As well as living your life, you’re always in the midst of a story about it all, though perhaps it doesn’t often seem this way.
Our stories quickly become transparent, invisible, in the living of them.
But one evening, reading a book or watching a film, you find yourself deeply touched by the situation of one of the characters. Maybe it’s the one nobody understands, the one with hidden gifts they can’t seem to bring to the world, the one who seems doomed to hurt others, the one who has been carrying a heavy burden that nobody will take away, or the one who longs for some kind of resolution. You’re moved. You feel seen. And you have an insight, for a moment, into the way you’re constructing the story of your own life.
New possibilities open when we find stories that reflect our own experience in this way. It’s what the great fairy tales and myths can do. And it’s how the films and books that touch us reach behind the surface of things and show us our lives.
Most of us can also do with finding people who can do this for us. People who appreciate and show us, compassionately, the stories we’re living. People who see the hurt and the suffering, the longing and the hope, the wishes unfulfilled, and what we’ve been working so hard to bring about. And people who bring what’s become invisible to us back to our attention, so that we can find ourselves again.
Even more importantly, we need people around us who can see beyond all the stories. Those who show us who we are that’s outside all the narratives – of success and failure, joy and hurt, achievement and disappointment – with which we identify ourselves.
And we need those who can bring us new stories with which to interpret our lives. Stories with more space in them, bigger possibilities, and more life-giving ways of understanding ourselves. Stories that reconnect us with the sources of dignity, courage and strength that can sustain us as we do what only we can do.
It’s quite a gift to come across people who can do this for us.
And isn’t it, in the end, what skilful friendship, teaching, and leadership are all about?