I don’t know about you, but I’m a sucker for a good story. The introduction, the descriptions, and the way the writer hooks you in. The slow build-up to the heart of the story. I love the process of learning about the characters and falling in love with them, their insecurities, thoughts, habits, and humanity. All the other things that make a great story? The context, the timeline, the relationships, and the everyday mishaps of life that bring us to the plot. I love plot twists, the curve-balls you never see coming, and the climb of the rollercoaster. Once it’s revealed, I can’t put the movie, show, or book down. I’m glued. I’ve allowed Netflix to keep playing too many times. I’ve stayed up and missed precious sleep over late movies. I must always read another chapter until my eyes are droopy and I can’t keep them open. Stories are life. They inspire, give us perspective, teach us, and help us not feel alone.
My son is 20 months old. We perform the usual routine in hopes he’ll be well prepped for bedtime. Dinner, bath time, PJs, brush teeth with teeth brushing song, then reading his box of books until 7pm. I love the reading time we have together. He’s enjoying books, and he is saying words and recognizing everything. It’s the best. We read these books every night, so he knows the stories pretty well. In fact, he’ll beat us to the punch. He no longer waits for his favorite page. We pick up a book, and he steam rolls over my storytelling and flips the pages quicker than I can say “once upon a time” to his favorite part. Then he says “all done,” slams the book shut, and is off to pick out another one. How lame is that? On one hand, my husband and I are so impressed with his memory. I think at first we thought it was cute. Here we are, now, trying to get him to wind-down, and instead he speed reads through all these stories and doesn’t even allow for the joy of reading! He bypasses all the gifts of a well-written child’s book. You might already know where I’m going with this.
How many times have I done this in my own life? I’ve tried to flip past the pages and get to where I want to be. I most definitely have ignored the characters, the scenery, the descriptions, and even the context, and I’ve prayed for the outcome to be what I want right here, right now. The end. Why didn’t I get that promotion? Why didn’t he ask me out? Why didn’t I win the lottery? Why am I not vacationing in Hawaii? Why am I not pregnant yet? Why isn’t the food out yet? The questions can go on and on. I struggle so much at being present. I’m truly trying to get better at it. I’m always looking toward what’s next. I most definitely don’t appreciate the past, the good things that I have been given, or what has worked out for me. Dang it, I barely appreciate the smell of my coffee! I just slurp it down and cry for more. In fact, I whine a lot more about all these things instead of whispering words of gratitude.
I came across an article on Facebook a girlfriend posted on a wiser, more experienced (older *cough*) woman titled 10 Things Time has Taught Me (here). All ten were important for everyone to hear. The one that stuck out to me the most was, “Life should not feel like a chore, it should feel like an adventure.” Man, I know I fail at this. A lot days, if I’m brutally honest with myself, are just a lot of complaining. I have to do this, we’ve got to do that, to-do list here, appointment there, chores and more chores, work, and you get the picture. One of the most transformative pieces of advice I got is from Christine Caine. She said (my paraphrase), instead of facing each day and thinking “I have to do this,” what if we approached them with, “I get to do this!” Does it minimize the pile of stuff you need to do? No. Does it say that your feelings are invalid and you need to suck it up and carry on? No. What it says is, “Yes, your life is crazy and full, but you get to live this life that is crazy and full!” I know that doesn’t make the big problems go away, like cancer, pain, and other major experiences, but it gives you the perspective of time. Time is going way too fast, if you hadn’t noticed. The phrase also says that your life has meaning, value, and you are needed. Go out and live it with intentionality!
Sometimes it’s hard to fully embrace our story because we don’t like what has happened or where we are at. It’s hard to enjoy the parts where we’ve made mistakes or someone has hurt us. Those pieces of the story make enjoying the rest of the pages unbearable at times. Dr. Brene Brown, one of the leading researchers on vulnerability and shame, says that if we don’t own our stories, our stories will own us. What that means is, if we don’t courageously work through what has been or continues to plague our lives, we will resume being ruled by shame and living by its rules. Ann Voskamp says shame is a bully. Shame will continue to insult, provoke, and tell lies about you until you believe them. We must roll up our sleeves, and combat all the falsities that shame brings on us. We are not our past, and we certainly are not our mistakes. When we own our stories, accept what has happened, even if it’s something that was hard and hurtful, and we can move forward with tenacity to pursue a beautiful and promising turn in our stories. I hope that you know your story matters, all of its parts, that your life is important in how it influences those around you! May you feel inspired to own your story and enjoy the rest of its unfolding.