Once upon a time I went to Paris. It was to do a creativity workshop. In the months before this trip I’d written a fairy story about a woman who unexpectedly found her real heart on the floor one morning and ran away to Paris with it. I imagined it as a piece of magical realism. An Amelie for the older woman. Actually I’m still working on it. I reckon it has the makings of a sweet Paris movie.
Anyhow enough daydreaming. What my fairy story foretold was that everything would change after that journey. And it did. Best of all the depression and grief I was dealing with got that much better. Not just because I went to Paris. It was because I decided to make it into a story.
Actually I’m still writing my story. Searching for the pieces that will complete it. Making sense of my character. Her actions. And reactions. Feeling surprised at the unexpected twists the plot can take. Sometimes it’s a bit scary. Like I type something in and then it’s happening. In my real life.
At other times something happens. Things I’m not planning. Then I realise where this piece of narrative fits into the fairy tale. And the bigger plot. I’m constantly rewriting sections to make them more truthful as it were. To make sense of things.
To reflect my expanding understanding of what the story is really about. Of who this woman is. What her core values are. Why she is the person she is. What might happen for her next. How she will respond.
And this blog. My Paris Story. It’s metaphorical for that journey. That from younger to older woman. From half to whole. From here to there. From outer to inner. From me to you. All those journeys that we take over a life time.
Have you noticed that the good stories are not always about the clever successful never make a mistake kind of people. Nor is a happy ending absolutely essential. Sometimes it’s better if things are a little unresolved. A bit messy. Thank goodness. There’s hope there for us ordinary folk. With our everyday lives.
It’s actually the character-flaws and mistakes-made and tragedies-experienced that bring the richest deepest colour to a story. More than that. It’s the heroines response to these things that captures our heart. It’s when she shows us how she has grown more wholehearted that we are most impressed.
When she falters or admits fault or even makes the wrong decision. When she finally stops avoiding things and grows a little more courageous. When she reveals her truest feelings. When she conveys the deeper bigger meaning of even seemingly insignificant events that we thrill most to the story.
Which is why when I was at a class reunion and a former flat-mate who is now somewhat self assuredly a very successful person finished talking about himself and asked me what I’d ‘actually done’ with my life I was able to soak up the clear condesension in his voice and say I’d spent a decade or more to figuring out how to be happy.
Because I was writing my story I realised at some point that this is what had happened. And more. Like how to I’d also grown my capacity to love. And to contain pain. But I didn’t share that with him. Just left it at the happiness thing.
It’s why I reckon you should write something down too. Or make a storyboard. Or even just start with telling someone something about you. Ok so that first draft is sure to be a bit shitty. It won’t be word-perfect. It might seem silly. Or be scary.
If you are anything like me there will be spelling mistakes. Messy bits and other errors. But you will learn so much. Uncover secrets. Feel better able to live with your imperfect life and self.
You will grow your emotional muscles. They’re the ones that help contain your regrets. Hold the sorrow. All that. Without falling completely apart. Because everything will be in a much bigger context.
The best thing is this. When we decide to write or say or tell our our story we become the narrator of our life. Not just a passive actress or a participant in a play. We get to have a say.
Paradoxically telling our story and owning up to our flawed lives and failed bits opens up other possibilities not thought of before. It grows self compassion. Forgiveness. Connections.
We can’t always choose what happens or even predict our response. But we can make sense of it.
When we find that authentic voice we have found a way to have a say in the things that are happening. Maybe not about who, where and what the story is about exactly. But by giving personal meaning to all these elements. In that way we get to have a choice in the story arch and hopefully the ending. We give ourselves a chance to make the outcome redemptive. And personal. Like all the good stories.
Though my favourite ending of all times is this. Because I think it’s one of the essentials truths.
‘So that in the end, there was no end.’