One Story. Two Tales.

I am a master storyteller.

Now let me OWN that a bit more fully.

I am a Master Storyteller. It’s an official title and I have been carrying it with honour.

I am able to craft stories that are so detailed and well constructed that they serve to stop me dead in my tracks.

These stories that I weave around events in my life are brilliant. They keep me rooted in the present moment. They come from solid experiences in my past and they keep me turning in circles inside my own little box and prevent me from busting out and taking on the world.

My stories have been my captor, my cage, my shackles. My stories have held me firmly in place, serving only to keep my perfectly safe and unharmed by life. I can’t go out in the world and fully express myself because my stories pop up and yell at me.

“Hey, lady. THAT thing that you want to do? That is not part of our narrative, sweetheart. No, no, no. Sit down here in this comfortable chair and consider what you thought you wanted. Are you trying to escape our torment?

WE are the story and WE are in charge. You must only use your skills, talent, brains and experience to walk within the parameters we have set out for you. When you try to escape us, you dare to re-write these stories and that can only lead to in one direction…forward. We, your old stories are here to say this loud and clear. Do not try to re-write us. If you do, you risk EVERYTHING. If you re-write us you risk gaining new opportunities, new goals, new dreams, actual successes. (*GASP* clutch my pearls I’m going to die)

We are NOT down with that plan. If you shatter us, we will be nothing but….dead. And you, formerly obedient one, you will fly. And that scares us. So, please don’t.”

So now I have a problem. I recently become aware of my super-power for crafting these elaborate stories that hold me back and keep me from accomplishing my goals. Now I am setting out to re-write them.

All of them.

One by one by one.

These old stories that I wrote from a place of love and compassion, from a child’s perspective, they need to go. I need to take the stories I wove from good intention and circumstance and turn them on their head. I need to toss them to the curb entirely and write some new stories. Stories that end in… “and she lived happily ever after.”

There are a lot of these stories so don’t get the popcorn started just yet. I have a long ways to go before my work is done. But now that I know I am a Master Storyteller, I can set about the business of taking a red marker to those drafts and marking that shit up. I am going in to edit the living daylights out of these babies.

I’ll give you an example and share my biggest re-write to date. This one took around a half century to get to the cutting room. It got written over a lifetime. It was added to by various characters. It had plot twists. It was riddled with mystery and intrigue, heartbreak and grief. I’ll tell you my first version of the story. And then I’ll tell you the new version.

Kathi’s Story – Take 1

“It’s been really fun getting to know you Kathi,” said my new friend in the cafe. We had just sat down for a coffee and were exchanging life details with one another. “Do you have any siblings?”

“Yes,” I said. I sat up a little straighter and looked slightly off to one side avoiding eye contact while I rattled off the script. “I have a sister who is 10 years older than I and two brothers who are both deceased. One died when I was in my 20’s at the age of 43, and the other died the year before I was born from an accidental gunshot.”

(Even as I type this, I can feel myself going into my storytelling mode. I’ve told this story to every person I’ve met for the last 40+ years.)

This story comes with a long narrative. It comes with me as a small child growing up with a family that always had an empty seat the table. I was born to a mother who was grieving the loss of her 14 year old son under extremely tragic circumstances. It comes with a knowing that everyone in my family experienced trauma that day, but since it was unspoken I never really knew what that trauma looked like so I spent year colouring in the details in my mind.

The story is about a young girl of 5, 10, 15, 35 who always had a 14 year old brother who was an athlete, loved by his teachers and classmates. The story includes a sailboat in his memory at my first summer camp. Always an honour when I got to go out in the “Peter B”. It comes with candlesticks donated in his memory to my private school where I got to look at them every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning in “big chapel” for 6 years. I had the honour of meeting Peter’s math teacher and having him instruct me in Grade 12, which was colossally embarrassing to us all because I can’t add.

It’s the story of a young girl who wore her brothers’ school ring and had to have it cut off her finger after a football catching mishap, later to have it made into a pendant to keep him close to my heart. The story tells of a girl who sought closure for her grief for many, many years, coming to understand the value of ceremony and funerals.

In every home until I moved to Morocco at the age of 51, I had Peter’s school photo displayed as well as two pictures of my siblings as a group, in which I did not exist. And there’s this – my all time favourite family photo. I’m not in it. I wasn’t even that twinkle in my mother’s eye in this photo.

Fast forward to 2017. Marrakech. I’m working with a team of professionals including a coach, a personal trainer, a naturopath and a hypnotherapist. I had been on anti-depressants for 10 years, maximum dose. I was feeling another depression coming on and I had no way to fight it off. (OH see!! There’s another cheeky story. I had PLENTY of ways to actively fight it off if you just read the previous sentence.)

With the help of these people I had an insight.

Kathi’s Story – Take TWO

“It’s been really fun getting to know you Kathi,” said my new friend in the cafe. We had just sat down for a coffee and were exchanging life details with one another. “Do you have any siblings?”

“Yes,” I said. “I do. I have a sister who is 10 years my senior and I had a brother who was 20 years older but he died at the age of 43.”

In this version of my story, I have a little developmental trauma after being born from a grieving mother. She loved me with every fibre of her being for the rest of her life. In this story, my family, Bless their pointed heads, had a son / brother, who died tragically at an early age. Who I did not know. Because I didn’t exist when he did. Period. Full stop.

In both stories I learned about grief and trauma and family dynamics. I learned compassion and tradition and how to memorialise someone very special.

But in the second story, I learned that the first story did not happen TO me. It happened NEAR me. It happened FOR me. But it did not happen TO me. My family experienced a tragedy. They healed. And then I came along.

I went off my antidepressants about a month later and have never looked back.

Now I am off to go digging for more stories. I bet I have a couple doozy’s just waiting for the red pen.