We Are The Stories We Tell
My beloved friends,
What a pleasure to meet up with you here in the Collective. I approach you in my favorite place… Words to a page; a story eager to unfold. We are the stories we tell. We are the writers of our lives. Yes, yes, you know, it’s trending. But do you know what story actually is? How it comes to be?
We rarely define the parts of story that make a full picture. We know story, because we be it, but we can’t quite hold onto it. We are too eager to get to the end. Or, worse, we want OUT of our story, but find no place to go. Story is a container we put our thoughts and feelings and happenings into so they can swirl around for meaning and growth and love and peace. So, if you’re willing to stick with me here, my hope is that you’ll find yourself wanting to go deeper into your story, so deep you’ll never want to get out again.
Breaking it down to the very simplest of elements, as I love to do, there are seven main components to story.
An Image of You Now.
This is that warning or perfect-feeling place you may or may not be paying attention to right now. It could be a beautiful snapshot of you creating a gorgeous floral arrangement in your new office, or tossing a new mound of clay onto the wheel, or making dinner reservations for you and your sweetheart. It is a literally a “before picture.” The image in our minds we always go back to when we start our stories. Just before “that” happened.
Where Things Are: The Essential Background.
This is where you are at in your life, as it relates to the image from the previous moment. You have a day job. But you want to do your art full time. You are dating, but you want to be married. You make mugs for your friends, but don’t sell them.
Inciting Incident: A Trigger. A Shock.
This is that moment when things change forever. The phone rings. Someone wants your photos for their gallery. A space has opened at the farmer’s market. Your lover wants to talk. You fall. You’re fired. You get an email from an old boyfriend.
No. Way. Will. I. Change. Leave me alone. I can’t do it.
This is where fear kicks in big time. We do the opposite of the opportunity before us. What if you fail? Or worse, succeed? Then what? You said yes to the gallery, but have no prints, no frames, and no money, and your confidence is running out the door. He asks you marry him, but you want to go to law school with your ex-boyfriend. An agent calls, he wants your manuscript, but you don’t send it so the agent can’t reject you. You know you need help, but can’t take it. We know better, but we sabotage ourselves anyway. It’s safer to fail, to keep it a hobby, to hide our words, and our longings.
Okay. What do I have to do?
At some point—sometimes within seconds, sometimes it takes decades—we shake off our fear enough to dip into the new life we wanted all along, only to discover we have a lot to learn. Not knowing everything is a good thing. This is the MIDDLE of your story. It is filled with messing up, losing, failing, and flailing until we learn what we need to, and develop our skills, our backbone, and let our confidence return to us in order to ready ourselves for permanent, lasting transformation.
No. Turning. Back. Now.
It wouldn’t stick if we didn’t have to fight for ourselves. There is inevitably one last BIG thing we have to overcome before we are triumphant. We have to apologize. We have to forgive. We have to let go of the old ways. We have to quit that job or take out that loan or leave someone or something behind that we don’t want to. Often this is the moment of certitude: I will not turn my back on my dream any longer. Nothing will stop me from making my art or marrying this man or healing these wounds or selling my work.
The New You Emerges
The dust settles and here is another moment, another blip of you as the new you. Where are you now? What do you look like? You send that manuscript. You greet guests at that exhibit opening. You walk down the aisle. You hug the person you forgave. Your body is not the same. Your mind is clear. Your heart is open. You are a new you.
Do you see your story? Where are you in yours? Maybe you’re nodding and realizing everything happens this way, as if it were part of our DNA. In this crazy, but outrageously fun world of Now! Now! Now!, we often only tell the first and last bits of our stories. But I’ve recently come to know that if we savor the middle we become our best story. To get to the end, we have to spend a big chunk of time in the middle of our story. But we hate it, and are ashamed to admit the crap that happens in the middle; so we begin a new story, leaving the old dream, the same old story, lingering. The middle is where we become the heroines and heroes of our own lives. We can’t be heroes and heroines without screwing up massively, then climbing the mountains, traversing the swamps, and finding our path. The beginning is the hunger. The ending is the last bite. The middle is eating the damn cake.
We are the stories we tell. Oh, I don’t think you know how much I would like to know yours. Please, please share it with me. I’m listening.