The Stories That Make Our Lives

"Story is the vehicle we use to make sense of our lives in a world that often defies logic." - Jim Trelease
Jim Trelease’s website (original quote source material unknown)

Hello, my dear Internet friends,

I hope your summer is in full swing in the best way. And if you happen to be tuning in from the southern hemisphere, I’m sending you winter well-wishes!

In March, I wrote about challenging my expectations for myself (and life itself), “practicing my flexibility muscle, [and] balancing what I want in a given day with the reality of what’s presented.” In May, I reflected on the resistance I feel in the face of unexpected challenges and how “I have learned—am still learning—that instead of resisting, I need to embrace what is so I can decide what I want to do about it.” This month’s post feels like a natural progression from those two. Some chapters of life are apt for learning certain lessons or exploring particular themes—if we’re open to reading them that way.

This month, I’ve been reflecting on how crucial storytelling is to the way we experience the world and understand our lives. Our personal memories are often stored in narrative form. Our friendships are built on shared experiences, from the humorous tales we recount with glee to episodes of support in hard times, which stay written on our hearts even if we never speak them aloud. And when we go through something unexpected, we try to make sense of it through story.

Expectations can exist in our minds as stories. Scripts—or at the very least, loose outlines—for how we anticipate certain events or facets of our lives will go. I often don’t realize how attached I was to an imagined version of the future until life goes off-plot.

That upending of expectations can feel like loss. Loss of what we hoped for. Loss of control. We are the authors of our own stories, but we’re not the authors of the world (or other people). Story collision is bound to happen. Sometimes in a spectacularly serendipitous way. Sometimes in a painful one.

When that happens, where does it leave us? With a new story. Already lived through, but not yet shaped for memory. It may feel hard to hold at first. But once it’s in your hands, it’s yours. Yours to craft as only you can. What may have felt in the moment like a story of disappointment or self-doubt can become one of resilience and growth. Of love and connection. Or maybe you’ll write a story bighearted enough to hold all of it. Every shade of the experience coming together to form a mosaic. One that looks a lot like life as it really is. As Kathryn Schulz writes in her beautiful memoir Lost & Found, “We can’t get away from this constant amalgamation of feeling, can’t strain out the ostensible impurities in pursuit of some imaginary essence, and we shouldn’t want to if we could. The world in all its complexity calls on us to respond in kind, so that to be conflicted is not to be adulterated; it is to be complete.”

From one storyteller to another, I am simply encouraging you—as I’m encouraging myself—to be mindful of the narratives you “write” about your experiences, even if they never leave your own mind. Expand your story’s frame to capture the bigger picture. Treat each “character” with compassion (including yourself). Highlight the scenes of connection, meaningful details, and lessons learned that you want to carry with you.

Because one by one, your stories make your life. And you deserve one that’s been written with care.

xoxo

Marie

5 Quotes on Embracing the Flow of Life

"Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." - John Lennon
“Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)” by John Lennon

Hello, my dear May flowers,

This month’s blog post is going to be reasonably short and sweet (at least in words from me). I felt I was due for another round of sharing the wise words of others. I really enjoy collecting quotes—and putting together fun graphics for sharing them!

The above quote is the first that jumped to mind as one I wanted to include. It’s a lyric from John Lennon’s song “Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy),” which he wrote for his son. I first heard John’s version of this saying, but according to Quote Investigator, variations of the expression floated around before he published his song; the earliest known version is from Allen Saunders in 1957.

John’s lyric—or Allen’s expression—brought me back to what I wrote about in March: balancing my expectations for life and myself with the realities of what’s happening and what I need. Don’t get me wrong; I love making plans. If we truly had “personality islands” in our minds like those in Inside Out, one of mine would feature a calendar as the central statue, surrounded by a walking path of neon-colored sticky-note lists. But life is full of disruptions. Sometimes, to-do lists need to be rewritten. Plans need to be thrown out.

Resisting the flow of life is futile. That doesn’t mean I haven’t tried. When faced with an unexpected challenge, I can feel myself stiffen, as if maybe I can hold still long enough that the winds of change will blow past me. Of course, that never works. It wouldn’t work for any of life’s less pleasant but ultimately inescapable parts, from mistakes to uncomfortable emotions.

I have learned—am still learning—that instead of resisting, I need to embrace what is so I can decide what I want to do about it. Easier said than done, to be sure. That’s where these quotes come in (and come together). Each is a reminder to accept changes and challenges for what they are and, at times, what they offer.

For someone who not only plans, but plans to plan, I so often find myself unprepared for what life presents. You just can’t be ready for everything; you don’t get time to practice. Or, really, life is the practice. The test run and the big show, all at once.

What a strange design. How wonderful. How irresistible.

xoxo

Marie

"When you open yourself to the continually changing, impermanent, dynamic nature of your own being and of reality, you increase your capacity to love and care about other people and your capacity to not be afraid." - Pema Chödrön
Practicing Peace in Times of War by Pema Chödrön
"Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we're supposed to be and embracing who we are." - Brené Brown
The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brené Brown
"Emotions either get in the way or get you on the way." - Mavis Mazhura
Navigating the Rapids and the Waves of Life: 10 Lessons for Managing Emotions for Success by Mavis Mazhura
"To err is to wander, and wandering is the way we discover the world; and, lost in thought, it is also the way we discover ourselves." - Kathryn Schulz
Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error by Kathryn Schulz