I've always looked at my life as a series of books sitting on a bookshelf. Mind you, my book shelf is getting dustier and dustier the older I get, but I've always thought of my words, actions, and decisions as being collected in multiple books, sitting on a shelf for only me to see.
Where to Start?
I suppose the first question you should ask is, “Why did you decide to post about this chapters in books on a bookshelf today”. And I suppose I should answer. 🙂
Today would have been my 16th wedding anniversary. Not that this date represents anything special to me anymore, but it’s still a signifiant date in my life . . . and one that has become more of a benchmark for who I’ve become, than a memory of who I was.
Today is not a sad nor happy day for me. It’s just another day. But I’m a person who likes annual dates. I like taking photos in the same place every year and comparing them. Likewise, I like looking back at certain dates or times and thinking about how I was, and being thankful (hopefully) that I’m not that same person anymore.
What does this have to do with a bookshelf?
This is also a great question. As I mentioned above, I’ve always thought of my life as a bookshelf that holds the books documenting my life. One can look at this viewpoint and be horrified at certain books or chapters, while also being proud of others. That’s life. What we do, what we say, how we act, and who we are is written permanently on the pages of that chapter of our life. We can’t change the chapters . . . they’re already written. We can’t even change some of the books. But what we can change are the pages unwritten.
If you drill down even deeper, I think it could be said that the ending of each of our books can even be unwritten. I suppose that’s true if your book hasn’t been finished. But if you look at the past, I think you’d agree that most of the chapters and books have been already written, and once that happens you can’t unwrite them.
In keeping with the book analogy, I think it’s possible to have a “surprise ending”. Once you think the book is done . . . BOOM, the author surprises you with an unexpected alternate ending. There’s always that possibility for your life too. That’s the great thing about this analogy . . . you’re in total control.
Who’s in Control?
Let’s talk a moment about that last sentence. You’re in total control.
I think it’s easy to argue this point and look to ALL of the external forces that contribute to the outcomes of your life. I’d be a fool to think we live in a bubble and that other factors don’t control our life’s stories, but I will tell you that you have much more control than you often give yourself credit for.
In a world where we seem to be blaming others for our own problems, or are looking to others to point the finger at when our actions reap unwanted repercussions, we’ve forgotten that we’re in charge of one person in life. OURSELVES. Pointing the finger at others, and having them point it at another person, and then that person points back at you. Do you know what that’s called? It’s called a “FPFC”. It stands for “Finger Pointing F**K Circle”. Nothing gets accomplished, and nobody grows.
I’m not trying to get political, but I am saying we are responsible for our actions, and these actions are and will be permanently recorded in YOUR book and filed neatly on YOUR bookshelf. I’m proud to say that most of you reading this blog are in a chapter or story in a chapter of my book, sitting on my bookshelf. In fact, some of you may be in the book that’s still open and not yet finished.
When I put this analogy into real life, it makes me want to make better decisions, be kinder to others, and be present in every situation I can be.
The reason why I’m talking about chapters, books, and bookshelves now is because on the Anniversary of my wedding day, it reminds me that that was a book that’s been closed and filed on my bookshelf. Regardless of how things turned out between my ex and me, my wedding day was a great day.
It’s taking quite a bit of time and therapy to get to this point, but I’m proud to be here . . . and maybe that means this book is finally finished and put on my bookshelf.
My wedding day was one of my favorite days of my life. Definitely top 5. Those who know me, know how much I love to be surrounded by friends. Well, this day I was surrounded by all of them . . . and family too. It was a celebration. Everyone was happy. It was the start of a new life. Little did I know that it was only the start of a chapter. A chapter in a book that doesn’t have the greatest ending. But one that is the most important because it leads to my Kailyn.
Making Every Chapter Count
As I alluded to above, not every chapter is a happy one. In fact, not every book is happy either. But as with any series of books you read, you just hope that the main character doesn’t make the same mistake, over and over again. You hope that the story gets more exciting. That the character falls in love, and falls deeper in love as the book series progresses. You hope that the character grows emotionally, and that they learn to make better decisions.
This is the same as life. I try so hard to learn from the mistakes of the past and not make them again in the future. I try to learn from friendships in the past that failed, so that I can make better friends in the future. You see, the chapters and books of the past aren’t there to haunt you . . . they’re permanent record of what has been, so you can become who you should be.
I have too many people I know, who’s bookshelves ended way too early. Who’s shelves remain bare and unfinished. In my mind, I want to fill my bookshelf with as many happy stories as I can before my life’s over. I want to be proud of the majority of my books and chapters, and I want every one to count. No matter when my story is over, I want my books to be filled with good, kind words. I want those books to matter.
Published or Unpublished Books & Chapters
So the question becomes . . . if my life is a collection of books sitting on a shelf, is that bookshelf open to be read or not? I’ll tell you that my bookshelf is probably more like a “private library” than a public one. But I’d bet that it’s more public than most of yours.
When people say “My life’s an open book”, I think that they’re alluding to what I’m talking about. Nobody’s life is a total open book. We all have secrets that we keep to ourselves. Some of those secrets are etched into a chapter or chapters of books on our bookshelf.
I don’t mind sharing because I thrive on “community”. You may not, which is totally fine. But I share in the hopes it creates a connection. And I hope that connection creates a friendship. And I hope that friendship is lifelong.
My Marriage Book & Chapters
Like most marriage books, mine started out great. Keep in mind that your books are from your own perspective. My ex wife’s book is definitely from a different perspective than mine . . . and that’s ok. But it was the start of something great. Two young, business minded kids starting out their life. We had Kailyn and that’s the highlight of ANY book on my shelf. Again, like most marriages, I think that there are some great chapters of love and kindness, but there are also some REALLY dark chapters about divorce and custody battle.
I suppose in some way, this book will forever be open and still unwritten since we both share a child, but I consider this book closed and on the shelf. We’ve both moved on.
But I say this . . . to my ex wife who will probably never read this, but I know has friends that do . . . I’ll forever be grateful to have had you in my story. You gave me the one thing I didn’t know I needed in my life . . . and my Kailyn has forever changed me. She my favorite part about me, and if it takes a horror story of a book on my shelf to get this, I’ll gladly live it an infinite number of times again.
It’s interesting that when Kailyn tells me about things her mom says about me, they couldn’t be further off. I used to be upset about it, but I realized that my ex is still reading from and old book. One that’s collecting dust and sitting on a shelf on my bookshelf. I can’t blame her because that’s the last book she read, but the series of books in my life has gotten so much better. Honestly, I think 28yo ex-wife would like 45yo Ben much better than she did her husband when they got married. But that’s another blog about the importance of “timing“.
Read From The Right Chapters
But I think it highlights an important point about interacting with those who are in your books . . . make sure you’re reading from the right chapter. Not that you should forgive and forget. You DEFINITELY shouldn’t do that. In my apology you can’t forget, because it’s all recorded in a chapter, but I will say that some chapters have twists. Sometimes twists are a good thing.
When you’re face to face with someone (like I am on a weekly basis with my ex), make sure that you’re reading from the right chapter . . . regardless of what chapter they’re reading from.
With all of this being said . . . there are some bad books. And I’ve learned to walk away from them. Like turn them into Good Will and let them be someone else’s problem. :). After I got divorced, there is a long list of people that fall in this category, and I’m glad to have dropped them off and have never looked back. They’re still part of my story, and that can’t be changed. But I’ve moved on from having them around any future ones.
This is where my “glass 1/2 full mentality” kicks in. In some way, I always hope that in some serendipitous moment, the book will end up back in my hands and all will be right. But I think that’s just in the movies. I’ve often been told that people take advantage of me because of my kindness. And my response is always,
“I’d rather get burned over and over again while being kind, than miss an opportunity to be friends with someone who enhances my family and/or my life.”
I’ll stand by that statement any day of the week!
How Do You Know The Book Is Finished?
That’s the $1,000,000 question, isn’t it? If I had that answer, I could have saved myself a LOT of heartache. I think that some books never completely get finished. And I think that some get finished, and then filed away forever. But I think the answer to this question is really up to you.
I have some friends who are great at finishing up their book, putting it on their shelf and never look back. I’m NOT that way. I’m nostalgic and often like to take a trip down memory lane by reading old chapters. I even enjoy reading the not so great books, to remind me of how far I’ve come.
I even think there are sometimes multiple books open at the same time. Maybe a book on your career, one on your family, one on your mental health, and one on just you. There are no rules to this analogy. But by putting our decisions, actions, and outcomes into “books”, I’ve found it helps me organize my thoughts and feelings when life just felt too abstract. It gave/gives me construct to something that has none. It really has helped me to deal with certain relationships, and then close the lid and move to the next chapter.
The Next Chapters
Ok, time to wrap this up. It’s time for me to continue my journey through my current chapter of my life. I’ll say right now my chapter is going pretty well. I’ve got my mom living here in Vegas with me, my daughter is a healthy 11yo., work is going well, my friends are are well, and there’s very little drama in my world. There is only one piece left open . . . my love life. And I’m not in any hurry to start that chapter. The love life chapters in my life haven’t ended so well.
But taking a page out of my own book, I can’t be afraid to look. As they say in the stock market, “past performance is not indicative of future results”. Thank the lord for that.
What does your bookshelf look like? I like to think of my organized by color, neatly organized, and about 1/2 full. Is yours organized . . . deliberately put in order? Or is yours messy and disorganized? It’s never too late to do a little spring cleaning and get it looking like you want/need it to look. It’s never too late to close out some chapters, dust off some old books, or start writing new ones.
SOOOOOO . . . thanks for taking time to read through this. I hope you, your family, and your loved ones are safe, happy, and healthy during these times. I hope that the current chapter in your book is a good one, and that we’ll appear in each other’s books in the near future. Ok, enough analogies for now. Take care!
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