“From the bedtime stories read to us as a child, to the books that changed our lives, all the way back to stories of the day’s hunt told around the campfire, stories shape who we are as a people. When you understand this idea, and you know that the Storyteller plays a powerful role in every culture, then ‘who gets to be our storytellers’ becomes a pivotal question.” Louise McKay
The kids have spilled out the door and down the porch steps, walking towards school, colorful backpacks bouncing with each step. They disappear into the morning mist, and I step back inside. I can hear my sharp words and impatience echoing around the now-silent house. Why are mornings sometimes so hard? There’s a siren in the distance, muffled in the heavy, wet morning air, and the hum of cicadas and early birds chirp in the yard. The echoes fade, and I sit down with my steaming cup of peppermint tea, determined to find my center. I think I have an idea what happened, but like the March Hare, I need to chase it down, grasp the wispy elusive trails, and make it mine again.
I stopped telling my own story.
For nine years, I have been a story-teller. The stories I’ve told are mine, they belong to me, and they are how I pluck sense and meaning from the cacophony and chaos of life. When I was younger, smaller, less formed, I would lay in bed and imagine a cyclone in my mind- a constant, churning whirlwind of thoughts that would zip by, too fast and too furious for me to grab any single thread, and leaving me exhausted and confused. Who was I? What did it mean?
It wasn’t until I started to write that the storm stilled. There was a day, distinct in memory, where suddenly my internal life was still. It had been happening gradually, as the whirling worlds spilled onto the screens and pages, but I didn’t notice it until I was empty. Still. For the first time ever, I finally knew peace, standing alone in the center of my interior life. That space— a state of grace, really— allowed me to withstand the turmoil and chaos and upheaval of so many uncertain years. The mistake I made was thinking I didn’t need it anymore.
Much like the calm, in reverse, when I stopped writing regularly, the winds slowly picked up again. And much like when they stopped, I didn’t really notice until the circling breezes had stirred up into near gale-force gusts, leaving me wondering why I was suddenly having trouble standing or finding any peace. I’m not sure what that says about my own self-awareness, but I’m pretty sure it means I have some work to do.
Telling my story is how I calm the storm. Telling my story is how I pull ideas from the ether and coalesce them into something tangible, something valuable, and how I recognize and create a meaningful life. Writing is the alchemist pulling the base metals from the whirlwind and distilling raw materials into something fine, gleaming, and precious. We’re all stories in the end.