Thoughts I Had About Storytelling Over the Long Weekend
I've hit a storytelling hump. I haven't wanted to admit it. I was at a conference recently that drove home the true value of storytelling over a lot of the shit that gets that shovelled these days, and I metaphorically raised my arms and shouted "Amen to THAT!" I meant it, and I mean it, even while I struggle over here behind my laptop and wonder what stories? When? How should they be told? Why do I tell them? What are the implications? What possible consequences?
I think I am frightened.
Our stories, when they are personal, are rarely about objective fact, which is how we erroneously tend to define truth. Our personal stories are most often about our relationship now with what happened then, and so the meaning within our stories happens beyond the accounting of the facts. There is no categorical truth. There is only us now looking back on us then, who were also looking back:
Bits of yourself speak to you from your past about what happened then, and the you of now speaks to those stories about how they sit in the context of all that has happened since, and you become a powder keg of stories informing stories.
I worry when I start to write stories I care about with any depth, because they have consequences. What I write down now may not be as true later. What I write down publicly now is not only mine but also his and theirs where it touches their lives, which they may have chosen not to document publicly.
This is not a new concern, a fearsome, toothy ogre born of the internet's rise. These worries have been around for memoirists and biographers since there were memoirists and biographers. Who will read this? What will my mother think? Will I ever work again? What friend will unfollow me on Facebook over some perceived slight?
It seems like a brave and wild thing to imagine saying I write without fear, but I don't know that I ever want to say that. I want to write with thoughtfulness and compassion. I want to treat others with respect and love — even those whom I have viewed as enemies must be treated with a thoughtful hand. I want a bit of fear to reign in and guide the decisions I make, to act as a natural warning bell when I move into awkward territory.
This interconnectedness of our lives strikes me dumb at times with the responsibility it entails. Just look around at other people's hearts.
Part of my relative silence might be due to this swell of maternal feeling I have had lately. I want to gather every small, cute, ugly, sad, sweet, terrible, sick, breathing thing to my chest and soothe away all its pains. I want to rock everything to sleep and coo gentle sweetnesses into everything's ear. I am one step away from manhandling the whole planet into a Babybjörn and humming it sleep.
The idea of sharing any stories that might bear a negative impact upon another human being, regardless of the story's import to me, feels terrible. At the same time, I also know this is ridiculous. I must say difficult things. This is how I am made. I am difficult. I'm a pro-vaccination, pro-choice, pacifist-leaning LGBTQ feminist atheist who believes in a continued consciousness after death. My stories touch on these things.
The whole world is not a giant infant that needs soothing.
And just like that, a revelation:
I am the giant infant that needs soothing.
So, we're back to the beginning. I am frightened. I've somehow lost the sense that my stories are mine to tell. How does one take that back?