“People need story to organize their thoughts and make sense of things. In fact, anyone you attempt to influence already has a story. They may not be aware of the stories they are telling themselves, but they exist. Some people have stories that make them feel powerful. Others have a victim story, a story that proves your issue is not their problem, or a story that justifies their anger, frustration, anxiety, or depression. If you tell them a story that makes better sense to them you can reframe the way they organize their thoughts, the meanings they draw, and thus the actions they take. If you can convince them they are on a hero’s journey, they can begin to see obstacles as challenges, and choose behaviors more befitting a hero than a victim. Change their story and you change their behavior.” (The Story Factor)
This morning when I go out to feed the birds I startle a white-tailed deer. Or, should I say, she startles me. The doe has come to eat the apples that have fallen off our Golden Delicious. She lifts her head and looks at me, takes one more bite, then slowly steps into the secret places in the overgrown meadow behind our house. I stand frozen, in the middle of the yard, holding a coffee can full of sunflower seeds.
On Independence Day, I rose early, got ready, and drove to work. The roads were empty, the sky a curtain of gray. By the time I reached the hospital, a thin film of rain was drizzling. We worked hard to get done early—the patients were firecrackers…all aflame and on the verge of popping. Their families were coming and excitement was a fuse. Don’t we all need a holiday?
I made it back home just in time to head to the family picnic. We had fried chicken and green beans and Texas sheet cake and Papa’s homemade peach ice cream. We sat in air conditioning while the rain fell outside. Cousins and second cousins met in that awkward place of shared blood—even if it only does mingle once or twice a year.
Later, when the rain stopped, we went for a walk. The young ones skipped ahead and we elders talked of year-round school and running goals and the missing niece who just moved to Atlanta.
Small talk. It builds a bridge.
I told the boys, “Talk to your boy cousins—you don’t see them often.”
Jeffrey said, “I’m not good at starting conversations.”
Teddy said, “Tell Jeffrey to.”
So they just shared the same breathing space and cupcakes and smiled shyly at each other when no one was looking.
I’ve been thinking about things that are better left alone. Like what it means to really be free. To not be held captive by anger and regret and what someone else has named me. It’s funny how a simple question like, “Tell me about yourself” can open up a well of sorrow that a person thought was long forgotten.
This morning I read this from Annette Simmons:
When I reach up to fill the feeder, I find something unusual on the brass lip of its saucer.
A shiny nickel.
It must have been left there by a mischievous jay–a bribe? I haven’t fed the birds for a few days—caught up in these swirling thoughts, letting someone else’s story tangle me into melancholy. That shiny nickel? A love note dropped from heaven by a blue-feathered angel.
I’m telling myself a different story. A story of freedom, a story of love and grace.
A story of truth.