Developing My Narrative Arc

In Paul Murray’s novel Skippy Dies, there’s a point where the main character, Howard, has an existential crisis.“‘It’s just not how I expected my life would be,'” he says.

“‘What did you expect?’” a friend responds.

“Howard ponders this. ‘I suppose—this sounds stupid, but I suppose I thought there’d be more of a narrative arc.”
Source: Story of My Life

As I work with the Inner Child Tarot cards I have become aware that while the facts of someone’s life, presented end to end, might not much resemble a narrative to the outside observer, the way we choose to tell the stories of our lives, to others and—crucially—to themselves, almost always does have a narrative arc. In telling the story of how you became who you are, and of who you’re on your way to becoming, the story itself becomes a part of who you are.

This was particularly obvious when I took a photo of my parents and asked my inner child to help me tell a different version to the narrative that has dominated.

In the realm of narrative psychology, a person’s life story is not a Wikipedia biography of the facts and events of a life, but rather the way a person integrates those facts and events internally—picks them apart and weaves them back together to make meaning.

“Life is incredibly complex, there are lots of things going on in our environment and in our lives at all times, and in order to hold onto our experience, we need to make meaning out of it,”

As I looked at this card a wave of emotion engulfed me. At the time this photo was taken my parents were retired and enjoying a period of stability. They finally had their own home and were actively involved in their local golf club. Life was not always so peaceful for them and my memory of the conflict, the raw emotions has coloured my view.

Seeing this helps me to adapt my story, develop a narrative arc by acknowledging that whatever their faults, my parents were, indisputably, guardians of my intellect and creativity. They made sacrifices to ensure I reached my potential and I will always be grateful for this.

Perhaps you will engage your inner child to help you make adjustments to the narrative you tell.

Memoir Writing

When I offer Memoir Writing classes I adopt a jigsaw puzzle approach. Each journal activity helps us, not only pick the long rusted locks that protect things we have stored in lock proof places, but enables us to make a piece that will form the completed puzzle. When you add tarot to this practice as a source of inspiration, you enter a vivid landscape of images, symbols, depicted scenarios, people cards, and archetypal energies.

In this session we began by drawing with our non dominant hand. Participants could choose to draw a childhood room, their neighbourhood, a route they walked to school, places where they played. We drew, using crayons, for ten minutes.

Then we wrote, using our dominant hands for another ten minutes. We wrote notes, phrases, words and posed any questions. I found asking myself what it was that I was choosing not to remember. It was at this point I drew an Inner Child Card for clarification.

I cannot deny that I resisted the two of swords when it appeared but there was no doubt that it confronted me with a reality. As a child it sometimes felt like I was in a duel as I strived to maintain harmony.

The second card was drawn by a participant to help clarify what she was also choosing to forget.

Drawing this card draws out memories from behind a tightly locked door and provides me wth the opportunity to spend at least 20 minutes journal writing.