Shaping our Life’s Story

Have you ever wondered what your life would be like if the challenging events in your life never happened to you? Would you be the person you are today?  Would you know your own resiliency and strength if it never happened?

Even those events that have occurred in our lives that have been so hard to heal from, to overcome, those moments that feel like we are still climbing that mountain. And it is so hard to make it to the top. You know the part with that achingly beautiful view that makes the climb worth all the pain, the sweat, and the tears.

There is a part of us that intuitively knows that we have survived our past.  Even though sometimes, believe you me, it can be hard at times to remember that innate wisdom we have within us from surviving these challenging life experiences. Some of the wisest people I know are confident and wise because of they had to fight to find their wisdom within.

Andrew Solomon gave a powerful talk from the TED stage about how his childhood trauma of being bullied and gay has shaped his life story.  How he draws strength from these experiences.  He shares:

“I would have had an easier life if I were straight, but I would not be me, and I now like being myself better than the idea of being someone else, someone who, to be honest, I have neither the option of being nor the ability fully to imagine. But if you banish the dragons, you banish the heroes, and we become attached to the heroic strain in our own lives.”

With trauma it’s often the meaning about ourselves and the world around us that we place on disturbing experiences that are often more impactful than the actual trauma itself.

Beliefs or ideas, meaning, about the event such as.. it’s my fault I deserved it…it happened because there’s something so significantly wrong with me that I caused it to happen.  Most of us are intimately familiar with this, I know I am.

What exactly is meaning, anyway? If we both stood looking at an abstract piece of art we would see two vastly different images and have two vastly different feelings about the image.  It would mean totally different things to both of us. We could argue for hours about it. The only thing we know for sure is that it’s a picture on the wall with squiggles on it.

What if the meaning of our experiences are that these experiences happened and we grew strong from surviving them; that the identities that we derived from these experiences are of resiliency and wisdom.

Andrew Solomon beautifully shares with us:

“We don’t seek the painful experiences that hew our identities, but we seek our identities in the wake of painful experiences. We cannot bear a pointless torment, but we can endure great pain if we believe that it’s purposeful. Ease makes less of an impression on us than struggle. We could have been ourselves without our delights, but not without the misfortunes that drive our search for meaning.”

Many of us have fought very hard through painful transcendence, and we survived. And it’s in that space that confidence and wisdom grows stronger with each day; even if we can’t always see it.  I believe in you and I believe that there’s a part of us that knows that we can survive life’s greatest challenges and grow into the fulfilled, confident person we hope to become. One step at a time.