Okay everyone, this is a test. I am trying out the mobile app. When I'm posting by phone, I'm also often using the voice to text function. This means that I am in a hurry, or that I am wanting to get something captured in the moment. Using voice to text is ideal for a storyteller! But, I do get a little tired of having to vocalize all of my punctuation.
The other issue, is that I often will then post without reading what has been changed into text for me. This can result in some confusing or sometimes hilarious mistakes.
It's been a cold/warm/cold week here in Minnesota. I'm never sure Which coat to put on my son in the morning. I think I may have messed up today sending him to school in a fleece. But we shall see.
I want to share with you a little story telling secret. Here it is. Listen closely my friends, as I'm afraid that if the secret gets out, I might end up being obsolete! Drumroll please!
It's okay to be a terrible storyteller!
You don't have to do funny voices, big expressions, or special dramatic positives. In fact, if you're telling a story for really young children, it's best to leave those out. Today my friend Will, who is an accomplished Storyteller himself, said to me that his father used to just "make stuff up." And Will remembers those stories. He loved his mother's stories – she used all kinds of funny voices and expression dramatic details – but, he remembers his father stories, too. And, what's more, he remembers loving them.
Do you hold back from telling your children stories because you're afraid that they won't be Good enough? Are you afraid that you'll forget some important details? Listen closely, my friends: It doesn't matter. What does matter, is that you want to be true to the story you wanted to tell. But you mustn't ever let your own fear of not being an actor hold you back from sharing this marvelous gift With your children.
And it doesn't have to just be with children. You can share stories with adults, with friends, with the people you meet on the street, with colleagues at work. Everyone needs to hear stories. Telling stories can be like breathing. this is how we connect. Sometimes our stories don't even need words, like when we tell the story of how much we love, because the truth is a powerful story.
A friend sometime says, "All stories are true, all times are now. " I have repeated this many times to children and to adults. All stories are true – I don't mean that the story of Little red riding Hood actually happened, with the girl and the Wolf and the grandmother and the flowers and the bottle of wine and bread in the basket. But isn't it true that we meet wolves on our paths? Isn't it true that sometimes we think that we have found our own grandmother, but inside of those garments that show, it is not my grandmother, but some other force?
My point is this: tell stories. Tell them now telling tomorrow in the next day till next week tell them next year. Tell them. And as you tell them, you will find Yourself able to tell even more.
Warning about voice to text: when I just recorded that last sentence, it said you will find your apron to Telmore as of Tobler was a place. So use it with caution.
Tonight, I am facilitating a gathering of women who have been friends for years. Most of them moved here from Russia in their youth, with their families, and they've known one another since they were in middle school. The connection to this group came from my son's former preschool teacher, my former colleague and present friend, who met one of the women at a knitting circle. This woman was looking for someone who could help her bridge the gap in her home between her Russian and Soviet past, and the Waldorf-style parenting she wanted to create for her daughter. Mila and I met at her home, and the group was her idea.
It's hard for me to see myself as any kind of expert: as a parent, as a teacher, or as a storyteller. My Russian is terribly rusty; every word has to be dug up from under layers of dust, blown off, and sounded uncertainly, with a timid hope that it is the right one. And yet, here I am, working to bring something of value to these women who want to bring something gentle and somewhat intangible into their homes. The resources in English are numerous, and one can find the resources in Russian, for use in Russia, in a Russian, post-Soviet setting. But something for speakers of Russian, in America, with a child-centered, Waldorf-inspired mood? That is well-nigh impossible. We are working to create it together.
And in that creation, I don't have to be an expert. What I can bring, from my years in the classroom and from my own fumbling parenting, is woven into the fabric of the group. My own foolishness can become wisdom when seen through the lens of experience, and when it is mixed with the experience and insight of the group, it can become something new. My role, then, is to invite that wisdom into the circle. I want to help each mother, for we are all mothers for now-- fathers, grandparents, and others might be invited in later -- to find the tools she needs to feel secure, capable, and wise in her parenting.
As a child, I said a prayer every night before sleeping. When I was around 12, it became more of a magical incantation; I feared if I forgot it, if I forgot to pray for the opposite, that someone I loved or knew might become sick or even die. Before that part, though, there were these words, "Help me to grow up strong and healthy; wise, beautiful, and kind." Eventually, this prayer faded in importance, though I'd whisper it to myself in moments of fear or crushing despair in college and even later. A few months ago, though, those words came back to me, and I wondered, what would happen if I actually believed that prayer had been answered, that I had actually become, "wise, beautiful, and kind." I felt a great weight lift in my soul. For so long, I have told myself that I was foolish, selfish, and not beautiful. Maybe pretty, sometimes; maybe clever, now and then, but beautiful? Wise? Never...
Every day, there are moments of challenge and crisis. The urgent whining of my overtired son, dinner on the stove, work to be done, forms to be filled out, and we have to hop in the car yet again... What might it be like, if in such moments, we could tell ourselves the story of how we are wise, beautiful, and kind? The stories we tell about ourselves, to ourselves, form the very core of our sense of self. When I am having a terrible day, the story I am telling is of how inadequate I am, and of how beset I am by the harpies and wolves of the world. But when I can shift the story, perhaps even just a little, I can find the path again through the dark woods, I meet unexpected helpers, and through little acts of kindness, I, like the good sister in "Mother Holle," am rewarded with a shower of gold -- gentleness, goodness, a deep breath, and sweet roses and diamonds falling from my mouth.
The stories of ourselves inform the stories of those around us. If I can tell a story of myself that is one of courage, kindness, wisdom, and beauty, my deeds can reflect that. My son can see me inside that story, and perhaps his own story of himself can be one of bravery, gentleness, and a choice of humor and light over cynicism and fear. When we tell stories to others of these virtues, not saccharine-sweet pedantic pap, but real, wild tales of truth, then they, and we, can discover those virtues within, and become more and more what we are meant to be in the world.
I am reminded of a question asked by Marianne Williamson, and echoed by Penny Sparks: Are you going to meet this day as a queen, or as a scullery maid? What does that mean for how you speak to others, how you speak to yourself? What if, though you feel like a scullery maid, you, like Cap o' Rushes, are from a great family, but cannot let anyone know?
Tonight, I will encourage these mothers, these women whose lives are stories of bravery, of wounds I cannot see, and of foolishness and wisdom, to tell stories of themselves that acknowledge their true selves, so that they can bring those selves into their parenting, their relationships with their spouses, their careers, and their lives with themselves.
What story will you tell today?
Consider your audience. You wouldn't recite nursery rhymes to your boss in a dull moment of a meeting, right? Okay, maybe some of you would it depends on your boss, and on your job. But the sentiment holds true-- you have to match your story and style to the person or people listening. Answer the questions for yourself: who is it? What do they want to hear? What do they need to hear? How will you tell it? Why are you telling it? Where are you?
Let's start with who is listening. When I tell a story to a single listener, like my son, I can suit everything to him: my tone of voice, my gestures, and my choice of words. If I am crafting the story in the moment, I can watch him for cues that things are too intense or scary, or that he is getting bored and needs more excitement. When telling a story for a group, I have to be open to contributions from each person in the way of feedback, experience, or interests. A live story is not a book or even an audio recording; the live story, like a play, relies on the audience for life. The storyteller must quickly assess what kind of response to expect from the group. Are they accustomed to calling out, to laughing out loud, or to weeping openly, or are they a group who will show almost no reaction, but will take the story in deeply and let it work on their hearts?
The age of audience members is an important consideration. When dealing with mixed-aged groups, I pitch my story to someone older than the youngest members, but younger than the elders. In times of doubt, I aim at the pre-teens, the eleven and twelve year-olds, unless there are mostly little ones and their parents. Parents will love a story that acknowledges them, but is aimed at their children. Simple, sweet stories with messages that ring true at any age are always welcome.
Know your environment and the mood you want to create. Are you in a classroom, a school assembly hall, a county fairgrounds, a dim living room before bed, or a busy restaurant? If you have to, change it up in the moment. You may have planned a raucous tale of pirates and treasure for your daughter's birthday party, and seeing the frenetic chaos of the after-cake activity, you might suddenly offer a story about a wise princess on a mysterious quest. Sometimes you want to match the mood; sometimes you'll want to meet the audience in that mood and lead them somewhere, perhaps into stillness or into joyful activity. You are the storyteller, and that makes you the weathermaker for just a moment.
Finally, what do they want to hear, and what do you want them to hear? This may be two very different things. Can you make both happen in one story? Of course you can! You can start with them, them bring them along to your own goal, or you can surprise them by coming around to where they are...
What stories are you telling, and for whom?
Sara lives in Minnesota with her wife, their son, and a lot of cats and turtles. She coaches waldorf moms and other sparkly unicorns, helping them find wonder, ease, and contentment. Sara writes about parenting, storytelling, and about living a life with stories.