03 January 2017

The Telling

This morning I had a thought that took my breath away for a moment: “What if we’re in a post-story world now?”

The novelist in me felt a moment of panic: “What if you thought it was the right moment but really this is the absolute worst moment to tell this story?”

I took a big breath and told myself that we can’t be in a post-story world. We would be lost. Stories are what give us our information, our context. We need them, constantly. If we don’t have a story, most of us just make one up. (Next time you go out to do errands, whether in a vehicle or on foot, bike, or public transportation, see how many times you explain someone’s behavior to yourself. “Jeez, that person must be in a hurry.” “This guy must not know where he’s going, and that he’s holding 10 people up at this light.”)

Maybe, as the Zen story goes.

Everything we share is a story. The postal clerk who recently helped me with a complex mailing task told me so much about her past and present life in the fifteen minutes we spent together; in trade I shared a story that matched hers and made us feel good about our many choices that had resulted for both of us in disrupting long-dominant cycles of meanness and addiction in a family that sometimes felt more like bondage than a support network.

The Pantsuit Nation page on Facebook is a place where millions of people, mostly women and not too many trolls, have recently flocked to share their stories of trying to maintain heartful progressivism amid a rising tide of hatred and bigotry. We still crave these stories. We need to figure out what is about us particularly and what is about the universal experience of being human.

The title of our next home movie

My daughter and I are struggling with the election results and with how to respond. I have started saying, “You can rant a little, but mostly you have to try to do something about it. You have to try to meet your Congresspeople, or write letters or make phone calls or something." She’s even more afraid of getting somehow targeted than I am right now. It breaks my heart all over again to think her fear might be justified.

Which is why we -- and I -- must keep telling our stories and testing that question, is this just about me and everyone I know or is it deep-down about every one of us? Perhaps it will turn out that all that matters is the telling — not the story after all, but the telling.

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