Imagine running into an old friend whom you had not seen since childhood. What story would you tell? Where are you now, and what has brought you to this point in your life?
Whether we recognize it or not, we make sense of our lives through our personal stories. Our stories help us make sense of our world and provide meaning and continuity.
Stories may also limit how we see our lives, others and our selves. To be conscious of the unwritten stories of our lives is to open up our potential for more positive experiences and growth in every area of our lives.
We inherit the stories told by our families. They may be of struggle against adversity, reactions to negative experiences, mistreatment by others and often a simplified approach to history, politics and people who are different from them.
The stories of our parents can form the foundation of our personal stories that are also influenced by personal experiences, how we react to them and – most importantly – how we conceptualize them.
Our stories may empower us, enhance our relationships, promote healthy living and foster happiness. Our stories may limit our experiences, get us stuck and be the ultimate source of our unhappiness.
Although we do not control every aspect of our lives, we are at least coauthors of our own life stories. We are not responsible for every event and circumstance, but we are responsible for how we meet them and how we act.
In medicine, I have the privilege of hearing many personal stories. My wisest and happiest patients have shared those that are infused with three key features: appreciation, empowerment and purpose.
The happiest people accept the good and bad aspects of their lives but reflect back with appreciation for what has been right in their lives. Engaging each day with an attitude of positivity and gratitude, they give forward.
They are able to let go of self-limiting feelings of resentment and embrace their personal responsibility to choose their own thoughts and actions. They recognize the aspects of their lives that they can control in a positive way.
The wisest storytellers are able to reflect back on their lives, learn and look forward beyond their own self-interests. They find meaning in the past and present – and purpose for a positive future.
In the story of your life, where have you found meaning? What has been your calling at each stage of your life? Your story is never finished, and you remain its author today.
The Tapestry Foundation for Health Care www.tapestryfoundation.cais hosting a public forum, Stories of Aging at the Vancouver Convention Centre. I will be part of a panel sharing unique perspectives on aging at 7 pm on Friday, April 4th.
Dr. Davidicus Wong is a family physician. He will be speaking on “Achieving Your Positive Potential in Life: Finding Meaning & Fulfillment in Every stage of Your Life” at the Douglas Park Community Centre at their Young at Heart program’s Wellness Show on Saturday, April 5th. For more information, call (604) 257-8130.