December 30, 2012

Getting Rid of the Storylines

“Whatever you hold in your mind on a consistent basis is exactly what you will experience in life.” - Tony Robbins 

As someone who is sometimes plagued with overthinking and worrying, Robbins’s quote resonated with me.  And I know I am not the only one who has these struggles, especially with all the recent events in the world.  Though being “in our head” is not always a bad thing since it helps us process life’s experiences on a deeper level and to reflect and make difficult decisions, excessive overthinking and worrying is problematic, particularly since it is not only counterproductive to do so but is also both mentally and physically exhausting.  Why lose sleep over things that we can't control?

In a recent conversation with my good friend about this subject she pointed me to Pema Chodron’s new book, Living Beautifully in Uncertainty and Change, in which Chodron speaks about this subject, but from a different perspective.  Chodron writes that how we relate and regard our present experience shapes our future – the next minute, day, month, and year.  While we create our own possibilities we are also in control of strengthening our preexisting fears and prejudices, which she calls the storylines that we develop inside our heads.  As a result, we try to sidestep uncertainty and insecurity (often the root of our frequent worries).   Chodron urges us to “drop the storyline” and focus instead on “making friends with the whole picture” – the salty and the sweet, the rough and the smooth – as part of the natural fabric of life rather than the pages of a book we're writing in our head. 

I love Chodron’s storyline metaphor; only problem is, I LOVE STORYLINES!  I sometimes think my inner world is more interesting than the outer world, which is precisely why I studied creative writing as an undergrad.  As a child and even now, my mom will sometimes say to me when I tell her a thought/joke/idea, “Sarah, where do you come up with this stuff?”  But fiction and real life are two very different things, the latter of which should not be paired with a storyline in our head, or so I’m learning. 

For many of us, overthinking and worrying comes from a desire to control what’s inherently uncontrollable.  We are only in control of our lives to a certain extent – our habits, our decisions, our actions – but beyond that, and especially in the outside world, everything else is uncertain and impermanent.   We cannot write a story or a map to shape the future because we will either be continually disappointed and/or continually frustrated.  Instead, it’s how we deal with that uncertainty and impermanence by being in the present (something I try to remind myself to do everyday) that will dictate whether we lead a life of worry or acceptance and openness of the unknown and therefore the possibilities that life has to offer.  After all, everything beyond the present is unknown anyway. 

As I enter this New Year, I plan to work on letting go of my storylines and my predilection for worry and overthinking and to focus instead on accepting life as uncertain and impermanent – that which includes both the sour and the sweet – which is not something that needs to be fixed, but that which just is

With that said, Happy New Year, Friends!  I wish you the very best in 2013.


Sue laplant said...

Love Pema - love the quote and your thoughts (I am a lot like you). I always liked the quote; "nothing is either good or bad but thinking makes it so"

Sarah Woehler Michaud said...

Thanks, Sue. Oh, I love that quote too! Perfect. Thanks for reading!