Zelda was over to play the other day. Everyone should be so lucky as to have a spirited, much-loved 3 year-old come crashing through their home on a weekly basis. Last week, she was rocking plush rainbow unicorn footie pajamas, complete with a hood, which had a horn. She pulled it up on her head and announced in a loud voice, "I AM A RAINBOW UNICORN," to each person she came in contact with. It had red paint from daycare smeared on the front. Occasionally, when she got too hot from playing, she took it off and hung it on the coat rack where, bright red paint flanking the open front zipper, it looked like a freshly skinned unicorn hide. When she wasn't a rainbow unicorn, she was some kind of superhero who rocked pink panties, her favorite too-small t-shirt showing a lot of belly, and a cape. I'm not sure where she got the cape.
We were outside, rainbow unicorn pajamas firmly back in place, when her nose started to bleed. She wiped some on the front of her pajamas, on top of the red craft paint (they were the same color). I took her inside to clean her up with a warm washcloth and a little soap. The nanosecond I was done, she raced back outside to continue playing, like nothing happened. The big kid looked at me as I wrung out the bloody washcloth in the sink and said, sounding impressed, "Rainbow unicorns are pretty resilient."
Later that night, reunited with her mother, Zelda announced, "Aunt Kate made my nose bleed."
Her mom corrected, "Sweetie, no, you got a nosebleed at Aunt Kate's. Words mean things. Your nose just started to bleed because of the cold air. Aunt Kate didn't hit you or cause your nosebleed; she took care of you and helped stop your nosebleed."
"Yes," said the rainbow unicorn, nodding in agreement, "Aunt Kate made my nose bleed."
There are a thousand stories in my mind I tell myself everyday. They are my perceptions, things that happen to me that interpret in a thousand different ways. Sometimes, I'm like Zelda, telling a truth that's not quite right because I don't have the right words for it yet. Telling it over and over again in the same juvenile way because I don't allow the story to develop and mature as I do. And sometimes, as I grow up, I continue telling myself the jumbled-up, confused toddler version of the story when I'm ready for the teenage version or the young adult version. I keep replaying the incident, repeating the story, "Aunt Kate made my nose bleed" until I believe that Aunt Kate, with malicious intent, did in fact make my nose bleed. Then I act out of it and create a relationship and influence a future where Aunt Kate and I are no longer speaking because I believe she is a hurtful, harmful, toxic human who makes people's noses bleed out of spite and only cleans them to service her warped Messiah complex.
I do this all the time. I am prone to believe all my thoughts and all my stories as truth unless someone like Zelda's mom—the Holy Spirit, a good friend, Builder-husband, sometimes just a random lady in the check-out line—gently corrects me and pushes back against my narrative. Then I can see that I can change the narrative. That I have to.
Stories aren't static, they're dynamic. We need to let the stories we tell ourselves air out sometimes. We need to take stock, inventory where we need to let the narrative develop a little bit more, be more nuanced and complex. And when that happens, when we are self-aware enough and mature enough to let the stories we tell ourselves change and develop as they ought to, we need to respond like my pretty resilient unicorn did to her bloody nose. She didn't wallow in it, she didn't feel guilty about it, she didn't fret about lost time. She displayed the wisdom of childlike resilience: she was right back into the moment, racing on toward what the day offered her.
We can be like that with the stories we tell ourselves too. We can have the wisdom of the mother who corrects the mistaken narrative. And we can have the wisdom of childlike resilience who bounces right back and moves with dedication and speed onward.