"narrative" isn't just for English majors

Dear Ones,

I am in the midst of settling into my new life in Seattle, and there's so much to say!  But first, I want to thank you so very, very much for your incredibly generous responses to my last letter.  I'm often told how rare it is for a reader to take the time to reply to a weekly letter like this, and I'm completely saturated with gratitude for the messages you wrote.  Thank you!!!  Thank you for your well wishes, your genuine support, your kindness and good cheer. 

Secondly, if you're new around here, welcome to the party!  We've got quite a few fresh faces and I'm so pleased you're with us.  This beautiful readership is engaged, growing, and incredibly precious to me.  Welcome, welcome.

Third, before I really jump in to today's stuff, you may have noticed that you didn't receive a letter last week.  You know what?  I FORGOT.  I forgot!  How embarrassing!  And I'm so sorry.  It's true that I did pack up my life in California and move to Washington last week, and I did in fact come down with a particularly yucky cold last week, but oh how I wish I'd remembered!  It's like forgetting to meditate or stretch or call a friend, all of which count as truly enjoyable and life-supporting practices.  In this case, however, it's especially funky that I forgot because writing my weekly letter is, you know, my JOB.  Because I'm the boss and I've said so.  (Lesson learned?  Classroom teachers have emergency substitute plans, and this life coach needs an emergency letter - one that could be sent from an Oregon hotel after driving eleven hours in a moving truck!)

Now for today's story - two stories, rather:

The first one involves a woman who ran into some hard luck.  She had a rocky marriage that felt like a constant battle - she often felt lonely and exhausted from working so hard to make the relationship right.  Despite her efforts, her marriage ended in an emotional divorce.  She struggled and struggled for months to figure out her next steps, like where to live and whether or not to take on a different, more lucrative job so she wouldn't have to depend on alimony.  Worst of all, she dreaded starting over:  she couldn't imagine what would happen next, and she couldn't even begin thinking about her new status as a divorced woman.  She felt afraid of all the judgment coming her way.  Eventually, she realized that she had to move to a new city where the cost of living was cheaper, so she left all her family and friends behind to start her sad new life as an isolated, financially strapped divorcee. 

The second story is about a woman who learned and grew so much in her marriage.  She opened herself up to seeing her own relationships patterns, and she took responsibility for the ways she shaped the marriage.  She also went through a divorce, but the process was astonishingly positive:  she felt calm, even peaceful as she and her husband sat with the mediator.  She connected frequently with how much she loved and wanted the best for her husband (as well as herself) - she placed her faith in a win-win outcome so they could both feel supported.  The mediator declared that they were her "easiest clients ever" and after the final meeting, she and her husband celebrated by sharing a drink around the corner from the mediator's office.  She didn't know what would happen next in her life, but she trusted that everything was happening in exactly the right way because she felt genuinely peaceful - and free.  She allowed herself to feel excited about the mystery of the future (!).  And, she intentionally focused on letting go of what other people might think of her because she knew that her closest, most loving friends fully supported her decisions.  When she allowed herself to really use her imagination, she realized that she wanted to move to a new city, and she decided to take the risk of a grand new adventure with an open mind and an open heart.  She felt truly lucky. 


Now, if you're thinking that both of these women are me, you are correct.  You totally win!  These stories tell different versions of exactly the same life.  While both versions are factually true, one story portrays me as a victim and the other depicts me as a flat-out heroine

Which one do you prefer? 

Which one do you think I prefer? 

Which one do you think I choose to believe?

If you're guessing the second story, you are correct.  You win again!

This is not about endorsing a delusion.  Remember, both stories tell the truth.  (Writing the second one was much easier, but still, they're both accurate.)

We have a choice about our own narrative.  We exercise our power by consciously building a narrative that acknowledges our strength, volition, and grace.  

What kind of story are you telling yourself about you?  In your narrative, do you play the victim or the hero/ine?? 

We are telling ourselves our own story all the time, consciously or not, and we are creating our lives from and through that narrative.  This is why narrative is for everyone (!), not just nerdy English majors like me.  I think we may as well tell a story that honors us (instead of one that degrades and victimizes us):  we can enhance, esteem, celebrate, and tell the truth.

You know what I find?  It's a whole hell of a lot more fun to engage my new life as a lucky, tough-as-nails heroine.  More on that soon. :)

Much love,
Julie