How My Storyline Trapped Me in a False Truth

I stopped confusing beliefs with facts to take charge of my destiny

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We talk about creativity as it’s this special form of thinking. However, all our thoughts are creative even if we don’t realise it. Without our creativity, we cannot make sense of the world around us.

We stream meaningless data 24/7 and give it meaning it doesn’t necessarily have, but we believe it to be true. That’s creative!

When you look at it this way, your thoughts / your creativity is the driving force of your life. It determines what stories you tell yourself about who you are. You think it’s factual, but a lot of what we think are facts are really our beliefs.

What story are you telling yourself and does it empower or disempower you?

If you are like me, you can fall very easily into one of two traps. The first is that everything that is right or working in my world is down to how smart, clever or deserved I am. I give myself a nice pat on the back.

Or the second is that everything that is not working is deeply unfair, wrong and feels out of my control. I don’t understand why this is happening to me and I don’t deserve it.

However, neither of these ways of thinking about things is helpful or true.

Creativity is our power and ability to reframe obstacles as opportunities.

Bad stuff happens to everyone but when it happens to us, we seem to knee-jerk to thinking it’s unfair and wrong. Or we have done something wrong to deserve it. We rarely see that “bad stuff” often comes with hidden blessings.

Seven years ago today, I lost my only sister, Ana, to a motor neurone disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. When she first got sick, I didn’t believe it could be ALS because, I reasoned, this kind of thing didn’t happen to me. I didn’t see this kind of tragedy as part of my storyline.

Yet, life doesn’t care about your nonsense ideas of what’s supposed to happen to me. You live, you die, and what we think of as fate is just random events we interpret as having significance.

Me (left) and my sister, Ana, at Melbourne Cup looking slightly ridiculous but having fun.

To many, the last sentence could be debilitating but I found this concept liberating because I realised it is my choice on what meaning I give to those events I deem significant.

Ana’s death was a tragedy for all of us — her husband, our family and me. But it also taught me how much strength, wisdom, hope and compassion I had. I had never been tested before so deeply and I didn’t know how profoundly capable I was of supporting her, my family and now, my friends as they go through their journey of love, loss and grief.

To be touched by tragedy is not a curse, nor is it a blessing. It’s an insight into where you are in your own journey.

After Ana died, naturally, I cried for months and spent time thinking about all my shortcomings as a sister (and there were quite a few!). Over time, as the shock of the inevitable subsided, I began to see my strengths too and, more importantly, appreciate how lucky we were to have one another.

It wasn’t that I didn’t have my sister anymore, it was how lucky I was to have a relationship with my sister like that. We loved each other despite our flaws and trusted one another with our darkest secrets. The tragedy of her early death sharpened this realisation in both our minds, and, for that, I am eternally grateful.

To help you cope with setbacks of all shapes and sizes try the following:

Don’t think of things that happen to you as good or bad. They are always a mixture of both. Every dark emotion or event has a lighter side and vice versa. Try to put things in a greater context to see them with more nuance.

Don’t get attached to your storyline. Beware of confusing your beliefs with facts. Unexpected and unpredictable things can and do happen to everyone. Forget how things were “supposed” to be and learn to lean into how things are. It will help you to see more opportunities, more clearly, more quickly.

Remember it’s your story to write. You can focus on what’s wrong and why it’s so grossly unfair. Or you can grow wiser with age and realise life is a lottery. It sometimes gives you winning numbers, but you can’t live your life waiting for a winning hand. Make the most of where you are and, over time, you’ll be surprised to find how lucky you really are.

Or, at least, that’s the story that I am now writing, and it serves me well. What story will you now write?

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