As Strange as Fiction / Let Each Breath Count!

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This morning (from Thursday) while en route to work, I had a sort of deja vu or, more accurately, an other dimensional flash of awareness. I saw my life as Story, with me as an actor engaged in acting out the script my Higher Self, let’s say, has composed for this leg of the journey. t reminds me of how we live our lives as Story; perhaps at least humans (similarly as all sentient beings, I assume) should be classified as Homo Narrativus.

My new book, Your Life Path (see right panel; available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble), is all about helping YOU to review your Life Story as mythic, in terms of chapters, themes, ensemble character arcs, and plotline.  The (free) Life Path Mapping Toolkit (downloadable also from the right panel) provides life mapping and journalling activities.

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My epiphany on Thursday reminded me that life is (at least) as strange as fiction–as fiction is based upon our lives, primarily.  So regarding my present scene, set, character actions, conditions and relations as part of the narrative flow can help me to accept and follow the narrative arc set out before me. Or, as Homo Narrativus is both an Author as well as Character, I could choose to revise or redirect the plotline at any Moment.  Here is the launchpad for creating “better endings.”

One of my favorite film storylines is Stranger than Fiction. In this dramatic comic fantasy, a tax auditor played by Will Ferrell looks in the mirror while shaving one morning and wakes to the realization that he is actually a character in some (other) author’s novel. The Author, played by Emma Thompson, has not yet completed her story about the Auditor; she is stuck in a writer’s block mode. Should she, as is usual for her stories, kill off the main character (the Auditor) at the end for having lived an unrealized, unfulfilling life; or, not? Meanwhile the Auditor must figure out who he is in the story and what genre of story he is in, be it tragic or comic. He seeks the help of an English Professor, played by Dustin Hoffman, to help him figure that part out.

See this film  Stranger than Fiction for the rest; I do not want to be a spoiler here. It is well worth seeing and mulling over for yourself.

So for this final week of the month, here is a Better Endings scenario for my own monthly contemplation seed, ‘What Difference Does It Make?’ (I invite you to write or think about your own Better Ending outlook for a personal question or concern you find yourself contemplating this month.)

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images are from pixabay.com

Let Each Breath Count

I will title my Better Endings story this month, “Let Each Breath Count.”  Who knows, for any of us, how much longer our current lifetime storyline is to continue? What I do have some measure of control over is, how shall I love and breathe through every moment.

Through fencing (see previous post) , I learned from a coach to “remember to exhale!” (‘Et la!’ one can think while exhaling and landing an attack.)  Exhaling while lunging with a fencing foil attack actually lengthens your stride enough so that your ‘point’ is more likely to reach the receding target.

My Better Endings mantra to carry forward from this month is “Let Each Breath Count!” Every moment is a potential punctuation mark or Turning Point in my life journey; an unconscious or better, a mindful act of choice. Generally I set out intentionally, so following through on immediate daily plans is the correct choice. But when I reach a roadblock or a pregnant pause of some sort, it is helpful to review and possibly redirect my action. I may benefit from revising my goals or recognizing an unexpected opportunity to advance (or retreat) in a new direction.

So as I set out on the next act with relocating and moving into the next phase of my post-retirement chapter, I aim to remember how my life story intersects with others’. I aim to be flexible and responsive. I do not want to go forth just in a “Present” tense bubble that carries my past habits forward unexamined. I claim the freedom and the obligation to navigate intentionally my Life Path boat, as it were, so that Living My Dream, Now means that my personal dream remains flexible, expansive, and adaptive to the concerns and opportunities of every moment, for everyone involved, with every breath.

With this rededication, May the Blessings Be!

I welcome YOUR Story or Comments!

 

 

The Multiple Threads of Your Life Story

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I’d like to invite you next to consider whether your Life Story might actually be playing itself out according to more than one Genre.  This week I have introduced you to three story types or genres that Life Stories represent: Comic Epic-Adventure, Tragic Epic-Adventure, and Episodic. You can determine which of these patterns your overall conception of your Life Story weaves by reviewing the sequence of Life Chapters you can identify by naming the event frames that have transpired between the critical Turning Points of your life’s Adventure (see the last two week’s tools in the right panel about identifying and naming your own Life Chapters).

Now then, might the same person’s Life Story be simultaneously Comic, Tragic and/or Episodic all at the same time? This is a profound question, for which I can say the answer is, Yes.  There are many layers to a Lifetime, after all.

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One way by which a person’s Life Story might be of multiple genres over time is simply in the sense that the Life Chapter you are in right Now—which I have called your Threshold vantage point—influences how you reconstruct your story. This is paradoxical, of course. If in the process of reflecting back about your Life you realize you stand in the Now at a relatively calm and aware precipice, then you are likely to name the Life Chapters you identify between your pivotal Turning Points in terms of a Comic Epic Adventure that has brought you to this Vantage Point of being a Threshold Dweller. On the other hand, if you are currently in the throes of a Dark Night situation, you might be more likely to reconstruct how dire events and repeating traumas have delivered you into this tragic Mess. (Please allow just for the moment my slightly droll attitude here, which cannot do justice to the real turmoil you might be experiencing.) Furthermore, if you find yourself currently on a sort of Lark of an adventure, relatively carefree and open to unexpected twists and turns in the Road before you, then perhaps you are more likely to reconstruct your Life Story as an Episodic, picaresque adventure.

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There is a more profound way, though, by which your Life Story might be transpiring according to multiple genres–and multiple story threads!– at the same time. This involves what Carl G. Jung or James Hillman or Carolyn Myss would describe in terms of Depth, or Archetypal, Psychology.  If you accept–and not everyone will–that we are each of us inherently “multiple”, all the time, because our personal unconscious domain houses a cast of archetypal character images or modes that exist under the surface of our conscious awareness yet they influence our perceptions and attitudes through dreams or ‘nudges’/ ‘impulses’, then you might be further willing to entertain the possibility that these unconscious aspects of Self may actually be construing THEIR Life Stories distinctly from your own conscious Life Story viewpoint. Perhaps you have an Inner “Wanderer/ Idealist” archetype sub-self in you. Then this figure might construe the life s/he shares with you as an Episodic Adventure, even while you may consciously be more goal directed on a Comic Epic Quest. Or maybe a ‘part’ of you that was squelched from early childhood trauma is in a Tragic mode and this colors all your experiences with a tinge of skepticism or sadness, even though for the most part you are consciously feeling happy and successful.

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I find that for Life Mapping, referring to Archetypes is very important and potentially very helpful and illuminating, so that in Life Paths I will be introducing a fresh new approach to working with some of your Archetypal “cast and crew”.  I also realize that Archetypal Psychology is not everyone’s cup of tea, outright at least. So in Life Paths I am also offering an alternative to thinking in terms of or making contact with your ‘depth’ archetypal impulses directly; you will be able to opt for simply reflecting upon your LIFE THEME values and qualities, instead.

For those willing to ‘sink’ to such depths (naturally), try reviewing the three Genres: Comic Epic Adventure; Tragic Epic Adventure; Episodic or Picaresque. Can you identify with MORE THAN ONE of these story types as having been or currently active in your life? I invite you to actively contemplate, talk about, or write/ journal about these multiple dimensions of your life.

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A third way to go about exploring your own Life Story Genre multiplicity is by simply reviewing one Life Chapter at a time. Sometimes each chapter is a Story in itself, and different Life Chapters may have taken their own forms as one of the three Genres we are exploring this week. Maybe your earliest Life Chapter as a Child was Episodic but your middle years were/are more focused as a Comic Epic Adventure. Maybe one of your chapters was distinctively Tragic but you survived and discovered a pathway to a more positive storyline. (If so was there a meaningful transition between these?)

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So what’s the point of all this complicating what seemed pretty simple at the start of the week? As humans we are Meaning Bearers and Meaning Creators. That is, our lives “Make Sense” because of our sense-making capabilities. If we are not entirely happy with the Story we construe ourselves to be living out right now, we can “switch horses midstream”, if we choose to.  We can look ahead to creating and re-modeling the Story as we choose! We are not locked into any storyline beyond our own control.

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Have you seen the Will Ferrell/ Emma Thompson/ Dustin Hoffman film, “Stranger Than Fiction”? I highly recommend it. A man (Ferrell) living out a fairly dull, overly routinized Life Story as an IRS agent comes to the awareness that he is actually a character in a famous writer’s story! The author (Thompson) always kills off her characters in the end. So an English professor (Hoffman) asks the man to try to determine whether he is the character in a Comedy or a Tragedy. I won’t tell you the ending but suffice to say, there is a definite turnabout needed!

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I Welcome YOUR Comments, Insights and Stories as you reflect upon or entertain these ideas in relation to your own Life Adventure!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weekly Topic: Fictional Better Endings

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This week, our topic is “fictional better endings”. This does not necessarily mean happy endings, of course. What, to you, might constitute a ‘better’ ending in fiction, or in a particular fictional story?

I find it harder to tamper with fiction than with films; somehow the endings of at least well written fiction feel right to the characters and plot development, as Rebekah pointed out in last week’s Guest Blog. I deeply value transformational story structure, in which the key protagonists–and usually to some extent the antagonists as well–undergo dramatic, if subtle, shifts in consciousness from facing and surviving (or, not) enormous internal and external challenges.

Writing daily blog posts on Better Endings has helped me to recognize synchronicity and serendipity around our weekly themes. Two days ago I happened upon Stranger than Fiction on TV. Could any story line be more appropriate to our topic this week of fictional better endings? Will Ferrell plays an IRS tax man, Harold Crick, a living fictional protagonist who becomes aware he is a character in the unfinished novel of Karen Eiffel (Emma Thompson), an author who “only writes tragedies”. Harold seeks out Professor Jules Hilbert (Dustin Hoffman) to help him figure out what sort of novel he is in. There is beautiful, parable-esque story telling here. Our character must examine his life and improve his relationships–e.g. with the enigmatically charming Ana Pascal (Maggie Gyllenhaal), a feisty baker whom Harold is auditing–to determine whether his own, very routinized life is worth saving. The ending twist–I won’t spoil it for you; this is a must see film!–offers a poetic statement about a transformational story structure that ironically bends reality back upon fiction, altering the author of the story herself!

Is there a fictional story ending whose ending you love? What makes it such a fitting conclusion? Alternately, is there a work of fiction (of any genre) which you would love to re-vision with a meaningful twist of fate or consequence? This week I give you carte blanche to play with fiction. No ending is indelibly chiseled in stone.

Please send your Comments about Fictional Better Endings and you can submit your stories for consideration as Story of the WeekPlease Follow to receive our Better Endings posts daily by email, and invite your Friends to join in the conversation! This is a site where writers can practice weekly prompts, and where everyone and anyone can flex your creativity. While on the surface we are applying Better Endings to fiction or to the weekly topic generally, underneath this is a self-help, personal growth and development practice which will deepen over time as we progress. I believe that as we practice applying this principle of Better Endings, our own character arcs may also come to manifest a transformational story. 

Better Endings to you! – Linda