Not only do we carry our stories, but we are also made of them. How brilliant is that? Almost as powerful as when the astronomer Carl Sagan commented, “We’re made of star-stuff! Some part of our being knows the cosmos is where we came from, and we long to return.” Who wouldn’t want to be made of a bit of intergalactic matter? I am returning to write volume two of SHE after a three-year SHE-bbatical…in addition to the writing project I mentioned in a previous post.
I happened to be home in Michigan for Mother’s Day and recently attended the funeral of a family friend. Her name is Luella Merkel, and she was to turn 100 years old in two months. A mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, friend, and the straight dynamic dame who had been living alone up until five days prior to her passing. I am heartbroken not to have captured her story while she was alive. We had not been in touch for several years, as I had moved away from Reese thirty years ago. I may circle back and interview Luella’s family members in due time and write a celebration piece of her moxie and mettle.
Luella’s passing reminded me of the importance of storytelling. Human beings have used stories throughout the millennia to communicate and share ideas, experiences, dreams, and connect. When we take a moment to unite and relate to one another, we begin to see and state the timeless and true cohesive bond we all intrinsically share. For me, stories have been narrative medicine, offering a deeper understanding of myself and those around me. I have always been a big believer in the healing power of sharing our personal experiences, as this healing power works both ways – for the giver and the receiver. The twenty-four women in SHE book volume one shared their personal experiences, resilience, and timeless wisdom, which helped many heal and cope with struggles they had been experiencing.
My profound experience of meeting and interviewing women of all ages and cultures has been life-altering. Some of the women I have known for years and others I had just met were connected to them from another acquaintance. Yet, each encounter reconfirmed what I already knew deep down inside: we shoulder stories of love and loss, birth and death, joy and grief, delight and sadness – they are all woven together with universal themes. A new group of women worldwide will be showcasing their triumphs and tragedies. I am privileged to be the one they entrust to write their short vignettes.
We define ourselves by the stories we tell ourselves: The descriptions of who we are, who we think we are, and who we want to be. I am telling myself “stories” now as I become anxious about getting back “on stage” interviewing and talking in front of people. Could it be that when I interview each woman, they feel the same way…a bit apprehensive? I never noticed. HOWEVER, what I did detect was that the simple act of having intimate conversations makes people feel like they mattered, myself included.
If we are fortunate enough to find a safe person and a protected place, we can convey the stories of pain—whether they are our physical, emotional, and spiritual pain, the pain of our loved ones, or the pain of the world we live in. I know that each of the women I have interviewed and will soon meet offers that sanctuary to them and me. This is where we find out who we are – together.
As I begin interviewing and writing volume two, this next journey will offer a whole new experience and new one-on-one exchanges to reveal and refine myself and the woman sharing her story in a larger context. Each version we play together exposes a different story. My hands get shaky, and my neck beads with sweat, merely thinking about how excited I am to begin the process of putting myself front, center, and responsible for the next volume of SHE stories. I am and will always be an advocate of honoring each other’s life strengths and struggles. That seems to be the best form of gathering the wisdom of humanity that we can offer to one another.
Everyone around us has a story and all stories matter – which must be magnified for the little nuggets of wisdom to rise to the surface so the world can hear them. All the stories I have listened to continue to link me to my past, present, and future, unite me to my vulnerable storyteller on a deeper level, and connect me with the universe of stories within and around each of us. I am grateful for this opportunity.
Cheers to you, Luella, and all the “supernova storytellers,” never outshining each other, only swirling together—an entire galaxy of stars.