Silas, who is two, doesn’t speak so much as booms. The kid’s got exuberance to share, and share he does when he declares just about anything. So it shouldn’t have been surprising to hear him shout “MY DADDY HAS A BROKEN LEG!” the weeks following Jeff’s accident where he broke his femur.
At first it was sweet. But we all quickly tired of the loud and constant reminder of Jeff’s debilitating condition. Given that we couldn’t control Silas’s volume (trust me, we try), we decided to change the narrative.
Instead of a BROKEN leg, Jeff now has a HEALING leg, which Silas cheerfully declares 1,000 times a day.
Henry jumped on the “healing leg” bandwagon, too, and suddenly I find myself awash in positive messaging.
And you know what? I love it. Words matter.
No matter how cosmic-karmic it sounds, the stories we tell ourselves and how we tell them impacts everything. And if you don’t believe me, just ask Oprah.
Spin the narrative
And this got me thinking: what are the stories we tell ourselves to get through the day, and how can we change the narrative to make life a little easier??
I’ve got one friend who is so positive, you sometimes wonder when she drops her guard. This woman has four kids, runs many miles per week, holds down the fort while her husband finishes his medical residency, takes graduate classes on the side, teaches yoga, and hosts multi-kid romp-fests in her backyard on a regular basis.
I suspect she complains to someone, but it’s definitely not me. (She doesn’t gossip either, bitch…KIDDING. She sets a great example.)
Instead of complaining, she tells of the super things in her life. She is definitely not bragging. She’s just Very Positive. So much so that after chasing her for five miles on the trails, a person (ok, I) starts to feel a lot better about herself (myself). Her positivity wears off, and I find myself focusing on the stories about my life that make me feel good. And then sharing those.
Positive thinking does not mean “pollyanna” (or: how to keep it real AND positive)
Still, sarcasm comes naturally to me. Things can’t always be ROCKIN’ because that’s just not how I roll. The stories I tell myself can be dark and isolating. Everyone is off doing something cool without me. I’m fat. I’m wasting precious time. I’m selfish.
Again, I’d wager most of you have had these thoughts or told yourself some version of a story that outlines how much you suck and why someone else is better. It’s taken almost all of my 38 years to realize that THESE ARE STORIES. They may or may not be true. They’re a narrative I’ve constructed, and I have the opportunity to change the narrative if I want.
And, when I get mired in the muck, I want to.
I’m never going to be as optimistic as my Very Positive friends, but I am going to be flexible when it comes to the narratives, just like Silas was with Jeff’s leg. And—I like to tell myself—that’s GREAT!