We all have stories—stories about our relationships, family, work, and other areas of our life. We accept our stories as truth. They are our reality, and we tell our self these stories every day. Thus we ARE our stories. Are your stories making you happy? Do you know you can change your stories?
In the memoir writing classes I teach, time and time again I see the same event producing totally different stories about it. A sister writes a story about the event. She shows it to her brother or sister and each say something along the lines of “Oh, you missed this part “or “I didn’t see it happen that way.”
So here is the change method, the importance of really knowing your stories, and some resources to help you make the changes you want to make. Pull out your journal and use it to work through the following steps.
STEP 1: Write what you want from life. Go deep into your life and pull out the exactness of what you want. Be precise. No cliches, write your nitty gritty truth. Focus on what you want, not what others want for or from you. You may be writing a paragraph or two for each area of your life. Think about how you want to be remembered. This is your mission statement.
STEP 2: Pick one area of your life (for example your relationships) and recapitulate them in your in your journal. To recapitualte means to review, summarize or sum up the events, your current status, what you like and don’t like, what you truly want from that area. If you feel it is “not too bad” or “It’s that way for everybody,” or even “it’s okay,” you have an area where you have blocked off the reality of what that “story” you are telling yourself is doing to you, how negatively it is really affecting you, and what the consequence of that story that it is “okay” can mean to you. Areas like this lead to limited possibilities, disappointment, depression and slowly and quietly that becomes your story. You can use this method in every area of your life to become aware of where change needs to occur.
STEP 3: As you finish a category, ask yourself if you are satisifed with your story. What do you really want? Are your stories giving you want you want in that area? Almost everyone wants happiness. If happiness is not the result of your current story, rewrite it in a way that would give you happiness. Include the changes you would have to make, not changes other people would have to make. We cannot change another, but as we change the situation itself must change.
One plus one is two. But when we become a “two” two plus one can no longer remain a two, it must become a “three.” Some things, including people, may drift away then. But this allows space for what is necessary to enter. Most people do not like change, but without change we do not grow and without growth we calcify and become stagnant.
I have always believed writing memoirs and life stories is healing. And there are many areas in which to experience this healing. In my book THE MAGIC THEATER: Your Personal Journal, Exercise 17 is WE ARE OUR STORIES.
A student told me that after she wrote about her father, she suddenly understood areas of his life that had always bothered her, areas she couldn’t understand. Now, she said, I can forgive him. I too grew in compassion and love when profiling a relative in a memoir. Other people discovered imprinting that stayed with them through life when writing a story about growing up in their family. Discovering such imprinting led them to choose to keep or abandon it, but not to blindly accept it and have it influence current actions. Other exercises in my book lead to writers realizing that statements like “I am too fat” or “I am too old”(you fill in your own blank) led them to limiting themselves.
In Exercise 54 in MAGIC THEATER I use a story about how it is never the event itself but the perception of it that creates the end results, results that affect both the individual and others. You will find some of that when you do the three steps above, but this method stops at the ability to reframe and thus release events.
Here is that story.
Exercise 54: REFRAMING EVENTS
The day of the wedding came and with it a phone call from the musicians who were to play at soft, formal arrangements while the guests milled around visiting and talking. "Mrs. Jones, we are terribly sorry but all but one of us got food poisoning from an event we worked last night. There is no way we can play today. Everyone is weak and Ill. However, I can give you a name of two groups who may be able to take our place.”
The mother takes the names, calls and hires one of suggested replacements.
Hours later, with the marriage ceremony completed, the musicians began playing as the guests trickle into the reception area.
“Oh, my goodness,” cries the mother. “They are playing a polka. And to make matters worse she laments, “the napkins spelled by beautiful daughter’s name wrong. Her name is Anna, not Anne!
She has to use plain unprinted napkins as a result. This is just awful,” the mother whimpers. A migraine is in the works for mother.
She is just about over the edge when she sees the guests drinking beer – not the champagne they had ordered for the reception. “How could he staff have mixed up the reception orders so badly? This has to be someone else’s reception!”
She rushes from the room with anger that borders on depression. This is her only daughter’s wedding, and it is a disaster!
The bride smiles up at her husband. Unaware of her mother’s reaction, she says, “Honey, we have a problem. It looks big but I don’t think it really is. I have an idea, and we need to make an announcement.”
Shortly thereafter, the two walk over to the musicians, speak softly to them, and signal for a drum roll. “Ladies and gentlemen, begins the groom. “the musicians who were to play tonight were unable to make it due to food poisoning last night. We are grateful that we are able to obtain a replacement group, The Dance Kings, who I am going to ask to introduce themselves. The band stood, introduced themselves and asked the guests to feel free to make requests.
Then the bride smiling said, “Now we are going to invite you to dance. If you give the wait staff a moment to rearrange some of the tables, we will have a dance floor. For those of you who don’t like beer, champagne will be served shortly. Thank you for coming to share this day with us. We love you all.” Upon which the bride and groom turned and walk back to their table.
Dinner is served. The guests dance polkas, and two-step, and perform all kinds of dances. There is laughter and happiness. No one notices the napkins are plain, and more beer flowed than champagne.
So now, in closing, I want to introduce you to the book that takes the change level a notch higher. THE POWER OF STORY by Jim Loehr has the subtitle Rewrite Your Destiny in Business and in Life. If you are truly good in self-healing the book may be enough. It is very in depth and insightful. However, if you need help, and most will, seek a good counselor familiar with this method to take you over the rough spots. In any event, reading his stories will be an excellent motivator for you to begin changing your life for the better. Check your library for a copy if you feel hesitant about purchasing it.
Happy Journeying. We are all gods in training.