred, but it serves in this context.
I assumed, during my excruciating years of infertility, that it was, apparently, God’s plan that I not become a mother. It was not mine to question, to doubt, to feel anger over. And this created incredible angst and nearly insurmountable levels of ambivalence for me. If I believed that God was in control of all things, then this too, had to fall under “his” purview. And if that assumption were true, then who was I to question, to rage, to exhibit pain? I needed to suck it up and accept God’s will as best for me.
And therein lied the problem: I couldn’t – at least with any degree of honesty.
Adjectives that describe those years are words like gray, bland, and flat. It’s true: I was sad when the clinic would call to tell us the latest insemination attempt hadn’t worked. And yes, I was devastated, at least momentarily, when I was reminded of my fate every 28 days. I even recall expressing tentative anger with the-God-I-thought-I-knew through my journaling, but quickly talking/writing myself out of such by listing all the ways in which I was grateful; more, the ways I clearly needed to change my attitude, my perspective, my response. I argued with myself incessantly. I fought every temptation to despair. I kept a stiff upper lip and marched onward because to stop long enough and actually experience, let alone express my anger and anguish would have undone me…or so I thought.
The assumptions I held and the beliefs they perpetuated (or maybe the beliefs I held and the assumptions they perpetuated), reeked havoc in my mind and soul. They shaped my story in marked and undeniable ways during those years. And if then, how many times before and certainly after?
Herein lies a pathway for me to look at my story anew: to wonder about where grief remains to be expressed, where true emotions have been hidden under layers of practiced behavior, where learned-belief has superseded lived-experience. And the more of these layers I uncover, the more profoundly my story – as I’ve been telling it – becomes clear to me; the more ability I have to tell and live it as I prefer – to transform it – with beliefs chosen, assumptions put aside, new lenses donned.
I can re-play that tape in a much different way today. I extend myself considerable consolation and kindness. I grieve after-the-fact. I wonder anew about where the divine was showing up all the time – but in ways I couldn’t see…yet. I look with appreciation and gratitude at the infinite strength of my heart to endure, to persevere, to hold on to hope. And I look at my two daughters with infinite amounts of awe – continually amazed by their presence in my life; miracles, both.
In my story – and maybe in yours – to get underneath assumptions, acknowledge them, and then gift ourselves with new and ever-deepening understanding – might be the most transformational thing we
could ever do.
My story is worth that. Your story is worth that. Even more, you are!
May it be so.