You create through the stories you tell . . .
I didn’t even hear the flight attendant’s safety message, didn’t even notice when the plane had taken off. Last Thursday, I already was flying high in conversation before we had left the ground at Marquette County’s KI Sawyer International. We were instant buddies, my young seatmate and I, and our conversation traveled more quickly than any airplane could possibly move. In five minutes, we flew in words from Albany where he works to Rhinebeck where he grew up to Boulder, Colorado where we both had spent a few days in the past three weeks. “You went to the US Pro Cycling Challenge!” I exclaimed. “My husband and I were there in Breckinridge just two days before!” “You went to the Tour de France!” he cried. “It’s my dream to go to the Tour!” I had met my match, a bike-race fanatic who loves the thrill of the race and the complexity of the sport and the adventure of the journey, as much as I. We shared our stories and they became alive again and these stories we shared grew wings and spread out into other stories of adventure. And before we knew it, the plane had landed in Detroit, and we, my buddy and I, who both had forgotten to turn our cell phones off, had landed, too, in a different place transformed by our storytelling.
Stories hold power. They are strong medicine, alive with vibration. Stories can pull us down into the muck, keep us stuck, suck the life right out of us. And stories can lift us to new heights, expand our possibilities, inspire us beyond measure. It is our choice, which stories we tell, which stories we open ourselves up to hear. For the past four years, my mother had the most wonderful helpers at her cottage home – women, who not only provided companionship and assistance and became like daughters to her, but also were wonderful storytellers. When I would visit every few months, I settled in for the storytelling. Jean’s stories, salted with the ocean and the local fishing village and her memories of Hagerthy’s General before Hagerthy even owned it, brought more color and flavor into the area that I love so much in coastal Maine. I found myself adoring Christie’s free-spirit man when she told stories about how, in middle-age, she and Jerry had met and fallen in love. I was back there in England with Sue, imagining her childhood of country quilts and a dormouse who nestled into the family’s house one winter. And, when Judy was visiting, I sat back in my chair, said, “Tell us a story, Judy!” And she would, while my mother and I listened. Her stories were filled with syncronicities and magical moments, a rich feast of simple abundance told from her positive perspective. I love these stories, the ones that people share with me, the stories that feel good to hear. They nourish and inspire, make me bigger than I was before the telling, and, in some way, continue to live and breathe and evolve as they find their place in the collection of stories I tell myself.
When I’m preparing for a story-telling performance, I allow the stories in my inner collection to rise up, the ones that are ripe for the telling. Sometimes I’m surprised when an old story, one that I had long ago forgotten, bobs its way to the surface and cries, “Tell me!” I love remembering these stories, the ones that still gleam bright, and feel good to share, and I love sharing them from my present day perspective. And sometimes it is the present day experience, not quite a story yet, that is begging for expression. “Make sense of me; weave me into something that pleases you and moves you forward,” this glob of life that isn’t quite formed speaks out. “You’ll feel better, more expansive when I’ve become a story.” And it’s true. As I hike in the woods of summer and skate-ski on the trails of winter, I let these not-quite-born stories develop in my inner creative dark room. And lo and behold, they begin to come into focus. They begin to take a shape. They become a story! And I do feel more expansive, in a new place, more up-to-date. And this feeling grows when I share these stories, the old familiar gleaming ones and the new ones that have never before seen the light of day. I light up, because there is nothing quite like it, this sharing of a story that wants to be told. It’s a high-flying feeling; it’s travel at its best, this journey from teller to listener, from listener to teller – the story, a vehicle far more powerful than any airplane could ever be.