Tell a Different Story

3 Sep

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We all get stuck now and then and when we do, we tend to use those moments of stress to reinforce the stories we tell ourselves, usually in a negative way. We can eat healthy food and exercise for several days in a row and then blow it out on a weekend and convince ourselves we have no self-discipline. We can take care of our homes and clear some clutter then get distracted for a few days by life and beat ourselves up about the condition of our living space and tell ourselves what losers we are. Have you ever said any of these things to yourself?

I just can’t get organized.
I don’t have any willpower.
I’m just lazy
I’ve always been messy.
I’m such a loser.
I’m so stupid.
What’s wrong with me?
I suck.
I’m worthless.
I’m not a morning person.
I hate laundry, washing dishes, etc
My spouse won’t let me.
If my kids weren’t so messy…
If my kids would just behave…

The list could go on and on, and I’m sure everyone could add more than a few to this list, but why do we say or think these things? I’m sure we would all say because it’s true, but I would be willing to bet that at some point someone else put that idea in your head and you decided to believe them. Maybe you were just a little tyke when someone said something to you, but you’ve based your view of yourself on someone else’s opinion of you. In truth, nearly everything you think about yourself is based on what others think of you. Isn’t that an amazing concept to think about? The sad part is that most of us were raised and surrounded by damaged people who were raised and surrounded by damaged people. We have become the product of those fractured pieces of humanity and their opinions.

In addition, all through our lives we encounter other damaged human products in the form of teachers, friends, enemies and bullies. I was halfway through 2nd grade when we moved to a new school district. One boy in my new class decided to make me the target of his unhappiness in life. He made fun of me for being smart, for wearing glasses and for how I looked in general. He decided to nickname me bird because he said my nose looked like a beak. My heart breaks for my seven year old self when I think about not only what he said, but the reaction of the adults in my life regarding the incident. Back in my day, we were told to ignore the bully (impossible), to say sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me (big fat lie) or worst of all, he probably likes you and just doesn’t’ know how to show it. Ack!!! And we wonder how women end up in abusive relationships. That boy’s actions did more to destroy my self-esteem that anything else up to that point. So much of what I thought about myself was created by that boy; because I believed what he said must be true. Not once did anyone tell me that what he said was a lie. It wasn’t until many years later that I began to tell a different story about what happened to me in 2nd grade.

I had forgotten about Brian, my second grade bully, until I was doing some spiritual work that asked you to find the origin of some of your negative beliefs about yourself. It was then, through some journaling, that I remembered Brian and the impact he had on my life. I was stunned at first that something so long ago and seemingly forgotten was such a big part of how I thought about myself. Then I got angry, at Brian for how he treated me and at the adults in my life for shrugging it off. I let go of a bunch of rage, and it was cathartic, but that was just the beginning. Over the years I’ve learned many things from my encounter with Brian.

It took a while, but I figured out how badly this young boy must have felt about himself; this boy who spent nearly all of 2nd grade behind the giant flip charts in our classroom. I can clearly see how a new girl in class who was eager to learn, who loved school, who wanted to be smart and please the teacher would be the perfect target for a boy who didn’t like school, who had no problem and maybe even enjoyed displeasing the teacher. I believe, now, that Brian craved connection and for him, even negative attention was connection of some kind. Many of my teacher friends have shared the quote that children who need the most love often show it in the most unloving ways. I believe Brian was one of those children, and I now grieve for what he needed and didn’t get, from me or from anyone else I would guess. I have forgiven Brian over and over again as I realize how many of my negative thoughts and emotions are tied to my time with him. I’ve forgiven myself too for hating him, for returning his anger with some cruel thoughts and words of my own and even for feeling relief rather than sadness when Brian was killed in a single driver accident when we were in high school.

These days, I tell a different story about Brian. Instead of being angry and bitter about a boy who was unkind to me, I use Brian to help me forgive those who are unkind to others, especially those I care about. Just this week, someone was unkind to one of my children and my first thought was revenge. I thought about the many ways I could make life miserable for that person, but after thinking it over, I realized my son had learned some valuable life lessons, not the least of which is how much he can count on me to be there for him. It is the story we are choosing to focus on, and it is helping us to move passed the situation very quickly.

Remember the list of negative things I mentioned before? What if we changed them to begin to help everyone live better and look at themselves with a kinder eye?

What if “I can’t get organized” becomes I am learning every day how to live a better life for myself and my family?
“I have no willpower” and “I’m just lazy” can become I am learning to live my highest calling every day.
“I’ve always been messy” becomes I love my home and am taking better care of it daily.
“I’m such a loser” transforms into every day above ground is a successful one.
“What’s wrong with me?” turns into how can I become a better version of myself?
“I’m so stupid” changes to I learn something new every day.
“I suck” and “I’m worthless” are replaced by I do my best daily and that is good enough.
“I’m not a morning person” can slowly transform into I am learning to appreciate every part of every day.
“My spouse won’t let me” evolves into I choose every day how I live my life. If you believe this isn’t true for you, I suggest you get counseling or you get out. From previous life experience, I would suggest you get counseling if you have given that control over to someone else and don’t know how to take it back. If you feel afraid to even think about taking control of your life back, I suggest you get out as quickly as possible. This one is near and dear to my heart because I have seen so many women waste away in unhealthy relationships that become only about what the man wants. Please get help if that’s where you are.
“If my kids weren’t so messy” or “If my kids would just behave” turns into I am becoming my children’s best role model.

You get what I’m saying. You can turn your life around and just because you say these things, your life will not magically change into everything you ever wanted it to be, but it’s a start. The irony is that the story doesn’t change at all because you don’t deny anything that happens or happened. Instead, you change because you take the lessons from the story and use it to empower yourself rather than imprison yourself. In essence, you set yourself free.

I’m doing that right now with my ADD. I’ve never been formally diagnosed but as I learned about ADD and ADHD after my son was diagnosed 8 years ago, I realized that apple didn’t fall far from the tree. The difference between us was that I loved school and he doesn’t, and since only hyper boys with emotional issues were diagnosed when I was a child, I was relegated to the ranks of being scatter brained and flighty. I learned and coped and eventually found systems that helped immensely. Then, I went through menopause and things got nutty. I still keep a clean and mostly tidy house, but it seems to take more energy. I started to berate myself for backsliding and trying to figure out what the heck was wrong with me. Through my own research, I found out that some women with ADD see changes after menopause. Apparently, the hormonal changes can affect some of the symptoms. I’ve never been medicated for ADD because pharmaceuticals and I have a bad history but I was almost ready to dive into the pharmaceutical world to see if they could help me. I was feeling overwhelmed and cynical and defeated when I found a more holistic approach to helping those with ADD. I am just beginning to look through the extensive program and I’m excited to give their approach a try. I’ll let you know how it goes, but it is already taught me to look at that story a little differently. In fact, it’s helping me tell a completely different story about myself because I’m seeing how my weight and my clutter are attached to my ADD. I’m realizing I’m not as lazy as I think I am. I am also realizing that I do fairly well at life, but as I get older, keeping it all together is getting to be more of a challenge, which shows me that can happen for my son too. The most exciting part, though, is that we now have some tools which can help us create and then tell a better story for our lives, and that is what I would challenge everyone to do. Search out the tools that will help you tell a different and better story. Get counseling if you need it. Find resources online, through your library or through retail sources if you need to. Everyone loves free resources, but trust me, if you pay what I did for this program about ADD, you will look it over thoroughly, just to get your money’s worth. That’s kind of what I’m hoping to get out of it as well. I’m hoping to get my money’s worth and to improve my life and the life of my son. I’m hoping he can tell a different story about how well he does in school. I’m hoping I can tell a different story about how I take care of my family. If not, I’ll keep looking because I know the story I want to tell and just knowing that keeps me moving forward.

I hope you know the story you want to tell about your life. I hope that story is deeply intertwined with your highest purpose. If not, get to it so we can all live better daily. Thanks for being you and have a great day.


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