I sat beside my six year old son in his hospital bed. It was 2 am. He was wide awake. From his perspective, the day had been a long nap followed by the euphoria of pain medication. He was hungry. Twenty-Four hours since he had anything substantial. But with digestion still on hold from the anesthesia, he was only allowed Sprite.
My son has never been one for moderation when sugar is involved. He kept slamming back the Sprite as fast as he could get the nurses to bring it. His third glass in, the nurse slowed him down. I knew something wasn’t right. His little belly was distended. Giving him fluid had not started his system processing again as hoped. I held his hand as he went from giddy to woozy.
And then, he erupted. I’ll spare you the worst of the details. Let’s just say I had no idea how much would fit in a six year old’s stomach. I grabbed the nearby trash can to try to hold back my little Mt. Vesuvius. It did little good. His bed, his gown, his mom… we were all victims of pyroclastic Sprite spewing from his belly..
And now, finished with the event, he looked up at me. It was the briefest of moments in which the volume of questions on his face matched the volume of destruction in the room.
“Am I in trouble?”
“Did I do something wrong?”
“Are you mad?”
“Am I alright?”
All translating to the one question his six year old self needed help with.
“Mom, what story do I tell about what just happened.”
I smiled. “Wow, you just made a Sprite Volcano!” He laughed. I laughed with him as I began cleaning him up. He mimed the performance again for the nurse who came to help. Over the next three days it was the story he recounted for everyone who visited him. Not a story of pain, or of fear, but one of Sprite everywhere.
Things happen in life. But we don’t live in discreet objective facts. We live in the stories we tell ourselves and each other. Stories help us make the meaning. Stories help us remember what we shouldn’t forget. How we tell the story matters.
For the challenges happening in your life right now, tell the story to yourself again. Only this time, you’re the hero. You’re the one on the journey. You’re the chosen one. You won’t believe it at first. You’ll slip back into “yeah buts” and negative self talk. That’s okay. It’s part of the story. The part where the hero loses hope.
But now, you get that second wind. You find the deeper truth inside you. You turn the tide. This is your story. You get to tell it. The facts are the facts. But the story is everything else.
How you tell the story matters. My son is 14 now. He works to become an adult, and to write his own stories. But still, I can smile at him and say “Sprite Volcano” and we laugh at the story again.