The Stories of Our Lives
“Sometimes reality is too complex. Stories give it form.”
Jean Luc Godard
I’m taking a new look at my stories . . . those narratives I tell myself about myself that continue to form and inform my personal reality. And, just lately I was prompted to ask two questions of each of my most influential stories: Is it true? Is it useful?
Not too many Sundays ago I found myself in a quiet sanctuary, listening to the minister share a message about personal narratives. A voracious reader and hopeful writer, I’m in love with stories. At the same time, I’ve learned to treat intimate stories with careful respect because a person’s stories have enormous power in the shaping of a life.
I found myself actually taking notes as his premise continued to take shape: our lives are a collection of the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves. We create the narratives that explain the life choices we make . . . to not only others, but most importantly, to ourselves. They are dynamic, personal signposts.
Since I believe in their power, I need to ask: Is that familiar story I’ve been telling myself really accurate? Have I been repeating an old narrative that is healthy and life-affirming or one skewed toward fear and helplessness? Is it ever too late to tell yourself the truth, no matter the joy or pain?
Just as importantly, I need to ask myself if my most influential stories are useful to my present reality? Have I become used to a narrative that no longer serves my life and may even be damaging? Am I brave enough to study the stories I’ve been telling myself that are held closely in my heart? Do I have to carry fruitless stories about myself into my future? Do I have a choice?
Part of the message that Sunday was about choices. We have them . . . plus the ability and responsibility to make good ones when we become aware. We carry the tools we need within us. Our hearts and minds, when freed and fed generously with courage and insight, will lead us to find and reframe any damaging story with truth and usefulness . . . or they will tell us to let it go.
If the stories we claim as ours are neither true nor useful, we need new stories. We have one life whose paths we construct using hundreds of our own significant stories. I offer this wonderful threshold song lyric by Jack Kornfield with the hope that as you stand in the doorways of your thresholds, choosing which stories to celebrate and which to let go, you honor the promising beauty of your one life.
“In the end what matters most is how well do I live? How well do I love? How well do I learn to let go
Always sending you grace for your journey,