November, 27 2014
Luxury of Wings and Power of Stories

We can choose how to live our lives by skillfully using story telling externally or internally.

by Jennie M. Xue, Columnist
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Today’s women are fortunate. If only we know how to make the most of our lives.

We live in an age where gender matters, but it’s not as restricting as a couple of centuries —or decades— ago. Well, unless you live in a theocratic or sharia-ruled country, of course. Most western and Asian women live in a relatively modern environment, where we can go enjoy university-level education and have a meaningful career, if you decide not to stay at home taking care of your children.

I call these modern privileges “wings.” The only thing that matters is how we use them. We can fly low or high. And we can choose how to live our lives.

For this, we need mental and emotional stamina, as well as physical endurance and health. Stable finances would definitely help with the process of making the most appropriate decisions. Making inappropriate a.k.a “wrong” choices may prove to be costly in the end.

Naturally, we need to equip ourselves with a certain skill, which would maintain our focus and deflect us from spiraling downhill into the abyss of darkness. In short, we need to know how things work, so we can manage to stay “sane.”



One important skill to have is using storytelling both as a shield of our emotions and a weapon in winning every single battle we have chosen to plunge ourselves into. We can use it externally (toward others) or internally (inward). A good combination of both is a surefire recipe for success.

Our species has been primed to use stories and it is a part of our survival method. For thousands of years, human beings have been listening to stories passed down from generations before us. Our childhood, which serves as our “programming,” primarily entered our mind as “stories.”

We listen to lectures and presentations, which are actually “structured stories” despite the facts and scientific explanations. Proses, narratives, and anecdotes requiring a high-level of reasoning are sprinkled throughout to provide some sort of flow that the human mind can comprehend.

Writer EB White once said that a writer’s responsibility is to lift people up, not lower them down. And artist Austin Kleon added, “You are a mashup of what you let into your life.” I can’t agree more.

Wise people posited that every individual is the total of five people around him or her. And every individual affects us through stories. Stories they heard, shared, and wrote themselves. Most importantly, stories they are exposed to days in and days out. Stories that they believe and make them who they are.

Psychotherapist and author Philippa Perry in “How to Stay Sane,” a part of The School of Life series – founded by Alain de Botton ­­– wrote eloquently, “The meanings you find, and the stories you hear, will have an impact on how optimistic you are; it’s how we evolved…. If you don’t know how to draw positive meaning from what happens in life, the neural pathways you need to appreciate good news will never fire up.”

To survive, we need to have neural pathways that continuously firing up positive thoughts. They serve as the “gasoline” of living, so when the going gets tough, we can get going.

Perry added, “If we practice detachment from our thoughts we learn to observe them as though we are taking a bird’s eye view of our own thinking. When we do this, we might find that our thinking belongs to an older, and different, story to the one we are now living.” Observe your own thoughts, ideas, and fleeting moments experienced without judging them.

She followed, “We need to look at the repetitions in the stories we tell ourselves (and) at the process of the stories rather than merely their surface content. Then we can begin to experiment with changing the filter through which we look at the world, start to edit the story and thus regain flexibility where we have been getting stuck.” Choose wisely all the luxuries we have. Process every idea and thought by filtering which parts to eliminate and reduce.

Modern women live with the luxury of having wings. It is a privilege unlike others. We must remind ourselves that every single breath we take, we are a better person.

Healthier, wiser, stronger and wealthier – we can be all these with the power of stories. Amazing, ain’t it?

Illustration by Uri Bareket.
Jennie M. Xue is an author, columnist and entrepreneur based in Northern California. When she's not globe trekking, she writes about globalization, business, feminism, parenting and humanity. She also writes longform pieces for Longformly.com