When several important people in my life die in a relatively short amount of time, does it mean everyone I love will leave? When I don’t talk to my best friend for days, does it mean she’s mad at me or that I did something wrong? When my sister is diagnosed with leukemia, does it mean God doesn’t care? When my Dad wouldn’t spend time alone with me, did it mean he didn’t love me or think I was worth his time?
The answers to each of these questions, to all questions, all depends on perspective. Our perspective begins from a combination of our experiences and our environment. The really cool thing I have learned about perspective is that I can change mine any time I choose. The key lies in the awareness that everything I am telling myself, everything I believe, is just a story that I have made up about events and situations based on my interpretation of my experiences and my environment. Once I am aware of this and realize a story is not serving me, I am able to change the story to something that does serve me.
For years I was angry at my Dad. I was hurt and carried a lot of regret and resentment about him not loving me the way I thought I needed to be loved. I let that mean that my Dad didn’t love me at all and that there was obviously something wrong with me, both of which are completely untrue. Today, I choose to look from a new view and know that my Dad loved me the best he knew how, just as he was, and just as I was. He believed in me and wanted the best for me. When he did things like calling me names and criticizing my weight, he was reflecting his feelings about himself on me. Changing this story has opened my mind to memories of good times with my Dad that were blocked from my view for so long when I was focused on what I perceived I didn’t get from him instead of on what I did receive from him. I now have a different view of who he really was as a person and as my Dad.
One of my sisters was recently diagnosed with leukemia. I could have easily chosen the perspective that God doesn’t care. Four family members have died of various forms of cancer and three other family members previously had cancer. How much more does one family have to take? Only God knows, and my sister reminded me that we are called to do the possible and leave the impossible to God. He knows what he is doing and he sees the whole picture while we see only such a small part. Today I choose the perspective that God Uses all things for the good of those who love him, even though he may not heal my sister of cancer. Cancer is not good. What God can grow from a cancer diagnosis can be. For the first time in my life, I found the words to tell my sister she is important to me. Instead of rejecting me, she thanked me, and we can grow from here. Although I don’t know what lies ahead for my sister, I do know that God has a plan and she is already in the first stage of remission!
I once heard the statement, when the pain of where you are is greater than the fear of where you are going, you’ll go. Sometimes it takes a lot of pain or beating my head against a wall for me to recognize I am stuck in a story and I have the power to choose a different one. Sometimes I have the awareness and I am not ready to let go of a story, even when it is no longer serving me, perhaps because of fear of letting go or simply feeling safe in the comfort of what is familiar. Sometimes I need nudging from someone else to explore other stories that will help me move closer to my goals and serve me better.
What I am learning is that pain is a natural part of life, and suffering is optional. How long I hold onto stories that are holding me back from moving forward is my choice. I can choose to be a victim or I can choose to own my own power and change the stories that are no longer serving me in meeting my goals.