Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Our Summer Story

Yet again, Laura Vanderkam made me rethink things...this time, with her post "The Stories We Choose to Tell Ourselves"

She recounts what most people would agree represents a pretty tough week. Yet amidst the toughness were amazing moments. Isn't that how it is? Nothing is ever ALL good or ALL bad. We can change how we remember those periods by how we tell the story.

When I think back on this summer, I could see it as the summer G & I fought all the time, had no money, and never made it to the beach. Or I could see it as the summer of picnics, library visits, swimming, and enjoying all the fun, free stuff our city has to offer. All of those things are true, but I'd prefer to remember the latter. And the more I remind myself of all the good stuff we did, the easier it is for my mind to automatically associate this summer with all those wonderful things.

I've noticed that I've been doing too much of the opposite---labeling periods of time as "awful", thus making it really easy to conjure up the awfulness whenever my mind thinks back on that time. "Ugh July was the WORST." "My maternity leave with B was AWFUL. It snowed all the time and he cried all the time". Yet, we had an absolutely amazing fourth of July. We had a lot of fun bonding with other new-parent friends in the neighborhood when we were all snowed in with our  newborns. What's the harm in focusing on the good stuff? 

I don't think its disingenuous to focus on the positive. I think there is enough focus on the negative in our society. I'm choosing to change my story.


  1. Good for you! I think sometimes I focus on the good things when I really should be focusing more on how to FIX the bad things. But when you can't fix them (or are already trying your hardest), this is a great plan.

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  3. This reminds me of after my daughter was born, when I was in that stage of parenting a newborn and toddler and so so miserable for so much of the time. I made it a priority to take pictures of the children every time we went anywhere and to download them off the camera and archive them the same day. Those pictures were my ongoing reminder that despite how I felt, we were having moments of pure joy in between the despair.

    Oddly, now that I have more time on my hands, I'm not nearly so conscientious about the photographs. But it was a great coping mechanism for the past couple of years. (Though I'm not really advising you to follow it, since it's kind of a pain to do as well.) Basically, I completely agree with you.

  4. *cheering you on*!

    I'm not exactly a negative Nellie, but it is challenging sometimes to choose differently. I think it's probably best to allow ourselves balance; to acknowledge experience without judging it. But I am far from being there!

  5. Cognitive restructuring is very powerful. One of the techniques in CBT is to fold a piece of paper in half lengthwise and to put the negative thoughts on the left, and then the *truth* on the right. It's kind of like Stuart Smalley, except you're not saying that you're good enough and smart enough and people like you unless those things are actually true (which, granted, they probably are).

  6. This is wonderful! Not easy though- I think some of us are just programmed to be glass-half-empty types of people, and it takes a great deal of effort to change the way we view things. Best of luck to you!

  7. Thank you - glad the post made you think! With little kids the highs and lows can come so close together that it's dizzying. There really are moments of absolute bliss and grace interspersed with all three of them screaming. So I can remember the screaming or I can remember the three of them playing together in the backyard happily. They're both true. Narratives are complex.

  8. And... sometimes things just suck. Sorry, had to go there.

    1. In truth, that was the jist of my comment on Laura's post---sometimes things are awful and you have to accept it and cut yourself slack. I think that is absolutely true when you're talking about the present. But when its all said and done and in the past, I don't see the harm in choosing to remember the good bits (if there were any) and let the bad slip away....

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