On Sunday I spent the day with my mumma.
It’s getting harder for her to do things now, so I’m spending as much time with her as I can. We ate cheese on toast, looked at old photos and we told each other stories. Things we’d never shared with each other ’til now, fears, worries, things that made us happy and together, slowly and tentatively, we began to re-write our story.
As a badass book writing coach, I know the power of storytelling. It’s the way we’ve all connected and shared our lives with each other since the beginning of time. We’re all storytellers. We tell stories to ourselves, and to the people around us, every single day. It’s our narrative. As we experience life, we ‘tell’ it. We share almost every event that happens to us, whether it’s as an anecdote or complaint, an amusing over-dinner story or told purposefully and with interpretation in a blog post, or in the pages of a book. What we tell is totally subjective, we choose the words, the tone, and the attitude. So by choosing our narrative, we define the experience. In fact, our entire reality is defined by the stories we choose to tell.
If we choose to tell empowering, uplifting and creative stories about our lives, well, that can be freakin’ awesome. Sometimes, however, we can get stuck in stories that don’t serve us. Regardless of the actual truth in these stories, if we tell them often enough, eventually they become our reality. A self-fulfilling prophecy. But, in the same way that we have crafted our current narrative, we have the total power to rewrite our story too.
Y’see, til about 3 years ago, the story of my mumma and I was pretty much written. I blamed my mum for leaving me when I was 13, and pretty much every bad thing that’s ever happened to me since then, has been her fault. End of story. Now this particular story – short, lacking in depth and without any kind of character development – is one I’ve been telling for the last 20 years. But recently, with the news of her terminal illness, I’ve realised that this was simply, what I call in my coaching practice, a ‘shitty first draft’. This particular story, if it were to have power and meaning, needed a re-write, a hefty edit and a two person perspective, because this is most definitely not how I wanted this particular story to end.
The universe/divine/ spiritual homegirl had set us a deadline – and there is nothing that kicks a writer-girl’s ass like an impending deadline – so together, we’ve started to re-write our story.
There’s nothing like a deadline to help you prioritise your writing practice – what’s important? What no longer serves me? You have to challenge your story and let go of the bits that you really might like and have grown rather attached to, in order to gain super-clear clarity. Blaming my mum for pretty much everything meant that I didn’t have to take a look at myself in the mirror, I liked that. But in the re-writing of this story, I’ve had to cut the bullshit, drop the flowery prose, the endless things I’ve continually blamed her for, and simply tell my truth. I hurt, I felt alone, I felt unloved.
Then I listened.
I listened to why my mumma left, why it broke her heart to leave me, and her hope of all hopes that one day I would understand why she had to do it. I’ve also discovering new things that enrich and add layers to my own personal story, simply by connecting with hers. How hard I was to conceive, that I was a total blessing, that there’s not a day goes by when she’s not proud of me, that she did the best she could with the tools that she had. These are new additions to my life manuscript that give it light, love and a softer texture.
Remember those stories you read as kid where you get to choose the ending? Our lives can be like that, too.
We can’t control everything that’s happened in our lives, but we can chose how we respond and react to them. So if there’s things you’ve always wanted to do, climb a mountain, write a book, rock out in a band, forgive a family member, dance in the rain, don’t let your current story hold you prisoner. As long as we live and breathe, it is never too late to redraft our narratives and choose a different ending.