The Story of You

Do you need it?


Two year old and four year old girls in blue dresses. Taken in photographer's studio.
A photo of me and my sister Christine before I was old enough to carry around "The Story of Me". I'm on the left. The professional photographer is not known but was probably based in Fremantle, Western Australia, in the 1950s.

If someone sidled up to me at a party (this would be highly unlikely because people seldom sidle and I rarely go to parties) and said, ‘Who are you?’ I’d probably launch into The Story of Me. I’ve told it many times and the more times I tell it, the more interesting it gets – at least to me.


But do I need this story?


Of course, if someone asks us about ourselves, we have to say something in reply. Whispering hoarsely that we come from nowhere and have no name is not only spooky but also ridiculous. We’re born somewhere, and have friends and relatives, jobs, interests, and preferences.


For instance, I was born in Western Australia to working-class parents, and have two sisters, one husband, five children, and four grandchildren. I work for Alzheimer’s WA and write in my spare time. I love ducks, going to live music events, and eating baked lemon cheesecake. This is all fascinating stuff and proves to my questioner that I’m definitely a human being.


At this point, they may smile and turn away to sidle off to other party goers, but I’d probably grab their arm and insist they listen to the rest of The Story of Me. This is when I become emotional. I mention I was raised under religious repression, didn’t grow as tall as I wanted to, have had more rejections from publishers than there are quills on a porcupine, and if all my wrinkles were lined up, they’d reach from Earth to Venus and halfway back. If I kept going with The Story of Me, I’d probably collapse into a maudlin heap of uselessness at my listener’s feet.


Do you have a story about yourself?


Are you a Cinderella or a Snow White? Does your story contain aspects of that home intruder Goldilocks? Are you a bit thick like Jack, who sold a pig for a bean which he planted and it grew so tall it buckled the foundations of his house? Does your story about yourself reach the depths of a Shakespearean tragedy or the heights of an Italian opera? Do you spin a tale of revenge, resentment, or hate? Are you a victim or the next Super Woman?


Why do we have these stories about ourselves? What is their purpose?


They give us a sense of identity.


In an interview (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x6tMLAjPVyo), the historian and author of the science bestseller, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, Yuval Noah Harari said:


Our identity is really just a story which we constantly construct and embellish.


We carry this sense of identity around with us, and the more we retell and embellish this identity, the stronger this sense of identity is, and the safer we feel. It sets us apart and makes us feel separate, distinct, and unique. But this identity is just a series of stories, not what we really are. We are physical, we take up space, and we breathe, and move around. But there’s more to us than this. And there’s only one way to find out that this is so.


We have to let go of our stories.



Live Without Your Story


Just for a day, try to live without your story.


This will feel weird. In fact, you’ll switch in and out of your story throughout the day, but that’s okay.


Forget that you have a name and a past.


Get out of your head and into your body.


Just be present.


Be presence.


When I do this, it seldom lasts more than a few seconds or an occasional minute before I fall back into the story.


But those brief times are lighter, more energized, more spacious, and more peaceful, than any I have when I cling to The Story of Me.


Let go of your story.


See how you feel.


With love, Marlane


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