“While revering the mystery of others, our individuation summons each of us to stand in the presence of our own mystery, and to become more responsible for who we are in this journey we call life.”*
‘The challenge, then, is not only to find our authentic voice but also to enlarge it.’**
When we remember something, we extract a memory from our past and make it part of our present. We may then relive it or we may do something different with it; the ability to do the latter is a skill we can learn.
The discontinuity of this is something writer Eudora Welty saw so well:
“The events in our lives happen in a sequence in time, but in their significance to ourselves they find their own order, a timetable not necessarily – perhaps not possibly – chronological. The time as we know it subjectively is often the chronology that stories and novels follow: it is the continuous thread of revelation.”^
The format of the story makes it possible for us to live a life larger than its constituent parts, greater than the sum of its incidents:
‘The frame through which I viewed the world changed too, with time. Greater than scene, I came to see, is situation. Greater than situation is implication. Greater than all of these is a single, entire human being, who will never be confined in any frame.”^
We’re not fixed in time, living out the implications of our past. We are weavers of stories and, so, changers of our futures. When I work with people around the development of their identity and contribution, it is important to focus on talents and passions, and also experiences – nothing in our lives is wasted:
“Writing a story or a novel is one way of discovering sequence in experience, of stumbling upon cause and effect in the happenings of a writer’s own life. This has been the case with me. Connections slowly emerge. Like distant landmarks you are approaching, cause and effect begin to align themselves, draw closer together. Experiences too indefinite of outline in themselves to be recognized for themselves connect and are identified as a larger shape. And suddenly a light is thrown back, as when your train makes a curve, showing that there has been a mountain of meaning rising behind you on the way you’ve come, is rising there still, proven now through retrospect.”^
I took time to write all Welty’s words in my journal and found myself thinking about the power that exists in being able to tell our story well. I recalled my friend Steve’s exploration for a year of inviting people to tell their story to a small group of others. This “audience” could ask the storyteller questions and at the close write encouraging words for the storyteller. It was a really helpful vehicle for the storyteller, though, to reflect upon their story and how they wanted to tell it. Those who create the space for us to tell our stories are special. They provide us with a gift – something that comes from beyond us. We all need such gifts, something from beyond. Lewis Hyde writes about the power of the gift:
‘Gifts are best described, I think, as anarchist property.’^^
We receive the gift from someone and we also give gifts to others. In words that feel as though they connect with James Hollis’ opening words for today’s post, Hyde proffers:
‘Individualism in a gift economy inheres in the right to decide when and how to give the gift.’^^
When we are able to tell our story, we are bringing our best (though developing) self to others and we are also saving ourselves from others telling our story their way – and even if they they still try and do this, the affect is dissipated.
(*James Hollis, quoted in Brené Brown’s Rising Strong.)
(**From Harriet Lerner’s The Dance of Connection.)
(^Eudora Welty, quoted in Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings: The Continuous Thread of Revelation.)
(^^From Lewis Hyde’s The Gift.)
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