Once upon a time, in a place far away when the words ‘social distancing’ had never come into play, my husband and I attended a gathering. The place and time isn’t important, nor is the nature of the group. I can tell you it was small, and most of the people I didn’t know well. I found myself at the snack table next to a woman. I’ll call her Sylvia. Silver-haired, beautifully put together.
I reintroduced myself, (we’d met once before briefly), and I said, “I don ‘t know your story. And I love stories.” I motioned to an unoccupied set of ornate chairs. “Why don’t you tell me yours?”
She arranged her food and drink with the precision of someone laying out surgical instruments, leaned in. Her eyes were glowing. And she began.
It was a long tale.
It always feels that way when someone doesn’t take a breath.
It occurred to me about mile twenty-four of this marathon that she was reciting a set piece, a bit of oral history indelibly stamped in her heart and mind. From across the room, my husband caught my eye.
We’ve been married a long time. He read the distress signal and rescued me.
As we walked across the darkened parking lot he asked me what I thought of her. Apparently, he’d been trapped by her before.
I waited until we were safely inside our aging van, the windows up. “She needs to write herself a new story.”
He nodded and drove us out of there. Back to the warmth and laughter and joy of our lives. Back to the living.
Occasionally, I’m still haunted by her. The choices. Sylvia played for me a favorite reel of her life’s greatest hits and hurts. Not hits as in ‘Yay! Rah! I win!’ But hits to the heart.
She’d carefully excised out the wins.
The reel was at least thirty years old.
There was no postscript of lessons learned, triumphs won from the hard work of rewiring the neural pathways to accommodate the lifting wings of joy. No happiness here.
So, in this month of “Dropping In…Out…and By”, I’d like to suggest this: With all this extra time you have at home, curate your life story. Shape it. Make it glow. And tell us all about the wins. Drop into the tale the ‘up’s’. The moments you survived and thrived. The moments that brought you understanding, compassion, and yes, joy.
I’m not suggesting you drop the lessons learned the hard way. Only that after you detail the pain, share the glory. Sharing that story is one we all need to hear.
And once we can do ‘social undistancing’ again, I’d sit in the chair next to you all day long and listen to that one.