The stories we tell motivate us to go forward, maintain the status quo or hunker down in fear. That’s what one of my colleagues and I reminded ourselves a few days ago. We reminded ourselves of this after sharing stories about our experiences of navigating through the pandemic.
I shared two stories about how I see the pandemic changing how we are in the world. In one of those stories, I related how I spent the last few days watching families and friends skating on the mile-long skating path on the lake in front of my house. The skating path was the first of its kind in my on and off 60+ years of living on the lakeshore. As I recounted my experiences to her, I heard the hellos and saw the hand waving along the path, the social distancing, the new skaters trying out their skates for the first time in a very long time repeatedly playing out in my head.
In another story, I shared a second story of my community coming together this Christmas to ensure shut-in seniors each received two to three Christmas cards/letters, handwritten by community members, letting these residents know they mattered.
I did not share that I started a new tradition this Christmas due to COVID. And, that was to handwrite Christmas letters to each grandchild. I did this because we haven’t and won’t be seeing them in person for awhile and I thought a hand written letter would be something different for them to receive.
Stories are powerful. Some stories, like my colleague, pointed out, help us go forward. Other stories make us afraid to be who we need to be. Those are the stories that feed our fear. And then there are stories that encourage us to courageously live ‘as if’ as Sarbin pointed out in 2004. Other stories help me imagine and move toward ‘things as otherwise’, as Greene, pointed out in 1995.
This doesn’t mean we ignore the stories that suck out or drain our feelings of hopefulness. We need to be aware of what is happening around us. We need these stories to remind us why we need to focus on stories that nourish our hope. Hope-sucking stories remind us that we need to take care of ourselves physically, emotionally, physically and mentally. I also believe that having a repertoire of stories that inspire hopeful ways of relating, feeling, acting, and thinking enables hopeful ways of being and knowing that may one day become the norm.
So, now it’s your turn. What are the new traditions, stories, ways of being that you’ve noticed yourself gravitating toward over the last nine months? How are these stories nourishing your soul? How are they helping you to see yourself participating in a future with enthusiasm and interest?