In the Deep, Dark Cold of Winter Comes the Warmth of Story!
Now’s the time of year to deepen your roots in preparation for a greater blossoming. One way to do that is through discovering your own myth — your deepest and truest story, the one that holds your passion and purpose in life.
Here’s a quick story exercise to help you find your myth. It’s taken from Tristine Rainer’s book, Your Life as Story: Discovering the “New Autobiography” and Writing Memoir as Literature, (New York: Tarcher/Putnam, 1997). I highly recommend this book to people who want to find the story in their life, and I often use it to help my private clients get a big-picture story sense of their life and the shape of our work together. This tale can be drawn, danced, sung, and acted out. But the essence, in my experience, is writing it first. (Please remember that this exercise, almost verbatim, is Ms. Rainer’s, and not mine originally.)
“Write a fairy tale about yourself in 3 sentences or short paragraphs, without too much thought, in 10 minutes or less.
In its simplest form, a fairy tale has 3 parts:
— Something happens that causes a problem for a person or a group.
— They struggle to find a solution.
— They experience a transformation and have a realization.
(Example from Tristine Rainer’s book, p. 45:
— Once upon a time there was a little girl whose mother was dragged away kicking and screaming by men in white coats.
— The little girl began to hate her mother and wish she would never come home.
— In the end, though, she felt compassion for her mother and loved her as she had always wanted to love a mother.)
Now it’s your turn. You can pick something that happened in the past, or that is happening in the present and imagine the change it can bring about:
‘Once upon a time, there was a…(little girl, woman, boy, man, family, team, village, etc.)’
— the problem;
— your struggle to resolve it;
— how you changed and what you learned (or how you could change and what the experience might teach you).”
Me again: You have here the bones of a possibly huge story that can be fleshed out over weeks or months. This is at least part of your personal myth and it can help you understand in a deeper way who you are and where you’re going. The point is, and I hope you see from this quick exercise, that you have a story. Your story imagination is instinctive, it’s dynamic and full of unseen possibilities, and it gives structure and meaning to difficult experience.
Published with Permission from Juliet Bruce, PhD