45: Rewriting My Story

45: Rewriting My Story

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Reboot Your Life

Rewriting My Story

The world is round and the place which may seem like the end may also be only the beginning.

~Ivy Baker Priest

I had heard the old adage that insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results. In fact, I was getting tired of my own “insanity.” I knew I needed to do something different in order to achieve a different outcome.

The solution came to me while driving to a conference in Philadelphia during Friday afternoon rush hour. I had been reciting a litany of frustrations — the traffic, the other drivers, the road repairs — when a light came on in my heart and soul.

“Okay,” I said to myself. “It is a lovely day. I am headed to a conference I want to attend. I have an entire weekend to learn new things and enjoy myself. I am safe. All is well here. I choose to see this situation differently, right NOW!”

I relaxed, and traffic inched ahead. At that moment, my life began to change for the better.

I’d had inklings in my long years of marriage that my husband was not as committed to our relationship or to me as I was to him. After the children were born, late in our life together, this became more apparent. But still it shocked and wounded me deeply when he announced he was leaving me for a new life with someone else.

I tried to pick up the pieces of my life, parent my two young children, grieve for my marriage. I also mourned the loss of my father, who died right around the same time. My children and I moved to a new town. After several years at home, I went back to work. With depressing regularity, I ran through all these emotions and more: hurt, betrayal, fear, anger, sadness, loneliness, despair.

Friends who had known us as a couple said the usual supportive things to me, things like they had never liked or trusted him anyway. These comments were intended to help me, but they only made me feel more like a victim. I was able to tell the story of his shortcomings, although this never made me feel any better. Most of me blamed him. Part of me blamed me. Either way left me feeling hurt and angry, and did nothing to enhance my life in any way.

Suddenly, I realized that sitting in Friday rush hour traffic was a metaphor for my life. I couldn’t change my circumstances, but if I could tell myself a different story, I could have a different outcome. And if I could rewrite the story of urban traffic, why couldn’t I rewrite the story of the end of a marriage, and tell a story instead that ended with my own rebirth?

The traffic was simply an obstacle I needed to overcome to get to a wonderful weekend of learning. The end of my marriage was, in truth, a huge gift to me. When I stopped blaming, I could see the possibilities ahead of me for my life.

Instead of focusing on my former husband being the villain and me being the victim, I could rewrite my story to make myself, or even BOTH of us, into people simply trying to travel the road of life as well as we could. It was as if I had found the key that unlocked my heart, and just like the Grinch’s once did, my heart grew three sizes that day. I felt compassion for myself as well as for the man I had been married to for so long. We had never been well matched, and so eventually the marriage ended. It no longer mattered who left whom.

As I told a different story, in which I chose to be uncoupled from someone who made me feel small and unloved, I grew larger and more empowered in my own story. My marriage ended because we were headed in different directions, with differing values and goals. I could let this be okay. In fact, it could be fine. I could be fine.

Now that I have let go of my old ending and focused on my new beginning, I feel hopeful and I’ve become happier. In my new story, I am not carrying around with me the slings and arrows of old wounds. In this story, life is rich with possibilities. I have discovered I am capable, strong, adventurous, smart, and I have a quirky sense of humor. I have made new social connections, found new interests and hobbies.

Since that day when I was stuck in traffic (in more ways than one), I’ve turned my life around. I feel empowered and optimistic. And life reflects this back to me at every turn.

~Deborah K. Wood

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