There is the passing along of information. And then there's the telling of stories. Both methods can both convey words, details, and content; but one has more power to bond us in our humanity, help us feel seen, and move us closer to hearing our own truth. Stories are powerful.
Stories of Female Connection
I was reminded of that today as I read through the essays that have been compiled in the Nothing But the Truth So Help Me God: 51 Women Reveal the Power of Positive Female Connection anthology. Fifty-one women opened up and let us in.
- I was moved by Laura Fenamore's essay as she described her journey with Overeaters Anonymous. I've never struggled with food in the same way or released 100 pounds like she did, but I know the feeling of being ashamed of your body.
- I felt my heart in my throat as I read Aspen Baker's story about her abortion. I've never had to face that decision, but as she described how many abortion stories she has (different ways of telling the one story) I nodded knowingly about how many different ways I can tell my divorce story-- all true, just each with a different focus. And as she shared the judgment she faces in the telling, I again nodded in affirmation.
- When Amie Penwell described her life going from idyllic childhood with two parents to a separation that followed with her father's too-soon death and her mother taking her from one spiritual commune to another, my heart ached for her, wishing I had known her and befriended her when we were young. I don't know what it feels like to go to six schools in two years. But I know the feeling she described when she finally found another "wounded warrior" to call a friend.
- Mickey Nelson's essay opens with the reading she shared at her 28-year old sister's memorial. How grateful I am that I haven't had to suffer the loss of a sibling, but I know grief. I resonated with her as she talks honestly about the parts of sadness that time doesn't heal.
I could go on-and-on. I know only a small handful of the women who contributed to the essays on these pages, and yet after their vulnerability-- I feel close to them. I saw them.
And, I saw me. Not always in the details, but in the feelings that connect us as humans.
Sharing Our Own Stories
I was reminded how easy it is to put up walls between us assuming no one else knows our pain and our stories. And while our stories may take on very different forms; what was ever clear was that there is more that connects us than we might ever guess. We all know what it feels like to be lonely, scared, confused, sad, and mad.
I'm struck though how much of our conversations with each other are based upon information: where do you work? where do you live? are you married? do you have kids? how long have you lived here? did you see the Giants game last night? We ask such informational questions that can leave us with an answer, but not necessarily with greater connection.
Whereas stories (i.e. what drew you to your job? why did you move here? Why is this important to you?) help us connect. Our empathy--the ability to identify with and understand the feelings of others-- has far greater chances of being tapped when someone shares their experience rather than simply relaying information.
Today, I encourage all of us to ask questions that invite stories.
And choose in some moments to share more than just the information.
If we want people to like us and feel close to us-- we have a far greater chance of that when we're willing to see and be seen. Those moments where we don't just tell each other the canned answers, but risk adding a feeling into the sentence, a moment of vulnerability into the life of another human. Let's tell stories! Like the women of old who sat around the campfires and passed along their traditions. Let's show up around metaphoric campfires and really talk, connect, and share.
Congratulations to Christine Bronstein who dreamed and birthed this anthology into existence. In a day and age where much focus is given to the drama of jealousy, competition, and cattiness that can occur between women-- we'd all be blessed for reading some positive stories. For by beholding, we become changed. Buy the book here on Amazon TODAY.