I am my own book: I am the one who writes and rewrites and adds new chapters
And let’s leave a page blank. Room to start new chapters…
Jorge Luis Borges said that there are people who can’t imagine a world without birds, people who can’t imagine a world without water, and people who essentially can’t conceive of a world without books.
Now then, every book we’ve read tells us that we’re all stories. Existence is magical; we can turn ourselves into the authors of a story that is being written every day.
But here’s one of our biggest problems: we start to think that we have one single narrative with the classic, predictable structure of an introduction, climax, and outcome.
No one has told us that in reality the story of our lives doesn’t always have to have a logical order. There are chapters that end halfway through. There are paragraphs we should erase and rewrite. And there are a lot of pages it’s easier to get rid of so that the plot will make more sense.
On the other hand, something we should definitely keep in mind is that the story of our lives only makes complete sense to one person: ourselves.
Every experience, every interaction, every decision made, every feeling, caress, shiver — everything we experience has a personal meaning to us that no one else will fully understand.
In our chaos there’s logic, in our personal story there are chapters out of order. By starting over and over again we’ll end up with the best novel ever written: our own.
When we have no choice but to rewrite the story of our lives
Joan Didion is a well-known writer many people call “the white whale of the American essay.” She’s now 82 years old and used writing to do something very interesting.
She tried to make it so her loved ones would come back to life. In December 2003, she and her husband came back from the hospital after seeing their sick daughter. Then, out of nowhere, Didion’s husband, the writer John Gregory Dunne, died suddenly in the living room of their house.
Just a few months later, their daughter would follow him, after succumbing to pneumonia. Then Joan Didion wrote for 88 days. She wrote nonstop, and it turned out to be her best known book: “The Year of Magical Thinking.”
Both psychiatrists and anthropologists define “magical thinking” as a mental attitude where people start to believe their thoughts can influence how things happen. Joan Didion hoped her family would be with her again, that they would come back to life…
None of that happened. But, after the book was published, Didion understood it was time to start a new chapter in her life. A real chapter. The writing had worked as a kind of catharsis, a way to deal with the pain.
But, life kept on moving, slowly because of her absent loved ones. Yet, according to her, “I could find the rhythm of existence in the same way I found it in the worlds and sentences I wrote.”
Three ways to rewrite our lives and embrace the future
At the beginning, we said how important it was to have blank pages in our book. Those spotless, perfect, empty pages are our opportunity to create a future full of new opportunities. Room for more chapters — new, exciting, and happier chapters.
Every day is a blank page where you can write your own story.
But, it’s easy to overlook this valuable opportunity. The opportunity to rewrite ourselves. A traumatic childhood, a family crisis, an infidelity, or a loss can sometimes make us think our story has ended with that last, fatal chapter.
Next we’ll look at three strategies to think about. They can help us change our perspective.
Reinterpreting chapters, rewriting
The first step is to revise some chapters. Make a real, objective evaluation of the narrative of your life. From childhood all the way to the present.
During this first phase, don’t fall into the trap of blaming others for things that have happened to you. Let’s not play the blame game. We should only focus on ourselves, on how we see ourselves in each part of life.
Cleansing. In this second phase, we’ll assume that changing the past is impossible. But, what we can do is modify the attitude we have toward those our past.
It’s the time to accept and forgive. And above all else, to shed the burden of our past pains in order to be our present selves.
The third stage of this process is special. Add blank pages to the book of your life. You can do this in many different ways. It’s exciting. Because we’re talking about new beginnings, the chance to experiment, and to allow ourselves new things. New friends, new projects, new places, new hobbies…
As we get older and mature, we learn something that’s very important. That new beginnings are a part of living life.
It’s embracing a happiness that’s more real, tangible, and more in line with our needs. So let’s be brave and write the story we want. Write your story.
Images courtesy of SIUM and Soizick Meister