An interesting or fun quote:

"Happy moments, PRAISE GOD. Difficult moments, SEEK GOD. Quiet moments, WORSHIP GOD. Painful moments, TRUST GOD. Every moment, THANK GOD..."

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The stories we tell

The legend goes like this: when I was a newborn, my parents took me with them on a trip to Florida. On the way, they visited the church of Martin Luther King Sr. (the famous civil rights leader's father). As they greeted the pastor at the door after worship, he laid his hand on my baby forehead. And from that moment onward, I was "commissioned" to be at one with all people on the planet, regardless of cultural background, and to work actively for equality and justice.

Is this story "true?" I don't know. Yes, I do feel a kinship with people that transcends ethnicity, and yes I have--and do--advocate for justice and equality. But is it because MLK, Sr. touched my forehead in blessing when I was a precious few weeks old? There's no way to know for sure. But I sure like to tell the story, and live as though it were true.

We make up stories about our lives constantly, even when we're not aware of doing so. Mostly, our stories sound something like, "I've never been good at school because I'm a kinesthetic learner," "My family produces lawyers," (or doctors or pastors, etc.) Or, "That person doesn't like me." The prominent feature of such "stories" is not what they say about us or other people, but rather how they prompt us to live our lives looking for evidence that they are, in fact, true.

Feel free to argue all you want--"No, no--it's true. I really am a kinesthetic learner!" But chances are, you had no idea what that was when you were in school. All you knew was that you were a "bad" student. I'll bet others told you that and you learned to tell yourself the same thing. Most importantly--you believed it when they said it. That external pronouncement became your internal reality. And I would be willing to bet that it was not an empowering reality for you.

My experience with Landmark Education has really shed light on this human tendency to invent our own life stories. More than that, I've discovered how much power we give to that story, such that little else becomes possible for us, outside of our own invented narrative. If I am "the poor, ignored middle child," or "the responsible one in the family," how likely am I to recognize when others are actually trying to acknowledge me, or throw caution to the wind when given a chance?

Given this, it may be tempting to just say--so give up the story! You'll be free! And it does work that way, some times. As a writer, however, I would rather advise people thus: since we humans are so inclined to write these "stories"--about virtually everything in our lives--why not simply write a darned good one? One that inspires you, empowers or amuses you, instead of what we typically create about ourselves?

My old stories sounded something like: "I'm an irresponsible youngest child," "I never get what I really want," "I'm an introvert and don't particularly like people," and "When people really get to know who I am, they back away." Dead ends, every one.

Lately, I've been writing new stories. "I love my life," "The world is itching to receive the gift I have to offer," "People want to contribute to me," and "Amazing things keep happening to me." And guess what shows up in the context of those stories? You guessed it--a pretty fabulous life. No, I still don't have the power to control all my external circumstances and demand that they show up as I desire. But I certainly get to say who I am in the midst of everything else.

Try it out--the next time you recognize that you've written a disempowering story about yourself, try writing a new one. A fun, playful, heartening one. And see what happens.
You may just become an inspired lover of people, commissioned from birth to realize equality and justice everywhere. :)

Your own narrative--

The one you choose to believe--

Is your life's legend


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