I believe, rather ardently, in the power of story. If your religion is Christianity, his Islam and hers Wicca—and theirs veganism—my religion is story.
Story is, perhaps, not everything—other things must exist, else there would be no ingredients for story, and no one to tell stories to—but it is all-powerful.
The stories we tell other people, the stories we tell ourselves, they shape our reality. They change the past, define the present, and create the future. That, loves, is power.
Sometimes, in our interactions with other people, our stories clash. There’s a fight. Perhaps one loses and the other wins. Perhaps both break into bits and they create a new story from the flotsam and jetsam of both. Sometimes, two conflicting stories manage to meld into a cohesive—but tense!—single one.
One of the amazing thing about story is its fluidity, adaptability. In oral traditions, the story changes a little bit in every telling. And this happens even in our more rigid, current product-focused traditions. Look at all the remakes of movies, retellings of classical literature. Story changes. That is its nature.
That is its power.
Our personal stories are among the most powerful stories. And these can change too—we can change them. At will, almost. But it’s hard, because stories don’t exist without an audience, and we are rarely the only audience for our story. Family and friends, even if they don’t really like our old story, are used to it. They redirect us to it, in every interaction. Even when we are telling them a new story—they act as though they are hearing the old one.
That’s hard. And discouraging.
I think that’s why, when we are working to change a story, we look for new people. We want a new audience for the new story we are creating. We don’t want the tried and true audience that says, “No, that’s not what happened—I know this story, the Prince woke the Princess up with a kiss and they lived happily ever after, that’s what happens in this story, why aren’t you telling it like that?”
Because I’m changing it, love.
If you can’t listen to the new story without trying to pull me into the old one—that’s okay. It’s natural. I understand. I’m going to tell the story to someone else, who hears it.
The greatest gift we can give our friends and loves, when they are changing their story… is to listen to the new one.
Her: Suppose the new story is all bull shit?
Jane: It’s their story. Their bullshit.
This is, by the way, very hard. Terribly hard. Exceedingly hard. The closer you are to a person and the more enmeshed in their old story, the harder it is to really hear—never mind support—their new story. I’ve failed at this, in the most significant relationships in my life, so I’m not preaching to you from a moral high horse. It’s hard. So hard. Sometimes, impossible. And then, the greatest gift you can give your loves is the opportunity, space, encouragement to find a new audience for their story.
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.