As an English teacher, the idea of narratives is ever on my mind and infused into conversations. It’s easy to discuss and analyze a dynamic character; what motivates the character to action, what lie does the character believe, and what is the catalyst for their ultimate change?
I think we instinctively do that in life. We look at other players in our personal story and dream of ways to change the plot. The needed change in others is often crystal-clear. It’s what we can control and what makes our own story more comfortable. Scripts are controlled and predictable.
What isn’t so easy is changing our own narrative. You see–I’ve been feeding myself some of the same lines for a VERY L-O-N-G time. While some of them might be true, they are often unkind, and they are attached to a script that casts me in the same light. A role I did not pursue nor do I like.
Full disclosure, because I know you’ll love me anyway, the #sowkind movement makes sense to me because it’s something I desire myself. It also happens to be the one thing I’m lousy at; turning kindness inward. I spend a great deal of time thinking about the overlooked, lonely, and hurting because that’s the one role I know all the lines by heart.
Experience is a great teacher, but we often only let certain experiences be our guide. Just as I have to show my students a variety of genres, I have to let all experiences [not just negative ones] provide life lessons. For years, deferring to life’s negative experiences was my default.
I’ve spent the last year or more with the phrase “ditch the script” coursing through my veins. I’ve been intentional to let others and myself off the hook by not automatically assigning or assuming the same old role. That means I’ve had to discard the “she’s always been that way” dialect. A friend told me I could not let the sum of a past history with someone factor into every tiff, but that was my go-to response. I had to learn to deal with a situation separate from the chapters of past experiences [good and bad].
I’ve been hard on others, but I’ve also been unkind to myself. Recently, I confessed something to my small group that elicited tears from the secret place in my soul. Though it was hard, I admitted a terrible habit I’ve had for years. It’s the script I assigned myself; it’s been my personal narrative.
My failures are ever before me. There isn’t a time I can remember getting to the end of a day, week, or month thinking I had done something well. I confessed being unable to remember the last time I laid my head on my pillow thinking I had done a good job at anything.
I’m the first one to line up and cheer you on. I’ll rally the troops to be sure someone I love feels seen and valued, so why in the world was I not at least giving myself a little grace? I read a book that talked about the different ways we express love. One thing that caught my attention was the idea of loving others in the way we want to be loved. If this is true, it’s fair to assume that words of kindness are the way I long to be loved.
I have to practice the lines in this script. My new narrative has to include the practice of turning kindness inward. When a friend asked me what I was doing well at the moment, it took me longer than I care to admit to answer. When I did answer, I selected some arbitrary response. I have no muscle in this arena. Learning a new narrative takes time and practice, but I’m committed like I’ve never been before. I’ve started taking a minute to reflect on the things I did well in a week. It’s so much harder than remembering all I failed to accomplish, but I’m here for the hard work!
It’s so easy to look at the wins of others and assume they are living in the height of their accomplishment. Lest you make that assumption of me, return to what I said about my failures being ever in front of me. I don’t naturally see what I’m good at, or what’s going well. If it’s true for me, it might be true for someone else.
To my people who pour into me, thank you for believing in me while I learn my new narrative. Thank you for covering me with words of affirmation about mothering, speaking, and writing. Your words leave footprints for me to walk in. One step at a time, I’m ditching the script of my failures, and I’m learning to celebrate the things I’m doing that are GOOD.
Let this be a reminder to all of us. Others need our words of kindness, but we have to practice turning kindness inward. What is something kind you can do for yourself today? What is something that will nourish your soul? Whatever it is, do that.
Flip the script, and dare to walk in a new narrative.