Our past does not predict our future. However, how we interpret the past and tell the story does.
My mother is a consummate story teller. Put a kid in front of her and she transforms into some odd rendition of Dr. Seuss. Put her in a room of adults she only tones it down a little bit. She has a story in her head for every imaginable occasion and to illustrate any given point. Just about every time I call her she will start the conversation by saying, “ I’ve got a story/poem/article I’d like to tell/read you.” Based on this love of stories, my mother is the keeper of the history of our family. Almost everything anyone knows about our family’s past is locked into a story my mother tells. The good news for all of us, my mother is a poster child for optimists. This woman doesn’t have a bad day. She lives in the silver lining. Therefore, in our family history, interpreted by my mother, we are all charmed, the whole lot of us.
For example, my mother will historically refer to the year I got divorced as the “year Lisa got all new furniture”. She will refer to the year my grandmother died as the “year we had that nice get together with all the family, (after the service)”. Now don’t get me wrong, in many ways my divorce might have been more disappointing for my mother then it was for me, and she was devastated by the death of her mother. However, Mom is committed to the spin. If you have to go through something that sucks, get through it as quickly as possible and retell it as a blessing at any cost.
I was talking to a friend this week who recently experienced a loss so strangely tragic that my mother would have been challenged to spin it. Her words struck me, “At least I can move forward now, by myself, without any excuses to fall back on. It’s on me to make the best of my life.” Given what she was experiencing those words were strikingly profound. The thing that made that statement even more powerful, was it wasn’t a spin. In the middle of it she was able to find the clarity to see the blessing. Although for her, this year will certainly carry the stigma of history, I have no doubt she will remember it as the year she found her voice, her power, and her path.
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