I recently read a great article titled, “Are You Telling the Right Story of Your Life?” The author tells two versions of her past, both true, but one takes a positive point of view and the other a negative one. She concludes that telling the positive story will help build a better future.
“If you assume that the protagonist of your life story has been trying to get to a goal through whatever tactics were available at the time and did the best they could in every given circumstance, you can use the practice of compassionate imagination to look for the story that shows the character off in the best light. Of course, in this case, the character in question is you.”
What are the two versions of your life? Which one do you tend to tell? For me it depends on the day...or the hour. Overall I’m afraid I cast myself as the antagonist way too often. I think this technique of shining the best light on the character (you) can also apply to our days, weeks, and months…
The story of my month could look something like this:
I can’t seem to finish unpacking after our move. Are the boxes procreating when I go to sleep? I’ve been treating Em more like an inconvenience than a person, plopping her in front of the TV way too often. I’ve been so anxious for good weather, but now that it’s here, I can’t seem to get us outside very much. I’ve felt restless and aimless—a dangerous combination. I can’t seem to find a rhythm for our days.
It could also look like this:
I managed to pack up an entire apartment and move without having a breakdown. Em’s been going through a grumpy/defiant phase, but I’ve exercised vast amounts of patience with her. (It helps to remind myself that the goal isn't to not get frustrated/angry, but to control those feelings.) My life is incorporating a lot of changes right now, what with moving, starting a new job watching extra kids a few times a week, adjusting to the new season—it’s no wonder I feel scattered. Eventually we’ll figure out a rhythm for our days, but it will understandably take time.
I'll take version two, please.
The American philosopher Abraham Maslow defined enlightenment as transforming your perception from critical to loving. Next time you catch yourself analyzing life from an automatically critical perspective, consider employing your “compassionate imagination” by telling yourself the loving story instead.