Saturday, April 12, 2014

Sound Bite Lives

A friend of mine is writing her memoir. Frankly, I’d would rather poke my eye out with a stick and run screaming into the woods.  An honest story told with respect takes guts, and that’s what a memoir is, a story. We need stories. Story tellers used to be highly regarded in communities because despite our apparent differences we are the same in more ways than we will ever be different. Stories remind us of our common humanity. We need to hear stories and we need to tell them. Through the healing power of stories connections are forged and strengthened.

 Without our stories about who we are and how we came to be we sink into sound bite lies that bind us in shame for who we think we aren't. Hearing stories keeps shame at bay. Stories are the equivalent of human road signs that say, "You are not alone!" "Me too!" "It gets better." "Hang in there." Stories infuse our lives with meaning, like salt in a stew. But, first we must get past the idea that our lives only have meaning in status updates, 47 character posts and selfies.

We lose something precious when we attempt to condense who we are and what we’ve been through into a kind of short hand label. “I’m a teacher.”  “She’s a narcissist.” “He’s gay.”  We fling labels at ours selves and each other too easily and treat the truth they allege as sacrosanct.  Then, we act like we know all about someone simply because we know the label we’ve slapped on them. In fact, we don’t know them at all because we haven’t taken the time to know them. It’s like reading a one sentence summary of a novel instead of actually reading the book.
I am more than any one thing that you want call me, a teacher, a single woman, a singer, a poet. All of those labels are true and none of them are true. I am more than one thing and so are you. A friend said that he wished he could ramble through someone’s mind like one would ramble through an antique shop in a small town. The good news is that he can. It’s called having a conversation.  That’s how stories are born.

Here’s how it works, (in case you’ve forgotten), the next time you are with someone, unplug. Put away your device, make eye contact and listen to the person you’re with like you are reading a really good book. Ask questions, share a little of what makes you tick. Don’t complain, don’t gossip, and don’t think you know anything, just have a conversation. You’ll be surprised at the magic that transpires.

We are Holy lovers,
Created by the Divine
Living her story through space and time

Tell me your story
And I'll tell you mine
We'll listen like lovers with nothing but time.

You'll tell who you are
And I'll learn who I'm not
We'll listen like lovers and say that we're not.

Let's sit together, just us two
And share our hearts
It's what lovers do.



Michael Hughes said...

Labels appeal to our rationality; they are like axes (plural of axis-not weapons of personal destruction). Some are binomial, like 'good and bad' some are ordinal, like small/medium/large, and some are nominal like 'Christian, Jew, and Muslim.' The problem is that our minds have trouble grasping multiple axes--try imagining a five axis graph. So we limit the dimensions by which we visualize others. I intend to rationalize people less and drive with my intuition more. The problem for me is that is like jumping off the diving board at night. It is a leap of faith that the pool is filled with water.

Debra said...

Michael, I've jumped all my life. After a while you develop confidence in your spirit and where it's guiding you. Sometimes, it's still scary though. I will say that I have never regretted where I've been led.

One of the problems with labels that we give ourselves or others is that we then have an expectation that can create stress, heartache and disappointment. For example, if I see myself as a wise older teacher, it's easy to get annoyed with someone who doesn't treat me as such. On my best days I am merely having a human experience.

It is an act of faith and no small amount of courage to let things unfold and be what they will be instead of trying to control them. Curiosity is a good attribute to have. Who is this person? What will this be? It takes guts to steer a steady course when your passions are inflamed.