Stories are everything.
This is a thing I’ve figured out along the way. It has become a kind of credo I live by. It helps me navigate the world because it causes me to listen more carefully to the stories being told and check them against my own moral compass. Which in turn helps me stay aligned with my own set of values, make choices, adjust where necessary, know when to stay silent and when to speak up or take action.
It also helps me be a good guide for my son—the single most important person in my life and someone over whom my stories have significant influence. All the more reason to be extra careful with them. It’s important to me to plant the right “story seeds” in his mind as I help show him how to find his own way in the world, help him consider the biases influencing the stories he consumes through books and other media. How harmful those biases can be. Why it matters to check them.
Of course, there are also family stories that form and shape the way we engage with the world, and how we feel about ourselves within it.
My son and I seldom argue, but it does happen now and then. And there can be fallout. He’s a very sensitive soul and, sometimes, when he believes he’s “done a bad thing”, he’ll begin to spin a story in his mind that tells him, ‘I’m a bad person”. Which couldn’t be any further from the truth. When that happens I sit him down and ask him a few questions to get him to examine the story:
What did you make that mean?
What story are you telling yourself as a result?
Is that story true?
It’s a great exercise, because it allows him to determine on his own how ludicrous a story “I’m a bad person” is, based on what actually happened. This exercise can be applied to every single story spinning around in your head, regardless of its source.
Examining the stories we’re telling and being told allows us to develop discernment.
In a world in which we’re bombarded daily with conflicting information, one in which we can begin to lose track of our own sense of self, discernment is a critical life skill. It’s essential for wading through the noise and confusion and finding equilibrium.
But the power of story goes beyond the internal landscape.
Over the past year we’ve relied on stories for so much.
Stories have been our signposts.
They’ve given us directions—clues for how to proceed through the most unexpected of circumstances. They’ve helped us make sense of what’s happening and how we can relate to the world around us now that so much of our environment feels unfamiliar to us.
Stories have inspired us.
Tales of everyday heroism: from the healthcare providers, to grocery store clerks, to garbage collectors, who have shown up to work every day to allow us to sustain our lives, to the people undertaking great personal challenges to build shelters for the homeless, create food programs for the hungry, or collect letters for the elderly, lonely in their long-term care facilities. Each of these stories has encouraged us to rise up, to do better, to do more than we thought we were capable of.
Stories have connected us.
They’ve brought us together even while we’re apart. They’ve provided comfort, nostalgia, or even just a means of staying plugged in...in some way...to those activities that provided us with a sense of community and belonging in the before times.
Stories have brought us hope.
They’ve helped us imagine the kind of world we want to create as we move through this pandemic and given us the courage to start fighting for it.
The truth is: everything we interact with is a narrative of some kind.
I care deeply about humanity and the planet and I believe stories—through whichever medium we choose to tell them—are the most important means by which we, as humans, connect to the things that matter. Whether they focus on pain, fear, love, courage, or hope, they’re the things that drive us hardest and furthest.
As a poet, storyteller, and speaker in whom you’ve placed your trust, I have a goal:
To tell the stories that will encourage you to tell yours.
To help you tap into the visceral truth that stories are vital for our existence, whether they emerge through novels, comic strips, poetry, visual art, quantum physics, auto-detailing…whatever! To remind you that discernment matters and help you learn how to choose what goes in, and what goes out.
And to convince you that humanity…and (let’s face it) our sanity...depend on you, me, and the stories we tell.
I invite you to discover some of these stories here.
And for even more stories, inspiration, and exercises that will help you find meaning, liberation, and connection in your life, I’d love to offer you the opportunity to get your hands on a copy of the first chapter of my forthcoming Thrival Guide. But I can’t do that yet. Because recently I was stuck in an old story of my own which means the goal I had for getting it to you this month got waylaid a while. Yup...it still happens to me too. I’m still as raw, unfinished, and human as ever.
I do, however, have lots of incredible giveaways happening over the course of this National Poetry Month. Get in on all that juicy action right over here.
And don’t miss the National Poetry Month kickoff event happening April 1st at 7pm EST (tomorrow) with Margaret Atwood, Atticus, Tenille Campbell, Sabrina Benaim, and yours truly. Save your spot here.
As for the Thrival Guide, it’s not quite finished yet. But do stay tuned. It’s on its way and it’s getting closer, and you’ll be among the first to get to check it out.
In the meantime remember: “Life takes guts. I love your guts.”