My therapist and I have long worked on how I “see” the world. More specifically how I see my day-to-day life and the interactions I have with other people, especially my family. He uses words like, “in your story” or “the story you’re telling yourself.” Sometimes I really don’t like him.
We use these worksheets called “Judge Your Neighbor” worksheets, created by Byron Katie. It’s a whole sheet of questions about how a specific event went and how you feel about the person you were involved with in the event. It asks you to truly judge your neighbor. What about this incident and person was awful and why? Write out all the feelings you have and all the names you want to call them and all the ways you were wronged. Get mad, and throw proverbial stuff, all over that paper.
Ask yourself if it’s true.
I have a love/hate relationship with these worksheets and therapy sessions. While I want to process arguments, disagreements, and hurt feelings with another human being, I really don’t want to see that there is any other way to see that event, other than my own.
Of course all of the events and judgments of the other person are true. I heard it, saw it, and felt it, just the way it is written on the paper. I want there to be no validity to this story being written any other way.
After countless worksheets, therapy sessions, podcasts, books, hours of prayer and meditation, I can see there might be some measure of truth to this whole idea of having and clinging to a story that doesn’t serve me well.
My story is just that, my story. It isn’t going to look like anyone else’s. That’s ok. It’s the clinging to this story as the absolute truth that’s the problem for me.
My small group worked through a series of book studies that have really helped clarify this for me. They have burst open the dam to some of the more tender moments of my life and flooded me with ways to look at those moments differently. To rewrite them, if you will.
The thing that I was most afraid of happened and it changed my life.(Read about that here and here.) And for a really long time I could only see how it changed it for the worst. It wrecked all the plans and expectations I had for how my marriage and family life would look. It made me into someone I didn’t recognize. Someone filled with grief and despair. Someone who struggled deeply in the relationships I held most dear. And even though there were actual moments of real joy during those hard years, I still tended to paint that time with a broad brush stroke of disaster and heartache.
And now all of those stories of wrongs, grief, and pain are being rewritten. Don’t get me wrong, absolutely nothing about those events changed. No magic eraser came scrubbed out the hard things. But I am changing the way that I tell myself those stories. No longer am I victim in a life that didn’t go as I had planned; I am a woman who was made to live the life I have.
Think about that. Seeing that I was made to live this life-this particular path-is such a relief. It wasn’t a mistake. I wasn’t caught up in some awful movie meant for someone else. I was made for exactly what I’ve lived.
What an empowering idea. All the heartache, worry, and tears were not all for naught. They were for me. To shape me into the person I am becoming.
As an author, the ability to rewrite something near and dear to me often feels impossible. I don’t want to make cuts or edits to something that came from my heart. But what if a rewrite is the polish that makes my story shine?
Learning how to rewrite my story so that it reflects both the pain and the perseverance, both the tears and the tenderness, both the grim and the growth has allowed me to see the shine. I could not have the shiny without the grit. Rewriting what I tell myself about how I came to be the person I am today has allowed me to be more compassionate, more vulnerable, and more self-aware.
A rewrite is not a defeat or a failure; it’s a way to see my story more clearly, without all the baggage standing in the way.