Today two different noticings have really caught my attention. Right now I can't see a connection. Maybe more will be revealed as I go through the day.
First, everywhere I've turned today I've heard the phrase, "tell your story" in some form or another. I really feel this has become my new mantra. Well, not new, exactly, but up there in the front of my consciousness. Terri wrote about Story Corps on her blog. Alana's interviews are basically about people sharing their grief/loss stories. And I saw a video about a B-29 flyover at the funeral of a WWII navigator. How his time in the military had played such an important roll in his life, and that of his children, grands and great-grands. It reminded me of a man from church who passed away last month. I'd known him for several years, though not really known him at all til I looked at pictures of his life a couple weeks before he passed away. He too had been a pilot in WWII.
Most of the people I know like to read. Some are great storytellers - fiction and non-fiction. Others create life stories through art. But I don't know too many people who's lives are an open book, who open up and tell their story. I wonder, is that because we've been taught it's egotistical or braggadocious to talk about ourselves? Is it better to keep our losses, griefs, fears, under lock and key and only tell the joyful stories? I'd be the first one to admit that there are journals full of my unshared parts of my life story. They had to come out somehow, somewhere. Many have been shared nowhere except the safety of a trusted therapist's office. As I've gotten braver, more comfortable with my own truth, I've been able to share them in writing and in person. Next week I'm going to read a story about one of my least favorite vacations.
Over the years, I've told the story with anger oozing from every pore. I've told it with tears running down my face. I've told it with humor. The real story had all those emotions and more. What I've learned with the version I'll share next week, is that in the years since it's happened, I've grown. The story is true, and painful, but it no longer holds me captive, stuck in that VW feeling depressed and furious. Yes some not so fun things happened. Yes, it might very well have been the beginning of the end of my marriage. But with 20/20 hindsight I can hold on to some of the beautiful memories to. Better than that I can admit there were beautiful memories. Along life's highways, there are straight roads that get you from place a to place b. But there are also winding, curvy roads, rain slicked roads, roads that hidden roads that take you to surprise places and there are roads that lead you home even when you didn't know that's where you were headed.
That's what a good story does. Takes you to those places, and leads you home.I think it's important to tell those stories, over and over again, embellishing where you want, adding new truth's as you become aware of them, before you're lying on your deathbed, or sitting in a wheelchair at the door to a nursing home.
My writing coach has many great suggestions to her friends and clients. One of my favorites is to keep a place on a bookshelf ready for the book(s) you will one day have published. Write it and it will come. The other is to take your first publishing paycheck and buy yourself something really special. Last week I ordered a necklace from an artist I found on FB. It has multi-colored beads on it, and a charm that says, "tell your story." Every time I wear it I will be reminded that stories are important. Your story and my story. It will remind me to ask you about yours, and be willing to tell you mine. Maybe in that way, the walls and barriers, that we have built up against each other will come tumbling down. Maybe we'll discover we all walk in the same sized moccasins. We just take different roads to get to the same place.
When I went to visit Mary today, she was sitting up in a wheelchair, facing a tray full of whatever the lunch du jour was - pot roast and rice, I think, with carrots. She did not look happy, or hungry. But she was out of bed, in a chair which is a major change from when I saw her last. While Mary struggled with the hard-to-chew meat I watched what was going on across the room. An therapist, and two family members were doing their best to get a rather large woman in a wheelchair to do some menial task - move a ball from hole to a basket, of some such thing. I'm guess the woman had suffered a stroke. I didn't hear her speak. And it was obvious she was not interested in doing the task. I think she'd dug in her heels and was displaying the only control she had left in her life. Whether or not to move a stupid ball.
Now I know that in order for people to get out of rehab, and hopefully get back home, there is lots of hard, painful and stupid stuff they have to do. Even Mary admitted today that she understands why they keep pushing her, even though she wished they'd just do their job and shut up. I wonder if that's what was bothering the other woman. The way people were talking to her, like a child. I am guilty of doing the same thing. I nearly did a somersault - okay, maybe just jump and down - when I saw Mary in the chair. I'm all about high fiving and "good girling." It's one thing to do that with a kid, but with an adult woman who is aware she can't move a ball from here to there, I can only imagine the scream inside that can't come out. Is there a happy medium? Does encouraging and cajoling have to be condescending?
I also noticed as Mary carefully used both hands to pick up her glass of pink lemonade. They looked so fragile. I saw the same thing when Bella reached for a book. The fact that I'm spending lots of time with two friends at both ends of the age spectrum and how much alike their challenges are, has not escaped me. Both of them smiled big "glad to see you smiles" at me when I walked into their line of vision. Be still my heart.
What's your story? Want to share?