Throughout our lives we carry stories; stories that dictate what we think about ourselves how we view others and how we see life in general. There is something intrinsic in our drive to explain, order, and extract meaning from the chaos of our lives, says Susan Gregory Thomas in this month’s Psychology Today. The stories we tell ourselves do not get fact checked but they do feel authentic to our personal experiences. Accurate or not, we believe them and they color our lives. Our ability to make sense of and create meaning from our memories defines how we feel about ourselves and shapes the identity we create throughout our lives.
I want to share a prose poem I recently wrote about my childhood. I wonder what story you would tell yourself about this little girl?
I have the only bedroom in apartment 3B, 1815 Monroe Avenue. On school days I walk three blocks home for lunch. The first block is the longest, with brown stone row houses. I pass my dentist’s, and apartment houses, each one different: colored brick, white, yellow, and red. My apartment house has an elevator I take to the third floor. Most of my friends are afraid to ride by themselves! I am seven.
My lunch is usually soup in a Thermos, Campbell’s Chicken Noodle, and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I have no watch but I know that after Love of Life and Search for Tomorrow I turn off the TV, lock the apartment door with the key I wear on a string around my neck. On my way back to school, I head for Julie’s Candy Store. I get a Nestlé’s Crunch for six cents. I eat it one square at a time, so it lasts. I’m in no hurry to get back to Mrs. Gold’s class. She’s so mean.
On hot summer nights Julie’s is the place to go for cones—sugar or plain, with or without sprinkles. My favorite is a sugar cone with coffee ice cream and sprinkles. It costs twelve cents, two cents extra for the chocolate sprinkles. Next door is Fedderman’s Pharmacy. Fedderman’s has a soda fountain, too. Red and black twisted licorice sticks stand in glass jars, wax lips make you look like you’re wearing smeared lipstick. Sugar Dots are pasted on white paper: Sky bars, Clark bars, Bonomo Turkish Toffee . My mother says I grow cavities like weeds!
Events don’t inherently contain meaning. It’s the meaning we give our past that matters. This is how our stories get created, and themes begin to emerge.
Next monthy we’ll talk about the meaning you attach to the stories you tell yourself, and you can decide if you need to rewrite your life story.