Trending in my Facebook news feed this past week was a challenge: Write the happiest story you can imagine using only four words.
My friends' answers ranged from humorous to significant. One friend posted "All desserts are free!" and another wrote, "The tumor has disappeared."
Stories are essential to life. At age three, humans begin to develop a sense of self, and stories are crucial to this "self" development process. Three-year-old children begin to understand who they are by constructing a story about themselves, and this story becomes their autobiography. Their understanding of "self" (both consciously and unconsciously) is built of 1) the stories the child tells about him or herself, 2) the stories other people tell about them, and 3) the stories they encounter when interacting with and relating to the world. A child pieces these stories together very much like a quilt maker sewing a quilt. And this process of constructing an autobiography, or making an "identity quilt," continues throughout a person's entire life. These collective stories are very powerful because they determine who a person becomes and how a person understands herself both on her own and herself in relationship with others, the world, and God.
In my family, the stories told about me were mostly negative. I was the family's scapegoat, meaning everything bad or unhealthy in my family was blamed on me. And everything I did was wrong. Any decisions I made or suggestions I offered were ridiculed. My family also used stories to humiliate me. If I made a mistake, however small, the story of my mistake was told again and again throughout the years at family dinners and gatherings. So it is not surprising that I, as a little girl and as a woman, have very low self-esteem. My autobiography is of a person who can never do anything right.
The day I learned my husband was a sex addict, I had been married to him for twenty years. His addiction was a secret he had kept very well hidden. But what wasn't a secret was his critical approach to people, especially me. Just like my parents and family had been, he was very critical of everything I did, said, or believed. Yet the criticism was so familiar that I did not notice it or recognize it as being disrespectful or abusive because it was such a "normal" part of my life's story.
One of the most valuable things I have learned since discovering my husband's sex addiction (and I learned this through working with Marsha Means as my coach) is that many of the stories people had told both to me and about me were lies. And most of those stories were manipulative tools used to control me. But even those false stories got sewn into my identity quilt and became a part of me because, unfortunately, I had accepted those stories as true. A big part of my healing process has been to learn to identify which stories were lies so I can use a seam ripper to "rip them out" of my story or my identity quilt, and so that I can replace those particular "quilt pieces" with true stories, positive stories, patches of hope for the future: stories of a strong, resilent woman who can not only survive but thrive.
Coach Kristie's "My Story" Group — which draws upon Dan Allender's book "To Be Told" — invites women, in community with one another, to share and examine their own stories in order to discover who they are, and to discover who God created them to be, then in community with each other and with God, to "co-author" their future: to write the happiest story imaginable.
To learn more about Coach Kristie's "My Story" group please check out her video: https://vimeo.com/
If you'd like to join Coach Kristie's group, click on "Talk With Someone" from the menu above then choose "Support Groups" and in the "available groups" choose Kristie's "My Story" group.
What is the happiest story you can imagine?
Blessings to you,