We’re all story tellers. We are all inclined to look for sense and meaning in our experiences and we tend to weave these into stories about who we are and what our lives mean. However, the kind of stories we tell ourselves come from our experiences and beliefs and will influence our lives without necessarily being true. One of the things that privilege means is having the confidence, self esteem and sense of entitlement to tell yourself uplifting and encouraging stories, with all the positive benefits that can bring.
I’m good at constructing stories out of tiny fragments of information, and I have a good track record for being right – at least when it comes to making sense of other people. Mostly I tell myself stories about how it is all going to go wrong. This isn’t irrational, and for much of my life, trying to see where the next blow might be coming from has been a useful life skill. It’s not one I think I can afford to do without. But I do need to imagine better things.
So, this is a story about how it came out well in the end. You couldn’t really see it at the time of course because when things are hard and scary, it is difficult to imagine a good ending. But, the hard and scary part was like the middle of a book, and you know how evil authors can be. In the end, things resolved. In the end, you found a way through and life went on and there were good days and you laughed and smiled and it was ok. You looked back and saw how the awful patch fitted into a bigger narrative. You could not have got to the good stuff without going through the hard stuff first, but it was a journey, that hard stuff, not your destination.
Often, the defining feature of a story is where we choose to stop. Take a story far enough and everyone dies. That might be a good ending, because a life well lived and a good death should be things to celebrate. Stop a story at the point when it all goes wrong, and that’s the story you have, even if things later change.
I can tell myself better stories. I can tell myself stories that include the way I make the best of things and how resilient I am. I can tell stories of endurance and the long haul, of not giving up, of second chances and things that worked out well. I can remind myself of the stories where things worked out badly despite my best efforts but how even so, I regret none of my choices. I can tell myself the stories about the things it took a long time to put right, but which came right in the end. Looking back, a great many really important things in my life have, eventually worked out the way I needed them to. Things that seemed like story-ending devastating setbacks at the time have, without exception, turned out not to be. They were not the end-points of the stories, they were challenges along the way.
Things are hard for me right now. I am disorientated, I don’t really know who I am, I’ve been through some life and self-changing stuff and I don’t currently know what it means or what to do next or where I am going. This is not how stories end. Something will change, because something always does. There will be a breakthrough, or a new direction will emerge, or something will sort out. Life continues, and I need to tell better stories about that process.