I’ve been on this self awareness journey. I’ve been challenged to recognize what triggers shame, defensiveness and anger. Each day, I’m looking for when each of these things show up in my life to measure the kind of responses I have.
What I recently discovered is I’m an angry driver. Not in the driving-like-a-maniac sense, (although maybe I do that and am not yet self-aware enough to see it), but in the I-don’t-like-to-be-incovenienced-or-slowed-down-at-all-EVER sense. Living in a big city, you had to learn patience on the road or you would drive yourself mad every day. But in Duluth, traffic jams happen rarely. So this patience I once was forced to learn seems to have dissipated with lack of practice.
As I’m becoming more aware of this anger that flares up when a car is driving too slow in front of me, or doesn’t put on their turn signal in the amount of time I think is appropriate, or pulls in front of me to grab the space at the grocery store I was obviously headed for, I watch my anger flare. I don’t like what I see, and when I don’t like what I see, I try to fix it. But this was something, no matter how hard I tried to fix, I couldn’t. And that was annoying.
It took longer than I’d like to admit to realize the problem wasn’t the incompetent drivers, but me. And I was telling myself a story. That story was my time was more valuable than theirs. My story was that me getting where I needed to go at exactly the speed and in exactly the amount of minutes I’d allotted was the most important thing. As I looked at the gross story I was telling myself, I started to think, each of those drivers has a story too.
We all have a story.
I moved here four years ago. My husband is from Duluth, but I’d only visited a few times. The idea of starting over—in a new state, in a new town, in a new community—was both exhilarating and terrifying. Once the newness of the city started to wear off as the summer heat waned and the colors of fall began to glimmer, I realized I was lonely. I needed to make some friends. And so I opened up my church’s small group guide. I found a group called Storyline, based on materials written by Don Miller. He’s one of my favorite authors, and that seemed like a good place to start.
This group ended up changing me. It started an adventure of capturing stories of change, grace, and hope that I hadn’t planned on taking.
We each drew a timeline of our life and drew out the highest highs and the lowest lows. And for each high and low, we ranked them on a scale of one to ten for highs and negative one to negative ten for the impact of each low point. Once our timelines were established, we spent the next couple months sharing our stories.
They were stories of heartache, triumph, fear, loss, battle and breakthrough. Each of these women had a beautiful life story. And in each story, I found myself connected to her. In all of their stories, I could relate to something each of them had written.
And a beautiful piece of what we did involved finding God in those high and low points. We laughed and cried, mourned and celebrated as each of us chose to share our lives and create a depth so quickly, it was like nothing I’d experienced before.
This group taught me about story. That driver who stole my spot has a story. The kid who bullies your kid on the playground has a story. The teacher who seems to specifically have it out for your kid has a story. And the more we get to know each others’ stories, I think the more we can find compassion that we are all on this life journey together, trying to do the best we can.
Mamas, our best friends and least favorite people have a story. And maybe realizing this could change our hearts during those difficult interactions. It could even change the interactions we never have with those people who flip us the bird in traffic or the teen who screams obscenities out the school bus window as it drives by my house (wow, this one seems specific, huh? That’s because it just happened to me yesterday…).
I did find a theme as I looked at the timeline of my life. It’s to trust God no matter what and help others do the same. That’s what I’m committed to write with the rest of my life. Your story matters, the grocery clerk’s story matters, your cynical neighbor’s story matters. Understanding that we each have a story I can create a compassionate connection we wouldn’t have otherwise.
So today, I challenge you to invite someone into your story. You might just find life-changing friendships in unexpected places.