Don’t be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others. Unfold your own myth. Rumi
Several weeks ago, I stood up in front of a group of friends and shared my feelings about the importance of finding common ground in the community. It was an impassioned, stirring (when not muffled by tears) speech but when I sat down, I wondered – why did I do that? Why did I share my intimate, rather raw, ideas and feelings?
Just days later, my friend Jane, told me she’d had a similar why did I do that? moment. She had just finished writing the manuscript for a book titled I Am a Mother and sent it off to her publisher Deseret Book. In the book, Jane tells true, sometimes uncomfortable stories about herself and her family, all in the service of her message about motherhood. But the price she pays to share this message is opening up her life to, potentially, hundreds of thousands of people. And opening up, whether Jane, or you or me, often cues feelings of embarrassment and vulnerability.
I’m finding though, that opening up — and feeling vulnerable — is also a cue that we’re sharing something meaningful, an experience perhaps, or lesson learned. And because we as women instinctively want to help another, we choose to leave our comfortable place, to reveal ourselves, and tell our stories.
And in turn, we help ourselves.
It has been said by a number of psychologists who study recovery from trauma that mourning without empathy leads to madness, and that the person who suffers loss must be able to give testimony to someone as a way of working-through and learning from this loss. We often think of loss of a marriage or a loved one, but there is also the loss of a friend, our spry young bodies, or lost opportunities that need to be acknowledged. We often don’t give voice to these losses because we think they aren’t big enough to mourn. But they are. Just because they are universal doesn’t make them any less individual or personal.
As we give voice to these experiences, whether through words, scrapbooking, painting, song, or other expression, we will experience the catharsis that comes with giving testimony, and our experience gains power, and can influence people's lives, whether the women with whom we are daring to dream, or our daughters.
To date, I have mostly expressed my experiences and made meaning of my life through personal essays and children’s stories, but because of my friend Kathleen's exquisite photography, I find myself more and more drawn to images as a means of telling stories. And, then there are the voice lessons that I am taking…
Have I published anything? Nope. Have I been paid for my stories? No….
In his book, The Gift of Stories, Robert Atkinson writes:
Stories gather up parts of us and put them together in a way that gives our lives greater meaning than they had before we told our story. The ability to see our life as a comprehensible story is a key to our happiness. And, it may well be that we leave no greater legacy than the story of our life.
What better story, whether through word, song, or painting, can we tell our daughters than this: that we have dared to dream and, in doing so, we have discovered more of who we are.
What story will you tell this year?
Will you paint, take pictures, scrapbook, compose a song, write an essay, a poem, write a book like Jane, or start a blog? Or something else entirely?