Sitting around the table telling stories is not just a way of passing time. It is the way the wisdom gets passed along. The stuff that helps us to live a life worth remembering.
―Rachel Naomi Remen, Kitchen Table Wisdom: Stories That Heal
I’m struck this afternoon, by the healing power of stories. I am struck by the way that stories weave magic and love through the hardest of times, about how stories can be told again and again and again, and how each time, we can hear something new, about how stories can make us want to laugh and cry and dance all at once.
This weekend, my guitar-playing-hot-pink-hair-touting, totally awesome buddy Kate made a pot of earl grey tea and we sat on her couch and talked about cancer things, about an old blog post she loved, about the way pink ribbons have hijacked all of October, and about how I thought those button down boyfriend shirts with rolled up sleeves were going to disguise my mastectomy. And you know what she did then? She took those stories, and she remembered that blog post, and she fashioned them altogether into this absolutely stunning song about my breast cancer fiasco. It even sounds like how I describe this whole catastrophe. Kate has sent me a few versions now, and I love them all. I more than love them. I wish I could wear my earbuds in yoga so I didn’t have to stop listening, on repeat, to this incredible song. I think I’ve listened to it upwards of five hundred times now. I may never get tired of it. (I don’t know how to post it here, but I’ll find out and paste in a link).
As I laugh at myself a little for the repetitive listening, but not enough to do anything but listen on repeat, I remember that a few weeks ago someone said to me, about a blog post and a short little stop motion I posted to my blog: “It’s so comforting. I read it and watch it, over and over and over again.” At the time, I was truly surprised that something I wrote/made could have touched someone so much that they watched/read over and over and over again. I know that stories are powerful, that words are weighty, that when I need comfort I turn to books and media and creative processes. I just had a hard time grasping that something I made could feel as soothing as a hot cup of tea or fuzzy slippers. But today, I get it.
Kate’s song is so healing. When I listen to it, I can’t get enough. It makes me want to dance and break in half and laugh and cry all at once. Its as though the song holds all of the emotions inside of the music itself. It makes what happened so real, real in a way that can be shared, real in a way can be grasped and held and felt and considered by others. I sent it to a few breast cancer buddies, and the responses were so tender and heartfelt. I’ve rarely felt so reflected and so heard. And being reflected, hearing my story in such a beautiful way is so healing. It’s not ignoring what happened, it’s writing it into my history, making it part of the fabric of how I know, how we know, what we know, why we know.
Stories. Told in song, told in stop-motion, told through writing, told around campfires and across Facebook. We are stories. Stories are so comforting. And we can never know carefully others will hold our stories, we can never know how deeply the stories we tell will make their way into the hearts of our listeners, we can never know which stories will be healing, or for whom. But we can know that stories are what tie us together across time and space, stories are shared beliefs and hopes and experiences and dreams. And what could be more important than that?