Thursday, May 9, 2013

Sharing stories

I love stories.  I love to tell stories, love to hear stories and love to remember stories.  My dad used to have us stand on the bricks of the fireplace and tell an account of our day.  He made a rule that if we made any pregnant pauses or said “umm”, we had to start over from the very beginning.  I always started the same way, “I woke up at X:XXam, and umm…”  Buzz!  “I woke up at X:XXam, got out of bed, went to the bathroom, went back to change my clothes, and umm…”  Buzz!  I remember making such an effort to get at least one step further every time before I had to restart. I normally began laughing or was distracted by comments being made from the peanut gallery that I’m really not all that sure I ever finished recounting a day.  I also feel like we did this exercise a lot but maybe it was only a few times.  I just remember it really clearly because it was such a great challenge.  One summer we all had to earn $100 in spending money to take on a trip to Hawaii.  My sister did so and then spent very little of that $100 while we were on vacation.  My dad had her stand on the bricks to tell us why she didn’t spend her money when my brother and I had.  While I don’t remember a word she said, I remember laughing hysterically watching her up there. 

In my active alcoholism and addictions my daily goal was to just get ‘there’, meaning anywhere but where I was.  The strange thing about it though, was that once I was ‘there’, the goal remained the same… get me anywhere but here.  So the cycle went.  This cycle was the beginning of the end of my drinking and using.  My drinking, eating and insert behavior here just stopped working.  No amount of anything could keep me out of me, and I just wanted me to disappear.  Obviously, quite a contrast to the type of escape I get from hearing stories, but I just can’t imagine a better high than laughing so hard my sides split, my eyes water and I lose my breath so badly that I start coughing before I can regain control. 

So, the reason I bring this up is that last week my sister, brother-in-law, mom, dad, husband and I were all in my parents’ kitchen last week, when the retelling of my many ‘wake up fits’ began.  My sister has the imitation of me down so well that it brings the whole event to life all over again.  This time she was focused in on an evening that I woke up at around 7 and frantically ran into the kitchen.  I was getting out cereal and milk and slamming my bowl down on the sink when my mom or dad asked me what I was doing.  Completed exasperated, I screamed back “WHAT DO YOU MEAN WHAT AM I DOING I’M TRYING TO EAT BREAKFAST AND I’M TOTALLY GOING TO FAIL MY TEST TODAY CAUSE I DIDN’T STUDY CAUSE I FELL ASLEEP I’M GOING TO FAIL!  WHAT DO YOU MEAN WHAT AM I DOING??!!!”  Family member, “Fran…”.  “YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND I’M GOING TO FAIL!!” “Fran, it’s 7 o’clock at night, not in the morning”.  “WHAT WHAT?!”  I was still waking up so it didn’t sink in instantly, but several more moments and it clicked that my dad was home and they were eating dinner.  As my sister reenacted the scene, we all broke into fits of laughter.  What a great feeling.  On the way home, I just kept getting the giggles seeing images of her playing the whole thing through and then experience the laughter all over again as my husband was playing her imitation over with me later. 

Stories give me perspective. They allow me to laugh at myself and at things once heavy and consuming.  They remind me of the value that every moment can hold.  They show me another side of my friends and family.  They reveal my own growth and the strength and love of others.   They take me to another place and my emotions and thoughts shift completely. Tell your story.  Listen to the stories of others.  Take it from me, it’s tough to find a better experience. 

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