Morning Letters

Life Stories and New Expectations

My life stories are writing themselves now. This isn’t an easy time and I feel grateful for what I have. A warm house. Stable income. Delicious food. Loving friends and family. Books to read. Poems to write. A lake nearby that I can walk to. The beauty of winter. Sightings of hawks and geese and crows that remind me we will be okay.

It’s natural to write life stories for ourselves about the way our days and years should go. We write stories about our careers, our relationships, and personal goals. From mapping out each chapter of where we should be and what we should be doing to deciding how our character will grow and change within a set time frame, we are master storytellers.

Lately our stories have been challenged. Some days it is like we are watching a movie of our own lives, moments seem unreal, the plot unpredictable. Other days we feel like we’ve become other characters in someone else’s story, like the roadrunner spinning toward a cliff?!

Yet, here we are in a time across the world when a global pandemic invites us to sit with what we have, to be at home with our children, to see the truth of our jobs, to know that for the first time (in my life anyway) we need to pause the stories or write new ones.

I think about people of my parents’ generation, retired, seeking adventure, finally with time to spend with loved ones or seeing the world, now at home trying to redefine retirement in isolation.

I think about my friends with school-aged children, exhausted, juggling so many things, craving to find ways to expand independence for themselves and their families, worrying about the growth and development of their children without school the way it used to be or hockey or play dates. Families shift from extending outward into their communities to pulling inward into their isolated homes. What does the adage “it takes a village to raise a child” look like now?

I think about other people like me who put most their energy into their work, ambitious, seeking ways to learn and make an impact, now in a holding pattern while the economy reacts to all the change. The classic interview question, ‘where do you see yourself in five years?’ now reduced to ‘where do you see yourself in five weeks?’ We can only see one step in front of us at a time.

So what now? Do we let go of the stories we told ourselves about the way our lives would go? Do we give up trying to write the stories of our lives? How do we navigate the gap between our expectations and reality?

I’m starting to adjust to this new in-between way of living. It gives me relief to stop writing my stories, to surrender to each moment and to let the stories write themselves. This is a time to embrace unlearning and relearning. I choose to walk inside my story, let it surprise me and lead me.

Brené Brown writes about the stories we tell ourselves and how to change the narrative.

Sending you peace and love during these uncertain times.

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