More Thoughts on Stories A and B

Thinking more about the contents of my last post  and the thoughtful comments that were made on it, I remembered this poem I had written a few years ago, a little meditation on my tussles with Stories A and B in my own life:

In the springtime of your life

When people make pronouncements

About the heights to which you’ll rise

Someone has a prophecy

Someone says you’re chosen

Don’t tuck it away for later

No, hold that sign up high

Wave that banner with all you’ve got

And go, girl, go

Because a well-preserved ticket

Is useless after the show

And no one cares to hear

About your might-have-beens.

(On the other hand,

An awakening 34-year-old

Is a powerhouse of presence.)

As I mentioned in conversation with Jodi’s comment on the previous post, I think that when I recognize my Story B, it won’t feel like I am “settling” for second-best, although it may look exactly like that to an outside observer.

In my case, I started chasing Story A as a twenty-something singer/songwriter recording my first album in a professional studio in a skyscraper in downtown Minneapolis, financed by two benefactors who saw big things in my future.

Looking back on that over ten years later when I wrote this poem, I mused about how I didn’t work hard enough to actualize Story A. But you can see the seeds of Story B beginning to sprout in the last sentence.

And far from feeling like I’m settling, I feel more deeply alive.

I’ve still not fully elaborated my Story B to my satisfaction, but I feel like I am getting closer. Letting go of other people’s storylines for me, and picking up the threads that are actually there, the real living story of me that can actually be woven into something true and substantial. It may not be big and flashy, but it will be utterly valuable.

So there you go, a little case study for you, my own working out this life-story thing. To paraphrase Stephen Colbert, “I am a Story B (and so can you!)”

“Your One Wild and Precious Life”

What is the story you tell yourself about your life? And how has that been working out for you?

That’s what Steven Pressfield writes about in his recent blog post, “Stories We Tell Ourselves.” In this post, Pressfield quotes his friend Shawn: “‘We all have stories that we tell ourselves about what our lives are—and those stories are always wrong.'” This wrong story, he calls Story A. At some point in our lives, if you and I are to escape embitterment and live free our uniquely beautiful lives, we will recognize Story A for what it is, reject it, and embrace Story B – the real story that has always been there, that we could actually grow into something amazing if we would work with it instead of against it.

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do / with your one wild and precious life?” asks Mary Oliver in her poem, “The Summer Day.”

Here’s an exercise worthy of your time and attention – read Steven Pressfield’s post, and then contemplate – write it out, talk it out, walk it out, otherwise work it out – what is the Story A and Story B in your life? You could think further about how you will reject Story A and embrace Story B, but my guess is, if you’ve accurately identified these two stories, that may be all you need to accelerate the true story of your life.