Owning the narrative of our life
Have you seen the show Cobra Kai? There is a scene where one of the “nerd” kids gets challenged to toughen up and flip the script if he wants to see change in his life. He shows up to the next class with a mohawk and an attitude, no longer the nerd, but now the badass. Though the extremity of this identity swing was unhealthy, as he completely abandoned who he was to fit in, it displays the power our minds hold to choose the direction of our lives along with the ownership we have in the narrative of our lives.
The Journaling Journey
I picked up one of my journals this morning, and as I began to write for the first time in a long time, I felt a real connection with this binding of papers, as if we have been on a journey together. This one began last year, and I intended to use it with more intention than some of my other journals. This one would seek to avoid recurring themes that fed a narrative I desperatley wanted to change.
Themes of depression, discontent, and disconnectedness flooded the pages of other journals as I battled the demons within. The more I thought about it, the battle against depression actually made me more of a depressed person in a way. Instead of visualizing an end to the battle, I identified with the battle as part of who I was; in other words, the very thing I wanted be free of had become the thing that I held closest to my heart.
Today though, it would be different. The pen would not become an extension of my sorrow, but instead it would acknowledge the journey we have been on and look with hope onto what lies ahead. I am not talking about optimism but hope. Hope does not forsake optimism, rather it encompasses optimism, with the caviat of having a plan. I heard this idea on an interview with Jacqueline Mattis called The Science of Hope on the ten percent happier podcast.
This hope is what led me to write in my journal with an acknowledgment of our journey together. I saw the struggles of the past years as growth periods rather than stumbling blocks, as part of my story, but not the story itself.
In a Super Bowl commercial, Snoop Dogg is sitting on a beach saying, “if it’s true that time is money, don’t you think the real question is how you spend it?” Leave it to Snoop to drop a few words to make you think. This phrase is usually used in the context of getting someone to work harder, but in its truest form, it calls us to the realization that what we do matters.
Time spent in regret is time wasted, and I spent a lot of my mind on regret. Even in the presence of friends, sadness would grow as I built an invisible wall, placing myself on the outside looking in. By assuming a stance of disconnectedness from the people around me, I became emotionally impoverished, which pumped the brakes on happiness and the ability to sieze opportunities for connection.
I woke up each day with the sinking feeling that life should look different, and that I had somehow failed the people in my life. As you can guess, that pattern of thinking was not beneficial. I lived in a skewed version of the present, because so much mindspace had been used thinking how the past could have been different. Trying to change what was is a struggle that we can not win.
So I thought about what Snoop said. The pain and sadness that had been so prevalent in life was real, even though it may have been fabricated, but I could not let that waste any more of the time I had. I needed to take an honest look at the life that was all around me, and begin to move forward.
An Honest Look
Nobody likes to interact with a dishonest person. Like Jack Sparrow said, “A dishonest person you can always trust to be dishonest, honestly.” Dishonesty derails progress and it warps reality. The voice in my head had become a dishonest wanker. That voice wanted me to see only what was lacking in life instead of what was flourishing. Painting lies each day, it was taking me off the path of joy into the path of despair. I realized this when I finally started to challenge the experience.
Loneliness was a narrative on this script of life, but that narrative did not make sense when stepping back from the moments of being alone. The greater story showed a plethora of relationships; friends, family, and random kind people who offered encouragements, smiles, hope, and even opened up their own life to me. This was a connected life, not a lonely life. The honest look revealed a need to embrace time alone as time for growth, creation, and solitude.
The liar wanted me to believe that I was alone, and that in that aloneness I could not add value to this world. The honest look showed me that I am never alone, for even outside the proximity of another person, I was connected in love and spirit to the world and something greater than me. The liar must be silenced so that the truth may flourish.
I urge you to take an honest look as well, and if you find a liar in your mind, call them out. If you find yourself living a narrative that is harmful to you and the world around you, flip the script and be renewed. This is the story we write, and we are all penning the pages.