Your Story Matters

We make sense of the world through stories.

I grew up in a church with a very talented pastor. Although I hated sitting through most of the Sunday morning service with its words that were meaningless to me at the time and the repetition that dulled my senses, I always looked forward to the fifteen minutes that held the sermon.

Because it wasn’t a lecture. It wasn’t a speech.

It was a story.

Sometimes the story came straight from the scripture, the language massaged into a more modern vernacular and the characters brought to life.

But more often, it was a story straight from the pastor’s life. And as his words flowed, rising and falling as they filled the sanctuary, my mind would begin to process and anticipate and question. Although he was the only one speaking, the story created a dialog. We were not merely listeners; we were participants.

Every Sunday, I would travel with the pastor’s words. I would straddle the place between his story and my own. Pulling pieces from my own experience to make sense of the one he was relating. It always felt as though he was speaking just to me because every narrative spoke directly to something I could understand.

Because that’s what stories do.

One of the greatest gifts of stories is that they are inclusive. By their very nature, they invite everyone in by weaving a narrative that everyone can follow. A good storyteller can make you feel like a first-time father even when you’re a little girl or put you in the shoes of a desert nomad when you’ve never left your hometown.

Because even though the details of the stories differ, gifted storytellers understand that the threads creating the stories all come from the same cloth. All stories – from Dr. Suess to Dr. Martin Luther King – speak of struggle and triumph, love and loss, growth and stagnation, adventure and return, creation and destruction, hope and despair. And above all, the triumph of the human spirit and the importance of building relationships with ourselves, others and the world as a whole.

I heard a wonderful interview on NPR the other day with the noted storyteller Mama Koku. The show’s host asked her if it was difficult to craft a story for children that touched on difficult topics. “Not at all,” Mama Koku responded. She explained that most stories use allegory to tiptoe up on more challenging topics and that children are experts (even better than adults) at reading the subtext and pulling out the deeper meaning. She discussed the stories of Br’er Rabbit, which are based upon slavery and used to pass along the message that even those that appear powerless often have more power than they realize.

And stories often have more power than we realize.

We have evolved to remember through stories. Scientists have found that people can remember many more facts when they are woven into a story than when they are delivered in isolation. The best teachers know this, telling tales about their subject matter. Creating characters, action, crisis and resolution.

But our brains don’t only yearn for stories to help us remember.

Stories also help us understand.

Our brains hate isolated pieces of information as much as someone with OCD despises an unfinished puzzle. Our minds demand that the new information be placed within an existing narrative framework. We want to understand.

And the narrative we choose changes our understanding.

You can see this play out every day if you’re observant. Listen to a segment on MSNBC about some recent event. And then watch the complimentary segment on Fox News. The event is the same, but the narratives create very different meanings as causes are assigned, language is chosen and the story is fleshed out. You can see it in your friends and acquaintances and how they view similar life events through very different lenses. Maybe you can see it in yourself and your siblings, the narratives you crafted above yourselves as children following you into adulthood.

Stories provide clarity.

It’s difficult (if not impossible) to see ourselves or a situation we are involved in with complete clarity. We are simply too close to gain perspective. Sometimes it’s easier to see yourself in a reflection.

Much like Mama Koku uses her voice to tell children how powerful they are, use your story to tell yourself how powerful you are.

Your story matters.

First and foremost, it matters for you. Do you continue to weave tales from the threads of past traumas? It’s easy to do. Whenever I sense a distance in my husband, the first yarn my brain spins is one of abandonment. It fits the current information into an old template. An incorrect template. And simply by choosing a different narrative, I can change my entire viewpoint and settle my panicking brain.

Do your narratives place you in a victim role? Do they speak of bad events pummeling your helpless body like meteors falling to earth? Or, do the stories you build around life events view struggles as obstacles that build strength even as they build tension?

Your story matters.

You cannot choose what happens to you. But you can chose how you view it and, in turn, how you respond. Zoom out from the bad event. How do you want that to fit into the bigger picture? What purpose will it serve? What lessons will it impart? If it was a children’s tale being delivered by Mama Koku, what core truth would it reveal?

Your brain will choose a narrative regardless of what you do. But don’t you want to have influence over the choice? After all, it’s your life you’re talking about.

Your story matters.

Perhaps more than you even realize. Because even without intending to, we pass down our stories to our friends, our families. Our children.

And much like the small version of myself learning about the nature of the world and my place (and power) in it from the hard pew of my childhood church, your story is teaching those around you.

Yes, your story matters.

Make it a good one.

Thank you for sharing!

2 thoughts on “Your Story Matters

  1. SassaFrassTheFeisty – Indianapolis, IN – I'm a mother of two-mostly amazing-kids. This is my journey towards healing from the ruin of my marriage and 10 year relationship to my kid's "dad", my stories of dealing with really good and really bad days, learning to cope and move on. I have been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder 1 with mania and ADHD-look! Something shiny!!-and Postpartum Depression. I love completely and passionately. Just don't piss me off, because I'll burn that bridge-and I'll stand on it and watch the flames consume everything. Sass 101 First-As my name suggests I am a Feisty Lil Thang. I tell it like it is. It is no holds barred on my blog. If you expect fluffy puppies, rainbows and sunshine, exit Stage Right because it ain't gonna be here. If you expect no cussing and positivity, and that I pray to a God or deity, exit Stage Left. That's not here either. What's here is real, honest, raw and truthful. This is my journey through the last 18 months from the separation of my husband and the JOYOUS roller coaster my family has been on. Oh yes, I did forget to mention-I am a sarcastic quick witted one. Sasscasm is trademarked by the ever Butch Blah. Don't mess with her Dragon, he eats assholes for breakfast. We have a tribe here that is very exclusive-seriously. If you're lucky enough to enter, you are worthy enough to partake in our Femme Speak. If not, just nod your head yes, and move on. I have Bipolar 1 with mania and I cycle into depression 2 times a year. This year has been an exception to the rule considering this year has just been shit. I've been to my local psych hospital twice in less than 10 months-once for depression, once for a psychotic episode resulting from over medication. YAY! Piss on that shit. If it hadn't been for Blah, I never would have gone. Thank you Blah. I lurve you! I have 2 kids-a boy I call NSLM-Not So Little Man-because Anxious Mom has her LM. Didn't want to steal her LM's thunder :) And I have a daughter referred to as Monkey-it's self explanatory. They are also referred to as my Heathens-yes I can call them that because I gave birth to them, I know them and they act like Heathens at times-just thank the Good Lord they aren't Hellians or I'd be in jail. I have an almost 5 year old purebred Red and Black German Shepherd named May-she's momma's baby, and Monkey is on her THRID guinea pig in about a year-thank her dad for that one. This one is S'mores and he's a wheeker and fat and fluffy. My kids and I live with my parents, because I'm not stable or healthy enough to work and live on my own. I have FINALLY found my magic pill cocktail-for now-and I have clarity for the first time in my life. I no longer use the word "stable" I use baseline. I've been on a lot of meds over the years, and since the last med I was on and overmedicated I have become med sensitive-SUPER YAY. I'm good at recognizing side effects and can tweak a med time better than a dr. Not cocky, just fact. I'm that in tune with my body. I'm also very emotionally charged. My emotions have always ruled my decisions, and I don't see that changing, but I am now better to stop and think things through before making a decision-some of the time. I'm mouthy, but I have a huge heart of gold, and I get hurt easily. And when I talk about people on here in my life off of WordPress they get their own special nicknames. DB-Douchebag. BBFL-Best Bitch For Life-My best friend in Alaska that I HOPE I get to see soon. EG-English Gentleman-a guy that I've bee talking to for a year that lives near Scotland and is on an 8 month trip around the world, and will be stateside in January. I can't wait to meet him in person! Cute Neighbor Guy. There were two guys that were named for the states they lived in, and I think I've deleted everything about Florida but the last post-Thank you Andrew for the title, you brilliant dictionary, you. Then there are my most supportive friends here: Anxious Mom, Andi, Zoe, Diane, Morgue, Blah, Chris, Sparkly Pants ;) Victo, Tessa, Bipolarfirst, bp7o9, Vic, Kitt, Leslie, and my newest BUDDY Andrew. I know I've forgotten some people and I SERIOUSLY apologize given the state of my brain haze, I hope you don't hate me!! I know you don't, I'm just overly dramatic. No I'm not...yeah, yes I am. ;) So, if you can't handle my sarcastic tongue and my cursing that can make sailors blush, the lobby exit is in the top right corner with a little X. That being said, I hope you new arrivals aren't just looking for blogs for numbers-this isn't that kind of blog. And I rather like interactive people on my little slice of the crazy pie-well, more like peach cobbler because it's my favorite but ANYWAY. I don't follow back just because you follow me. I may not be too picky about my food, but I'm picky about my men and the blogs I follow. With that, I shall bid you Welcome to Sasstopia, and may you stay to be among my Sassafrains. Reggie my Pegacorn is tethered out back as he doesn't do well with new people. I shall be shining my spork launcher on the table, next to my melon baller and grapefruit spoon all soaked in syphilis. If you have any questions, fucking ask. I don't do vague. LOVE YOU! <3
    sassafrassthefeisty says:

    Reblogged this on SassaFrass, The Feisty and commented:
    I’m choosing My Story and I’m making it MATTER

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