|Photo courtesy of Tim Walker for Vogue UK 2008|
If you’ve ever listened to a child tell a story, especially one that they are creating you may notice they use the phrase “and then” pretty often. It’s their way of continuing the story and telling you what happens next. Sometimes the “and then” is followed by a dragon, sometimes by a monster, sometimes it’s the best friend who the main character thought was eaten by the dragon or monster but really wasn’t. I love when the phrase is used to keep the story going just when you think it’s over. Just when you think the characters are safe, escaped the mean big kids, outsmarted their parents and went through a secret hole to a magical land and lived happily ever after on a steady diet of candy and ice cream, kids have a way of adding one more “and then”. Sometimes I think they added it because they just love the attention they’re receiving. It’s validating and who doesn’t like to be validated? Other times I think it’s because well, they haven’t yet been polluted with the idea of being too anything that should make their story end.
They haven’t been told their stories are too silly, they are too old to believe in heroes and heroines that fight monsters with toothbrushes, they are too fat, skinny, ugly, dumb, etc. They haven’t been told all of those things that as we get older we hear, hold onto, and then…we lose our “and then”. We stop our own stories.
|Photo courtesy of Tim Walker for Vogue UK|
The great news is…we don’t have to! We can add as many and then’s as we desire. You got laid off and then launched a stationary store. You were told you had cancer and then started a charity to help others fight the same cancer you were diagnosed with. You bombed the chemistry final and ultimately the class and then signed up for tutoring and to take the course again. You requested a raise, were told no, and then took real steps towards leaving and going to a company that values you and will compensate you accordingly. Your spouse left you and then instead of going after someone who clearly doesn’t want you, you started to go after yourself, your dreams, your goals, and figuring out who you are as a newly single person again. You get the point.
The new year is a couple days away. And although I stand by my words in The Simply Reset Life post a few weeks ago, you truly can reset whenever you need to, I do want to remind you this week and in the upcoming year you can choose to throw some and thens in your story and continue your path to a simply LIVEd life.
|Photo courtesy of Benjamin Kanarek for Harper’s Bazzaar China|
Now, don’t let my optimism fool you. I’m not an optimist who is in denial of reality. I know things happen beyond our control. Despite having the highest number of sales for three quarters you still got laid off. Despite filing the sexual harassment complaint nothing happened. The day after Christmas your parent had a massive heart attack and four days into the new year you will be burying them. The child you carried to term was still born just before Thanksgiving and the loss is wearing on your relationship with your significant other, children, friends, and other family members.
My optimism is grounded in reality. The reality being as long as you are still alive you get to add “and then.” Even when you think your story is over, you have hit rock bottom and while you don’t say it aloud you think it “I’d rather be dead”, you can add “and then” if you choose. Furthermore, if your and then needs to be followed by “I took a day off “, “I told my sister I couldn’t watch her six kids so she could go out with her new boo”, “I ate that whole pint of Ben and Jerry’s” then so be it. Better yet, if your and then needs to be followed by “I took Ahyana up on her offer to support me even if it’s me venting to her via email”, that’s WONDERFUL! Just keep going.Your story doesn’t end with the year, or a particular circumstance. It gets to be as whimsical, courageous, detailed, and long as you choose for it to be.
My hope for you this week as one year ends and another begins is that you will refill your and then bucket, and draw from it as often as you need or even want (yup you can just change it up cause you want to. i.e. “and then” you cut your hair, decided to wear contacts instead of glasses, took salsa lessons, etc.). That you will keep your story going, controlling what you can and being at peace with what you cannot. I hope you take a moment to encourage someone else to keep their story going. Finally, I hope you share with me whether in the comments below or via email your “and then.”