I would continue to travel to my hometown to care for my family, because I choose to do that. But I did not need to make that responsibility the defining part of my life. My parents had their own path in life to travel, and I had my mine. Our paths would still intersect, but they would no longer merge.
My next task was to create a new story, based on the reality of the current day, and emphasizing the aspects of my life with which I wanted to build my new identity. It was not all rainbows and butterflies, but there was a lot of good, and I chose to focus on the good and look for more.
A the time I was reading Rick Hanson’s brilliant book, Buddha’s Brain, The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love and Wisdom.
He writes about “Pulling weeds and planting flowers”:
“Imagine that the positive contents of your awareness are sinking down into old wounds, soothing chafed and bruised places like warm golden salve, filling up hollows, slowly replacing negative feeling and beliefs with positive ones.”
Rick explains that the brain is actually designed to change based on what we think about. Repeated thoughts, be they positive or negative, form pathways in our brains. Pathways that are travelled frequently become roads and even highways. The bigger the road, the more often the brain will chose it as a default, and it continues to grow.
I decided to neglect the negative pathways and let them grow over. I needed to build some new roads that were based on the positive things in my life. My new story had begun. When my good friend asked me about my latest visit with my mother, I would tell her in a few words, but I would no longer recite a litany of complaints and difficulties. I realized that I was reinforcing and imbedding those experiences by repeating telling. I wanted them to pass by like the clouds.
I started a practice that I called, “Taking in the Good”. I worked to focus my attention on the positive things that came my way. I would reinforce them by writing about them, photographing them, drawing them and talking about them. Whatever it took to imbed a positive memory that would become a part of my new story.
More than ten years later, I am happy to report that the decision to write myself a new story really changed my life. It was a very powerful experience and has made a lasting impact on my own happiness, and probably my family’s too.