“The greatest gift we can give one another is rapt attention to one another’s existence.” –Sue Ellen quoted in Sacred Circles
“Human connections are deeply nurtured in the field of shared story.” –Jean Houston
I am a strong woman, I am a story woman…
I’m busy preparing for a New Year’s Eve ritual on Monday, the first ritual like this for which we will include all family members instead of just women. As I was getting our “family fireside circle” song sheet ready, my husband asked a question about one of the lines in one of the chants…I am a strong woman, I am a story woman…
“I’m not sure about this,” he said, “what is a story woman anyway?” I wasn’t able to give him a solid answer at that moment, but guess what, I am one.
In fact, didn’t I just write earlier this week that story holds the key to the reclamation of power for women? How and why does this work?
Because of these two things:
“The one who tells the stories rules the world.” –Hopi Indian Proverb
“We feel nameless and empty when we forget our stories, leave our heroes unsung, and ignore the rites of our passage from one stage of life to another.” –Sam Keen and Anne Valley-Fox
We need to hear women’s stories. We need to hear each other into speech. We need to witness and be witnessed. We need to be heard. We need to shift the dialogue of birth and, indeed, most aspects of women’s lives into powerfully positive “what if’s” and courageous explorations of our “negative” stories. When we hear the experiences of other women, of other people, sometimes it lights something in us and we are able to go forward in a way in which we would not have done without that story…
“Once the imagination has been kindled, we begin to see choices that we had never even seen before…but just seeing that we have different options and choices rarely gives us the strength we need to exercise these options. For this we need more than imagination. We need the courage to reach beyond ourselves, extending our hands to one another…” –Robin Deen Carnes and Sally Craig
And, then, this afternoon we had an ugly, sad, overtired, family-wide meltdown about homeschooling. I don’t really want to bother reliving the agony by typing up everything that happened, because we’re all back to normal now, but it was really the same old story. Parent suddenly gets bee in bonnet that kids (who are perfectly happy at the time pursuing their own interests and living robust lives) “should” be doing something different. Kid doesn’t live up to expectations and is, in fact, so unable to perform a very simple, basic task, that questions arise in parents’ minds about kid’s mental capacities. Parents feel personally responsible and like homeschooling parent failures as well as annoyed with kid who should know this already. Brief ranting and raving ensues along with hurt feelings. Sweeping pronouncements are made about what needs to happen to transform all of our lives into properly performing homeschooling bliss.
During this time, I abruptly decided this was IT, I HAVE TO STOP BLOGGING. I cried and cried. I don’t want to quit, but, if I can’t do homeschooling properly I certainly don’t deserve to be a blogger. And, then I remembered these quotes about stories and I especially remembered this one:
“As long as women are isolated one from the other, not allowed to offer other women the most personal accounts of their lives, they will not be part of any narratives of their own…women will be staving off destiny and not inviting or inventing or controlling it.” –Carolyn Heilbrun quoted in Sacred Circles
Telling our stories is one way we become more aware of just what ‘the river’ of our lives is. Listening to ourselves speak, without interruption, correction, or even flattering comments, we may truly hear, perhaps for the first time, some new meaning in a once painful, confusing situation. We may, quite suddenly, see how this even or relationship we are in relates to many others in our past. We may receive a flash of insight, a lesson long unlearned, a glimpse of understanding. And, as the quiet, focused compassion for us pervades the room, perhaps our own hearts open, even slightly, towards ourselves.
–Robin Deen Carnes & Sally Craig in Sacred Circles
And, just last night, I got a beautiful thank you note for the Mindful Mama essay that I wrote in 2008 and that was updated/published in 2011. My stories, my words, were serving as “medicine” for another woman while I was cooking dinner last night, even though I actually wrote them several years before. That is story power. I am a story woman.
Last month, I had an email chat with a friend about why we write in the first place. She’d written a blog post about her family and as I read it I was reminded of how glad I am I blog and why I don’t want to give it up. Her post was a post like that—one that will bring back a whole collection of memories that have slipped from conscious memory. At the time of our exchange, I’d been looking back at some of my own old posts and found the ones I wrote about Pinterest day and it was so much fun to re-read them, because I’d already forgotten some of the recipes we’d tried. And…that was only after like six months have passed. It will be even more fun in a couple of years 🙂 I can remember having this fear (or whatever) of forgetting even since I was a girl. I write to remember. In fact, I’d actually left a comment on a Literary Mama blog post on the subject:
I write to remember. I write to share. I write to preserve. I write to collect. I write to store. I write for myself. I write for my children. I write for others. I write for perspective. I write to play my life’s music. I write because I just can’t help it. I write to pay attention and to tell about it.
I do feel like I have to have a balance between personal memory stuff and other information/education/advocacy on this blog because I don’t want to overdose readers on the picture of my kids and make people bored. I also have probably 100 ideas for posts before I actually get to write one. If I was only blogging for myself (and my future memory) I’d make more of the shorter, personal, picture-type posts, but I start to worry “who cares” and so I put up something educational! (BUT, as it turns out, the pictures/personal/kids stuff is NOT boring to me in other people’s blogs or in going back to my own.)
As another example, a couple of weeks ago, I came across the post I’d written based on a journal entry about Alaina when she was a one month old (Memories of a One Month Old…). This is exactly why I do it and why I’m not going to stop. Because reading what I wrote that day in my journal brought that one month old treasure of a baby girl back into my arms for a few moments in vivid clarity, rather than just as a hazy, distant recollection. It isn’t that you truly forget without having written it down, but that in the reading of your old story, a powerful, stored, storied memory that you had forgotten how to access fully is reactivated.
Also a couple of weeks ago, I got a little tear in my eye when Alaina came to get me in the bedroom showing me her handful of monkeys from the “monkey jump game.” When Lann was about her age if you asked him if he was a big boy, he would answer: “I not bigger yet, I can’t reach the monkey jump game!” Well, guess what, he reached it for them that day and they were all in the living room playing while I was getting dressed…
I am a story woman.
And, I’m not quitting.
Other posts about Story:
You know I agree! Keep sharing your stories! 🙂
You are a story woman and I love reading them. I have the feeling that I know you, that we are connected as women, as people. Strange in a way, but so natural if we think for a moment, because all of us are connected and so alike, if we only let others see our feelings and thoughts. You are an inspiration. Your achievements inspire and so do your week moments, when work and intellectual plans collide with being a mom and wife… soooo familiar. And I sigh in relief that I am not the only one 🙂 I also enjoyed your posts about women’s cycle. This month I paid attention to my body and my feelings and I definitely felt a strong need to be left alone. And this time I did not put on a brave face and pretend nothing is happening. I admitted how I feel and asked for some “me-time”. That was only one afternoon but it was such a big difference! Thank you for your stories. A woman should try to balance her home and professional life, but it will never be perfect, so you can not just cancel out your intellectual work for the sake of being a better mom or wife or homeschooler. I always try to remember that my family needs a happy and true me, not one that pretends to be happy just cooking and cleaning and playing with kids. I also have stories to tell and work to do and that makes me happy. Stressed and tired a lot of the time, but also happy 🙂
Thank you so much for your comment! You almost made me cry! It was very affirming to read what you wrote and I’m so glad to know that my words reach off the page and touch other women’s hearts 🙂 Thank you.
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