Stories We Tell

I’ve talked about stories before. It’s probably one of my top 5 issues. Mostly because it goes by daily and we don’t notice its influence. We know about forgiveness. Change this one thing in your mind and so many other things fall into their perfect places. Probably 80% of us are on some type of self-improvement kick, but our story goes unnoticed.

Maybe you have no idea what I am talking about. Okay, ground rules.

  • This is non judgmental. No story is wrong. And no story is right. Mine is just mine. Not superior or inferior.
  • We don’t always know who gave us our story, but we can notice that it’s there.

  • It’s changeable if we decide to change it.
  • Only we can change our story.

  • We all have a story playing in the back of our minds. Some script we rule our lives by.

Who is the bad guy to my good guy? What is my role in life? Notice the next time you’re in a room with a group of people. We all have our drink in hand or we’re standing around our cubicles. If someone is talking, someone is telling their story. What does their tale say about them as a person or community? What does it say about their belief in right and wrong? I’m really hesitant here to say much because I don’t want people to clam up around me. Maybe if I generalize, people won’t realize how much I listen to them. But specific instances would highlight my meaning. Are you the good parent? Your ex the bad one? Are you clever? Your classmates stupid? We like to talk about how we hate stupid people, but most of us cringe inside wondering if we’re the stupid person. Haven’t most of us went the wrong way on a one way road? Yikes.

Okay, so I will dive in….

If I want to be the good guy, I have to cast someone in my life as bad. Usually we have regular cast members in our life that fill the roles we play. I’m the good one. The smart one. So you have to play my bad, stupid friend. Just kidding, not really you. The guy driving in front of you in the morning is stupid. Let’s use him. We can tell because he’s on his phone when he’s driving. Right? He forgot to use his turn signal also. Can’t he see how stupid he is? This also makes him a bad guy. He’s breaking your rules.  What about when your ex forgets to tell you of an important birthday party for your 8-year-old daughter, planned for the weekend-your weekend? Of course you get angry. Rightfully so! You’re angry because once again he has proven how irresponsible he is. On the side note, he also proved how responsible and righteous you are. So when you tell the story of your ex and his lack of consideration and his lack of planning, you add any details to flower it up a little. The time he forgot to pack her toothbrush or her lunch for school. How her bedroom at his house still isn’t decorated. What a horrible father he is. By telling these things you aren’t really concerned about the toothbrush or the bedroom paint color. You’re telling your story. Your role in life. You are RESPONSIBLE! And don’t forget smart. We might as well walk up to people on the street wearing a t-shirt saying we are responsible and smart. I’m with Stupid (arrow pointing to the side). We could start our conversations with, I am so responsible. Let me tell you what happened today to prove it.

Am I overdoing it? We all play roles in life. I have mine as well. Why do I have a blog? Why write a book or two? What’s my story? Shhhhhh..don’t tell if you know. Super undercover here.

My story

I want to tell you my story. At least one of them. I have a few. Some of them conflicting with each other. I grew up in a great home. We weren’t rich, but my family was hardworking. I was always proud that my last name was Bailey. It meant a lot to me. Strong, capable, enduring. I was a tiny girl in a small town. I was always trying to catch up with my brothers. If I could keep up, I felt big. My family had two businesses in a town the size of a peanut, so I didn’t feel obscure. I started kindergarten and graduated high school in the same town. Small town, small school. It was a perfect environment for me. I had lots of adults around me. And I have one very strong memory of a family in particular.

Not only did I start and complete school in the same town, but my family went to the same church all of my life. From 8 years old and up. I was baptized in that church and got married there. They gave me my baby showers and poured a lot of love into me. The McAfees were a family that had helped start the church. They took me under their wings for some reason. Their oldest daughter gave me her paper doll collection when I was around 10. When I was 15 I volunteered to help in a summer children’s program. I went into the classroom expecting to be a helper and wound up being the teacher. Mrs. McAfee was my helper. She told me straight out that I would teach this class and she was only the helper. Stammering and stuttering…ummm. Why? Because that’s who she was. She saw something in me and wanted to encourage it to grow. It always makes me tear up. I feel so blessed to have grown up with people like that surrounding me.  They loved me. And not only me, they did that with many children. It was their story.

Carolyn Myss has a book called Sacred Contracts: Awakening Your Divine Potential.  She talks about archetypes. If you have a chance to read it, I urge you to do so. She has a new one which I haven’t read yet, called Archetypes: Who Are You?. Archetypes are stories. Roles that people play. One that seems the most obvious to me is Oprah. She plays a queen. Whatever your feelings towards this woman, you have to admit she’s a queen. She’s not evil, she’s not good, but she is in charge when she walks into a room.

Just a quick note on role-playing. It’s one way to update your story. Role playing has a very powerful effect. People can often put psychological spells on you by putting you into a role, but you don’t have to play their game if you recognize what they are doing. Don’t play along. Walk away.

There’s a study from Stanford University of inmates vs wardens role-playing. In 1971, for 6 of the originally planned 14 days they conducted an experiment with mostly white, middle class volunteers to test the outcomes of the roles we play. If you’ve never heard of it, you can read about it here wikipedia or Stanford Prison Experiment. I don’t know if these people had any lasting after effects, but I can’t imagine it not having a lasting impression. Professor Zimbardo later apologized in his book, The Lucifer Effect

“of not providing adequate oversight and surveillance when it was required… the findings came at the expense of human suffering.”

Now you have a good idea how the game is played, let me remind once again you of the ground rules about the stories we tell…

  • This is non judgmental. No story is wrong. And no story is right. Mine is just mine. Not superior or inferior.
  • We don’t always know who gave us our story, but we can notice that it’s there.
  • It’s changeable if we decide to change it.
  • Only we can change our story.
  • We all have a story playing in the back of our minds. Some script we rule our lives by.

Change It Up!

So you’re tired of telling yourself that you never win anything. That you’re always the last to know. The loser. Stupid. Have to get everything the hard way. If you get any extra money, something will break. Or any other hysterically depressing life script. It’s not a laughing matter at all. Things can change for you. If you want them to.

Why are you jealous? This is a great navigation tool. We get jealous, irritated and mean if someone gets an opportunity that we wanted.

Someone’s bragging about their perfect marriage? An opportunity to go back to school? A moment in the limelight? Yep, we all know the feeling. I get really irritated when I hear that some celebrity has published a book. And it’s a children’s book. I pull out my collapsible podium and go at them. How dare they? What qualifies them to write anything? They are a celebrity, they didn’t need introduced to anyone. No technique or craft skills. That’s not fair! Probably never read a book themselves. Yeah, I hope you like the ugly side of me in a jealous fit. Like it or not, we all take a trip down that road. Your sister, your sister-in-law or just an acquaintance has a baby and their baby is absolutely adorable. Cough, cough, gag.

Tell your new story

I know that we can’t control what happens in other people’s lives. We do have some ability to work with own life and outlook. If the story of a friend’s vacation makes you want to punch her, take a hint. Ding ding ding. Are you wanting a vacation? Do you feel you deserve one? Or do you feel you’ve worked harder than her and didn’t take one? Investigate your envy. Develop a method of investigating your irritations instead of ignoring them. The “Not Fair” flashing alert sign comes on for me at times. And now with the anger comes the question, “what am I missing in this?” Am I wanting what they have? Or the ability to have a choice?

Old depressing life script: I have to work hard to get anywhere. I would get extremely upset when I notice someone get a promotion or the limelight when I felt they didn’t work hard enough for it. She only got the job because her family was friends with the boss. And I can roll around in the pain and anger or I can get up and live my life.  So I chose to live my life. I decided to change my story.

New life script: I live my life, my path. Sometimes I work hard and sometimes helpful people give me hand up.

Old: I need to catch up. I need to go faster or I will get left behind.

New: I am going at my speed. Life has different speeds. This is not a timed race and there’s no finish line.

Find proof in your memories of your new story. You’ve done the hardest part. You’ve identified what makes you jealous. You’ve turned it into a new story, the story you want to develop inside of you. Now let’s give it some life. Find a memory that supports your new story. For example, my new story, sometimes I work hard and sometimes helpful people give me a hand up. Well I’ve been given opportunities that others didn’t get because they knew I would do the job. They saw my hard work. I earned the opportunity, you might say, by being a steadfast person. I know the people. I know in life, because I put one foot in front of the other even on days that I felt like sitting at home. This does not mean that I’m always perfect or deserving. I am certainly not wanting to gloat because, I am extremely thankful for all the help and votes of confidence. I am thankful for the pilgrim who founded my country with a document stating our rights to freedom. I am thankful for pioneers who braved harsh climates and loss and death. It gives me courage to keep trying even when the future looks bleak. I am thankful for women who demanded equal rights.

I am thankful for every challenging and difficult woman or man who refused to sit down and shut up when their rights were challenged.

This is what I am talking about. I am blessed. I am blessed with choices and opportunities. My parents gave me a solid foundation of love and helped me grow. the list goes on. I am building on a foundation laid by generations of people before me. Champions. I live my life, my path. Sometimes I work hard and sometimes helpful people give me hand up.

Energy flows to where your attention goes. If you are driving in the fog and it’s difficult to see, maybe all you can see is the car in front of you. That’s your focus, your guide. Otherwise you may drift off the road. Your life-script is your guidance. When the times are tough you have to remember that this doesn’t last forever. That a new day will come. When someone else gets the job you wanted, you have to remember that you are just as blessed. Maybe they did get it because their boss favors them. But tomorrow is a new day. That boss may not last another week, you don’t know. I’ve seen it happen. That sure thing can fall through and what do they have to fall back on? What do you have to fall back on? You have your life story.

Find your jealous flashing lights. Turn the story around. Build the story with examples you highlight from your memories. Keep doing this all of your life. I guarantee you will not regret it. When you are in your olden years you can say, I lived my life and I am blessed.