“The soul is dyed by the thoughts. Dye it, then, with a continuous series of such thoughts as these – that where a man can live, there - if he will - he can also live well.” — Marcus Aurelius
Using the pit of the avocado, yarn or fabric can be dyed various shades of peachy pink. Red cabbage can be used for purple, black beans for blue, and yellow onion skins for orange.
I’ve watched my friend dye yarn, and I am always fascinated with the process and the end result. And that’s what got me to thinking about yarn and stories, specifically your story or mine. Oh, I forgot to explain that to spin yarn, you must keep it stretched, and because of that, when people long ago were stretching the truth in a long story, it was said they were spinning a yarn (especially true of sailors).
And all of that, with Aurelius’ quote, made me think of the stories that live in our souls, and how colorful they are, how important they are, even if they do tend to go a little longer, like some of my writings.
A story is a great tool for teaching and learning. Think about it, doesn’t it give you the feeling of sharing a connection when you hear a story of someone in a similar situation as you? When I write, I try to share from people’s stories that I think will be relatable. After all, we all need to feel validated at some point.
But talking about the power of storytelling is for another day. Today is for talking about the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves and the ones we allow other people to tell about us. Those stories, like others, are so very powerful, and that matters.
Once upon a time, there was a boy or girl named __________ (feel free to insert your name here). As a child, ______ was shy, friendly, scared, funny, happy, in trouble, serious, angry, busy. What word describes the child you were? Did you get in trouble for being the way you were? Have you been spinning a yarn about yourself for so many years that you don’t really know who you are?
No matter what age you are, this is a great time in your life to take Aurelius’ words to heart — dye your soul with thoughts of the person you want to be so that you might live well.
You and I are allowed to write our own stories, yet how often do we succumb to the stories we are told by others? The stories told by others when we were children stay with us as adults, and the stories told every day continue to color our soul in what is sometimes less than helpful for a life lived well.
For instance, with the availability of DNA tests that predict everything from what habits you might have and what foods you should eat to what diseases you might be predisposed to experience, we begin re-writing our stories to match the test.
Worse, is the teacher, parent, or “friend” who tells us what we are not capable of being or how unimportant what we do is. When we believe the story another person tells us about ourselves, we are in dangerous territory. And those stories become the stories we tell ourselves.
Are you a parent, teacher, or supposed friend? What story are you telling someone else about themselves? You could say what a delightful person a child is, but you choose to remind a kid that he is such a challenge. For the rest of his life, he is a challenging person. It’s the story he was told so long ago. When you tell a person how pretty they are but never talk about how smart or kind or pleasant they are, the story they believe about themselves is that their value is based on their appearance. What a heavy weight a person must carry. Change the stories you tell others about themselves.
Being aware of the presence of stories is the first step in dyeing your soul with beautiful thoughts. The second step is changing the stories we hear. But how? How do we turn off the negative messaging when others offer it so freely?
Repeatedly practicing disconnection is a good beginning. My job (and yours) is to detach the words someone else speaks to us from our story of ourselves. It’s kind of like in the 2nd Agreement (of Ruiz’s 5 Agreements) Don’t Take Anything Personally. When someone else projects their opinion of us, we are allowed to let it stay with them. It isn’t easy, but it’s doable. Put Post-it® notes on your mirror in the house and in the car to remind yourself of what your story is not.
Step away from the stories you’ve believed about yourself long enough to allow the truth to begin to take hold. Just because you spent five years in college studying to be a chemist doesn’t mean you are a chemist. You might find that your thoughts have dyed your soul with magical dreams of painting or singing or any number of things that have nothing to do with your degree. Gift yourself with the opportunity to be who you are, not who you believe you must be.
Stop It. Two really powerful words a friend taught me to say to others and to myself. When someone is treating you with contempt or a lack of respect, tell them “Stop It!” When you are treating yourself with a lack of respect, catering to others’ demands instead of your own needs, tell yourself “Stop It!” Those two words will set boundaries for you with others and with yourself.
Find some yarn or a piece of fabric. Look for a food around your kitchen that will dye it. (You can search the internet for suggestions) As you watch the thread absorb the dye, think about your soul. What kind of thoughts would you wish to have absorbed? What kind of story will you tell so that a man can live and live well?