Your Story

Your StoryA client of mine was struggling.

He has been living with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and working full time.  He supports a growing family and wants to do everything he can to make their lives happy, healthy, and secure.  He loves his wife and wants happiness for her, so he will bend his schedule, take on household maintenance, and shoulder extra chores to make her life easier.

The result of this effort is that he is usually tired, and is regularly overwhelmed.  He doesn’t know how to change his life — and he’s not sure he wants to.

My client isn’t living this way just because he’s a super nice guy (although he is).  He is living a script — a story he told himself about who he is.  It’s a story that makes him feel proud of himself and, even more than that, secure.  He knows what his life is about.  He’s a breadwinner.  He’s a fix-it guy.  He’s reliable.  He can be counted on.

Most of us have a story.  Even when we’re not aware, it lurks in the background, under the radar.  It’s the story of who we think we are — and who we’re not — and it is a subtle picture of how we believe life should go.

Most of us have a story.  Even when we’re not aware, it lurks in the background, under the radar.  It’s the story of who we think we are — and who we’re not — and it is a subtle picture of how we believe life should go.

For my client, life was about responsibility, and also about the satisfaction of being in charge.

Then he had a diagnosis of RA.

His life changed. But his story didn’t.

That happens a lot.  We think a diagnosis, or a family trauma, or a loss, or even something wonderful like a new job, shouldn’t change us that much.  We move on.  If it’s an illness, we treat it like it’s just another add-on in our busy lives.

The result is that we miss the challenge and the opportunity that life has given us to grow in a new way.  To live differently and explore other parts of ourselves.  It is not easy.  We usually wouldn’t choose the pain, the disruption, or the limitation that life seems to be offering as a pathway.  There are difficult choices.  These may mean saying no to a long held dream, or something we feel we should have.

My client began to suffer from severe flares, and he couldn’t do everything for everyone anymore.  He had to ask for help.  He had to let go of some independence, and his story that he was The Go-To Guy in the family.  This was hard — even humiliating for him.

The process of changing our story is a complicated one.  We are walking in the fog — inventing ourselves as we go.

When we begin to emerge from these life- and psyche-altering times, there is surprise — and often good news.  No, our life is not what we thought it should be.  But there are amazing compensations that we could not have imagined.

My client found his wife rose to the challenge of his illness magnificently.  Yes, he had wanted to protect and cherish her.  It was a startling gift to feel protected and cherished by her.  He let go of some of his compulsive management of family life, and found he could be a dad who relaxed as often as he worked.  It wasn’t a quick or painless journey.  But as he allowed his story about himself to soften and evolve, he discovered hidden treasures.

I wonder what version of your life story you are clinging to — and what you can let go of to allow new realities to emerge.

What is the new story you might begin to tell?

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