Stories make up the latticed marrow of my bones. I want my stories flushed out for the world to see in their flaws and imperfections, their laughter, their divinity, and in the miraculous order that somehow emerges in retrospect.
Stories are everything. I can say “I feel scared” and I can say “I feel brave” all in the same breath, and in the logical realm these statements don’t make sense together. But in stories, and in real life, they can – fear and courage can swirl around our beings and flutter in our stomachs, dripping together all at once. Stories have healed everything I have ever known.
Stories are the DNA of our job interviews, our political leanings, our relationships, and other disasters in between. Stories are our smiling family photos and the truth behind those photos.
Stories are the difference between “I am loved” and “There is nothing to live for.” Stories are the difference between “All people are created equal” and “Those people are not like us.” Stories are the difference between “Why are my hard-earned tax dollars going to those other people?” and “Thank God for this assistance so I can feed my child today.”
Stories are a salve for the soul. Stories say “I experienced this and survived, and my life is important enough to repeat to you now.”
Stories have power. Stories can be used for gossip and complaining, for tearing people down, for starting a rumor in school that will hurl someone into therapy throughout adulthood. Stories can heal our spirits or crush our self-esteem into the ground.
We are always telling our stories, from our internal self-talk to the beloved family myths we repeat at every holiday gathering. And in a time warp, the way we decide to tell our stories from our past gnarl their influence on our present lives.
Tell me about a time when someone didn’t value you like you thought they should. Tell it with gusto, like you were just abruptly reminded of this incident. Re-enact the parts that infuriated you. Feel your heart rate beat double-time, and remember just how deeply wronged you were.
Pretend like you were retelling this to someone who had never met the offender, someone who would need you to describe the personalities and circumstances of the situation.
Listen to your words – compassionately and without judging yourself. Listen to the characterizations you use – the roles of each person in the story. Listen to the backstory you chose to tell or leave out.
Is there a reason that you choose to tell the story in this way today? Or is this just how you always tell it and reflect on it?
Do you retell this story often? In what kinds of situations?
How would it feel to retell the story of that same incident… but from the other person’s perspective?
How important is that story? How would it feel to let the entire thing go and spend your breath telling different stories instead?
We get stuck in the hamster-wheel stories that we repeat to ourselves, to the point that we no longer allow enough room for Life to open up to us. But by diving into the ways that we speak to ourselves through story, we can begin to listen for what the experiences of our lives can teach us.
I am not talking about repressing the messy details of our stories. I am not talking about denial. I am talking about owning our stories, exploring what these stories can reveal to us in the present, and then kissing some of them goodbye if they no longer serve us. I am talking about choosing to tell a different story.
In the retelling of our stories, we decide our future. Our vibrations physically adjust based on the stories we tell – in the retelling, the stories leap forward in time to direct our decisions. Stories are “Follow your heart!” and stories are “Remember what happened when that one guy quit his day job? Do you want to turn out like him?” and stories are the life decisions that result from which story we choose.
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A related announcement: I intend to teach a group workshop in autumn 2013 about storytelling and self-discovery, filled with laughter and a safe space and the slow unfurling of our creative spirits.
The content of the workshop has already been daydreamed in fragments, and soon I will begin piecing the structure together along with looking for a space to hold it. Somewhere in or near Naperville/Chicago at first, but I would also like to do another online group workshop to allow people from all over to participate.
More details to come on this new endeavor – my facebook page will have updates as they unfold – and until then, I invite you to share your thoughts and stories in the comments section!
Love & Pencils & Juicy Rememberings,