I don’t know if I am writing this for you, dear Reader — as they used to say back in the day — or for me. But I’m writing it to call attention to negative stories we tell ourselves about ourselves and others, and how they can influence our lives. We all do it; I’m no less guilty than you are.
Right now, changes are going on in my family because my son is getting a divorce. Those are the facts. But as I’ve been watching him and the woman he has been married to for nine years prepare to live separately, it has been amazing to see the gyrations they’ve been going through.
Here, after all, are two people who know each other pretty well, and yet the accusations fly back and forth, and all trust seems to have vanished one day, returned the next, and vanished again.
All the while, nothing has changed in the facts. He’s still the same man, she’s still the same woman, the law is the law, and they have two kids. And yet their divorce, like all divorces, has produced dozens of negative stories and incidences of negative self-talk. It’s all so clear to me that the negative stories they tell themselves are doing a disservice to both of them and probably to their children.
I’m really able to see this going on. Why? Because it’s not about me. As soon as it becomes about me, I’m blinded by my own negative stories.
I’m reminded of two summers ago, when my daughter and her husband invited me to vacation with them and my grandson at a camp in Brittany, France. Europeans often goin on family vacations where they camp. Most of them live in cities, and this gives a chance to get out into nature.
Any outside observer would have said, “you lucky woman! You have a daughter and son-in-law who are going to take you on a vacation in Europe. You must be the most fortunate person in the world!”
Not me! My negative story started immediately: “how am I ever going to sleep in a tent?” (We didn’t. They rented a mobile home.) “What will I do without Starbucks and a city in the immediate vicinity? I’ll be like a fish out of water.” (This was for all of one week).
And the worst of them all: “I’m too old to do all these things. I can’t swim, I don’t play tennis anymore, I can’t canoe, I don’t dance….” and so on ad nauseum, to the point where when we actually got to the place and checked in, I began to cry.
Fortunately, my daughter does not let me continue with my negative stories for very long; she runs out of patience with them. So she said to me, “every year you go to this conference, YxYY (Yes and Yes Yes) conceived by and for people who say yes. So shouldn’t you be saying “Oui and Oui Oui?”
Of course that’s true; I’d attended three of those conferences in Palm Springs dedicated to being a positive force for other people. So what was I doing now? That dissolved my negativity and I ended up canoeing, swimming, hiking, dancing, and going for a week without Starbucks.
At the end of that week, I came to yet another realization; I was creating my own ageism, directed toward myself. If I can’t face me without thinking I was old, how can I expect anyone else to do any different.
We create the reality around us. Don’t ever let anyone tell you we don’t. And if we want to re-define aging, we have to begin inside ourselves.