Tell Me A Story—Or Not
Every day–and I do mean EVERY day–on the way to school this year, our five-year-old son requested that my husband tell him a story. My husband agreed. By the middle of May as the end of the school year approached, morning story time had lost its luster for the great storyteller. Understandably so. It is not easy work to pump out new and inventive storylines about a squirrel to harsh critics with razor sharp memories in car seats demanding daily plot thickeners. While pouring his morning coffee in his to-go tumbler, Davis, my husband, would look at me with wide eyes and ask me to ‘wish him luck’ before loading everyone into the car. He forged ahead and crossed the finish line, and I am not certain who was most excited for the last day of school.
Maybe you have experienced something similar and perhaps you have read (insert child’s favorite book title here) a gazillion times. There is a reason for all of this. Repetitive behavior, such as storytelling and book reading, provides emotional comfort for these young souls. Processing through hearing stories can help them make sense of their ever-expanding worlds. When it comes to reading something on repeat there is the neurological fact that by repeating stories and words, neurons are firing in the brain and new connections and pathways are being created in these formable minds.
Historically, the tradition of orally passing down stories served as a means to connect communities and warn one another of dangers that they might face so as to further civilization. Still today, the act of telling stories, listening to stories, reading stories, and witnessing stories being told are all integral parts of the human experience and have the potential to influence who we are, what we believe, and what we choose to pass on to others.
Aside from the stories you might find yourself creating out of thin air to entertain the next generation or the stories you have downloaded on your Kindle, what others stories do you listen to? When you are faced with an uncertainty or come to a crossroads in life do you find yourself creating a story (or stories) in your head in an attempt to play out all the potential outcomes? Why do we do that?
If we are telling ourselves stories (on repeat) that are not true and never will be true, imagine the toll this can take on our entire selves.
For the sake of understanding this perspective, pause for a moment and pull up a scenario you are facing at the moment. Have you created a story around this current situation? Have you attempted to play out the possible outcomes and determined your action or non-action according to this fictional broadcast? See, despite years of practicing life and gaining experience, we can still carry the habit of storytelling to ourselves in order to try to grasp more control in our lives just like we did as children. We do this because it still provides a sense of control. If we are telling ourselves stories (on repeat) that are not true and never will be true, imagine the toll this can take on our entire selves. Indulging in this can prohibit us from being who we are intended to be and it can create a diversion from the clear path.
The next logical question would be: In the absence of creating our own stories, how do we move forward in alignment with what is true for us? The first step would be recognizing when we are creating a story around a situation and choosing to stop the story.
One way to do this is simply to say the word: “STOP” when we recognize this is happening. Try it!
The second step would be committing to choosing that practice again when the story resurfaces. Because it will.
The third step would be introducing, continuing, or recommitting to a practice of mindfulness, stillness, or prayer in an effort to quiet and calm the ego which, while mostly well-intentioned, is always surfacing as a means to warn us or steer us clear of potential (yet possibly non-existent) danger.
The fourth step is accepting the peace that is available to us when we choose not to indulge in the story and remaining in calm vibration as long as possible.
When we choose to meet our internal stories head-on and see them for what they are and nothing more, we stop the traffic flow in our minds and hearts.
We are humans. We are storytellers. The stories we tell can create fun. Our stories can serve as a means to connect. And… our storytelling has its place. When it comes to living the authentic lives that we are intended to live, the real stories deserve to unfold in an organic way without extra drama surrounding them. When we choose to meet our internal stories head-on and see them for what they are and nothing more, we stop the traffic flow in our minds and hearts. When we do this, we create the opportunity to become aware. When we become aware, we give ourselves the space to remain open to possibilities we might not yet see. And when we practice doing this, we are step-by-step choosing to become more aligned with who we truly are.
Storytelling will always have its place, but when it comes to the situations you face in your life it should NOT have its place. So, when this happens, and it will, I encourage you to first: Notice the story you are creating. Acknowledge it. Practice saying, “Stop” to this storyline. Practice creating space. Hold the space for as long as you can. Repeat this practice. And when it comes to carpool, well…game on!
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