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writing (and believing) our own stories

by Shawni

The girls and I pulled out our “dream books” during one of the first weeks of January. Well, to be honest, they pulled theirs out, as instructed by their mother, and I took each of them on an individual date to update those things.

But as I pushed them to decide the things they wanted to do this year I realized I was doing this all backwards. I hadn’t done my own dream book yet. Sometimes I am not so hot at setting the example…I really need to get better at that.

So I got mine out (luckily I had just found it after it had been lost for a while), and laughed reading through the old pages.

(I’m glad I was able to fill in that “bubble” to “always brush my teeth” for crying out loud!…And oh, the ice skating! I sure wanted that for a while! I wonder if I really “changed myself into a calm person”…hmmm, still need to work on that one, and I’m pretty positive I never earned a thousand dollars at that age, yikes I liked to dream big!)

But I’m so glad I started writing my own story in that book all those years ago.

I love that our family culture had a “story” as well:

Sure, lots of it changed and morphed into new and improved ideas over the years, but it was the beginning of a story.

One that I believe has become quite beautiful.

All those lifetime goals, incremental yearly goals that have started to gather dust, the pages starting to yellow. But so many things I wrote in that flimsy three-ring binder as a teenager, stary-eyed about what was coming up in my life, have come true. Is it because I wrote them? Is it because I thought them through? Did they just happen? I don’t know. But I like to think that when we take time to think and ponder what we want, we have such a better chance to make it happen.

The point of the dream books is really to write our own stories.

There is power in putting something on paper.

Made me ponder more deeply on what I am “writing” in my own life these days.

I put some good thought into the story I want to unfold here in the year 2021…and the goals and systems I’m using to hopefully make at least the most important parts come true.

Love this quote from Atomic Habits: “The purpose of setting goals is to win the game. The purpose of building systems is to continue playing the game. True long term thinking is goal-less thinking. It is not about any single accomplishment, it is about the cycle of endless refinement and continuous improvement. Ultimately it is your commitment to the process that will determine your progress.”

Brian McLaren wrote: “our whole planet now needs more than ever a good story to live in and to live by. There are a number of stories competing for the hearts and imaginations of humanity as we emerge together into this new century and millennium…the story we believe and live in today has a lot to do with the world we create for our children, our grandchildren, and our descendants one hundred thousand years from now.”

I hope we can write some good stories as we maneuver through these days that have shifted so much in the last year! Because each of our stories are interlaced with so many others.

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16 comments

Jean February 2, 2021 - 8:47 am

I have a question about your journals. First, I love journals. I’ve kept a journal most of my life, and definitely my entire adult life (I’m 61). Here is my thing, and what I’ve been pondering a lot lately. I’ve written some really personal stuff in my journals, some brutely honest thoughts. As I get older, I worry about what will happen to those journals once I’m gone. I don’t necessarily want my family reading them. As an example, when my son was in high school, and started dating a certain girl, she rubbed me wrong. I wrote about that. My thoughts and concerns about him and her. Well morph 20+ years later, and that same girls is now a daughter-in-law that I love dearly, with my whole heart, as if she is my own. When she “rubbed me wrong” she was a 15-year-old teenager! She is now a successful partner in a successful accounting firm, a beautiful mother, loving wife, and wonderful daughter-in-law. I would be crushed if she read something that I had written not in her favor. I’ve thought about going through each year’s journal and culling out the good stuff and combining it all in a scrapbook; but is that fair to only keep the “good” stuff. Just my thoughts and wonder what your thoughts are. I love reading your blog and get so many ideas from you.

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Tracy February 2, 2021 - 9:54 am

Great question! I destroyed a couple of old journals with things I didn’t wish anyone to read. I don’t know if that was the best way to handle it or not.

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Janan W February 2, 2021 - 11:07 pm

I don’t have an answer for you, but I’ll say I’ve mostly used journals over the years as a source to vent and have frankly wondered the same thing. Everyone will think I was so unhappy! HA!

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Shawni February 3, 2021 - 9:51 am

Ha! Maybe we need to make sure we stick in some good stuff with the venting. I think the venting is sometimes so healthy just to “get it all out!” I’m going to have to come share some of my funny journal entries here on the blog some time. Man, I was mad sometimes!!

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Shawni February 3, 2021 - 9:39 am

I love this question especially because I have been thinking about my own journals lately. I have been wishing my kids would do this or that, wishing I didn’t have to tell them and instruct them so much. I mean, shouldn’t they just know x, y, and z? I mean, in my mind I surely got this or that at an early age, right? And then I went back and read some of my journals to Lucy and Claire the other night at dinner. A couple entries when I was Claire’s age, “no one likes me.” “I wish I had more friends.” and Lucy’s age…oh I can’t remember, but it was funny, gloomy stuff. And it’s embarrassing, yes, but so interesting to think how life changes. And that it’s ok there were so many insecure, worried, hand-wringing times. That’s what life is made up of, right? It sounds like that daughter-in-law of yours must really adore you, as it is clear you adore her so much. It sounds like your relationship is strong enough to maybe even share those journal entries with her. You guys could have a good laugh about them and reflect on how much life has changed. To me it sounds like such a beautiful example of how our hearts change. How easy it is to judge at first…how easy it is for a mother’s heart to go into “mama bear mode,” and how a soft heart can gradually work to let something foreign in (a girlfriend in this case), and realize the goodness of that person. Maybe I’m wrong,(every relationship and situation is so different), but I think it would make for such a meaningful discussion. I think our kids need to know the good and the bad we went through. if they only know the good, they will feel like something is wrong that they don’t feel the good every minute. We all have lights and darks, highs and lows and that’s how we figure out life.
Thank you for sharing this example, I think it’s so interesting to think about! It reminds me that some of the toughest things I worry about right now could turn out to be so beautiful.
xoxo

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Jean February 3, 2021 - 11:40 am

I like your idea of sharing some journal entries with my family. And you are right, given in the right context, they probably would laugh about it now. We are so fortunate to have a close-knit family. Which is why I enjoy your writing so much because I feel that you do as well. Family is so important; my husband is one of ten and myself one of six. My husband and I have two children, a son and a daughter, and every Friday night we gather at my son and daughter-in-law’s home for dinner. We have two beautiful grandchildren, a grandson and granddaughter who are nine and six years old. My daughter is not married, and does not have children, and is a very attentive aunt. On Friday’s we all pitch in and cook together, catch up on everyone’s week, have impromptu dance parties with the grands, and just enjoy each other’s company. It is the brightest spot of my week. Thank you for taking time to answer my question. I truly appreciate your thoughts.

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Tracy February 2, 2021 - 9:53 am

Love this! Your parents sure gave you a great foundation for writing your story and you’ve passed that on to your kids. This is lacking in my own life! Would love to hear about your goals for 2021 if you’re able to share sometime.

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Shawni February 3, 2021 - 9:46 am

I’m still in the process of building the “systems” to make what I want to happen this year count. I have big dreams like working on my heart and connections, harnessing the power of prayer, deepening my relationships with family members (broad and difficult to quantify) to more measurable dreams like compiling some Blurb books for this blog, pondering about starting a non-profit, writing a book, and taking cello lessons. I am loving my meditation each morning, and checking in on those goals/dreams to put them into my daily calendar. Once I get a better framework I may come share more details.

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Jill February 2, 2021 - 11:49 am

Hi Shawni. This is a random comment not really related to the current post but I was just listening to a podcast (actually watching it on YouTube) and for some reason I thought of you because the specific topic of this episode was so much about loving all people and especially those who are of other faiths, and I know that’s something you write about. Anyway you’ve likely already heard of the come follow me podcast/YouTube channel called “Unshaken” but if you don’t regularly listen, make an exception because the episode for D&C 10-11 is amazing. It’s very long (2.5 hours), but if you only have a half hour listen from 1:32:45 – about the 2 hour mark (that’s the part that is asking Latter-day Saints to be more inclusive of all). The context for it that is taken from the book of revelation is explained in the first half hour and to really understand it all you should really listen to the first 2 hours. I finished it feeling so inspired to learn more about other people and I felt united with those who believe differently.

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Camile February 2, 2021 - 12:07 pm

I just listened to this very episode of the unshaken podcast today. So good!!!

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Shawni February 3, 2021 - 9:47 am

Thank you for the recommendation, Jill! I will definitely check that out!

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Mom February 2, 2021 - 3:23 pm

What a delight to read these terrific goals from your 15 year old heart! I had to laugh out loud when I read that you wanted to water ski better than me. I’m thinking that happened right away! Ha! What sweet goals, especially from one who is now the master of goals!
I love you!

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Shawni February 3, 2021 - 9:48 am

I know, that one made me laugh too! And oh there are some others that will really make you laugh. Remind me to show you some time. So grateful for that book and you and Dad helped me and guided me to make.
xoxo

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Lissa February 2, 2021 - 5:36 pm

I recently read a couple of books–geared toward middle school/high school ages–that I think you and the girls might really enjoy: The Miscalculations of Lightening Girl, Fish in a Tree and Shouting at the Rain. (2 different authors). Such positive and hopeful books. I am totally NOT a fan of the Bushes, but I think the concept of finding what you’re looking for is excellent (saying this as kind of a glass half full sort of person :))

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Shawni February 3, 2021 - 9:49 am

Oh thank you for the recommendations, LOVE any book recommendations!
xoxo

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Donna February 4, 2021 - 6:11 am

Cello lessons-be still my heart! I started viola at 55 and it’s the best thing I’ve ever done for myself.

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