I just finished writing a review of Pat Conroy's book "A Lowcountry Heart, Reflections on a Writing Life". The book is a collection of stories that were intended as final words and heartfelt remembrances of his life.
I wanted to learn more about who Pat Conroy really was. It was very interesting to find a favorite quote of his that said "The most powerful words in the English language are Tell me a story".
I do love to tell stories and I love to hear them. I like to know about the author of the books I read as much, or even more, than the books.
There is no one whose story I am as familiar with as my own. The same is true for you. This seems so obvious, but then what surprises me a little is how I see that story differently almost every time I tell it.
Connections that seemed so important at the time that I told my own story seemed less important over time. Coincidences have become clearer over time. As the story changes as I retell it, I find that it changes me. I become different because of how I see the story. In someways it seems like we continually create who we are, but use the same events to shape our own conclusions.
I have witnessed how other people seem to change their own conclusions about themselves using the same facts from participating in an event at my local church.
Over a period of about 35 years a men's group I participated in met once a month and one person would take about 45 minutes and tell the group their life story.
The initial purpose in doing this was to help us get to know each other. We believed that men didn't bond all that easy and they normally were a little shy in a setting like this. We felt it was important to gain an appreciation, and even love, for each other.
People moved in and moved away over this time. Somehow we were able to keep this going. It did after a few years lead to recycling some of us. So we would hear the life stories again. I do have some memory issues but I usually can remember the details of these type of stories clearly. What was interesting is that sometimes the events of a story heard before clearly was viewed differently by the presenter when re told. I had my own occasions of retelling my life experiences that I felt important and it was clear to me that the same events looked different in retelling. There were times when I wondered if a person who seemed to see the same event differently when retold, was doing so because having told the story he then found different connections to the events. I sometimes wondered if the changes and emphasis was on purpose just reshaping an image?
People do come and go in our lives and it takes some time to see reasons. When a new person comes we take it for granted as coincidence. When we look back and see the full impact of the people we see destiny in action and feel changed by the events.
An article in the Atlantic Magazine back in 2015 had some interesting observations about life stories that listening to so many over the last 35 years seemed to clearly confirm.
The author, Julie Beck, subtitle of the story said “How you arrange the plot points of your life into narrative shapes who you are, and is a fundamental part of being human.” She said that “In order to have relationships, we’ve all had to tell little pieces of our story”. Of course we do. A big part of even a initial greeting often is telling each other where your from.
Reinventing our-self may be, in part, just telling our own story often and listening closely.