Living a Better Story by Losing
I think in stories now. I could blame Donald Miller for that but mostly I would just thank him. I would thank him because I’m living better stories now than I was four years ago. In some ways, I had no where to go but up. Four years ago I was thawing out from a long season of depression and burnout which had immobilized me in a lot of ways. The “Great Thaw of 2009” coincided with the release of Miller’s book “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years“. It just so happened that it was released the week of my annual Introvert Intermission, a week where I get away from everyone for a week of solitude and processing and where I avoid people and showers. Not that I showered with people before. Or after for that matter. I retreat to a place where the median age is 72. This is good for several reasons. By the time I get up, everyone is gone. I’m often the fastest one in the gym. I have very little physical competition at the pool. And by the time I get back from “town”, everyone is medicated and asleep.
It was by the pool where I read most of Miller’s book, soaking up the sun while raising eyebrows at the lack of skirt on my swimsuit. When I read about Miller’s journey to actually LIVE a great story rather than just THINK about living a great story, I knew he had nailed my issue. I think about a lot of great stories. It is easy for me to do because I live in my mind a lot of the time. I’m wired that way. If there were an Olympic event for day dreaming, I’d take gold and break records doing it. It would be a really difficult event to judge, I imagine. And probably incredibly boring. Like dressage (aka – horse dancing) and ribbon twirling gymnastics. But rarely did I make those dreams a reality. Mostly, I watched time go by and the dreams stay just that – dreams.
I read Miller’s book in a day and spent the week processing what I read. One of the most immediate things I knew I needed/wanted to do to get off the couch and into living a better story was to book a trip to Kenya and Uganda to see friends and to have a new adventure. So, I did. I booked it before I left on that last day so I wouldn’t lose momentum and sit back down on the couch. I went to Africa two months after that and had an amazing experience traveling solo and to a new country without the responsibilities of leading a team. I was able to spend a week with a former youth, Kristen Vogel, seeing firsthand what she had given over two years of her life to and was incredibly blessed. I’m fairly confident if I had not booked that trip on that vacation I would never have gone. Instead, I probably would have watched dancing horses on television.
The thing about living one great story is that it makes you hungry to live more great stories. Like the first time you tasted sugar or kissed someone. But after my trip to Africa, I still struggled to live more amazing stories. Partly because I didn’t really know how to move dreams from my mind to reality and partly because I spell “discomfort” as “Q.U.I.T.” Thankfully, Miller became addicted to living better stories and he created an amazing life planning process called Storyline to help others live better stories, too. In May 2012, I attended Storyline in Nashville with a great friend and had my mind blown by a tangible yet painfully intense process. Seriously hard core therapy minus the couch and the “hmmmm’s”.
And I’ve been thinking in stories ever since.
One of those stories is personal health. Miller teaches the value of imagining climatic scenes in our life. It is important to visualize and to remind ourselves that the choices we make today are important because they impact the climatic scene we are envisioning in the future in both positive and negative ways. I want to live a better story health wise. In recent years, I put on a ton of weight as a result of depression, medication, and the simple fact that I once believed there wasn’t a emotion that couldn’t be made better by a little ice cream. Or a lot of ice cream. Let’s just say that my emotions were well-fed. However, they definitely weren’t well-nourished.
When I began the work to live a better story health wise, I sat down and thought through the climatic scenes. What would it look like to get healthy again? What would it feel like? What could I do then that I couldn’t with all the weight? It wasn’t difficult to answer these questions. I would be healthier – in a holistic way. I would be active again – playing sports with friends, hiking, going on adventures. I would fly on planes without the seat belt cutting me in two. I would have the energy to not only keep up with my niece and nephew but to lead them to be active and healthy as well. I would have more luck at Goodwill finding clothes that fit. (Seriously – skinny people get rid of a lot more clothes than calorically-blessed people. Because there are a lot of “phat” people yet very, very few clothes for “big boned” beauties on Goodwill racks.)
Since this was a really important story to me and a story where I knew it would be tempting for me to forget that the choices I make today will have a huge (pun intended) impact on my climatic scenes, I wanted to keep them in front of me. Literally. So, I made a climatic scene board. Basically, a small bulletin board that is full of pictures and phrases and words that made my climatic scenes come to life. Pictures of when I was thinner. Pictures of athletic girls who I admire (which might sound awkward but is totally platonic). Phrases of feelings and “wins” that would be realized when I crossed the finish line of this story.
I took that scenic mock-up and I hung it on my bedroom wall so that every day I would see it. Sometimes I would pretend it wasn’t there. But I could feel the athletic girls staring at me with those chiseled looks of disappointment, their one and only chin sticking out, their toned arms on their appropriately proportioned hips. Eventually, instead of hearing them mock me, I heard them cheering for me – ready to welcome me to the health club. And so with those climatic scenes in mind, I started making different decisions each day. One day at a time. One pound at a time.
And, now, a year later, I’m down 80 lbs. and still going. It was so easy to type that but so much work to make the words true. It seems inappropriate to use the expression “How do you eat an elephant?” because NO ONE should be eating an elephant. For a lot of reasons. But you get the point. One bite at a time. One decision at a time. One choice at a time. Some of the climatic scenes have come true. Some are well on their way. My inspiration board will remain on my bedroom wall until the final 40 lbs are lost and I can celebrate this story and all the conflicts I overcame to live it.
One of the greatest things that is happening is all the other stories that I’m living because of this story. I’ll share some of those in the future.
Are you wanting to live some better stories with your life? I highly recommend you check out Storyline. Either go to the conference or purchase the materials. It is a fantastic process for finding your subplot in God’s story and living out His Story and your story well.
And, Don, you are partially to blame for my loss. So thanks. Thanks a lot. I’m so grateful to you for a swift kick in the pants – which are now five sizes smaller.
What are some better stories that you want to live or that you are living? What is keeping you from living them? What is a trick to liking kale because it just ain’t happening for me.
Way to go!!!
You are an inspiration in so many ways. If I made an inspiration board it would have to have your picture on it! 🙂 <3 Carolyn
Ahhh, Carolyn. That is very sweet. I also make a good picture for a what not to do inspiration board on some things. hahaha