Your Life Is Not A Shopping List
Sometimes it is easy to get confused about the function of our stories. We have all been constructing the narrative of our life since before we can remember, so it’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that our stories are fixed. There’s plenty of evidence for that too. I mean, you really were born on your birthday and you grew up in your home town, and that first album that you bought, on cassette, really was Bananarama. That can never be undone. So many of the items in our story will remain true right through to the day we take our last breath.
But your story is worth more than the names and the dates and the places of the highlights. Your life is not a shopping list. The events of our story can be immutable but the meanings that we attribute to them can change. While positive emotions, resilience, gratitude and of course altruism are all markers of well-being, it is the attribute of psychological flexibility that allows us to craft a more powerful, highly valuable story as we strategically navigate from this now moment to the next. Psychological flexibility means “contacting the present moment fully as a conscious human being and, based on what the situation affords, changing or persisting in behaviour in the service of chosen values” (Kashdan & Rottenberg, 2010). With psychological flexibility we begin to see that our stories are alive and dynamic, shifting and bending to accommodate the unpredictable world we live in, but at the same time our story is always anchored in those parts of our life that are most important to us.
Moving forward after losing my voice was hard at first, but it saw me reclaiming all of the parts of my life that I loved the most, and permitting myself to redefine how I expressed myself in love, joy, ambition, and purpose. It is not that any of these things changed over the 18 months of voice loss, or the years of rebuilding after that, but that I opened my mind to new ways of demonstrating these priorities. This acceptance was the key to my progress. In embracing the life I actually had, rather than the one I wished I could go back to, I was able to enjoy the rewards that my every day life offered. These rewards included rekindling the connection I had with my closest people, while letting others go with the passing seasons. They also included a higher level of investment in the teaching work I could do, and the opportunity to build our family business. I am not exaggerating when I say that my relationships, my teaching, and my growing business became pillars of a life that I came to love again. I had a new energy in my daily step, and a fresh excitement about the future.
Most of all, this acceptance of this season ushered in a new intimacy with the most important person in my life: Me! As I spent more time with myself in walking, meditation and in rest, I explored new ways of seeing myself and my world, and I was honest with myself about my deepest motives and desires. By embracing my situation and seeing it as an opportunity, I opened a pathway of personal healing and wholeness that continues to be my greatest treasure. To this day, I am passionate about the importance of self care. I nourish myself daily now with great food, an active lifestyle, yoga and meditation, music, and most of all, lots of love and hugs and laughter. This appreciation of loving me continues to serve me well, as you will read over the coming few months. I have so much more to share.
My focus here is not resilience or post traumatic growth or positive psychology even though you will see all of those things in my stories. I am all about demonstrating how story can be used strategically to exploit even the toughest obstacle as an accelerant to growth. I hope that as you read my blog you are inspired to reconsider your motives, your priorities and your ideals, and that you can take just a brief moment out of the rushing blur of your life to realise that you are surrounded by an entire world of opportunity that can be possessed only if you learn how to tell a new story. And that the first, most important story that must be told, is the story of how spectacular you are.
Kashdan, T., & Rottenberg, J. (2010). Psychological flexibility as a fundamental aspect of health Clinical Psychology Review, 30 (7), 865–878 DOI: 10.1016/j.cpr.2010.03.001