The Grace of Remembering that We have Choices


Dear Friends,

In response to my last post about feeling down and deeply frustrated with ongoing pain and limitations, several people contacted me privately to basically say “you are SO not alone”.    I want to say a sincere thank you to those who responded.  It IS good to know that my struggles are by no means unique —- except in the particulars.

Today is a day with more grace in it.  Physically, I’ve been up and down —- make that a little more on the “down” side.  This week I have more commitments to be out and about than I usually do, partly because my spouse is out of town for work and my SIL’s cats need care while she and her spouse are traveling.  Something big that has helped is reminding myself that I don’t “have” to do it all, and certainly not all by myself.  There’s a back-up person if needed for cat care; when I do the cat care, my son is doing the heavy lifting and the climbing of many sets of stairs.  So, with these extra tasks, I’m remembering to choose to not do quite a few things I ordinarily do.  Like cook, or hassle my son about what he should be doing in his studies, what he should be doing in preparation for Speech Exams, or moving forward this week in some of my long-term projects.

At our last Story Circle, I was talking about the stories we live by.  I was encouraging us to examine the story we’ve been living, and see if it still fits our lives as we’re given our lives here and now.  Are the stories helping us, opening our lives, making our world bigger, or are the stories giving us guilt-trips, ongoing disappointment, and a smaller life?  The last time I did a major examination of the stories I tell myself about my life I was much more physically “able”, and the story had a fair number of heroic elements in it, including the overcoming of challenges and the fighting of monsters (some inner, some outer, some really real).

Whole books could be (and have been) written about these internal stories.  Most of the time, unless we’re unusually self-directed, our stories have been given to us by well-meaning families or teachers as well as by the culture and media.  One story that I used to live by that I absorbed through my religious heritage was that if I’m not dead yet, then I haven’t given enough.  It went like this:  You are a talented and gifted little girl.  To those whom God has given much, much will be asked.   We are to be like Jesus in all things.  Jesus gave all, including his very life.  I will not have given enough until I, too, have given my entire life.

While it is compassionate to be generous and to share our gifts and our lives, it’s easy to see that the message I internalized, though logical, was a bit off.  What happened to the “I came to bring Life, and Life to the full”?  Well, I had to fully understand the operating story that I had within myself, challenge it (over and over and over again), and actively choose to live by the “Life to the full” story.  By the way, this “Life to the full” story was the one that I described above that has all the heroic elements to it.  Who doesn’t love an action story, at least at some times in their lives?

Even this story, as good as it is, hasn’t been serving me anymore.  Or, another way of saying it is that this story has not been opening my life or making my world bigger in a good way lately.  It’s not been helping me to live with grace, or wisdom, or bringing to fruition my gifts in light of what the rest of my life has been handing me.  It’s hard living with paradoxes, and even harder when you’re telling yourself that you have to do something that you don’t even really have to do.  Not living up to the story that we believe our life is unfolding is what brings us frustration, guilt, and even dis-ease (not feeling at ease in my own skin).

But the stories aren’t static.  We do have the choice to change them.  Even if we believe we have a certain mission in life to accomplish, there’s lots of ways to skin a cat (oooh —- what a horrible figure of speech!  Especially for me!!!)

We don’t have absolute choice though:  today, at least, I can’t choose to lead a political campaign, or run a 10K.  So while I can change the story I’m telling myself about my life, I still need to be creative with the paradoxes that reality drops in front of me.  I can’t choose my reality, but I can dance with it  (from afar, some might think I’m wrestling with it; dance, wrestle. . . it’s not all the same, but sometimes they do come close).

So, the new story I’m telling myself these days has some to do with my day to day reality, with some models from my heritage of Baba Yaga wild forest woman stories of my Polish background and some St. Brigid stories of monasteries from my Celtic ancestors.  Instead of going out adventuring, it has more to do with settling in to a place, deeply.  Instead of going out to fight monsters (like violence, or sexism, or. . . , or. . . ), I need to stay in.  Those who need to find me will know where I can be found; and I can send out letters reflecting on what I’ve learned over the years. . . .

May YOUR story fit your life.  May it bring out your gifts to yourself and to us, and help you live your life abundantly, fully.

With love,


8 thoughts on “The Grace of Remembering that We have Choices

  1. Becky K.

    The remembering our choices was so very important for me during the 5 years I was caring for my folks in their home at the end of their lives. Allowing any “duty” or resentment or overwhelming tiredness slip in that kept my care from being or being experienced as a loving gift was not acceptable to me.

    Each morning I would lie in bed and find the place that I completely remembered that I was there because I choose to be and why I was making that choice. And yes, “grace” describes what I had in return for finding that place.

    So, Cat, your group room looks great and I can so picture your gatherings there. I remember when your groups were on cushions on the floor. Yes, we are aging.

    I’m recovered now from a bout of shingles. I think I had an easier time of it than many of the horrible stories I’ve heard. The foods and herbs I’m engaged with for the cancer are also the right answer for shingles with a few stepped up anti-viral (more garlic and black pepper, radishes, apple cider vinegar both topically and internally, grapefruit seed extract) and lots of celery for the nerve damage.

    Mainly I keep being wondrously amazed by all that I can do (including staying alive), which really compensates a lot for what I don’t choose to do each day that I “used to” or that others looking at my life might think I “should”.

    A big hug to you!

  2. Debby Gregorash

    I get it exactly. I love being 61 years old and only doing the things that feed my soul. I was always living life to the full but I’m getting tired and stiff now and am enjoying taking care of myself, mostly, and reflecting on the old me past and the new me now and the woman I hope to grow up to be. I’m doing all this without feeling guilty. I paid my dues. I need to rest, regroup and figure out what to do with the last 10 or 20 years of my life. For once I’m going to pace myself and really live a balanced life. Thanks, Cat! Awesome essay!

    1. mysteriesunfolding Post author

      Thanks for your comments, Deb. This living a balanced life isn’t as easy as we think it ought to be, somehow. But, you may well have 30 more years left (my in-laws are 92 years old, and are both relatively active and totally with it.) LIving life to the full just seems to take on new meanings.

  3. Carol Scott

    Cat, your wise words always make me think, and realize that I do have a story inside and I am determined to put it to paper. Thank you! I am so glad I have met you~

    1. mysteriesunfolding Post author

      I’m behind in my commenting, but just wanted to say thanks for your comments, Carol. YES, please do write. And let me read it, too. I’m feeling strongly the urge to write more, but carving out the time truly is chanllenging. So I know it’s not easy. But still, . . . do it!

  4. Brenda Boswell

    Perhaps you can’t physically run with the wolves any more, but you can still ride them 🙂 Praying for easier days my friend.


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