I love to listen to stories, especially family stories. One of my favorite is of my Papa as a boy in the late nineteen tens getting into the driver’s seat of his father’s Model T and replying when asked what he was doing, “I’m cryin’ to crive this car.” I can just imagine Papa, a determined tow headed little Welsh boy in turn of the century clothing and a tiny newsboy hat and full confidence he was capable of driving that car.
But what are the other stories we tell? Especially those stories we tell ourselves, and where do they come from? My grandfather told himself the same story he his Papa told him: “You are capable man. You are an honest man. You are a good man.” The story my grandmother heard the first ten years of her life was similar. “You are loved. You are safe. You are good. You deserve good things.” But during the depression both of their young lives where torn unsounder.
My Papa had to leave home at fourteen. His Papa could no longer feed him and the passel of young children at home. My Mimi’s Mama died, and her father turned to alcohol to cope. He sent her to Grandma Anderson, the woman raised by her pirate grandfather. Papa was sent off with his story intact. He eventually joined the Navy, saw the world, and came out of the service at nineteen just as World War Two began. Mimi on the other hand had her story altered with long lasting effects.
Mimi’s story became “you’re no better than that drifter father of yours, you’ll never be anything, you don’t work hard enough, there’s nothing to cry about, be harder, if you’re raped it’s your fault”. Quite a different story than the one she heard for the first ten years. The conflict in the story she told herself haunted her throughout life.
But we are not the stories we tell. We are the authors of the stories we tell. YOU ARE THE AUTHOR OF YOUR LIFE. Being the author doesn’t negate the pain of loss, the parents you are born to, or even your physical apparatus for exploring this world. What it does is change you.
I’m a big into journaling. You might want to get into it, too. But, even if you’re not, do yourself a favor. Get a notebook, a pen, and write out the story you tell yourself about you, your family, your life, your mistakes, and your successes. Be honest, the kind of honest that twists your guts and lays bare your darkest thoughts. Then imagine reading that to your five year old self. Would you call that five year old child worthless, undeserving, bad, shameful? Then write the heart story you’d rather that precious child hear. That heart story is your story. Read it to yourself. Let it seep into you. Believe it. Live it.
My grandmother never had the chance to write out her story, to be her own author. I sometimes wonder what it would have been. But I did have the chance to write my story, and it has made all the difference in my heart’s life.
What are the stories you tell? Are they true? Or have you bought a lie at the cost of your heart, the collapse of your soul, the shrinkage of your emotions? It’s the stories we tell that make our lives full and good. Tell your story well.
Join me next week for a little talk on how to chase out those negative thoughts that keep buzzing around your ears.
In all you do, Craft No Harm.