I’ve leaned on stories. I started with those of my family—my father’s, my mother’s, my aunt’s, my grandmother’s, my grandfather’s. As a girl, they gave me a sense of identity, a sense of family continuity and purpose.
My mother met my father in the fall while she studied ballet at the University of Utah. I see her hair pulled tight against her head, pale pink tights beneath a wrap-around skirt. My father is just back from Vietnam, where he spent a year interpreting Chinese radio messages from spy planes. My mother carries herself gracefully, possessing an artist’s sensibility. My father loves the Orient, travel, and language.
So much of who I am, who I want to be, is born from my family.
My grandmother was a poet. My grandfather was a painter. My aunt had a joie de vivre and laugh that made my world sparkle.
Around the age of 40, I lost my dad, my aunt, and my grandparents in a tiny span of time. Illnesses. Tragedy. The stuff of stories.
My stories. And it was my turn to tell them, to write them down. Possibly for my children. Definitely for me. Not necessarily to publish them. I needed to find meaning during a time of loss that shattered me.
This kind of storytelling is not exclusive to writers. To be alive is to embody stories.
In many shamanic societies, if you came to a medicine man or woman feeling disheartened, dispirited, or depressed, he or she would ask four questions:
1. When did you stop singing?
2. When did you stop dancing?
3. When did you stop finding comfort by silence?
And, my favorite:
4. When did you stop being enchanted by stories?
Author Barry Lopez says, “The stories people tell have a way of taking care of them. If stories come to you, care for them. And learn to give them away where they are needed. Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive.”
What I have found, and continue to find, is that I am the author of my stories. My stories’ conflicts, meanings, and endings shift with time. I reassemble characters, introduce new ones, and in the process, find myself closer to whole again.
Lisa Groen is an author, editor, and writing coach. She’ll be co-teaching a local yoga-writing workshop called Mindful Body, Mindful Writing in October. For more information, click here: http://www.lisagroen.com/workshops/.