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Posts Tagged narrative therapy

Cheating Death

I faced Death today.

It is part of turning my life around. I decided a few days ago that I would change my story to change my life. The main goal: to finally be rid of the nagging feeling that I would die at the age of 45 like my mother and her father both did.  With 45 only 30 months away, I felt if I was going to change my story, this would be the time to do it!

I started by going to the place where the story lives, inside me.  Shall I take you along, as if you were there? Let’s go.

I got very still and focused on the feeling of urgency that has been following me around saying, “Girl! You better start living because you’re about to be dying!”

I asked myself, “Who is saying that!”

And I heard a voice, low and soft, down by my feet say, “Me.”

Suddenly I felt something holding me by the back of my ankles. It occurred to me that it had been there a very long time, so long that it began to feel like it was actually a part of me, but it was not. I looked behind me, and there it was, stretched out prone on the ground like a long shadow, Death.  I heard a part of myself say, “If you are going to face Death, you have to FACE it!”

So I took my hands and pulled the attachments off of my ankles. They stuck like moist tar in my hands. I knew I would never be able to shake it off alone. I got down onmy  knees, then elbows, and finally stretched myself out on my stomach. There it was, the face of Death. Breath, wrank. Eyes, hollow and vast. Suddenly, I began to panic.

Saying, “This feels real. This thing in front of me doesn’t feel like it is in my mind, doesn’t feel like it is a story. It feels real. I am holding the hands of Death….my Death. I need help. I can’t do this by myself.”

At my side, a woman knelt down.  I knew she was there to answer my call for assistance. She reached out and scooped the stick tar hands off of me. I sat back. I checked in with myself. I felt safe. I watched her.

She pulled Death to her. It changed in her hands (as it would several times over the course of our time together). It crawled into her lap and curled up like an ailing elder. “There, there,” she whispered. I felt myself relax a bit. I breathed a sigh. Death seemed less scary, almost wounded. I looked at Death. It was emaciated, drawn in on itself, exhausted.

“It has been a long journey,” she told Death. “You are tired.”  I could see Death’s story, much like I could see my own. It began with my Grandfather. Death had come for him early in life. He was a proud, energetic red-headed man who enjoyed the great outdoors. When he died, my mother picked up his story and with it, Death.  So it stuck around and attached itself to her. When 45 came, Death did not want to take her, but Death was tired. When she passed, I picked up my Mother’s story, and Death attached to me. Now three generations into Death’s journey, it sat in the arms of this compassionate woman, ready to be free of its office. Death had started out wholesome, in the service of nature. Death had become sickly and twisted. It was time to let it go.

Behind the woman, three figures appeared. One was a maiden, one a mother, and one a crone. My energy piqued. The Fates!

The woman told Death that the Fates would help it heal. She told Death to stand up. When it did, it transformed into a young woman, 21 years old. I was shocked. How could Death look so young?! I remembered that I was 21 when I took Death on.

“You can’t be 21!” I told Death angrily. “You are not me!” I looked at Death closer and realized it looked like my 21 year old self. “You can’t be 21,” I said softer. And Death changed again, looking as I do today. “No,” I said. “Older, much older.” Death transformed a third time. This time into a woman wise and peaceful, with enough wrinkles across her smiling face to know she lived a good, long, peaceful life filled with joy.

I smiled.

Death turned and walked towards the Fates, giving a nod of appreciation to the kneeling woman.

Then it was my turn to be transformed by her. But I will save that for my next post.

I want to thank you for your out pouring of support as I change my story. Some of you have left private Facebook messages for me or messaged me as part of groups I am in. I am amazed at how many people hold onto this same story or another story that isn’t in line with their wishes for their lives. I am changing mine, and I invite you to change yours. I will share my path to wholeness as an example. Until next time……

Changing My Story

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?

 

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