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  • Writer's pictureShawna

Your Life = Your Story

I've always been captivated by the concept of storytelling. Since words first came alive on pages for me as a little girl with a Dr. Seuss obsession and an ever-ready imagination, I've craved the pull of an engaging narrative in a way that has profoundly influenced my life and identity development. A story has always had the power to overtake me completely; to make me forget the moment I'm in and instead immerse me in a tumult of emotions, tumbling one after another like breakers on the shore of my little existence in a corner of this great big world. A story can transport me; can guide me to look outside myself and search for the greater pulse of humanity, where I begin to discover the thousands of tiny connection points between us all that glimmer silently like hidden diamonds just below the glassy surface of our lives, waiting to be uncovered.

I spent much of my childhood with my nose in books. I wiled away hours in my bedroom, tucked neatly into an over-sized purple bean bag chair beside my bed, sure there was no better way to be spending my free time than lost in a story. I devoured books insatiably, captivated by tales of courage and bravery, of relationships that withstood any obstacles in their way, of adventures and love, joys and sorrows, the greatest of successes and the heartbreak of devastating failures. I felt so strongly for the characters in the stories I read that it was as though I was living in their shoes. I will never forget the day my mother walked into the living room to find me sobbing over Scarlett's plight in Gone With the Wind and gently suggested it might be time to take a little break from the book.

Stories have a powerful way of moving me. And the thing is, I'm sure I'm not alone in that.

I think most of us are captivated by stories. Good vs. evil; truth triumphing over lies; light beating out the darkness. Joy that we can hope for; sorrow that we can relate to; the gift of relationships, and people who show up in our lives every day with a willingness to accept us and invest in us without a question asked or a condition set. We read or see or hear these tales, and something in us seeks out desperately for a way to connect them to our own lives on an emotional level.

I've felt that, too.

I've been broken in that way.

I've said those words before.

I've hoped for that.

I've been to that place!

I've worried that would happen to me.

I've felt rejection like that.

I want a love like that.

I like a story that makes me feel things; that cuts me to my core. I like a story that forces me to dig deeply within myself and see what I can uncover there; that broadens my world view in some way, and stretches me to expand my heart and mind in new directions. I like a story that, while it isn't mine, it draws me into a deeper understanding of myself, and of what sort of person I want to be.

A large component of becoming a therapist for me was engaging in my own in-depth self-therapy work, diving deeply into myself to become more integrated not only for me, but for my work as a therapist as well. It was some of the most enriching, intense reflection work I've ever done, and still continue to do. A concept that really resonated with me and that still defines how I view both my own life and others' lives is the idea of our lives being living narratives; of writing our personal stories day by day, with every word we speak and person we love and decision we make. What if the story I became most enthralled by was my own? What if I saw myself as worthy of having a narrative worth telling; of understanding that I was the only me this world would ever encounter, and that I had a valuable voice and a uniquely crafted role to play? What what it look like to really do the hard work to get to know myself inside and out, and take ownership over my life? What if I devoted myself to developing a character of which I could be immensely proud, and of consistently striving to be the best version of myself, both for me and for those who do life with me?

What if I thought of my life as a story that I had full authorship over, and that I could write and any way I so desired?

I think there's a sense of empowerment in this kind of thinking. Empowerment, and also a healthy dose of self-worth, to believe we are worthy of having a life narrative that rivals any story we've ever loved. We can't go back and change the past, but we can look forward to the future with a renewed sense of self that says, I can pick up the pen and decide who I want to be. It isn't too late for me to write myself a new adventure.

The biggest injustice we can ever inflict upon ourselves is to give up on being the person we know we were created to be. Do the hard work of digging deep enough to get to know yourself -- your dreams and desires, your passions and callings, your likes and dislikes and hurts and vulnerable spots and your unique voice that nobody else can take from you -- and then decide what sort of story you want your life to show.

And then go write it.


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