Have you ever felt pulled in more than one direction at the same time? Of course you have. You’re eating breakfast, really enjoying that egg and toast, and your four-year-old says, “Mommy, I broke it.” That’s all they have to say before your previously tasty breakfast might as well be day-old grass.
Congratulations. You’ve moved from “woman refueling her system to face a busy day” to “Most High Inquisitor, ferreting out ne’er do wells”.
As a parent, you get to play many parts: peacemaker, disciplinary, live jungle gym…After you’ve been a parent for awhile, switching back and forth across these many faces becomes as easy and natural as breathing.
Wouldn’t it be nice if you could do the same with all of life’s situations? What I mean is many of us don’t exactly appreciate the person we are, but have an idea of the person we want to become. Sure, everything’s a process, but what does it take to change? In a life where we’re constantly pulled in multiple directions, playing several parts and multi-tasking enough for ten people, how do we find the real “us”?
Rewriting Life’s Main Character
Last week, I reblogged Dr. Kelly Flanagan’s article, Cheap, Crappy Hope. It’s a great article and well worth the read. The first of a 3 part series, it was followed by Passive, Boring Hope, in which Flanagan talks about the fact that there are two types of hope. One, used as a verb, is boring, passive, and leaves life unchanged. The other, however, is a noun. I love how Dr. Flanagan describes this noun:
Whereas (verb) hope focuses us on the future, waiting for a desired outcome, (noun) hope becomes transformational right here and now—it’s as if hope reaches backward from the future and begins to transform the present.
And it doesn’t stop there.
Somehow, (noun) hope reaches even further, into our past, assuring us the events that happened there don’t have to remain meaningless, showing us how those broken chapters will become an integral part of the beautiful, redemptive story we are telling with our lives. When it becomes more than just a way of anticipating the future, when it becomes something we possess and it begins to define us as people, hope becomes unhinged from time and starts to change everything: our expectations for the future, the way we relate to the present, and the way we understand the past. It changes all things, because it changes the only thing present in every scene of our story—(noun) hope changes us. (emphasis mine)
Wow and wow. I don’t know about you, but that whole quote set off a familiar chord in me. Later, he says, “I ached to rewrite the character I was playing in my own story.”
After reading this I thought, “You know, that’s what I’ve been doing without realizing it. I’m a victim of (noun) hope and, because of that, I have begun rewriting the main character of my life.”
The Woman In the Mirror
I don’t know about you, but I’m busy. Not necessarily productive all the time, but definitely busy. I’m a multi-tasker, you see, with way more tasks than multi. Last week I added “mechanic” to the list, because my car needed a clutch. Enter my “car girl” persona who likes to dig into engines and doesn’t mind grease under her nails (if the nails even last, that is). This week I’m adding “seamstress” to the list, as I attempt to magically pull a dress together out of thin air.
It may sound like I’m complaining. Okay, I’m complaining – a little bit -, because it’s difficult being several people at once. And yet, I remember when just being one person was hard.
Up until a few years ago, I couldn’t meet my own eyes in the mirror. I’d try, but there was so much desperation, pain, anger and hatred in them; the windows of my soul were all too transparent. I’m not sure if other people could see it or not, but it was in me. I knew who I was, I knew the things I’d done, I knew how I thought and I hated it all.
I hated people, or so I thought. What I really hated was the idea that everyone was so much better than the slimy worm of “I” that crawled inside of me. I externalized it by turning my feelings on others, but it was really myself I couldn’t stand.
I had to change. I had to. I was lost in a level of darkness I thought I’d never find my way out of. I hated the person I’d become.
As I wrote in Hope and Hopelessness: Finding Your Motivation, that change began with building a wall. Yet, the physical labor became an outward symbol of inward labor. While I dug the trenches, dragged the concrete and built the wall, I also began the most intense, in depth training ever.
Self-Induced Character Development
“Finding myself” or “working on me” sounds like such a selfish statement, but it isn’t. It doesn’t matter if you only have one role or many. It doesn’t matter if the only person you’re responsible for is you. At some point you have to find out who you really are in order to play the role(s) life gives you. Otherwise, you’re nothing more than a chameleon – a phantom actor in a world full of color and life.
Your Many Roles
As I’ve found out, slowly but surely, you are not the only one to benefit from this action. Character development is an intense labor of love. As you begin to see yourself in a more positive light, you can allow yourself to be more positive about those around you. Becoming a positive person not only changes you, but also changes your relationships.
Consider yourself as a parent. If you have conflicting ideas, morals, values, etc, (or you aren’t sure what they are) what will you end up teaching your children? If you despise yourself, aren’t the chances high that your kids will learn the same? If you’re unhappy, won’t this transfer to your children as well?
Consider yourself as a spouse. If you’re always negative, won’t this be reflected in your relationship? If you don’t know what angers you, how will your spouse? If you’re always down on yourself, don’t you tend to be more sensitive to what’s being said about you? Therefore, you’ll be more likely to take offense at perceived slights than to hear what your spouse is really saying.
Consider yourself as a worker. Employee or entrepreneur makes no difference. When you’re fighting yourself, you have no room left – no energy left – to do much else.
To fulfill these roles, you have to know yourself. More yet, you have to like yourself. And if you don’t, you have to change yourself.
Finding the Real You
You’re always going to have multiple roles to play. They could be as simple as “man on hunt for duct tape at the general store” to “man teaching young ones backyard survival skills”. However, whether parent, spouse, worker, child, or any other part in life, you have to know who you really are for these roles to be believable. Finding the real you takes work. It takes scary things like…
Looking into the past and accepting it for what it is. I’ve had to look at my life and say, “Yes, that sucked. I can’t change it. I can’t forget it. It’s part of who I am.” You’ll have times in your life that you can be more accepting about than others, but acceptance is like oil on water; it spreads.
Looking at yourself with an unbiased eye and accepting that you are who you are. I’ve also had to say, “Yes, this is me. I have weaknesses. I have strengths. I am human.” Your weaknesses and strengths are neither good nor bad. They’re simply what go into making you what you are: human. You aren’t stuck with them, but for the moment, they are you.
Having the courage to face (noun) hope. Hope is scary. Broken hope is painful. When you’ve had a lot of broken hope, even the hope of hope can be paralyzing. If you’ve had that kind of life, it’s going to take a lot of courage to admit you have hope – and you have to have hope if you’re going to get anywhere. You have to believe – with utmost certainty – that what you’re doing will produce positive results.
Having the courage to move. Self-induced character development is not passive. Generally, those who reach for self-induced character development feel an incredible sense of weakness; therefore, they’re also facing an equally incredible sense of fear that must be overcome before forward movement (and thus, change) is possible.
Anything Is Possible
Most importantly, you have to believe – with unshakable, rock hard faith – that there is a better “you” somewhere. It goes beyond, “I don’t like who I am.” That belief has to be able to look past your memories, previous actions, thoughts, and so on, into a brighter future. It has to be able to say, “I will become someone I like.”
Rewriting your life’s main character is possible. This isn’t a book, after all, and the story is still being written. You can write yourself heroic; a hero is simply someone who’s there when they’re needed. You can write yourself wise; a wise person, most importantly, stops to think before they speak. You can write yourself as a positive influence, a good role model, a patient friend and a loving parent.
Anything is possible. Everything is possible. Look to the horizon. Hope is dawning.