Everyone has a story.
For years, I felt like because I lived an adventurous life, a different life than most people I grew up with, somehow my story was better.
They say with age comes wisdom. With age, I can see that my story isn’t better than anyone else’s. It might be different, but it isn’t better.
It’s just my story.
Everyone has their story. And their story, their journey, their choices, their adventures (big and small) and how they handled them, their family history, their baggage they carry with them, are all part of their story. And what beliefs they bought into along the way is a big part of their story too.
A few weeks ago, I undertook training through our local palliative care office to be a ‘Life Stories’ volunteer. These are volunteers who sit with clients who have been diagnosed with a life limiting illness for an hour each week. The clients tell us their life story and we record it for them and transcribe it into a book for them to give to their family.
In the training, it was reinforced to us that is less about the outcome and more about the process. Time and time again the process has been shown to heal emotional hurt and provide peace for the client – in most cases helping them be ready for their transition out of this lifetime.
I am seeing this process as I work with my Dad. Days after my training course, I flew to the US to spend some time with my parents and on a whim, packed my Life Stories recording equipment. My first evening at my parents’ house I mentioned it to my dad and he lit up like a Christmas tree. ‘I thought my story would die with me,’ he said. ‘But if you could record it, that would be wonderful.’
We made a start over the two weeks I was with them and will continue the process in November when I visit again. I can see how it is helping him as he reminisces and tells his story.
My dad is a quiet man. I’ve never heard him talk non-stop for an hour before these sessions. I love hearing the stories and it is obvious that he loves telling them. It’s therapeutic for him as he is reflecting back on his life.
But it has reminded me that we all have stories to tell.
While I was visiting my parents a few of my high school classmates contacted me and we went out for dinner one night. Most of the group I hadn’t seen since graduation day more than 30 years ago. To be honest, I hadn’t been close to most of them in high school. They were mainly the popular girls. And I definitely wasn’t one of them. But I went along for dinner and I’m glad I did.
As I sat there hearing about what has happened to all of them over the intervening 30 years I was struck again by how we all have a story. And how each choice we make, each day – how we decide to show up in the world – informs our story over a lifetime.
One friend at dinner announced proudly that she has lived on the same road her whole life. She moved between three houses on the same road as different stages of her life unfolded. I was astonished by this as I’ve lost count of the number of places I’ve lived. I was fascinated and wanted to spend more time with her and ask her more questions about her life and the choices she’s made. She seemed content and happy and grateful for the life she has. I wanted to hear more.
Another lost her brother years ago and his death has affected everyone in her family in differing ways. Again, I wanted to hear more from her about how they were all coping and what gifts they had received through the experience as it felt to me as if there had been some great ones amongst the sadness.
A third was going through a divorce after 28 years of marriage and I felt for her. I wanted to sit for hours with her to hear her story, compare notes and help each other where we could. She told me at the end of the evening that she thought I was one of the bravest people she knew. But I feel she’s just as brave as me (or even more so) from the little bit of her story I discovered that evening.
And yet another is going through a transition many of my friends are going through – that of having their kids leave home and becoming an empty nester. This woman is strong and smart and brave but questioning now, as many do, where to from here? How does she show up in a world where the main job she’s held for so long, that of mother, is no longer her main occupation?
As I sat and talked with these women and others over dinner, I chuckled to myself. In high school, I felt as if I was so different to all of them. So much of the time I felt l was a round peg in a square hole. But with time and experience and hindsight, I see we are all more similar than we are different.
We all have stories to tell.
We are all still writing our life stories.
I’ve just finished reading Brené Brown’s Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone. In this book, she talks about stories and how ALL stories matter, not just the ones that end up in history books.
For me, telling my story through this blog helps me. But I know it also helps others who read it because many people tell me so. With every post, I receive at least one comment on the blog, a text, email or phone call from someone who read it and it resonated with them.
I also tell my story openly and share my passions, my failures, my disappointments, my fears and my accomplishments with my daughters. As they are starting out on their life journey, I feel it is important for me to role model to them what living your truth looks like.
Their stories will be very different to mine. As mine is so different to my dad’s. And their stories will be different from each other’s despite being siblings, being close, being girls and being raised by the same mum. I hope I’m giving them the tools to believe in themselves and own who they are.
In Braving the Wilderness, Brené interviewed Oscar winning actor Viola Davis who says, ‘We are all worthy of telling our stories and having them heard. We all need to be seen and honoured in the same way that we all need to breathe.’
I love this quote. It reminds me to stop and listen to others and not just think about my own story. It’s by telling our stories, and having them heard, that we find true belonging and meaning in life.