“Who’s the Storyteller?”

We are always narrating the story of our lives. But so is everyone else.

One of the aspects of writing I adore is the gift of perspective. The facts of a story can drastically be altered by mere observer. Take for example the following:

Scene: a restaurant, a couple in their 30’s sits across from each other

POV of observer:

The woman slides a gold band across the table. The man holds his head down and sighs. He takes the ring and puts it in his back pocket. 

“I’m sorry,” he says. 

“Me, too,” she says, her eyes shiny with unshed tears.

POV of woman:

I’m pregnant and the almost stranger sitting across from me is the father. It’s why he proposed last night, offering up a lifetime together the way someone decides to put extra toppings on their pizza—spontaneous and without much thought. 

Yeah, I accepted. Not because I loved the guy or even liked him. I said yes simply because fear eclipsed judgement, because the idea of motherhood solo or an abortion both felt impossible.

When I slide the flimsy band (like something out of a Cracker Jack box) across the table at him, the relief on his face is palpable.

“I’m sorry,” he says—a white lie—one that renders him unable to make eye contact.

“Me, too.” I’m sorry I didn’t insist we use condoms. Sorry I didn’t know you for more than one night. Sorry that I have lived three decades on earth and still can’t behave like an adult.

POV Man:

I feel like a trapped dog. What was I thinking?? How is It I can run legal cases with finesse but can’t think straight when it comes to a hot woman?!

She asked to meet, so here we are, her puppy eyes haunted looking. (Was this an early sign of pregnancy?) She plays with the tin band I gave her as a quasi-promise ring.

When she slides the ring off and across the table at me, I feel like the cage to my kennel is lifting. I’m getting out of here! I’m getting another chance!!!

“I’m sorry,” I say. Guilt and relief flood through my veins in equal measure.

“Me, too” she says.

Only she doesn’t seem sorry. Her eyes look shiny with a relief that, just moments before, mirrored mine. And yet, the idea of the life inside of her not happening makes the invisible hairs on the back of my neck stand up in cold fear. 

—–

There you have it, three different perspectives on one moment in time. And they are all accurate! 

My dear friend, Steve Bernstein (author of STORIES FROM THE STOOP) recently reminded me of the storytelling layers or perspectives in fiction as well as life. Whether we are crafting a tale on the page or forming one in our real lives, we need to be cognizant of the story we and others are potentially perceiving.

So, the next time you find yourself angry or emotional about something someone did, consider the potential alternate narrative they might be telling. They might be the woman, man, or observer in the “restaurant” of your life story. When we give the gift of an alternate perspective for ourselves as well as others, we are more likely to find compassion and a greater sense of inner peace.

The Parent Trust

Some new insight on raising resilient kids…

We all know helicopter parenting is a “no-no.” The idea of micromanaging our children enables an unhealthy tendency for our one day grown kids to depend on their parents or other adults to solve their problems. No doubt, helicopter parenting is a behavioral pattern that fosters co-dependency at best, inhibiting self-reliance and a strong sense of autonomy needed to thrive in this world.

            Yet there’s a more subtle, more insidious variety of helicopter parenting that many of us (myself included) are demonstrating with our kids that needs to, at the very least, be curbed: imposing our thoughts on a subject without giving our children a chance to consider, form and articulate their own thoughts.

            So how do we curb those thoughts and opinions we have? We bite our figurative and literal tongues. We listen. We listen more without reacting. We ask questions and listen some more. We wait. We trust.

            A dear friend of mine who has spent a lifetime mentoring kids recently explained the beauty of the biting-one’s-tongue process: “When you ask questions that make a child think and listen, really listen, you are setting the foundation for true cognitive muscles.” 

            I witnessed the magic of his insight moments later, when my older son talked with him for over an hour. Normally, he’s on the phone for no more than 10-15 minutes with an adult. Curious, I asked him what caused him to talk for so long. His response spoke volumes:

            “He’s easy to talk to. He asks good questions and then really listens.”

            The mentor and dear friend is the talented author, Steve Bernstein (Stories from the Stoop).  I am happy to report that implanting his sage advice has created a subtle yet powerful shift in the relationship between my sons and me. When I approach a conversation from a place of trust in them, in a genuine desire to hear what they think and how they perceive someone or something—without judgement from me, their faith in themselves and in our relationship strengthens. 

            While there are some clear black and white “rules” in this life that we need to impart by word and deed (i.e., Look both ways before you cross the street; floss your teeth daily), the more nebulous, opinion-based questions to life offer an opportunity for open dialogue founded in both mutual and self-respect. Trust is an invaluable gift we can impart to our children when we actively listen to their words without reacting, offering them a safe space to return to again and again. The gift only grows with time, instilling a grounded sense of faith in their intuition and judgement and demonstrating what a healthy relationship founded in trust looks like.

Our children are hungry to know that they matter, that their thoughts matter. When they feel heard, their self-love ignites. And we all know: Self-love is the foundation for success in any life endeavor.

Proprioceptive Thinking: The Sixth Sense

Lost your way? The Proprioceptive Question will guide you to the answer.

Proprio what? And what the heck does it have to do with a 6th sense??

Last summer, a dear friend of mine (Steve Bernstein, author of Stories from the Stoop) introduced me to a gem of a book: Writing the Mind Alive: The Proprioceptive Method for Finding Your Authentic Voice. Co-authors, Dr. Metcalf and Dr. Simon offered a form of meditation through proprioceptive writing. Through a powerful yet simple ritual of writing to baroque music on unlined paper, we possess the ability to create a conduit between our inner and outer world.

But not all of us are writers. Some of us find meditation in running or baking or gardening. So, I began to wonder: Could the proprioceptive method work in other forms of life?

Proprius is Latin for “one’s own” and typically refers to our body’s proprioceptive system. We are regularly taking in life through our five senses, transmitting whatever information comes into our brain, processing “from the inner world of our bodies, the world we alone inhabit.” (Metcalf and Simon). It’s this proprioception that allows us to feel our bodies, as our own. It’s why, when we have a stroke or illness, we can sometimes lose the feeling of literal embodiment. 

The 6th sense is the invaluable gift we all have to synthesize our five senses, reacting to the world around us on a physical, mental and spiritual plane. But we often lose awareness of our 6th sense, even take it for granted while we are healthy. We run on autopilot and can lose the gift of self-reflection.

Enter proprioceptive thinking—a cognitive and spiritual launching pad for those moments when you’ve lost your way, when you’re uncertain about a relationship or a situation, when you’re anxious or depressed. While proprioceptive writing involves handwriting to slow down and answer the proprioceptive questions throughout what is known as a Write, proprioceptive thinking is an opportunity to ask a proprioceptive question—either aloud or in your mind.

So, what is “the” proprioceptive question?

What do I mean by _____________________________?

Think of the above blank as your metacognitive/spiritual Mad Libs:-)Into the blank goes whatever is going through your mind as you draw, talk, swim, cook. 

I’ll give an example from my own life now. Today was spent collecting pathetic drops of water from the spigot outside my house. I was trying to garner enough water to flush a toilet in my home.

My proprioceptive question is:  What do I mean by pathetic?

By asking the proprioceptive question, I am slowing down, using language as a tuning fork for my intuition. Slowing down literally awakens our gut (and our gut is lined with millions of nerve cells that actually “talk” to the brain).

At heart I’m a writer. I can ask the proprioceptive question in my head, but the revelations flow from my pencil.

What do I mean by pathetic? I mean it’s three days without a shower or running water. Pathetic that so many people are living without water and heat and electricity for days now. Pathetic as in sad. Houston, we have a big problem. 

I encourage you to consider the proprioceptive question when you are feeling stressed or confused. The question just might recharge your inner compass.