On this beautiful 55-ish degree day in November, I am very grateful to have run a 10K down to the lighthouse from my house. Fisherman lined the catwalk manning the lines plunging into the clear green water that was uncharacteristically still. One smiled at me as Ashok and I ran by so I stopped to ask him what kind of fish they caught out there. Trout was what he was hoping for, but he said that they weren’t very big this time of year – not like in the spring when salmon might be running. He assured me that being out on such a beautiful day in such a beautiful place was its own reward.
We have our rituals. Mine is sitting in coffeehouses writing and watching people. On other days, my practice might be walking in the woods. When I’m at home, curling up on the sofa by the reading lamp with a hot cup of tea and my fur babies listening to Enya and writing or reading is my favorite pastime. As I ran past the fisherman bundled up on the catwalk, I imagined that this is way they like to wile away their days when other responsibilities don’t intercede. It seemed so peaceful, and it seemed that they knew each other … each one in their chosen spot with their chairs and tackle and creature comforts.
On my headphones, Ginger Zee, a meteorologist who reports on natural disasters, was being interviewed on the 10% Happier podcast. Her latest book, Natural Disaster: I Cover Them. I am One, details the story of her life and her experiences and misadventures with depression. I listened as I clocked off miles 3, 4, 5, and six. She called off her wedding after she and her fiancé had mailed the invitations. She waited at the post office until it opened the next day, and the postmaster helped her pull the invitations out of the stack of mail. “This has happened before,” he reassured her. And I thought of the desperation and embarrassment of having to undo marriages and bad decisions and failed attempts at life. We all have had those moments of pulling sent invitations out of the mailbox – in one way or another.
In yesterday’s 12-step meeting, a man said, “The only thing we own is our story.” I was taken aback by the truth of that statement. Money and relationships and careers and belongings come and go as easily as water beneath a bridge. But it’s the stories of our lives that define us and connect us with others. I feel most alive and spiritually connected when someone shares their deepest, darkest story with me. I live for the communities in my life where the stories are welcome and embraced.
We are living in a time where truth is being tested. Whether it’s sexual predators facing the truth and consequences for their choices, or the victims risking honesty for the first time, the secrets of the past are being unearthed. Reality was not what we thought it to be. I’m listening to at least three podcasts where people are being liberated through their storytelling. Addiction is rampant across all segments of society, and we are being brought to our knees by lies and deceit. Secrets make us sick, and our culture has been sick and disconnected for a very long time. We were a world of pretenders. Even though the truth alarms and shocks us, it will be the only thing that heals us. The truth tellers will save the world. Those who harbor their sick secrets will perish.
The fishermen dress for the weather in the morning, pack their tackle, find their spot among compadres, bait their hooks and fish. This ritual is part of their story. It is where they noodle the problems of their lives and feel moved by gratitude for the present moment. They each have a story running in the background that has nothing to do with their sport. Yes, they may be fisherman on a catwalk in the morning sun, but this is only one thread in the tapestry of their lives. Are they addicted to painkillers? Have they endured a blinding loss? Have they recovered from an astounding mistake? While talking about fish is interesting in its own right, I would love to know more… and I KNOW there is more.
Where do you hear people’s stories? Where do you tell yours?
Podcasts where people tell their stories: