The Greatest Storyteller (is YOU! And boy, does it matter!)

My father was buried this past Thursday. The day was cloudy. The funeral was in a chapel in the afternoon. There was a Veteran’s Service at the gravesite.

What Stories Are NOT

Stories are not facts. 

Stories are interpretations of facts.

Facts are the building blocks of the stories we tell ourselves and others.

Facts are the vertebrae of our lives, a roadmap of unemotional breadcrumbs.

Stories Are Magic

When we take facts and perceive life through them, magic occurs.

Whether we create a story of light or dark magic all depends on us.

The late and great Albert Einstein once said: 

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

It is our perception of life’s experiences that weaves the stories we tell.

The Danger of Forgetting 

When we forget our great power with words, when we forget we are the magicians behind the stories we tell, the door to misunderstandings opens.

A storyteller unaware of her power, can unwittingly craft a tale that hurts both herself and others.

When we forget the power of our words, we are no different than a child playing in a medicine cabinet: the potions of our words casts spells that can hurt others (and ourselves) in their wake.

The Two-Sided Storyteller

Great storytelling starts with the author: YOU. When we experience something, it’s important to:

  • pay attention
  • ask what you think
  • ask what you feel

But too often, we live unconsciously, allowing our inner narrative to go dormant, like the sounds of a city that go unnoticed after living with it for years.

So, we tell a story to others about our experience, the default one; the story we assume is accurate because we didn’t take time to pay attention and honor our inner story.

And to make matters even more complicated, when we live unconsciously, we run the risk of picking up someone else’s story as our own.

It’s when we take a moment to heed our inner voice that we can extricate ourselves from someone else’s narrative.

The Greatest Storyteller

Several family members wanted to give a eulogy for my father. The rabbi suggested we check with each other beforehand to ensure we didn’t repeat our stories.

Each of us had a completely different story honoring my father and his life.

The building blocks were all the same; the verbal vertebrae of facts that formed my dear father.

But it was our perception of those facts that colored and shaped the stories we told.

Multiple People in One Person

Instinctively, we know a person is many people to the world. Just head to your nearest cemetery and read a handful of headstones. After the person’s birth and death date, there’s always a short list of facts about who that person was:

  • wife
  • mother
  • niece
  • granddaughter
  • sister
  • cousin

You get the idea. And those are just the building blocks! 

We are so much more than the titles we carry in this lifetime. 

The Power of Perception

Consider the people in your life — especially the ones who give you pause and potentially push your buttons. Might there be another way to perceive this person?

And what about you? What stories are you regularly telling yourself about yourself and others?

Here’s a snapshot of my perception on the day my father was buried:

The sky is overcast, Mother Nature saddened by this moment when the man who was larger than life is now silent in a contained coffin. It is a winter afternoon. Winter. A time for burying. A time for the end. Afternoon. The time between morning and night. 

The army vets fold the American flag in precise formation as the grave diggers look on from a distance with a respect that ricochets in the loud silence. My mother needs help to stand as the soldiers walk toward her with the perfectly folded flag, handing it to her with unemotional reverence.

Images of my father picking me up as a young child, my stomach soaring as he flipped me playfully in his arms. More images of him arrive: teaching me how to rake leaves in the fall, how to tie my shoelaces — all arriving like the burst feature on a smartphone — as the casket is lowered into the ground.

The sound of the shovel hitting the dirt conflicts with the fresh memory of his child-like smile. I scoop the fresh earth onto his coffin 4 times. Doing so, I’m informed, is a mitzvah, a good deed. 

So why do I feel like I want to throw myself onto his coffin?

I am both child and adult as a thrust the shovel into the dirt for the next family member.

The sky is still above; the earth hasn’t spun off its axis. So why does the Earth below feel unsteady?

Alternate Realities

What we focus on expands. The stories we tell dispense magic to ourselves and others. 

The reality of life is in your hands.

What will you do with the building blocks of your life?

What story will you build from the facts of your life?

What kind of magic will you create?

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