Wednesday, October 6, 2010

telling your story

Last night I had the opportunity to speak to a group of women at my church on keeping a personal history. I was kind of excited about it, because well, talking about journals is always exciting to me. :)

But of course it made me nervous, too. I don't know if I said all that I had wanted to say or if my thoughts came out in quite the way I intended, but I thought I'd go ahead and share some of it here anyway. Because . . . well, why not??

I read some from the introduction of this book:

Kitchen Table Wisdom, by Rachel Naomi Remen. It's one of my all-time favorite books - so if you haven't read it, I'd highly recommend it just as good general reading. None of it really has anything to do with keeping a personal history, specifically. But in the intro she talks about the importance of sharing our stories and how they can strengthen and help heal each other. And sharing our story is what a personal history is all about, isn't it?

Here is what I quoted (my own emphasis added):

"Sometimes when I ask people to tell me their story they tell me about their achievements, what they have acquired or built over a lifetime. So many of us do not know our own story. A story about who we are, not what we have done. About what we have faced to build what we have built, what we have drawn upon and risked to do it, what we have felt, thought, feared, and discovered through the events of our lives. The real story that belongs to us alone.

All real stories are true. Sometimes when a patient tells me their story, someone in the family will protest. "But it didn't happen quite that way, it happened more like this." Over the years I have come to know that the stories both these people tell me are equally true, equally genuine, and that neither of them may be "correct," an exact description of the event much as a video camera might have recorded it. Stories are someone's experience of the events of their life, they are not the events themselves. Most of us experience the same event very differently. We have seen it in our own unique way and the story we tell has more than a bit of ourselves in it. Truth is highly subjective.

All stories are full of bias and uniqueness; they mix fact with meaning. This is the root of their power. Stories allow us to see something familiar through new eyes. We become in that moment a guest in someone else's life, and together with them sit at the feet of their teacher. The meaning we may draw from someone's story may be different from the meaning they themselves have drawn. No matter. Facts bring us to knowledge, but stories lead to wisdom.

The best stories have many meanings; their meaning changes as our capacity to understand and appreciate meaning grows. Revisiting such stories over the years, one wonders how one could not have seen their present meaning all along, all the time unaware of what meaning a future reading might hold. Like the stories themselves, all these meanings are true."

I love that. And I couldn't agree more as I have reflected on my own journal re-reading project.

Keeping, telling and sharing our stories is just invaluable.
That's why I have this blog after all, right? (yes, just nod and agree)

(and . . . maybe more on this later) ;)


Colleen said...

You did a great job! I used to be fairly good about keeping a journal, but now I generally just do it when I've got something important to talk about. You did motivate me to keep at it though. :)

Mom B. said...

Hum .... I was wondering how it went last night. I liked what you quoted from the book. I'll have to read it sometime. I heard about it once but I don't think I ever read it.

Jennifer said...

You did a great job and inspired me to get back to actual pen and paper. Thanks for that.

That quote reminds me of "Spilling Clarence" and our discussion on memories.

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