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Re-framing an inner narrative


This week's practice is to pick and re-frame an inner narrative you tend to repeat to yourself that really does not serve to promote your health and well-being. What stories do you repeat to yourself which limit you? "I'm falling apart"; "I'm too old" "That's just the way I am." "I'm too afraid to do that." "I won't do that" "I'm not good enough" .......

To jump start this process, I'd like to share the following perspective-changing poem below by Lisel Mueller

~ Lisel Mueller ~

(Sixty Years of American Poetry, The Academy of American Poets)

Doctor, you say that there are no haloes around the streetlights in Paris and what I see is an aberration caused by old age, an affliction. I tell you it has taken me all my life to arrive at the vision of gas lamps as angels, to soften and blur and finally banish the edges you regret I don't see, to learn that the line I called the horizon does not exist and sky and water, so long apart, are the same state of being. Fifty-four years before I could see Rouen cathedral is built of parallel shafts of sun, and now you want to restore my youthful errors: fixed notions of top and bottom, the illusion of three-dimensional space, wisteria separate from the bridge it covers. What can I say to convince you the Houses of Parliament dissolve night after night to become the fluid dream of the Thames? I will not return to a universe of objects that don't know each other, as if islands were not the lost children of one great continent. The world is flux, and light becomes what it touches, becomes water, lilies on water, above and below water, becomes lilac and mauve and yellow and white and cerulean lamps, small fists passing sunlight so quickly to one another that it would take long, streaming hair inside my brush to catch it. To paint the speed of light! Our weighted shapes, these verticals, burn to mix with air and changes our bones, skin, clothes to gases. Doctor, if only you could see how heaven pulls earth into its arms and how infinitely the heart expands to claim this world, blue vapor without end.

Discussion: I'm intrigued by perspective. How could Mandela be imprisoned for 30 years and somehow re-frame his experience and emerge not bitter, but seeking reconciliation and unity. How could Viktor Frankl witness the human atrocities of a concentration camp, loose his family to it and still find meaning in life. My young classmate at 30 has just had her entire large intestine removed and replaced by an ostomy bag. She has the most impressively cheery and positive spirit about this life changing operation you could imagine. In embracing this life altering change where she must change a shitty little bag throughout the day---she's even affectionately named her stoma (the permanent opening of the small intestine on her abdomen where the bag attaches), Rita! Amazing. And yet, in my pretty-good life, I hold on to several less-than-fruitful inner narratives: "my memory stinks,"or, "my bones are weak," or "I’m an athlete, I should be able to keep go, go, going until I’m 70." One by one, I've been working on a "re-frame" on these. The evidence from my current work in my Masters of Acupuncture program is that by working diligently and continuously, I can actually memorize things. Surprise, surprise. And whereas I might not have the mental capacity of an elephant or a young med student, I have enough for what I need right now. That is all that matters. So it doesn't serve to keep repeating this negative mantra to myself.

The next one, "my bones are weak" has been trickier for me. And this is conjoined with the next inner narrative I often repeat --- "I didn't think I'd feel this decrepit until I was 70." The facts are: I have osteoporosis, and I have had 3 metatarsal stress fractures. So I've changed everything and devoted 2 full years to lifestyle changes to heal. That means learning to sleep well, not expending all my energy outward on 200K bike rides, learning to approach work and life stress in a more low key way. I walk. I do qi gong. I eat differently. I've changed my approach to virtually everything. I have always been an active, athletic person. And yet I grieve not riding with Nick and I "loathe" being 15 pounds heavier. And yet when I over do it, it stresses my feet. Borrowing from my inspirational classmate, my re-frame is to shift from thinking about "my bones" as my adversarial villain to thinking of them as my many little friends who need support. I decided maybe giving them a friendly name as my classmate did her stoma was a good idea. So my bones are now my "huesitos" ----Spanish for or little bones. And I check in on them every day like I would a friend. I wouldn't be upset if my friend couldn't walk fast with me or couldn't go on a ride with me. I'd do something my friend COULD do.

This re-frame is takes practice. Practicing changing the narrative is what lets us eventually re-wire the automatic messages we tell ourselves. So ----what inner narrative do you hold that would like to practice to change-up with over this next while?

In partnership and practice with you,


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