I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty over hearing every article that goes viral instructing me to be grateful. Yes, being grateful for all that you have can remind you of things that you take for granted. It can help you focus on all you have versus what you think is missing. Yadda yadda, I get it.
When we find ourselves in a complex situation that involves people whom we care about we can easily lose sight of our wants and needs.
Though it can be argued that selfishness is a common trait triggered by self-preservation, some of us have another dominant primal instinct: to nurture and protect. This gender inclusive proclivity can be difficult to navigate.
If you identify as a protector or nurturer, then chances are that you have found yourself in a circumstance where you get wrapped up in emotionally providing for another person while oftentimes, without even realizing it, forgetting your needs. Worse than forgetting your needs, there are times when we become so concerned in trying to ensure another person’s comfort, or in providing what we think that they need from us, that we do not even take the time to reflect on what we need and how we feel. We don’t check in with ourselves and only realize this when the situation has become overwhelming for us.
“We are, as a species, addicted to story. Even when the body goes to sleep, the mind stays up all night, telling itself stories”
– Jonathan Gottschall
Everything in life is centered around stories. We teach and learn through stories. Smart businesses market to the masses through a compelling story. We connect with those in our lives by sharing stories. Even in our quietest moments, we spin the thoughts in our head into stories. But why are we so magnetized by both the telling and listening of stories?
The sharing of stories is a road to connection. In our telling of stories we don’t just aim to entertain, we share to be seen, understood, and ultimately to reassure ourselves that our thoughts and feelings have been experienced by those before us, those with us, and those generations to come. They serve as a reminder of the threads that connect us on a higher level, that of humanity.
The pull of a good story has the capacity of pushing us to donate to a cause, purchase a product that we find ourselves not needing, and even motivate us to change our lives in a way that we couldn’t have predicted.
When filling the shoes of the storyteller, the words in our stories undress us by peeling away the many layers that we wear to shield us from being too vulnerable. We use our story as a mirror that grants access to the privacy of our closely held authentic present state of being. As the story unravels, our emotional responses to the experience are exposed and we allow ourselves to be seen.
Before this weekend, I’d only been camping once. Though we only camped for one day, the cold night temperature was enough to convince me that the one time experience was sufficient. But, I like trees…really, really like trees…and I also really appreciate the feeling of oneness that nature facilities for me. So, four years later, in the spirit of ‘just doing,’ I gave it another go.
During this trip, I had a lot of space to be aware and sit with how events in my life these past couple of months have changed me, the emotions and challenges that have surfaced, and, most importantly, what they have taught me about myself and to what extent they reflect my progress in trying to honor my core values.
The more you leave your home (both the physical structure and the internal one you hold) to experience life, the more you ‘do,’ the more enriched you become by experiencing others’ authentic story, but only when you make yourself available to receive and relate.
Though many will attest that it is easier to be honest with a stranger, the reality is that the majority of us do not move past small talk with strangers. We exchange niceties, we complain about how crowded the train is on that particular morning, refer back to the news of the day, or worst of all…we say nothing at all when an opportunity to connect arises. Instead, we look down at our phones and pop in our headphones.