Those touching vignettes that embody our struggles, sweet moments, disappointments, or wild hopes and dreams, that our most real, most vulnerable selves are revealed. Indeed, if we don’t tell each other our stories, we’re all one-dimensional, blank screens on which we project our assumptions about one another.
Everybody has a story, and because we all do, when we hear each other’s stories, we feel suddenly connected. Story is the great river that runs though the human landscape, and our stories are the little creeks that flow through us all to join the river at its source. When you tell your story, however you open yourself to the level of fragility that, as human beings, we all share; for no matter how different our stories, at the bottom of them all is the well of pain from which we have each dipped a drought.
Tell him or her your story, tell them the most exciting moment, the greatest regret of your adult life, the most painful event in your childhood and you will discover, in-depth, a self you never knew. That’s because between the sentences of our stories the gist of things slips out, not merely the facts, but the feelings that have shaped us, the point, in anyone’s journey, from which there was no return.
For example, although you may be aware of your husband’s fascination with architecture, you may not understand why he never pursued it, until you hear the story about the night their father got so angry at him for staying up late drawing that he broke all his drafting pencils, threw them in the trash, and raved, “Since you’re waiting time like that, you’re never going to get a cent to go to college.” or, you may know about your wife’s interest in the big dipper but not know where it came from, until she tells you the story about how when she was a little girl and she heard her parents downstairs arguing at night, she would lie in bed looking up at the Big Dipper until it seemed like the stars beamed their white light right into her room so she could finally go to sleep.
When you tell your personal tale, spinning and spinning, telling, retelling, the tight thread with which you have wrapped up your pain will gradually start loosening. and when you listen to her or his story, he or she will become, in the process of your listening, a fully formed human being. So tell each other your stories. They’re more than entertainment for the dinner table or a long ride in the car. They are your true selves, spelled out and spoken, brought forth in time and in your own language, a loving gift you give to each other.