“That’s just a little story you tell yourself.”
This is a quote from a true story I soaked up long ago, and the story has stayed with me. Anna Quindlen is one of my favorite writers, and when she wrote Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake as her memoir, I knew it would be right up my alley.
What makes a storyteller one worth listening to is the ability to tell random things that at first glance seem like something we simply nod and smile about. But in a little while, this little nugget of truth comes back and taps us on our shoulder.
The woman Quindlen quotes came about after she told her trainer friend while exercising, “What I don’t have naturally is a sense of balance.”
Anita led her to the gym filled with dead lifts and one-legged squats and biceps curls. Before long, Quindlen could do a headstand, and she was darn proud of it. She had told herself long ago that she would never be able to do such a thing.
“Oh, those little stories we tell ourselves. They make us what we are, and, too often, what we’re not. They are the ten commandments of incapability, cut to order. I can’t cook. I’m not smart. I’m a bad driver. I’m no jock. Maybe they’re even true. It’s hard to tell at a certain point,” Quindlen writes.
And she is right.
We grow up hearing stories that we allow to be grafted in to our DNA. The smart one. The klutzy one. The one who is afraid to fly. The one who will try anything. If we hear something enough times, it becomes part of our truth, like it or not.
While my older sisters fought over who got to drive the tractor, I didn’t even ask. I knew I was too far down on the totem pole. I found my place inside the barns, and grew to love the calves and the cows. I could read their cues and improve upon them. As it became the story I heard my father praise me for, it defined me in wonderful ways, knowing I had found my purpose.
All of us who have survived this year of strange upheaval and its various forms of isolation and quiet battle are surely coming through something that can change us. It will become part of the story we tell ourselves.
Let it be a story of strength, of kindness, of perseverance, of renewed community. Bake a pie, even though you’ve carried the story that you most definitely are not a pie baker. Send a hand-written card to a solitary neighbor, even if you don’t feel you can write. You can talk, and if you can talk, you can write.
That’s my story. I was told over and over that I was born talking. When nobody had time to listen, I guess I must have decided to write it down. And here I am, all these years later, still writing it down.
Wishing you stories filled with positive streaks of amazement!
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