‘We tell ourselves stories in order to live’ - Joan Didion
Recently while at a story telling retreat we were asked the question. “If you right now were to tell the story of your life what would be the first sentence be”?
The narrative of our lives is a collection of memories drawn from experiences that have contributed to our present reality. Those recollections are a mixture of pain and pleasure, highlights and low-lights drawn from a broad spectrum of occasion that have all weaved their way into the sub-plot of our ongoing drama.
When we look back at how things have unfolded we all tend to reminisce the good old times and yet the truth be told a huge proportion of us suffer from regret and rue the day things happened the way they did. We ponder questions like, what would life had been like if I was born into a different family or if I lived in a different country, had chosen an alternative career path, met a certain someone..would any of that have taken me down a different path and made my existence more fulfilling?
Our Stories are at the mercy of providence, the transcendent author of destiny who smiles or grimaces on our journey depending on what she deems best for us. For the sensitive, anxious, and highly strung, trusting this muse is a daily conundrum, but for the overly pragmatic types amongst us it is a purely practical exercise in control and expediency. Learning to interpret our responses and reactions to providence will be our lifelong challenge.
‘We tell stories not as they are but as we are’
The way we see the world defines how we tell our stories. My perspective is my reality even if it skews the lines and reconstitutes the facts. The old adage, this is my story and I will tell it how I like is still as true today as it was when the first writers penned their view of history and the evolution of mankind.
Myth has always guided our thought processes, the creative imagineer inside that is constantly searching for the truth in all of her nuances. Myth exposes that which hides in our unfolding narrative, the emerging storyline that is helping us be honest about how we arrived at the place we now find ourselves in. Truth is not about clearly definable facts that are accurate and absolute, that end up shaping a universal code of conduct, but more so an awakening of meaning that appears or arrives to help us realise who we are in the bigger story of life….because myth is more than truth.
My story is just a small part of the grand narrative, a minuscule and seemingly insignificant consideration when compared to everything else, but even the extras in a drama have a role to play in order for the whole thing to make sense. Whether I fully understand or don’t understand my own personal significance the fact remains that I am here for a reason and that reason matters. When we watch a movie or read a book we are often drawn to the larger than life characters who dominate our imagination and consciousness, but in actual fact it is the support cast who hold things together and give the main players the permission to be true to themselves. The little voices have just as much to say as the big noters, so know your lines and stick to them or the story doesn’t get told in a way that benefits all concerned.
I am happy to be a small voice in greater cacophony of racket blaring all around me, a back-up cast member perhaps, or maybe even an extra or body double because it all is important. After all is said and done don't we all just want to feel included and valued for who we are.
My life matters and my ‘happily ever after’ is more about learning to enjoy the moment than engineering a wonderfulI outcome.
So back to what the first sentence of my life story might be?
‘I was born on September 19 nine months after the holiday season festivities that underpinned my conception…Is that the real reason my parents ended up getting married?
Pause and ponder your opening story line because your life matters, regardless of how or why it started.