Not What You Expected

I read an article about 10 years ago that I still think about sometimes. That's sticky, right? I wish I could remember who wrote it, and where exactly I saw it, but I can't, so I cannot credit the writer for this incredible insight.

The article was about a woman who dreamed of having a baby. That dream was something that stayed with her for her entire life. She read books about pregnancy, parenting, about nursing, labor, delivery, human development, anything she could get her hands on.

Finding a partner was more difficult than she thought it would be. Her dream of having a baby was far stronger than her dream of the other parent to make it happen. But eventually she met and married a man who shared her dream and adored her. They were both over 40.

It's not surprising that they had trouble conceiving. Statistically, it's harder for a first time mother over the age of 35 to get pregnant. She and her husband were relieved and overjoyed when she was finally pregnant.

The baby was born with Down Syndrome, and it took her many months of depression before she could face her future - which she knew would be very different from how she had imagined it.

Here's the part that stuck with me for so long, the analogy she used to describe her situation:

Imagine you dreamed of going to Paris. Your entire life was wrapped up in this vision of going on a trip to Paris and exploring the city. Throughout your childhood you were fascinated and obsessed with all things French, you took classes to learn to speak the language, you purchased books about the history, you watched any movie with scenes filmed in Paris, it was your ultimate dream, it took many years to make the plans, and you finally bought your ticket.

Now you're on the plane, and you can hardly sit still with the excitement and anticipation. Eventually you fall asleep, dreaming of the Eiffel Tower. You feel the plane jolt as it lands, and in a strange accent you hear from the cockpit:

Welcome to Hong Kong!

What is your response? Denial at first, probably. "No way. It's a joke. Not a funny joke. It's a practical joke, any minute now I'll hear announcements in French."

Then anger, maybe? "What? That's not possible! I know I got on the right plane! Someone is going to get fired for this mistake! What the hell is going on around here? I can't be in Hong Kong, I know nothing about this city and its weird language and food!"

If you allow yourself to grieve for a while, and then choose to change your perspective, you'll eventually come to a realization that yes, you're in Hong Kong now, not Paris, and your trip to Paris is no longer in the cards. The question after that becomes, now that you're resigned to your reality, will you embrace it? Can you see the beauty in this new, and different dream?

As I work with organizations and individuals to tell their stories, to help them figure out the meaning behind how they tell them and why, this is a recurring theme. How do we find value in our stories, good and bad, and how do we make them beautiful, no matter how they started? Every story has the potential for beauty, if your perspective allows for it.