Butterflies flood my stomach when I see the message from a friend I haven't seen or spoken to in more than 20 years. Hurt feelings and grave misunderstandings abruptly ended our friendship and neither of us had sought to resolve the circumstances. I can't imagine what has prompted her to email me but my curiosity wins over my dread — I open the message. Surprisingly, I find that she's writing to offer an apology for her part in our conflict. I laugh at myself because I suddenly realize that I can't remember the whole story of our faded friendship (ah, the futility and absurdity of holding grudges). We connect with ease through email and move to telephone conversations. An interesting discovery lay waiting to be found in the spaces of these long overdue dialogs.
Connecting heart to heart, our past conflict melts away. The love we once had for each other is easily remembered and our friendship flowers from the place we left off. Our apologies to one another build a bridge that invites both us of to share the story of our lives, the story of who we have become. We begin to unpack all of the things that had happened to us in the gap of two decades: marriages, deaths, children, career changes, adventures, disappointments, dreams realized and hopes dashed. We belt out laugh after laugh over youthful gaffes and cry together over the broken moments. Amazing revelations come to mind as we look at the kaleidoscope of our lives and create meaning together for the joys and heartaches of our intricate histories.
This reconciliation and meaning making with my old friend reminds me of the impermanent nature of experience. Considering situations in my past I once found devastating, I look back now to discover the value of what I experienced, how I have changed as a result, and ways in which I healed. Recalling memories in the company of another and hearing their point of view, I realize my version of events isn’t the only angle. I discover strength in the present moment as I am released from bondage to the past, take stock of all the experience, wisdom, and advice I've gathered, and make new meaning for myself. I recognize that I can unleash myself from the powerlessness I once felt in my stories and instead look for the value of the experience. I collect moments of joy I missed the first time, and reap benefits from seeing my life from a new vantage point. Creating new meaning of my past, I am empowered to live this present moment differently.
Story is a mighty force, and the stories we tell ourselves about the world, others and ourselves can shape not only our mental health but our physical health as well. With language, we are given the gift of shaping our perceptions as glass half empty or full. Consider the stories that follow you around that feel like an unresolved burden or that just don’t make sense yet. Then, consider how to re-tell that story. Once we name the ghosts of memory, pick them up to examine them, we begin to take back our power and rework our views of any given situation. Hatred can turn to forgiveness, fear can turn to courage, sadness can turn to joy, darkness into light and defeat into hope.
Telling Your Story
- Journal the important moments in your life
- Connect with a story-telling buddy and share your important experiences
- Join a support group, where stories can be shared and supported
- Find a narrative-therapy group or retreat to find new ways to view who you have been and are
If your stories create deep pain or you aren't sure how to begin unpacking your unique autobiography, we can help.
Our mission is to hold ground and create safe spaces for individuals to heal, grow, and become. Call (630) 286-0993 to schedule a complimentary no-obligation consultation today.