It was astonishing. Two white girls each born into large Catholic families in the Midwest in the middle of the 1950s. Both bright, each college educated, married, with children. But such different stories.
Two weeks after the first girl was born her mother went back to waiting tables to support the five children, and the baby was left in the care of her alcoholic father who was laid off that winter. Growing up, the little girl was sexually molested first by a neighborhood boy and later by a family friend. To pay for college, she worked long hours scraping garbage off the plates of her wealthy classmates in the dining hall. Her first marriage could not be saved by the series of therapists who tried. Three years after she married a second time, her husband was diagnosed with a terminal disease and later died. She found herself living alone in an apartment with her children living more than a thousand miles away.
The other girl, despite similarities, had a very different story:
This girl was born and instantly became a delight to her 10 year old sister who adored her like a precious new doll. Excelling in school, she was often the teacher’s pet. In college on numerous scholarships, she graduated with straight As. She married happily and her children made her ridiculously proud. She built a thriving small business, published a book, and was well respected in her home town. As she aged, she found herself in vibrant health, in a beautiful home, and grateful for her charmed life.
More than one thing can be true. These stories are both mine. Both are accurate. The question to be asked is, What is the story of my life that I will tell?
When we experience the great losses of life—with divorce being near the top of the short list of big losses—it is not surprising that we are drawn to making that story the one we tell. After all, it’s the truth. It is also the story we retell over and over again in our mind. What I’ve suffered. What I’ve lost. What I regret. What I fear. What I grieve.
And yet we each have more than one story. What I had. What I learned. What I saved. What I survived. What I transcended.
If more than one thing can be true, then perhaps our stories include a lot of “ands.” She cheated on me and I was able to forgive. He wouldn’t stop drinking and I discovered I had incredible friends. We got divorced and my children are thriving.
I am still writing my story. Some of it will be ugly. More of it will be beautiful. I strive to make it truthful. All of it will have made me who I am, and my hope is that I will have the courage to live into how it will conclude.
We choose the narratives of our lives. May you choose the one that gives you that reflects your truest self.