What’s Your Story?

“We are the story we tell about ourselves.” I can’t exactly remember where I heard or read this phrase, but I have been thinking about it quite a bit over the last week.  This one little phrase implies a lot!  To me it connects various ideas about how our thinking and subjective reality are directly impacted by our language. 

Think about it, if “we are the story we tell about ourselves.” Then it seems if we desire to change our reality, then we must first begin by changing the story we tell ourselves about ourselves.

If we tell our story from a negative perspective, e.g. My parents didn’t love me and no one wanted me around as a child and I am unlovable and will always be unlovable, then our reality—emotions, feelings, and moods will reflect that story.  On the other hand, if we tell ourselves a more positive story about how we overcame obstacles, and adapted to change in our lives, and have the courage to continue doing so, then that becomes our story and in turn our new reality.

I think it useful in a conceptual way to re-author our life-story; casting ourselves as capable and solution-focused Lionhearts (in essence brave and courageous individuals), as opposed to problem-focused victims of circumstance who sees ourselves as individuals that have been harmed, injured or broken.  In creating solutions, our imagination plays an important role in how we create a new story for ourselves.  To create a new story for ourselves we must first have the ability to imagine one.  Our wholehearted belief in our ability to adapt and overcome obstacles is central to our success.   More importantly, a story in which we have overcome many obstacles and challenges as well as developed solutions, will be reflected in our day-to-day experience.

When writing a new story for ourselves it must begin with intention—a question involving hope and change: What is my hoped-for outcome:  What do I want out of life and is what I want congruent with what I value most?  This is not an easy question.  It requires us to identify what we value most and to create a mental description or picture of what we want—that takes imagination.  We must imagine living the life that we intend to live; a life we prefer, before we can hope to influence the direction of change.

This mental description or picture serves several very important purposes:  It motivates us to change, it guides the choices we make, and it provides strength and motivation for us when we face difficulties. I know that this seems like a lot of hard work, and it is, but once developed, attending to this description or picture as well the instances in our lives where our imagined life already is occurring, will over time develop a different mood-state and provide continuing motivation for change. 

So ask yourself:  “Am I the Lionheart or Victim of my story?”  If your response is “Victim”, now is as good a time as any to start writing yourself a new story.  My question for you is, what do you want that to look like?

Good Grief!

(Another great guest post by Corey Rotella!)

The Oxford dictionary defines grief as a deep sorrow, especially that which is caused by someone’s death. Taken at face value, that’s an effective enough definition…but does it really encompass how we humans deal with loss? Do we simply feel sorrow and do we really only know loss when it is at the level of death?
Of course not. My years working in long term care have taught me how to accept death as the natural end to life. This is not to say that I don’t feel pain or anger or loss. I just don’t rail against it. Being a woman in recovery has shown me that there are far more difficult and painful situations to fear than death itself.
For me, grief is a nuanced and complex reaction to change of any kind. I came to this realization this year, when I have faced so many dramatic and sudden shifts in my life. Despite most of them being overwhelmingly positive, they all involved a loss of some kind…a loss of an idea, preconceived notion or simply familiarity of routine.
After walking for eight years, I got a car. Fantastic, right? But my mind went into overdrive. Suddenly, I had a world of options that were not previously open to me. What if I chose wrong? What if I became lazy? After nearly a decade on foot, my life was changing in an instant. It meant the loss of what was familiar and that caused me some pain, though I couldn’t pinpoint it at the time. I only knew that I felt vaguely anxious and a little sad. It was only in hindsight that I realized that I was grieving the end of life as I knew it.
That’s the key. Life as we know it ends any time change is introduced. I was offered a better paying job in my field. It was private care and, in theory anyway, involved far less stress and physical strain. WINNING!…except after eight years of experience in the same facility, the amount of heartbreak I felt over leaving my residents and co-workers was far greater than my excitement of a new opportunity. I couldn’t understand my loss of appetite or level of stress over what should have been an exciting new chapter in my life.
Until I recognized that these feelings stemmed from a sense of grief, I was unable to employ the appropriate coping skills that I’ve learned over the years. All these changes were positive, so it made no sense to me that I would be feeling restless, discontent, anxious and sad. It was only through realizing that grief is not always wearing black and weeping at a funeral that I was able to put down the Ben and Jerry’s, accept what I was feeling and take the necessary actions to move forward and grow into my new life.

Corey Anne Rotella co-authored the book CNA Edge: Reflections from year one along with Bob Goddard and Hannah Hedges. It’s a collection of essays from their blog CNA Edge: a Voice from the trenches of Long Term Care

 http://www.cnaedge.com/

She also writes commentary about her life experiences on her personal blog Chasing Wonderland  https://howdoyoueatanelaphant.wordpress.com/

 

Owning Our Oddities.

(Here is a post from guest blogger, Corey Rotella! I hope you enjoy this.)

Ah anxiety. It’s good to see you, old friend. I felt that nagging vague fear attempt to sneak in the back door of my mind. I know this dance well. That quiet feeling of impending doom has defined aspects of my life for as long as I can remember, though I didn’t realize it until I was in my thirties. It’s hardwired into my psyche. As a child, I did my best to escape it. I felt so awkward ALL THE TIME, as if everyone got a manual to life that I was somehow lacking.

     I remember the exact moment when I realized that I lacked the ability to be anyone other than myself. Seventh grade orientation. A brand new school! I was going to be cool! No more “passing Corey germs” from bullying sixth graders. This was a whole new ballgame! So, I borrowed my Grandma’s coolest shirt (my awkward ideas of fashion at the time are a topic for another post) and hit the ground running! The potential of what junior high could be lay before me in all its glory! Life at home during this period of my life was chaotic and I was filled with constant self-doubt that I hid behind a smile so I had placed all my hope for happiness in my school life. And what an extravaganza it was! Cheerleaders and show choir and the dance team exhibiting their skills; extracurricular activities abounded and I soaked up the possibility for an amazing junior high school experience. It wasn’t until the festivities were almost over that I felt a tap on my shoulder.

     “Your shirt is inside out.”…and I knew right then that no matter how hard I might try and how fervently I may wish, I was who I was. I was the girl who wore shirts inside out and lost notebooks and lacked any kind of mental filter and…well I was a weirdo. But not in a cool, intentional way. I was the girl who lived in her head and vacationed in the real world. Any attempt to change this would be an exercise in futility…Seventh grade orientation, I was twelve and I knew that was a fundamental truth.

      Before that fateful day, I could pretend. After, I could only escape. I escaped into books and daydreams and writing. ANYTHING that would pull me from the depressing and difficult realities that surrounded me. That worked…until it didn’t. See, no matter how far I tried to run in my mind and how much I tried to force circumstances to conform into my own personal world view, reality would always show its ugly face and the real world has sharp teeth.

         So, pretending didn’t work and escaping didn’t work. What came next? Fighting! I fought myself and I fought my life, all the while that devious anxiety whispering in the back of my head…you are a failure. You are weird. You are a loser. What’s the point?…Only I wasn’t aware of those thoughts. I didn’t realize those soft and deadly notions had been there all along. It was at that point, those demons began to drive the train. By the time I was in my mid-twenties, I had given up without realizing it. I was pretending, escaping and fighting. I pretended that I was fine. I escaped into any substance that would pull me from reality and I was fighting the idea that there was any other option available. It was exhausting. By all rights, I should be dead a few times over. I don’t know why I had a moment of clarity when so many don’t. I don’t know where I found the strength to grab a hold of that opportunity. I only know that it saved me. That was the day my life began.

              By the time I began my path to recovery, I had such shame and fear that I had no idea how to live. I had no idea who I was and what I wanted, other than for the pain to stop. I wasn’t rebuilding a life that I had lost, you see. My troubles started long before I ever picked up the bottle. I was starting from scratch and that was every bit as exciting as it was terrifying. Clean slate. Tabula Rasa.

           Eight years later, what have I learned? I do not have the luxury of pretending, escaping or fighting certain truths. My level of pain is directly related to my actions.  Feelings are just feelings. To deny them is a dangerous waste of energy. Today I OWN those feelings. I AM awkward. I DO feel anxiety. Occasionally, I wear two different shoes by mistake. I feel anger and fear and doubt and insecurity. I have made some gigantic mistakes. I accept these facts on a day by day basis and I own it and in doing so I am free to learn and grow from all of it. When you own who you are, who you are does not own you. I have been my worst possible self and survived it. Now I get to use that to help others. That is the very definition of redemption and in discovering that truth, I’ve learned what it really means to be free.

       Corey Anne Rotella co-authored the book CNA Edge: Reflections from year one along  with Bob Goddard and Hannah Hedges. It’s  collection of essays from their blog  CNA Edge: a Voice from the trenches of Long Term Care

 http://www.cnaedge.com/

She also writes commentary about her life experiences on her personal blog Chasing Wonderland  https://howdoyoueatanelaphant.wordpress.com/