Layers and Layers of Stories

I’m at Panera writing tonight, a little treat on which Tahd sends me around once a week. I call it a treat, but I think he calls is “my wife needs some alone time to regain the mental health she’s losing” time. Potato, potahto, am I right?

Tonight, across the restaurant from me sits a gentleman with whom I’d love to have a conversation. He looks gritty and a little tired, wearing dirty grey jeans and an old monochromatic t-shirt. A faded ball cap and a long, straggly white beard complete his look. But he has a laptop, which just doesn’t seem to go to me, on which he types with one finger at a time. It’s so curious to me.  What is he doing? What is he writing? What did he do before he got here? Why did he come to Panera to use his laptop?

In front of him—adjacent, not with him—sits a lady of a similar vintage. She looks friendly and grandmotherly, lost in a book and wearing purple pants, a peach sweater, and a winter coat slung over the back of her chair. It was 70 degrees here today, but it’s our first warm day and I’m betting she knows Wisconsin and that a 70 degree day means zilch and the weather can change on a dime. Also, she sports a hot pink swatch that wildly stripes her crown of white hair.  Another person for whom I have questions. Is it spray-on? Is it temporary? Who did it to her? And why?

Do you ever do that—wonder about people’s stories?

I was here a year or two back, at the same table, actually, and a pair of women sitting just across the fireplace captivated me. One in particular had the most contagious smile and positively exuded joy with her laughter, so it caught me especially off guard when I realized the purpose of the dinner was to share cancer stories.

I swear I don’t usually try to eavesdrop, but on this night, I couldn’t help myself. The older, mellower woman of the two had recently completed her treatment and their prognoses was exceedingly hopeful. They talked about health and energy and families and life in general with such honesty and hope.

I have a collection of anxious fixations, and getting cancer is one of them. Seeing these women face a terrifying situation with bravery and hope inspired me, and not just about the strength I might find if I every develop cancer. No, they seemed alive with purpose, like they’d been let in on a slice of the secret of life and weren’t going to waste a drop of it.

I’ve never forgotten them. Obviously I couldn’t know much about them from a short exposure, but they were special. That was clear.

I’ve long had a favorite article about memory-keeping and storytelling within families. But lately I’ve been thinking about stories in an even broader sense. We all carry stories with us, meandering through our everyday lives without noticing how they tumble out of us at unsuspecting moment, like while we’re at church or the grocery store or at Panera. Or we’re so stuck in our own stories and our own heads that we fail to notice the stories being lived out all around us by our loved ones, friends, and even strangers.

But stories are so powerful. The very best communicators have always shared through stories. Jesus taught through stories. How do you capture the heart and mind of a young child? Read or tell them stories.

Stories enrich. Stories make sense of. Stories mirror. Stories clarify.

I want to come more alive to these stories. I want to be the kind of woman who is generous with her story so others can connect with it how they see fit. I want to be the kind of friend who listens attentively to others’ stories, not just with my ears but with my heart. I want to be the kind of wife who empowers her husband to be confident in his story and the kind of mother who is passionate about helping her children tell their own stories, not the stories that she supposes they should tell. I want to be the kind of woman who isn’t so scared or busy or distracted that I live unaffected by the stories of the strangers around me.

The pink-haired woman is putting on a nasal oxygen kit, and I see there must be another part of her story of which I wasn’t aware before this moment. Layers, really, that’s what we are. Layers and layers of stories. That’s what makes a life. And those stories have power.

(Side note ~ I wrote this story a number of months ago, and it sat, unedited, in my folder of drafts. There’s more to this story now, much more I wasn’t expecting, but at the rate I’m writing it’ll take me half a year to get it down, so I wanted to share this part now. <3)

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Speak Your Mind

*

CommentLuv badge