"The extreme expression of his spirit was in his story. He was a wonderful storyteller. The story was his most sacred possession. These people know what we do not: that without a story you have not got a nation, or a culture, or a civilization. Without a story of your own to live you haven’t got a life of your own."

- Laurens Van Der Post, when writing about the Kalahari Bushman

What’s your Story? We each have one to tell. Every story has value not only for us but for the community as well. The need for expression is evident from handprints left on ancient cave walls to graffiti scrawled on public places. Some expressions are reflected in choosing a vocation, a spouse or in creating art. Some translate to a high principle and others only make sense to the creator. It is more important then ever to know and preserve our stories. It is through knowing ourselves we can become compassionate and generous with those around us, appreciating life’s journey.

Why our stories are important?

At one time families gathered around a campfire, sharing warmth and stories. The tales may have included how dad beat back the bad Saber tooth tiger but the families, extended clansman were together. Now we may be gathered around the ambient light of a big screen TV and our stories are centered on the latest reality show, politics or the mishaps of some celebrity who will never know our story. Are our stories important?
I brought this question to Jungian analyst, Margaret Klenck. “We all have a deep urge to be seen and understood—to be loved for who we are and to love as who we are. A lot of sadness and illness comes from the suppression of one’s unique story. Suppression can come in many forms. For example, a depressed parent may reject a child’s exuberant singing, or a narcissistic parent may claim a child’s experience as his/her own, thereby impoverishing the child’s story. A group of teenage girls may shun another girl for wearing different clothes, or coming from another culture. Homogenizing stores, entertainment, arts, news, rituals, etc., can send the message that different stories, different personalities are not allowed. This sends the further message that difference is bad and then those whose stories don’t fit are bad, evil or dangerous. Psychologically, one could say that the fear of being different becomes the fear of differences. The more we can stay connected to our own stories-- our own experiences and meanings-- and the more we can communicate them, the less we will project onto others.” Our story adds texture and richness to the planet. We lose them and we lose ourselves.

Who Is Telling your Story?

We live in a culture that creates our stories for us. We are bombarded with images of the perfect life. Television, movies, commercials and ads tell us how to dress, smell, and how white our teeth should be! Visit America’s malls and see the same exact stores, fashions and fast food restaurants. The sky is blue, the trees are green and the weather is perfect, the music is canned and images are identical from the east to the west coast. Klenck goes on to say, “telling one’s story as a means of deeply relating has been trivialized and abused in our current culture. Confessional talk shows encourage people to treat their own stories as expendable entertainment. So-called Reality shows demean the whole idea of personal story by pretending that what happens is authentic lived life, when, really, the participants are set up and coached. Makeover shows disdain people’s stories and chooses to value homogenization over individuality.”

The danger is when taking on the mantle of the culture’s image of perfection and forgetting what you need and want. We lose the subtleties and uniqueness of life and the creative force is squelched. Have you ever gone somewhere that is bland and lifeless? For example, a home that looks like a realtor’s showcase. It is perfect, pristine but soulless lacking the personality of the owners. A neat home can still reflect the character and uniqueness of the owner. We live in times that are complicated by a continued onslaught of information from a multiple of sources. This overload of information can make us numb. It is important to change lethargy into liveliness and begin to reclaim our lives. The media may dictate the next fashion but it is up to you to say who you are.

What makes up our stories?

“Our stories are comprised of two elements: the events and details of our lives, and what emotional, psychological and spiritual meaning we discover about those events and details. If we are not allowed to express ourselves and to share who we are with others, we have much less of a chance of finding out who we are,” says Klenck.

Consider these Questions:

- Who are you?
- What is your story?
- What are the life experiences that have made up the person reading this right now?
- If you were to view your life from an outsider's point of view, what would you see?

Our story does not have to be great and brilliant it just has to be ours. As we grow and mature, we add life experiences to our repertoire of stories.

Can writing help?

Pennebaker with his associate Sandra Beall tested the relationship between writing and wellness in the studies they studied. Pennebaker is widely accepted as the father of successful studies on the effects of writing on health. Ruth Folit, of Chronicles Software Company says, "James W. Pennebaker, Ph.D. and others have done extensive research
about the power of writing, how it is not only good for emotional well-being but for physical health as well."

How to begin?
Begin simply: Buy an inexpensive journal or notebook and select a favorite pen. Create a sacred time for yourself when you are not likely to be disturbed. Write what is on your mind and in your heart. - Try this exercise in observing. What do you see around you right now? Describe the scene in front of you. The colors, sounds and smells of a scene are important. It does not have to be great prose this is only an exercise. Write without thinking. Try for at least one paragraph or up to 150 words.

Choose one favorite from the list below and write about what makes them a favorite: If you don’t have something real to draw on then make something up. What would a favorite teacher do to be special? Unleash the imagination.

* Pet
* Teacher
* Relative
* Book
* Television show or movie
* Add your own special favorite

Some of the things you might include:
What did the pet look like? Was it big or small? Did it smell? Why was that person a favorite teacher or relative? What did they do? What was it about the television show or movie that appealed to you? What kind of emotions do you feel when writing about these favorite things?

Beginning this process you will unearth more and more memories and the writing will begin to flow. Don’t worry about accuracy, grammar or facts. The idea is to keep the pen on paper and let your story flow. If you write consistently you find the beginnings of a memoir emerging.

As you begin this process don’t forget to ask your friends, family and coworkers – What’s your story? Be prepared to listen to and to share. You find out we all have a tale to tell. We no longer have the proverbial campfire but we still have each other.

This is just the start of the telling of your unique, wonderful and magnificent life. You are the best character in your own Great American novel. Revel in it. Remember it is your own story and no one else’s. Honor it and let no one take it from you. Happy telling!

Author's Bio: 

Biography: Sandra Lee Schubert is an interfaith minister, writer and founder of Wild Woman Ministries and Wild Woman Network a forum to explore and express creativity and spirituality. She is dedicated to having everyone reclaim his or her stories. Her subscription e-course -- Writing for Life: Creating a Story of Your Own is available at: www.selfhealingexpressions.com/courses.shtml as well as her bi-monthly column, Write A Way: Journey to Creativity.Email: wwn@wildwomannetwork.com, or sign up for the Wild Woman Network newsletter http://home.ezezine.com/331_2/ or call 212-642-5042