“A story is a series of incremental pulses, each of which does something to us. Each puts us in a new place, relative to where we just were.” — George Saunders, A Swim in a Pond in the Rain: In Which Four Russians Give a Master Class on Writing, Reading, and Life
Swap “Life” for “A story” in the quote above. It does something different to you, doesn’t it? All storytelling is just sharing experiences and lessons with each other. Some are completely made up, some are relatively on point, but all are told through the perspective of the writer.
This month a family friend is painting a couple of rooms in my home. Normally I’d do this work myself, but for several reasons it’s better that he’s doing it. In the process, the house is turned upside down, and we’re all feeling the accumulated fatigue of these relatively new places and experiences, stacked one atop the other. The one taking it the hardest is the younger cat, who’s had three years to establish her world order, her safe places, only to have it all turned upside down in a few days. And so she’s a basket case of concerned meows and fearful hiding. New places can be hard to adjust to.
The world is changing rapidly around us, and the stories we tell each other about the future are all so very different than they were not that long ago. We’re collectively in a new place, and finding it hard to adjust to it. What do we do next? Stop using plastic straws? Buy (or sell!) crypto currency? Stockpile canned goods and bottled water? It feels like we all just worked through our pandemic stock!
So now what? It begins with the stories we tell ourselves. What we share with the world. Storytelling is a way to share lessons, to offer a path for others to follow. We listen to each other for shared perspective. Change happens, how we react to it usually determines what happens next.
The last few nights, I’ve coaxed the cat out of deep hiding places. She walks out timidly, fearful of this new place she finds herself in. I’ll give her a moment to adjust, then pick her up and give her a reassuring hug. This too shall pass. Soon we’ll be in a new place yet again. And maybe it will all be okay. We ought to stick together, just in case.