The Story Behind Our Stories

For the past few years meditation has become a daily practice for me. I love my Headspace and Calm  apps that have made creating this habit of self-care so easy. This week one of my Daily Calm meditations was called “Stories”.  It really resonated with me because I believe so profoundly in the power of story to shape how we experience life. I wrote a blog post entitled How Do You Frame Your Teaching Story in September of 2017. Each day we create a narrative in our minds, or that we share with others, conveying the events. And even though we may teach lessons about perspective of the narrator, we often forget this when it comes to our own stories, our own narration. As I suggested in my 2017 blog post: “Whether we tell or retell these stories to others, we replay these narratives in our heads and in our hearts. They begin to define those moments and ourselves as though they are the singular truth. They begin to shape our perceptions of our students, our teaching, our lives.

But there are stories we tell ourselves about all aspects of our lives. As Tamara Levitt (Head of Mindfulness at Calm) teaches us, “The stories we tell ourselves can be limiting. We have these ingrained stories about who we are they can go way back into our past and formed by others. Sometimes it only takes one person’s opinions that can create a story that lasts a lifetime.  Stories can dictate our beliefs and limit our ideas of who we are, what we’re good at, and what we’re not. We can second guess ourselves and lose confidence in ourselves.  We need to challenge these stories and ask:

  • Who created that story?
  • When was it created
  • Is it entirely true
  • Does it serve us?
  • Can we let it go?

I just found out this week that my ILA proposals were rejected and I won’t be presenting with some colleagues that I was so excited to work with. There were a number of avenues for telling that story. I could tell it with an angle of bitterness, depression, resentment, or discouragement. Sure, I was disappointed but I don’t want that rejection to define me, my efforts, or the proposal of my colleagues. We’ve got some great ideas and we are going to keep proposing them. I’m not letting our story end with a rejection letter.

Sometimes we create stories in our personal, as well as professional lives that keep us locked in cycle of discouragement. Teaching is hard. Balancing work and family is hard. Trying to stay fit and healthy is hard. Building financial security is hard. But are the stories we are telling ourselves inspiring us to  achieve in these aspects of life, or reinforcing the difficulties and hindering our success?

A friend posted this quote by C.S. Lewis to her Facebook wall this week that fits so well.Screen Shot 2019-02-21 at 9.45.16 AMWe all want a happy ending to our life story, but are we actively creating it or are we drafting story arcs that no hero can overcome? We can reflect and ask ourselves:

  • Are we victims waiting for rescue from another character in the story, or are we shaping our own destinies?
  • Are we aware of the trajectories we are creating in our stories?
  • Are we aware of the power we have to revise our stories?

Don’t reflect with a sense of guilt or shame, just curiosity and awareness. Be kind and forgiving to yourself in your stories and then be empowered to embrace them, revise them, or change them. You can’t go back, but you can go forward.

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May your stories be great!

screen shot 2019-01-27 at 9.45.11 amShared Spark! Starting next weekend (March 1) I will be participating in the Slice of Life Challenge and blogging every day using sparks from my new book. You can preview it here for free at the Stenhouse Website.

In the meantime, here’s a reframing Spark!

“HALF-FULL or HALF-EMPTY”

Think about your day and quick write with each of these perspectives. First try the half-empty perspective and playfully recount your day as though you were Debbie Downer for 5 minutes. Now tell the story as if you were playing Pollyanna’s “Glad Game”. What do you notice? Which is easier? Which is closer to your default approach? How could this reframing be helpful to you or your students?

One More Off My TBR Stack!

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REBOUND by Kwame Alexander

Kwame is a master of novels in verse. In this follow up to “The Crossover” we read the story of Charlie (Chuck) Bell as a boy- before becoming the dad to Jordan and Josh Bell. In the summer of 88 he’s just lost his own dad and is sent to live with his grandparents when he can’t seem to make good choices and crawl out of his grief. It’s a pivotal summer for Charlie and told in poignant and often humorous verse that will draw you in and trigger every emotion. Can’t get enough of Kwame’s writing and his compassionate messages for kids coming of age

 

6 thoughts on “The Story Behind Our Stories

  1. Words can spark energy. Someone once told me that my work inspires them. Those words support my drive to be at my best. Just a few words can be a large part of your story.

  2. Love this. So true! I know I tell myself the one-person-thinks-this-about-me stories and they become my personal truth. How I see myself. So limiting and damaging. On another note, whoever rejected your proposal has made a huge mistake. Enough said.

  3. Paula–this is such a powerful, reflective post! Writing in my notebook this morning, I was considering how my summer has evolved in unexpected, and not particularly satisfying, ways. I was just thinking about how I want to become an active agent in changing the trajectory with new factors in mind, rather than remaining a passive “victim”. Your words (“Are we victims waiting for rescue from another character in the story, or are we shaping our own destinies?”) and C.S. Lewis’s are another nudge to move me in that direction. Thanks!

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