Written by Melissa Camara Wilkins
Right now, I am staring at my computer screen, thinking about all the reasons I can’t write these words to you. I’m too tired. My thoughts won’t come together, they keep shimmying away when I’m not looking (not unlike my preschooler at bedtime).
My ideas might not even be important enough to share with you. I just can’t do it.
That is what I am thinking. I just can’t. That’s my story.
But some stories are true, and others are just stories.
We read a lot of Mo Willems books around here, and lately Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs has been on read-and-repeat mode.
Do you know what the moral of that story is? The marvelous Mo writes: “If you ever find yourself in the wrong story, leave.”
That story about me not being able to write to you right now? That is the wrong story.
Are you living in the wrong story?
We all wind up in the wrong story sometimes. Sometimes I find myself believing the story that I’m too overwhelmed to make changes, or the story that I’m too busy to do the thing I want to do, or the story that I’m not enough for all the things I’m here to do—I’m not, I think, brave enough or patient enough or creative enough.
I even put my family in the wrong story sometimes: the story that we have to stick with plans that aren’t working, or the story that we can’t just try something new.
And when you’re in the wrong story, you’re missing out on your story.
You’re not meeting the characters you need to meet, you’re not being shaped by the mentors that could teach you what you need to know, you’re not going on the quests that will let you slay your own dragons and find your own deep wisdom.
You can step into a new story any time you need to, though. If you’re stuck in a story that isn’t going anywhere good, try one of these.
New stories for a new season
The Story About Sticking to the Plan
The old story: This is how it has to be.
The new story: This is what I want to see.
If the plan isn’t working, you don’t have to keep going. What do you want things to be like? How do you want this to feel? What really matters here? Move toward those and see where you get.
The Story of Yet
The old story: I can’t do that. (Or my kid can’t do that, or our family can’t.)
The new story: I can’t do that YET.
In our family, we have a Yet Rule, and it goes like this: if you hear yourself saying “I can’t,” add a “YET” at the end of that sentence. Maybe you can’t right now. Maybe you don’t know how. Those things may be true. But they don’t have to be true forever.
The Story of Getting Started
The old story: I don’t know where to start.
The new story: I’m going to figure out how.
We are smart cookies. We can figure things out.
We have Google, for one thing. Google will give us approximately one million suggestions for how to do anything.
But we’re also allowed to just try things and see what happens. We can experiment. If our experiment doesn’t work, we try something new. That’s how we figure stuff out.
The Story of Being Overwhelmed (And What Happened Next)
The old story: Everything is too much. I’m overwhelmed.
The new story: I’m listening to my feelings and making changes.
There might really be too much of everything right now. That is a real thing.
But you don’t have to live in the story of The Overwhelmed Mom Who Couldn’t. You can try out the story of The Mom Who Listens to Her Feelings and Makes Changes instead.
(You can get my free Get Out of Overwhelm Survival Kit, too. It’ll help you get started.)
The Which-Way-to-the-Goal Story
The old story: This won’t work.
The new story: This is going to work differently than I expected.
For awhile, I was living in the story of The Read-Aloud That Wasn’t. I thought “reading aloud” meant reading one chapter per day, preferably in the afternoon over a pot of tea. I couldn’t make that work, for complicated reasons having to do with little ones outgrowing naps and also me forever forgetting to brew the tea.
But that didn’t mean the read alouds couldn’t work. I just had to find a better story, the story that says we don’t have to read a whole chapter to enjoy this book, or the one that says we can get creative and find a better time to read.
The goal stayed the same. The path to get there was just different than I expected.
The “Who’s In Charge?” Story
The old story: This is not what I would have chosen.
The new story: But I get to choose how to respond.
Weirdly, we are not in control of the world or the people in it. We aren’t even in control of the people in our own families. So inconvenient!
There’s so much you don’t get to choose, but you do get to choose how you respond, and your response sets the tone for what happens next.
That’s a lot of power, even if you can’t control the universe.
The Story of the Permission Slip
The old story: I don’t know if I’m allowed to do that.
The new story: I give myself permission.
You have permission, because you are in charge of the permission slips. You can do this.
The Real Story
Living in the wrong story means you’re going to march toward the wrong conclusions, friends. I don’t want that for me, and I really don’t want that for my kids. I want to show them how to notice the story they’re living in—and to change it whenever they need to. Starting right now.
Because here’s the true story: I don’t need to wait to show up until I’m rested and ready. (That would be never.) I don’t have to stay quiet until I have bigger ideas or better ways of saying them. I just have to be faithful to this moment right here, to listen to what it’s teaching me, and to share it with you.
We’re all in this together. That’s the true story. The other one, the story that said I wasn’t ready, that what I had to share wasn’t good enough—that is not my story. (It’s not yours, either.)
We have better stories to live into.
What stories do you need to shift?