Today I wanna talk about stories. Margaret Atwood is one of my favorite authors, and she has a great quote from a book that she wrote called Moral Disorder that is, “In the end we’ll all become stories.”
And, I think it’s a really, really nice lens to put over how we function as people, because stories are integral to our perception of selves, our perception of others, our perception of events. In those perceptions we are dealing with creating a seamlessness between the past, and the present, and the future.
History is recorded with all of the biased and emotional overlay, and investment that we put into how we want to remember something. And, the present is a story that involves coordination of what’s happening for us in real time, and the future is where our imagination lives. It’s that place where we can explore the stories of how we would like things to be.
Now, an interesting thing about trauma and grief is that it really robs you of your capacity to imagine a future story, because the loss is so great, and the emotional eclipse is so powerful. There’s a fearfulness about losing a connection to the past, and an unwillingness to drag yourself into the present. The most challenging role I had as a storyteller in my life was when I gave the eulogy at my husband’s funeral.
I didn’t write it until very late at night, the night before the funeral. I was kind of avoiding the exercise, because I didn’t know where to start. How was I going to create an impression? Tell a story about this man who I loved so much in such a brief period of time?
And, I settled into the feeling of Matt. I was still in a state of trauma over his death, and that was very much the story that I was caught in, in the present, but the story of his death was apparent. We were there at a funeral. It wasn’t something that needed any explanation.
It was a story of his life that really needed to be explored, and I really focused on, and concentrated on the way he lived his life, what he bore to life, and what he understood life to be. I realized when somebody dies young suddenly there’s a lot of shock involved, especially for people that haven’t seen someone in a while, which can happen, because we all live very busy lives.
That I wanted to serve a reminder to everybody about the spirit of Matt, and leave them with some stories that were going to help them understand what gifts his friendship gave them. And, later on at the wake it was interesting, we kind of formed this make [inaudible 00:03:26] circle unwittingly, and everybody kind of offered up their experience of Matt, and there are a lot there that I hadn’t known, but the one prevailing thing that came through was how kind he was, that he lived a life in kindness, and it was very, very important to bring those stories to light, especially at a time when I was still looking for answers to questions about his death.
So, narrative, as we know is something that humans use. It’s a tool that we employ to create coherence in our lives, and it’s how we connect. It’s where we exchange information and ideas. It’s fundamental to who we are, and without the ability to communicate we are so isolated, and I’m telling you this firsthand, because our daughter was essentially non-verbal until she was maybe eight.
She said some words, but really, really struggled. Although she was really fascinated by other stories, by videos, and books, and listened to conversations, there was an inner world there that couldn’t be pushed out of, because she didn’t have the faculty of language, and it was very tricky as a parent to deal with this silence of no story, really. I mean, there was an apparent story.
There was one I could piece together, but it’s still nobody else lives in your mind, or your heart. You’re the only one that can tell the story from your mind and your heart. Anyway, to cut a long story short, that’s an interesting expression we use all the time, isn’t it? Because, we want to create a coherent soundbite to bring the history to the present, which is what I’m doing now.
Our daughter was diagnosed with a seizure disorder when she was nine, and she was put on a medication that stopped those seizures, and I believe that she had been having them her whole life that she’d been having these tiny little mini seizures that were undetectable to the human eye, and that this was what had robbed her of the ability to tell her story. And, after she started on the medication her language exploded.
It just, was like discovering a whole new country inside my child I had no idea that there was all of this observation, and perception within this little girl, and I’d certainly underestimated what she was paying attention to, because she was paying attention to everything.
Our stories have a lot of power. Part of grief is losing the ability to access a lot of memory, which means our stories become limited, and we often get caught in the story of the death, and lose site in the story of the life. In the same way when a relationship ends, and it’s hugely traumatic, whether it’s through death, or divorce, or a breakup, we tend to create a lot of negative narrative around that event, so we can keep ourselves afloat, and it devalues whatever it was in that experience.
There was obviously a purpose and a reason why you were in that relationship, and you definitely learn things along the way, whether it lasted or not. It’s part of your lived experience, and it’s important to take time to build the narrative in a way where you can appreciate both the positives, and the negatives in your story about that relationship.
We define our stories to each other, and in doing that we create a place for ourselves in the world, and, remember, your story can change. It doesn’t have to stay the same, and as much as other people might want to enforce a specific narrative on you, especially if you are widowed, or divorced, that’s their story. It doesn’t have to be your story. This is your story, and you get to be the author of your own life. That’s it for me today.
Thanks for your time and your attention, and if you like what you’re listening to please subscribe below. Leave a comment in the section below if you’d like to. I’ll try, and get back to people if I can, and I look forward to speaking to you in the next video. Bye.