"All sorrows can be borne if we put them in a story or tell a story about them." - Isak Dinesen, author of "Out of Africa"
Every life has a narrative.
More than just a narrative, really. I mean the word narrative suggests to me what the grown-up John Boy did at the beginning and end of every TV episode of The Waltons. Narrative brings to mind a narrator - someone like the golf announcers who whisper the professional golfer's club selection. But we're not professionals at life by any stretch of the imagination, and our lives seem to be anything but worthy of narration. Who would care to listen to that trivia?
It's the same reason I'm struggling to understand the appeal of My Space, Facebook and Twitter (" . . . she said, as she typed her new ezine article!" Ha-Ha!) Oh, I've accepted that this Web 2.0 digital-media based social networking is not just coming . . . it's here big time and to stay. And I'm doing my best to go with the flow, rather than be dragged kicking and screaming . . . or worse, trampled and left behind.
Yet I can't help thinking some people should hire a ghost writer rather than resorting to the mostly mundane, insignificant posts they issue. Reading that drivel would give anyone good cause to argue with me when I say every life has a story, but I still believe it's true. Each life is an unfolding drama with more parallel and intersecting plots and colorful characters than fiction could ever produce . . . case in point, all the reality shows dominating TV and cable program schedules these days (although one has to wonder where reality ends and hype begins.)
In fact, our collective desire for real life stories lived by real people is at the very heart of online social networking. We go there looking for reality (forgetting for a moment the obvious irony that we're looking for real people in an unreal, electronic world) because we'd rather see a photo of Demi Moore missing a front tooth than to see her spiffed and polished on a movie screen. We want the dirt . . . the real story of people's lives.
I think that also has something to do with why people create their My Space or Facebook or Twitter. They want someone to, finally, pay attention to them . . . listen to what they have to say . . . hear their story.
So what happens? They finally have their platform. They have everyone's attention. And what do they say? Something profound like, "I'm watching Rockford Files reruns," or "I went to Dollywood today," or "I'm just hanging out and doing nuthin'."
It's nuthin' alright. I'll give them that. And although a show about nothing did make Jerry Seinfeld a rich man, I'm not so sure this approach is ever going to gain any of these tweeters the satisfaction they so desire.
Now before I go any further with what is starting to sound (unintentionally) like a slam on online social networking, I should confess that I did learn for the first time on Facebook that the tennant in my basement has been diagnosed with diabetes. She lives right under my feet, parks her car in my driveway, walks right by my door to get to hers, and occasionally loans me her bike helmet, but I only found out on Facebook that she now has adult onset diabetes. I really don't know what that says about me or what it does to my point in this blog, but I think I can still say what I wanted to say, which is this:
People are not using these newfound platforms to tell their life stories, because they don't know them. They've never pieced together the puzzle. Never traced the plot lines to see how they miraculously intersected time and again. Never explored the characters in their unfolding story in order to fully grasp why they were there and what role they were playing.
What is your story? Where are you now? Where are you going? Most importantly, is it where you truly want to go?
There's no time like the present to understand your story, re-connect with your dreams, recognize where you are now, re-cast your vision, re-plan your journey, and begin a new leg of the adventure with some intentional action. Take the pen in your hand. Don't let your story be written about you. Take charge and write it yourself.
Maybe it will take a great sorrow to shake you loose from your resigned complacency. Such is often the case with adults. That was the case for me, personally. Just remember the words of Isak Dinesen, "All sorrows can be borne if we put them in a story or tell a story about them." Sorrows are not the end of our journey. They simple mark the beginning of a new chapter.
Stephen Covey says one of the habits of the most effective people is they begin with the end in mind. If you can write the desired ending for your personal story, you can then size up the gap between where you are and where you want to go, and identify the steps you need to take to reach your desired destination.
The hardest part is allowing yourself to believe it's actually possible. That's where coaching comes in. A good life coach (or a good leadership coach, if you're applying this to your career setting) recognizes and accepts where you are in your journey, walks with you for as little or as much of it as you choose, and never stops challenging and encouraging you to see it all through new eyes . . . to see the possibilities.
So, what's your story?
When you can answer that, then you'll be ready to truly start living . . . your life . . . your way.