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#140 – How A Single Moment Can Make a Story
And the power of staying connected when you're IN it
This is Adventures in Storytelling your weekly note with resources, insights, and actionable tools for better communication through storytelling. Enjoy.
I saw a twitter post the other day that said: “There are 3 layers to a moment: Your experience, your awareness of the experience, and your story about the experience. Be mindful of the story.”
I’ve written before about the stories we tell ourselves and the power they hold. This idea made me think about that. But what I want to explore today is this idea of the our awareness of our experience.
In ways that speak to the idea of presence. Of having an experience and noting it, living it, being in it while it happens. It’s much easier to do when the experiences are good. But much more difficult when an experience is negative or hard. But both instances of being aware of an experience will shape your story. Being present to your story unfolding in any given moment influences your ability to recognize and retell that story.
I have a habit of dissociating during difficult times. It’s a coping mechanism that helps me be THE person you want around in an emergency—I can immediately turn off my emotions and focus on what needs to be done. It’s a habit I developed as a teenager and continue to work with my therapist to unlearn. But that means I also have to work extra hard to engage when life gets challenging. Otherwise, I’m in fix it mode and not aware of the experience itself. That shifts the story I’ll tell later away from what I may have felt and into what I did in a moment. And frankly, the do part of stories is often less interesting than the felt—though a healthy balance of each is key for great storytelling.
A close family member has been dealing with a really difficult health situation. To help me stay in the moment, but also use that skill of focusing on what needs doing so that I can advocate for them with uncaring (and, honestly, callous) physicians and healthcare professionals, I’ve started writing notes immediately after an experience to hold on to not just what happened but also gain an understanding of how I was feeling in the moment. I’m a writer so I’m ALWAYS thinking of the story I might tell one day. But I also think it’s a good habit to get into to help us stay connected to a moment, how we feel in it, and allow us to shape our stories, good or bad from a place of awareness.
The stories you tell matter, and your awareness of the experience that sparked the story will allow you to tell it in fuller, richer detail. So stay present to your story unfolding and take note of the details (remember, specific animate detail is what helps make a story great—I have a post on using the five senses to bring it to life coming up soon) and let that help shape the story you tell.
What do you do to stay present in a moment? Especially those difficult ones? Share in the comments it may help someone struggling find a way to shape the story they tell themselves and later the world with more intention as they move through it.
A Story Well Told
Pride month is over so the celebration of LGBTQ+ life and liberation is over for some of us. But the fight for survival and safety of so many trans, nonbinary, and non cisgender hetero folks continues and needs to be something we start to support and advocate for everyday. Alexandra Billings, a screen and stage actor known for her roles is Transparent and Wicked, is a great follow to not only stay aware (aka woke—the real definition of woke btw) of what’s going on in the ongoing fight, but also to stay kind and hopeful as well. This video is a great example of her heart and a way for you start to tap into and think about your feelings in this moment when LGBTQ+ in America are being targeted by their governments in ways not seen in most other western democracies.
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