Who Decides What Defines You?

A couple of weeks ago I started a post about defining vs. altering life events. This topic has been swirling around in my mind for a while now. In my own life, I make conscious choices about how I label what happens to me. For example, it’s easy for my mind and emotions to race out of control when I experience the day to day tasks of raising Bodey. Some days are just really frustrating (like yesterday). I feel overtaken by things I cannot control, and it’s hard for me to get my footing. 

I think it’s easy to feel this way about life, in general. There is so much coming at us in each moment. We are bombarded by messages, requests, and requirements. It’s endless. This week I want to help you see that what happens to you does alter you, often forever. But it does not have to define you. What distinguishes you is your response to what happens. While we cannot control the event, we can always control our response. In short, we get to decide how our story goes. 

This is an essential practice in my life. I refuse to be defined by only the painful events I have experienced. I can still clearly remember taking a run on a bright, gorgeous October morning about a year after Ethan died. Anger was an ever-present companion at that time. Running was a healthy way for me to get it out. I knew at that time that I did not want to be defined by his death. I also did not want his life to be defined by his terrible medical course. And the thought clearly flashed in my mind, “What if you loved them into doing something different?” Them being the doctors, the system, the status quo. At that moment I decided that I would be defined by the love I could share and the changes I could make. This divine download is what inspired me to start the Ethan Lindberg Foundation.

 This download or calling did not make all that happened okay. In fact, I’m still not okay with any of it. But I’ll be damned if someone else decides how my story is characterized. 

The practice of consciously labeling altering vs. defining moments is one I go back to over and over and over again. 

The shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School happened just months after Ethan died. While my experience was very different than those parents, I felt a closeness to them. I related to so many of their words. I will never forget a quote I read that went something like this, “We do not want our children to be remembered for what happened to them, but rather we want them to be remembered for the changes we made.”  

All painful moments alter us. They mark us. They transform us forever. We are never the same. Once they happen, we can delineate between the people we were before and the people we become after.

They change our story. 

Change the way we see the world. 

They make us wonder about God, the Universe, how this life works. 

We lose our footing, we feel knocked down. 

Our self-confidence feels low, and shame creeps in. 

They also bring us to a moment of decision.

How will the rest of the story go?

 In the early days, it’s impossible not to be defined by the event. We want to be. We must sit with what has taken place because it has altered us, but if we're going to grow and create a beautiful story from this tragedy, then we need to let it change us, and then choose how we will be defined. As we commit to silence, listening, asking and creating we begin to see a path forward. We cultivate daily practices that help us heal. Little by little those practices add up.

I’ve learned that the power really lies within me. I can create, change myself, and let love win. Taking back this power has given me a fearlessness that I would not have if I gave death or disability or shame the power. This ability to rise lives in you too. 

 Here’s the thing, like me you’ve been altered by something. And you can choose to be defined by that thing. You can give it your power. Or, you can be defined by what you create from it. You can be fearless. You can use this energy, this pain, this thing that altered your life as a gateway to create beauty. 

Don’t give your power away. Live fearlessly. Be defined by what you create and who you become. On hard days, have a good cry, and then keep going. You have something this world needs that you and only you can offer. I know you can do it!

Sunday Love to You.