There's a story in my family that I've told as an example of who I am, how I function in the world. The story is about me as a toddler. I had learned to stand, to balance, and how to work my way around a room holding on to the furniture. It seemed like I should be able to walk, but I didn't seem to want to let go of the furniture to try. When I was 11 1/2 months old, I rolled off the changing table and fractured my forearm. It wasn't bad enough for a cast, but it was too painful to crawl on. The next day, I was walking across the room. I simply stopped crawling and started walking, like I did know how, I just needed a reason to do so.
For years, I've seen this story as an example of my cautious nature. An illustration of how I need to be really sure I know how to do something before I jump in. I don't like risks, I like to know how things are going to work out. This is a true part of my personality, but not something I'm always happy about. Sometimes I'd like to take on life more confidently, take on more unknown situations without so much stress. In a past releationship, this cautious nature was something I felt criticized for a lot.
Yesterday, someone pointed out to me that somebody else told me this story - I was obviously too young to remember the events. It was cast in a way to explain my personality *for that person*. That 11 1/2 months is a perfectly normal age to start walking, and many babies walk around the room on the furniture for a long time before taking their first real, unsupported step. And that the story could be told differently.
Like this: When I was 11 1/2 months old, I was learning to walk, supporting myself on furniture, and strengthening my muscles. I was going to walk any day, it seemed. But then I rolled off the changing table and fractured my arm. Because I couldn't crawl any more, even though I maybe wasn't quite ready for that first step, I overcame the injury by starting to walk right away. And I never looked back. Instead of sitting imobilized because I couldn't quite walk but could no longer crawl, I found a solution.
When she said it that way, it occured to me that this is the story Lisa tells me to explain my personality. That I take on situations that seem so hard, so overwhelming, and I don't have any idea how I'm going to possibly cope, let alone succeed. And then I excel. Those situations bring out my best, as hard as they are at the time. And when I look back, I'm always grateful for the experience and growth I have earned through them.
When I'm facing a big obstacle in my life, I need to remember this version of the story. I don't like unexpected changes a whole lot, but I am really good at dealing with them.