Wednesday, January 11, 2012

31 Writers, 31 Lessons-Lesson 11: Life Stories Can Be Changed

I was recently asked by a woman who works with people’s money histories what the two most influential experiences were that affected me the most while growing up regarding ‘money’.

Several instances came to mind, but the one that stuck out the most was my memory of the chocolate bunny. I’d told my husband this story several times over the years. It was time to tell this story again and so I related to her the story that had affected my life view in such a profound way. I had carried this story with me since childhood.

I was in Grade One or Two. Seven miles from our farm was the Co-op store and the small school I attended (3 grades in one room with one teacher) was across the road from it. Nothing but grain fields surrounded the store. This was a small country store where the local farm folk would come for groceries, household items and gasoline. Easter was coming and one day I saw in the store high on the shelf a large chocolate bunny wrapped in beautiful colored foil; pastel pinks, blues, greens and gold. I wanted this bunny and had been learning in school about numbers and money. I knew if I saved I could have this bunny and I was proud that I could calculate and save to buy it. It was a big undertaking and I told my older sister about my plan. I told her I had saved 13 cents plus 9 cents to make the total. I remember the price was $1.39. She questioned me on my math, but I was certain of the price and, since she hadn’t seen the bunny or the price, gave in to my calculations. I asked if she would go with me that week to the store so I could purchase the bunny.

Today was the day. We headed out at lunch time across the country gravel road to the store. It was cold and windy – as early Spring on the prairies can be. The store was quiet thankfully, and my sister said she’d wait in the candy area at the front. Down the aisle I went for the precious bunny that awaited me. No one had bought it! I gently took the bunny from the shelf, walked to the front and placed it on the counter. I took my carefully counted money and laid it on the counter. The nice young man behind the counter counted the coins and said to me in a kind voice, “Oh, I don’t think you have enough”. I froze. “How could this be?“ I said to myself in disbelief. I was embarrassed and humiliated to my very core. I quietly left the store without the chocolate bunny. How could I make such a mistake? I had been so certain! For shame! And shame it was. My belief at that moment was: “I can’t have what I want. I’m not good with money. You see - this is proof”! And so I created a belief driven by shame and lived out this belief in many ways over the years.

How could I change a belief that had become so much a part of me? My money coach told me that the way to change it was to name it as ‘story’ rather than ‘truth.’ I was to change it from the belief that “I’ll never have what I want,” by relabeling it as ‘story’. For several months when I found myself in thoughts of deprivation, I was to say to myself, “The story I tell myself is ‘I’ll never have what I want’”. After several months it would gradually shift from ‘truth’ to ‘story’. And when it became a story, I could then change it. I couldn’t change the story of a lifetime by simply willing it away. If it were that easy I’d have changed it years ago. It was time to let go of the old story. I was grateful for the insight that I’d be able to change the story; change it to a new and different one – a story that would support the ‘me’ I had deserved all along.

Kathleen O'Grady is a clothing designer who loves beautiful textiles. She received her training in clothing and surface design at Capilano Community College and Vancouver Community College, as well as the University of Washington. Kathleen lived in Greece for a year and then in Japan for two years during the 80’s where she was influenced by indigo-dyed textiles. Her line of clothing - grady bleu® is inspired by the rich history and tradition of indigo blue. Indigo blue is a natural dye that dates back centuries. In recent years, she has traveled in Southeast Asia, India and Africa seeking out naturally dyed textiles. Fabrics dyed with indigo are an important element of her line. You can find her at


  1. Absolutely LOVE it Kathleen! Thanks for sharing this story and reminding me that stories can change!

  2. Hi Katherine,
    I still go back and read this. It was so powerful - both the initial 'trauma' and then the 'un-doing'process. Of course my meditation practice has been profound, along with the insight of the money coach (whom I feel really helped to fast-track the process). I so loved being invited to share this on your blog. Thank you for the opportunity. Gratitude.

  3. Kathleen, as I read your story and saw what was coming, my mind kept trying to craft an ending that wouldn't shame you -- maybe the clerk would let you buy the bunny for your 22 cents, or maybe your sister would tell your parents and the bunny would be waiting for you on Easter morning.

    What a gift that you were able to see and name that belief as a story and rewrite it yourself. Your little girl has such luscious desires -- I can just see the pastel foil wrapping -- and a determination to fulfill them. Thanks for sharing this picture of her.