More and more, I am convinced we need more story. We need to slow down. We need to listen, listen to ourselves and others. We move so fast, not listening, not knowing the full story, forming opinions in the fast lane, cutting others off, leaving them stunned and sometimes hurt. Labeling in a split second when a person pulls over in front of us, they are instantly an asshole or insane. Never mind that they may be a very nice person who has a blind spot or at that moment made a bad judgement call. Aren’t labels for products and diagnosis for doctors. We need to open our minds, get out of black and white thinking. There are always at least two sides to every story, no right or wrong. We need to understand. We need to take care with our words and language. Pat Benatar is setting an example by no longer singing her hit song, Hit Me with Your Best Shot. These thoughts and call to pay attention came to me while listening to Ocean Vuong talk with Krista Tippett, On Being. Highly recommend taking the time to listen to this tender, moving, mind opening episode: Ocean Vuong – A Life Worthy of Our Breath
Sunday afternoon, I sat alone in a theater, surrounded by people and cried. There is a lot of sadness in the world. I was listening to writers speak of this sadness, expressing it so eloquently. The power of words and people who craft them perfectly is enough to bring me to tears.
Terry in turn, told a story of how Rick had been there for her when her brother committed suicide a couple of years ago. He rang, she said and started telling me a story. He didn’t say, “I’m sorry for your loss” nor try to say the right thing. He just told story until they hung up.
I missed the speakers on Saturday. Heard it was excellent, with a tribute to the late William Kittredge. Terry shared a passage from Bill’s book, Hole in the Sky, “We tell stories to talk out the troubles in our lives, trouble otherwise so often unspeakable. It is one of our main ways of making our lives sensible. Trying to live without stories can make us crazy. They help us to recognize what we believe to be the most valuable in the world, and help us identify what we hold demonic.” William Kittredge
Doug Peacock shared stories and read from his books. I confess I have not read them yet. Listening to him, I’m inclined to read them. Rick mentioned he requires his students to read, The Grizzly Years. That’s now on my “must read” list.
Another take away was a reminder of the work that needs to be done to save Yaak Valley Forest. “In addition to being the stronghold of the last 25 grizzlies in the Yaak Valley, the northwest corner of Montana holds one of the great stalwarts for any successful plan for the western United States to successfully weather the rising tide of global warming.” Rick Bass, Black Ram Project.
As a high school friend of Rick’s ex-wife, I had the good fortune to visit and stay with them in the Yaak on several occasions. We’ve floated the river, passing moose, walked in the forest, watched the northern lights from a fire tower and sat atop a mountain ridge with the taste of Rick’s freshly baked pie in our mouths as shooting stars were the free of charge showing for the night. It is, as many places are, a place worth saving.
“The cruel things I did I took to the river. I begged the current: make me better.” Richard Hugo “The Towns We Know and Leave Behind, The Rivers We Carry With Us”
Robert came to Missoula in 1979, and shortly after bought the hotel. I mentioned in an earlier blog, that recently I have had the opportunity to get to know him, learn his habits and some of the reasons behind them. At the end of this summer, he was walking downtown and was hit be a car. We learned about it when he was brought back home after a visit to the emergency room, showing us stitches along one calf. As several of us circled around him, checking for other injuries, he insisted he was fine. In fact, after he was hit, he told the policeman he would just walk home. Thankfully, the policeman insisted that ambulance take him to the hospital. They gave him a strong pain killer and I believe he was full of adrenaline. He insisted on climbing up the ladder to his loft bed in spite of our conclave presenting our best arguments. I in turn, insisted on sleeping in the room across the hall from him as it is kept as a guest room. One of the guys brought him something to pee into. As Robert raised a hammer, he reminded us that he and John who lives in the room directly above him, have a system. If Robert has an emergency, needs help in the middle of the night, he bangs on the radiator with the hammer. That was the signal for John to come running. Sure’nuf around four in the morning, the banging started. John and I flew into his room. Robert, blurry eyed, stared down at us asking for help in getting down from the loft. After he came back from the restroom, John and I stepped into the hall as Robert changed his clothes. But he hollered for help. He fell as he was changing pants and couldn’t get up. “That’s it.” I said, “you are sleeping in the room across the hall from now on.” It has a twin bed that is not a loft. He didn’t argue this time. Thankfully, I had a break in my house/pet sitting jobs for a few weeks and could give Robert the attention he needed. I mean it’s something for anyone to be hit by a car, but even more so when you are 82 years old. During the first week, the ankle on the leg that didn’t have stitches continued to swell up and it was painful for him to walk. After carefully nudging, I took him back to the ER. Yep, he had a fracture and needed to wear an orthopedic boot. We spent quiet mornings visiting, drinking coffee and getting some food in him. Robert is a very independent person and has his routine. He is used to getting out everyday for a walk and his card game with friends. He appreciated my company. I got to hear stories of his childhood in Holland during World War II. How his father buried a car, I suppose to keep the enemy from confiscating it, then unearthing it after the war. How they went without water. “That’s why I have bottles of water stored up, it’s terrible to not have water” he told me. Now, I understood, why his empty juice bottles were filled with water and tucked away.
I love that stories, listening help us to understand each other and our ways. Stories bring us closer, they open our hearts.
Robert is well on the mend. He and a fellow house mate took off yesterday for a trip to Spokane. I miss our quiet story telling mornings. However, we do go out for lunch, take a walk and I still make him oatmeal in the morning every now and then.
This woman walks the talk and I am lucky to have her as a writing coach. She keeps me on track, keeps it real and pushes me forward with a gentle firmness.
“On the verge of self-imploding after a one-two punch of breast cancer and blindness, Ingrid Ricks, NYT bestselling author and mother of two, realized she had a choice: let fear and self-loathing swallow her whole, or give her inner demons the boot and rewrite the soul-destroying stories she was telling herself.”
Tuesday, June 15th, 8:00-9:00 PST AM, she will be sharing how she transformed her life and changed the stories she was telling herself. You will learn steps she uses to keep the negative voices at bay. It’s free and sure to be enlightening.
I did happen upon an enlightening show and podcast this month.
In the series, The Me You Can’t See, Oprah Winfrey brings stories to the screen that attempt to bring truth, understanding and compassion to those suffering. The things we don’t see or understand scare us. It’s in story that we can heal, listen and find compassion.
As I watched, it brought to mind my most unfavorite word, crazy. It’s limiting. It does not take into account what may have happened to someone. Calling someone crazy is dismissive, only adding to the stigma of mental illness. It is used as a defensive mechanism to shut someone up. Instead of calling someone crazy or saying what is wrong with you, ask what happened. Then listen.
*In Brene Brown’s podcast, Unlocking Us, she speaks with writer Ashley C. Ford about her new memoir, Somebody’s Daughter, and how it is written for everyone who walks into a bookstore and feels like they can’t find a book about themselves and there are a lot of us looking for that. They talk about the writing process, the truth-telling process, and how connecting the two can be liberating not only to us, but also to others. It is not just a story about her life, it is a story about life and what connects us to show us that we are not alone–and that we are braver than we know. Ashley makes the point that there are not heroes and no villains in her story. I aim to make that apparent in my memoir. We are all flawed, most of us have had something happen to us and we all deserve grace.
Wendy’s daughter was getting married. We were all invited, all three of us plus the new one. We had all touched her daughter’s life and she wanted us gathered around, outside in beautiful Montana, along with her fun loving friends.
Since we had all been married to her father at different times, he would witness our connection. Three good choices, that ended due to his soon to follow bad choices.
The ceremony was beautiful. We all got to hear her father go on too long about his beautiful, bright daughter, making it all about himself.
Guests dispersed to sitting tables, bathrooms, food and drink tables. The brides grandmother, my ex mother in-law spotted me, grabbed me and insisted I find the other two for a photo opp. Forget that she has once sided with her son (I was the first) during our divorce. The two who followed me became similar characters in the story of the cheating husband. His mother, then saw her son for the playwright that he was.