I’ve been thinking about how when we meet and greet each other, we have no idea of each other’s untold stories. The answer to “how are you?” is hardly ever the whole truth – how can it be?
I have been noticing moments when I am present to someone and I can sense the untold story, hear its distant tremor in the heart of the person I am with, and I become aware of it not being released into words.
The context, of course, is everything. If the person enquiring is a dear friend, opening up time together over coffee for two, then perhaps some more of the story comes out.
I have taken to imagining the untold stories, and their longing to be heard.
Being available for the story that wants to come out is something I have all the time in the world for. That is, if only the world would give me all the time needed to listen for as long as the story deserves.
I love the knowledge that attention, mine, yours, has the power to release the other’s story. In my life, I consider it one of the greatest discoveries: an extraordinary gift.
Time and again, however, I think we find ourselves listening to the answers people reveal that are being shaped by our having no time for the real story to emerge.
How, in the course of our daily lives, can we have the time to hear that only last Thursday you helped your one and only sibling, your younger sister, check her husband of the last 56 years into a hospice so as to be able to allow yourself and herself to cope with his stage 4 colon cancer?
When do we have the time to find the courage to speak the words that share that we are feeling lost in a liminal space, our familiar shore a distant smudge, unable yet to see the new land on our horizons?
And when we do speak, when we do have the time and the listening ear that can help us to generate the words of our story, what words do we choose so that we are not locking ourselves into untrue assumptions, lived as true?
How do we language our lives so that we do not keep ourselves glued to a story that will disempower and keep us stuck?
We are bombarded, every day, with perceptions languaged as fact. Perceptions languaged as fact that get repeated and repeated until all around us people are relating to them as the truth.
Language is the house of the truth of Being – Martin Heidegger
It is an extraordinary gift, and responsibility, that we humans have to be able to speak our world into being. We can choose the words we use to give life to our experiences so that our stories allow us to live our lives fully. But this is a huge undertaking.
The decision about hospice can be a choosing of love and compassion, or one of failure and guilt.
The liminal land can be a time of pioneering courage, a new chapter with trade winds at our back – or it can be labelled as rudderless meandering with no purpose in sight.
And I’m thinking that the flip side to this power we have to language our experience into being wild and precious, is the power we have to listen to each other’s stories, both told and untold, in such a way that we serve the storyteller’s imagination.
We can partner each other to be free.