Backstory to Best Story

Take a few moments to read the following from The Optimists Journal. When finished, you will be asked to make your own journal entry.

The Optimists Journal

For writers, a backstory is a set of events that is invented to help create the plot to our story. The truth is it doesn't work much differently in real life. Our life is the plot, those who came before us created our backstory. The more we know about it, the better we can understand ourselves and give that gift to the children we get to raise. Human beings leave little fingerprints all over each other's lives. I love to reflect on the good ones left by hugs, conversations, travel, and long lunches. My life has been so blessed in so many ways. But on the path to our best life, we learn to reflect on the imprint left by the not so shiny, darker side of life. The addictions in my family are mine, even if I never drink or use drugs. The tragic effects of suicide that happened before I was born or brought into a family, is part of my fabric now.

What I have come to understand is, I don’t hurt anyone by admitting these things have happened, it’s when I don’t talk about them that they cause pain into the future.

The silver lining is that grace washes over us in waves when we accept that most people are doing the best they can, with what they know, to be happy on this earth. We take control of our lives though, when we are brave enough to confront the things that hurt, and grow as we learn to be honest with ourselves about how to heal them. Healing is an inside job, no blaming involved. So while we are affected by what came before, healing is present tense and on us. Once we realize that, the question becomes: 

“What are we willing to stay open to, to learn about, or acknowledge, that will teach us more about ourselves and allow us to grow?”

Let’s face it, as the days go on experiences, even tragedies, have the ability to either expand our vision, or harden us and draw us inward. If we pretend that life didn’t move us based on our encounters, that we didn’t see it or feel it, our world becomes smaller and we feel an undying need to control a narrative that we know we can manage. There is no freedom in that, and the human spirit is meant to be free, no matter how much we try to contain it with worldly standards or because of the fear of what other people may think. In so many ways, its not the experience, but how we choose to be shaped by the experience, that sets the tone for our lives and the generations that come after us. In the case of our backstory, these events came before us, but make their impact on our DNA nonetheless. But as tragic as some of life’s situations can be, we are resilient enough to grow through them. 

The real marker of tragedy is what happens when healing is unprocessed or stopped in its tracks.

You’ve heard the sentiment, hurt people, hurt people. It’s true, and these patterns repeat themselves generation after generation. I think there is some enlightened thought that we have now that even the most well-intentioned people of generations past didn’t know. They had to work with what they knew…and this is my interpretation. 

Old Patterns:

 * If we don’t talk about it, it’s not really happening and it will go away. 

The truth is, it will get buried and come back in patterns of addiction and enabling that make us feel unsafe and unable to trust ourselves. When we don’t trust our own judgment that what we see as true, we can’t build our own confidence and self-worth and are always looking for a backup opinion or for someone else to reinforce our reality when we feel we can’t manage on our own.  

 * If I acknowledge that something hurt me, I place blame on people I love, or even people that are no longer with us to tell their story. 

We can’t be deeply hurt by someone that we are not attached to. So, acknowledging that you have been hurt actually shows someone that you care. They may not take it that way but it’s true. Their reaction to your wound will tell you whether you need put up some boundaries to heal on your own or do the healing together with them. Give them a chance, even a little time to reflect and process. Discuss your feelings with compassion, not blame. By admitting your feelings, you are already on the path to healing…and hopefully you are a catalyst for their healing too. Either way, better out than in.

 * We see the world in moral absolutes. 

Yes, society needs constructs to coexist, but oh how my rule-following self has been thrown off by dualistic thinking. Divorce is wrong. Living together is wrong. Sex before marriage is wrong. Being gay is wrong. Certain forms of spirituality are wrong. These patterns of thinking kept people in past generations and even modern-day me, until recently, living in less-than-ideal situations, not respecting (or even having) my own boundaries and making choices that were detrimental to my own self-worth.

There is such a difference between the so-called rules different branches of society come up with and the mercy that we need as humans to not be wracked by guilt and shame. The longer I am on this earth, my rules are shaped by conscious thought and the time that it takes to know and love myself. I build the best connections from there. As Matthew McConaughey put it so brilliantly in his book Greenlights:

“Conservative early, liberal late.”

These are the words that will save us from living in lower vibrations of fear, shame, and guilt. We all have the power to create and choose the energy that surrounds and connects us. We don’t have to let everything in, but what we do let in, we need to sort out.

Every day I ask myself:

“What do I want out of this life?”

The answer is: to leave the places I touch better off because I was there and to find the deepest forms of human connection. Knowing this answer has given me so much more energy and purpose in my days. It points me in the right direction, it helps me maintain my optimism and guides every human interaction that I have. 

My life is better when I connect with growth-minded, vulnerable people in real life, and I’m grateful for the path that I have created to be able to do that. 

Do you know what you want out of this life? Answer the question, and design your life around the answer. 

TASK: Write a Journal Entry.

What is an old pattern that you would like to transform?