I grew up with stories. My dad could spin a yarn like nobody’s business. They were often just on the edge of believability in that place where you knew they probably weren’t true but you sure wanted them to be. His mother was a storyteller in her own right. She told me of the past. How she met my grandfather, how she built a house with her own two hands, about the child that died unexpectedly, and how my life changed my family. Because of them, I fell in love with stories.
Not long into my adulthood, I began reading a master storyteller, Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes. Her books and tapes were like sacred literature in my development as a woman. That might sound “far fetched” (as my dad likes to say) but it is the truth. Clarissa taught me to look at story as medicine, as a thing that tells us about ourselves, gives us guidance for healing. I learned along the way that I could use story to change my life.
Change your story; change your life.
I know it is true because I have put it to practice over and over again. I was the kid that did poorly in school. While my cousins and best friends were hanging out on the Honor Roll, I was struggling through books and trying to wrap my head around equations. I was in a fog. I struggled through the first years in college too but after learning that I could change my story, I started telling myself I was a good student. I daydreamed on what it would feel like to live that story, and my grades started to improve. I fell in love with learning and even went on to get my Masters in counseling. I walked away with a 4.0 and a national award for influencing the field of counseling. Sometimes, I am amazed at the distance I came.
That is just one example of how changing my story has drastically changed my life.
Today, I am sitting with a different story. This story has been spinning itself for twenty two years now. It is a story that tells me I will die young….in fact my story suggest I will die at the age of 45. That is not very long from now. I turn 45 in 30 months. Exactly two and a half years from now. Why would this story have so much weight?!
When my mom was a young woman, her father died. He was 45. And as children who have lost their parents often do, they begin to feel their parents’ deaths are a reflection of their own deaths, a kind of inheritance. She began to believe she would die at 45. And in fact, she did. Crazy, huh? I tried not to fall into that rut myself, but some mechanism inside me switch on when she died. It chatters out that story, and my life, my actions follows suit.
No, there are no blatantly obvious signs of my early demise. I have no disease, no life threatening disorder. But sometimes, I feel myself moving so fast and frantic that it seems as if I am running from something. This week I realized I am. Death is nipping at my heels. So I live life at a sprint’s pace…quickly working to make my big, beautiful dreams come true before the end of it all.
Well, today I stopped.
Today I stopped, and I turned around. I stood quietly and looked Death in the face.
This is the beginning of Changing My Story. I don’t know where it will lead me exactly, but I do know that with my own hand on the pen I will choose life. Life….happy, peaceful….and long.
What story have you changed in your life? What story would you change if you knew you could?