As I was looking for Neosporin in the pharmaceutical aisle at Walmart to help heal the inevitable bites and scratches I’ve incurred as a new puppy mom, I noticed another frazzled mom next to me. After deliberating between a mind numbing array of decorative Band-Aids®, she carefully selected the Ninja Turtles from the shelf. That motion set an avalanche of boxes cascading to the floor.
As I reached down to help her place the Band-Aids® back on the shelf, I heard her mutter in exasperation, “the story of my life.”
I could relate. I’ve been feeling agitated for weeks and wondered what I had done to bring on the onslaught of overwhelm I’d been experiencing on all fronts.
When I got in my car to head home, the song “The Story of My Life“ by One Direction was on the radio. Never one to miss a sign when I’m sure I’ve been given one (two references to “story of my life” in twenty minutes), I started to ponder the story of my life.
As a writer, I’m captivated by stories – and signs. As a coach, I often encourage my clients to tell a different story, write a better ending, or dare to add a new twist to a tired story line.
Without realizing it, by creating and taking on the Get Stuff Done 1 x 31 Challenge, I was writing a new story. Even though it may not have seemed like a big deal, I was taking small, intentional actions every day that set a series of events in motion with consequences I couldn’t necessarily predict.
Some of these actions provided instant gratification. I donated clothes and switched out bulky plastic hangers for slim, velvet ones that instantly provided more room in my closet. Posting something every day allowed me to deliver on a promise and connect with my community.
I also got a puppy. This is where things got interesting. Like adopting a child or moving an aging parent into your home, the dynamics of our household shifted immediately.
There is a renewed sense of wonder, curiosity, playfulness, unconditional love and laughter in our home. There is also unprecedented chaos, an influx of puppy paraphernalia, additional expenses, the stress of teaching our old dog a new trick, and an edginess in my temperament that comes from sleep deprivation.
Writers call this an inciting incident, the conflict or change that leads the protagonist to begin the adventure that makes her story worth reading. It’s the challenge that forces her to discover her strengths, grow into her potential, and learn life’s most guarded secrets.
As part of my declaration that I am equal to the task of living this grand adventure, I decided to write down something every day that I will need on this quest in order to call my power back to me. Name it and claim it, I say!
Like the Get Stuff Done 1 x 31, this daily practice has the potential to set sweeping changes in motion. What I intend to remember this time and want to warn you about is something Martha Beck describes in her blog as the Storm before the Calm.
I’ll sum it up like this. When you ask for things to change, things will change. But not in the calm, orderly, predictable way that allows you to continue life as you know it. A new world order does not emerge without a little death and destruction – be it the death of an idea, a relationship, a job, or the way you thought it would be.
In making room for the new, what no longer serves you has got to go.
What remains is what you most need to move your life forward. When you get a glimpse of that, the calm returns amidst the storm and you know you are going to be just fine. Maybe even spectacular.
In my case I not only realized I didn’t wear half the clothes in my closet, I also realized I needed to revamp the way I do business – at home and at work. If my puppy wakes up at 5:30am, I need to go to bed before 11pm. If policies are not serving our students, I need to do what I can do change them.
Ironically, the trick to telling the story of your life is to embrace the parts you’d prefer to eliminate. You are not your questionable decisions, bad luck, or the person who always picks the longest checkout line or looks for love in all the wrong places.
These things add to your character, inform your future decisions, and help you discover want you really want. But they do not define you. You are always free to rewrite.
If the woman looking for Band-Aids® had simply grabbed the first box she saw, I might not have realized she was a dedicated mom willing to endure a little overwhelm to make sure her kids’ “hurts stopped hurting.”
As Gandhi once wrote, “Your life is your message.”
What do you want the story of your life to tell?