The Stories We Tell Ourselves
"You cannot go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending."
This is one of my favourite quotes, it is attributed to C.S.Lewis, however, this is not certain. For me, this quote sums up so much of my motivation, has resulted in many lightbulb moments and inspires grace and hope for the future. When life is so uncertain, the idea that we can choose how we respond to our past, how we live from here on in, and the writing of a better ending in our own life story, is powerful and uplifting.
In the run up to Christmas myself and my husband had a movie night each week, and we decided to watch the trilogy The Lord of the Rings. Whilst I love the films, I am not a die-hard fan and the thought of investing so much time in these movies felt too much of an effort! But, before I knew it, I was captivated again by the stories of Frodo, Samwise and gang in the quest to bring peace to middle earth. We were well into the second film - The Two Towers - when towards the end, Samwise, Frodo's trustworthy BFF, has a monologue. It struck such a chord with me, especially in light of the global pandemic, and the uncertainty we face in today's world. This is what the wise Samwise said:
Sam: It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were, and sometimes you didn’t want to know the end, because how could the end be happy. How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something. Even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back only they didn’t. Because they were holding on to something.
Frodo: What are we holding on to, Sam?
Sam : That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it’s worth fighting for.
There is so much gold in this monologue, so much truth and hope. I love it and each time I read it lifts my spirit and bolsters my courage. It also makes me think about the stories we tell ourselves, the tales we carry and retell from our parents, grandparents, friends and society. The inner monologues we have rehearsed and repeated to ourselves over the years, and how true these are, whether they are myth or fact, legend or reality.
You may have been told stories about yourself at school by a teacher or authority figure. I was told lots of stories throughout school from a very young age- I was no good at English, I was different and didn't fit in, I was poor, I wasn't smart/funny/pretty/confident enough. My English teacher decided the best way to encourage me was to shame me and give me a spelling book that I had to complete each night, copying her correct spellings for words like 'disappointment'. I was 16! I also had a boss who told me I would amount to nothing and wasn't capable of going further with my education.
Whilst I look back on these now with a wry smile, there are traces of these stories that have woven themselves into my life and have caused doubt and fear. It takes time and work to decipher what is true, from the myths and tales we may have been told or even the ones we've made up and told ourselves. If I listen to and repeat stories that are untrue over and over, they change from being fiction to becoming fact. If I had listened to my English teacher, I would not be here writing this blog (thank goodness for the spell checker!). If I had chosen to write my story from a place of fear and doubt, I would not have continued my education.
The stories I tell myself are always a mixture of both fact and fiction, usually black and white and I add embellishments to make them bigger and more dramatic or omit certain truths to make them smaller and easier to hear depending on how I am feeling. Some of my stories are "If I try hard enough, I can please everyone and avoid upset", "I've never been good with money, I will always be struggling financially" and "I'm so afraid something will go wrong or I will be disappointed, I mustn't get too excited".
As Samwise said, the great stories have both darkness and light, sorrow and joy. Our lives are not one sided - there are two sides to every story. Yes, there is trauma, pain and despair, but there is also love, courage and hope. It is what we choose to see, how we choose to think of our past, present and future. Our choices are powerful in shaping our lives and the lives of others. We can choose to see through glasses that are half empty, the rose-tinted variety, or face the truth with open eyes and hearts. Our choices can come from a place of fear and hurt, or of love and hope.
Even darkness must pass. A new day is coming. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer.
Let's tell our stories for what they are, from a place of honesty and openness. From a place of being the author of our lives, writing the days ahead and holding onto the hope that there is some good in the world and it's worth fighting for.
Please share this post with someone who may need to read Samwise's words and be encouraged. As always, I'd love to know your thoughts, your stories and the ways you are writing the chapters of your life. You can add to the comments below or message me on Instagram @iamsarahalexcarter