The Past is Just a Story We Tell Ourselves
By Z Zoccolante
I believe it’s important to understand our past, then it’s vital that we move on and put our energy into thinking about creating a future we want.
For the past few weeks I’ve been studying for this big exam for school and one of the test questions stood out to me every time. It talked about a woman who’d just been in a crisis situation and the question asked what would MOST affect her ability to deal with the crisis. Two of the possible answers were, and I’ll paraphrase:
1) Her ability to deal with the crisis
2) Her belief about her ability to handle crisis
The correct answer is 2. Her BELIEF about her ability to handle crisis!
What I took from this is that “belief is king, or queen”. If we believe we’ll be fine when something horrible happens, most likely we will be fine. If we believe that there will be people to help us, most likely there will be. If we believe that it’s the end of the world and we’ll be depressed forever, most likely it will feel like the end of the world and we will sink into a deep depression.
Now, during crisis all the feelings are normal. In the aftermath of crisis our lives may lie flayed on the floor. We might be in huge amounts of pain. These could all be true and valid.
And still, what is it that we BELIEVE?
Do we believe that we will make it out, or to the other side?
Do we believe that God is there, even in the chaos?
Do we believe that we are stuck or broken?
Do we believe that we will be ok?
Do we believe we’re being punished?
Do we believe that everything will eventually work out for our good?
Our beliefs determine everything because they are the stories that we tell ourselves every moment of every day.
This morning, on my way to the exam, I parked and walked past my old apartment. It’s strange how the body can react as though no time has passed at all.
I flashed back to walking my dog like a zombie in the morning, collapsing into myself after my world crashed down. I saw the tree I hugged late one night when I felt utterly empty, the parking lot I laid down in one night contemplating for a few moments the thought of killing myself before brushing it aside. On the sidewalk were jacaranda flowers, the ones that littered the ground like purple rain during that time period.
The thing is, I love Jacaranda trees, and for a second this morning I got angry that I might want to plant one in my future front yard, but then I’d be reminded of the worst part of my life so far.
BUT NO. Almost as if something slammed into me on the sidewalk, the thought corrected itself.
No. It’s about the story you tell yourself.
It’s not about the actual event that happened, but about the story that we tell ourselves about it.
I put the flower in my pocket and kept walking to my test, but on the way back to my car I pulled it out again, ran my fingers along the thin purple skin, and realized there was choice: 1 or 2.
1) I could choose to see all the pain, how my heart ripped out of my chest, how much I suffered when my husband decided he didn’t want to be with me and chose a different path, and all the aftermath that followed.
2) I could choose to see how God SHOWED UP for me, how I was supported by a handful of powerful, kind women, how my family was there, how I had my dog Vega, how I did all the things to heal.
And I choose 2. That time in my life was by far the most unexpected rug of chaos, but because of that I can see the good all over it, the blessings I was still given, how God showed up and provided for me, how people were loving and kind.
Because of that time in my life, I now believe that I can make it through chaos and that God will show up and provide for me.
So for all of us today: Know that you can reframe your story to help you move forward.
Stop poking the bruise, someone once told me. It would be like having a huge bruise on our leg and then when it heals we keep talking about how we used to have this huge bruise on our leg and how terrible that was. At some point, we are the ones bringing it back to memory. We are ones still poking the bruise even though it no longer exists in real time.
For all of us today, remember:
It’s not what happened to us.
It’s the story we tell ourselves about what happened.
Our story can be our power.
Our past can be our power.
Tell yourself good stories. Focus on the good. Focus on what you want to create in your future. Pray.