I tell a lot of stories about myself.
I tell about my travels and my teaching, and about my favorite books, about my relationship with my parents. About my kid.
I also tell stories about how incompetent I am. How I badly I have failed. How I cannot get a real job. How I have no classroom management skills. These stories are rooted in particular experiences, but I tend to make them pervasive and universal. I did this thing once, which means I ALWAYS do it, much in the way that, when you do something one time for a holiday, the children in your presence will say that is what you ALWAYS do for that holiday. The experiences that these pervasive stories are based on, live so strongly in my memory, that they take over.
When I tell these stories, I believe them. And I believe they matter more than any other story about me.
When I tell these stories, they drown out the students I have helped, the tears I have wiped, the joy I have shared. The stories of bad experiences are louder and stronger than the stories of good I have done. Success pales in the face of defeat. These stories squeeze the life out of any good I have done. And they squeeze the life out of me.
I feel myself contracting. Growing smaller. These stories are killing me.
What stories do you tell about yourself?
What if we told the stories of heroes and heroines that way? What if we told about how Cinderella failed to keep her mother alive? What if we told about how the young woman in Finist the Falcon failed to awaken the prince the first two nights? Those are part of the story, but they are not the story. We do not leave the heroine in the woods, alone, to die. We do not leave her weeping at the side of the true love who will not awaken, because he has been drugged, nor by her mother's grave. The fairy tale follows her through repeated failures, to success.
Your failures are not the story. You are more than your worst moments. You are worth more than your debts. You are comprised of far more than one awful day's events, or even a year's or a decade's.
When we learn to tell our whole story, without shame, we become more whole. When we tell the stories of success as well as those of failure, we give others permission to do the same.
Many of us have been taught not to speak well of ourselves. Many of us have been taught not to "toot our own horn," that it is better to laugh at yourself, to tell others how incompetent, how bumbling, how stupid we are. We think it will protect us. If others think too little of us, it will keep them from expecting too much, and that way, we won't let them down...
But it doesn't work that way. All we do is ensure that others will not see what we can do, what we are capable of. All we do is ensnare ourselves in a story that will never let us reach the treasure we hoped for. I have been ensnared in such a story for a long time, now. It is sticky, and it is pervasive, and it is taking my deepest dedication and devotion to healing to even allow for the possibility that these stories are not Truth, writ large. They are only facts, and facts without context, or facts applied in the wrong situation, are tantamount to falsehoods. I am determined to see a fuller reality.
What story are you telling? What happens if you change the story?
Sara Renee Logan has been telling stories to everyone who would listen since she was seven. She organized storytimes for her college roommates, and spent a year at Oxford studying folklore and folktales. Many years as a Waldorf teacher allowed her to tell stories about everything from Baba Yaga's hut on chicken legs to the water cycle to the life of Joan of Arc. Sara shares her life with her partner, Melanie, their son, and an unreasonable family of pets. She continues to share her love of storytelling and stories with audiences of all ages, specializing in bringing the wild beauty of folktales to young and old. Sara writes about parenting, storytelling, and about living a life with stories.