These are the roles in which I’m regularly cast in my story. I remember — back in the days when my friends I listened to Nirvana, Stone Temple Pilots and Spin Doctors — realizing I didn’t have to be a teacher like my dad, my mom and my aunt. I began embracing the journalism world, first by writing for then editing my high school newspaper then on into college and eventually the real world. I figured that’s where I’d say.
Before a little girl gave me new perspective. We are shaped by the other people in our story, regardless of how small in size they are.
My story doesn’t have be predictable and, I’ve learned, probably isn’t going to turn out just as I expect. But that’s part of the thrill of turning the pages. Reading “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life” by Donald Miller has me thinking about life, and how we write our stories moment by moment.
I’m glad I’m not the same person as I was when I listened to “Interestate Love Song.” The soundtrack to my life would certainly be different now. I’m certainly different now. At least in some ways. And that’s how it is supposed to be.
If the point of life is the same as the point of a story, the point of life is character transformation.
It used to frustrate me I didn’t know what was coming next, but I’ve learned that getting to What’s Next is life. We meet people along the way. And then those people help shape us. We might even get lost along the way. And that’s OK too because in finding our way back might mean we discover something beautiful. We hear songs, read books, laugh, cry and see the sights as we travel to What’s Next.
And maybe What’s Next even changes as we work our way there. I learned when I traded my notebook and pen for a baby wipes and sippy cups that something good can become something great if we just take a chance. Sometimes change is scary, but without it our story would be boring, and we might just miss something Someone is trying to show us.
I believe there is a writer outside ourselves, plotting a better story for us, interacting with us, even, and whispering a better story into our consciousness.
Thankfully, we aren’t alone in our stories. The main characters in my story right now are my husband, my daughter and my son. We have friends and family who often show up in the pages of our lives. And through it all, we have roles to embrace. I have realized lately that being a mom means I teach my children about their roles in our family, in our community and in the world. They’re going to learn regardless of whether I intentionally teach them.
In the absence of a family story, she’d chosen a story in which there was risk and adventure, rebellion and independence. “She’s not a bad girl,” my friend said. “She was just choosing the best story available to her.” I pictured his daughter flipping through the channels of life, as it were, stopping on a story that seemed most compelling at the moment, a story that offered her something, anything, because people can’t live without a story, without a role to play.
It’s eye-opening to watch Cate play her role. She’s a big sister now. (See, her brother’s role is clearly defined on his shirt pictured above.) And she takes that seriously, not wanting Ben to cry and often checking on him. Her independence has exploded as her script often includes “I try myself” before a multitude of tasks. She knows which way we turn to go to Luke’s house or Kroger or church or Daddy’s office.
Having a toddler and newborn who constantly need me can be tiring. But I’m not in this story alone. I really do love my story. I’ve always loved it, but there are peaks and valleys, and right now I feel myself rising to a peak surrounded by exactly the right people. I can’t see very far on the other side, but I’m certain it will be beautiful and worth turning the page to get to.
Maybe it will even look like this …
Mitre Peak at Milford Sound in New Zealand
[All quotes from “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life” by Donald Miller.]