story

A moral dilemma

A moral dilemma

December 8, 2020
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The bottom line: A permission slip, to myself, to write to my heart’s content. And then, after I’ve finished writing, apply my new-found skills of the story scaffolding to the piece, to help me determine whether or not this is a story or a non-story. Depending on the answer, there might be some value in going back to the piece to shape, embellish, clarify it. Or not.

I spent an hour and a half in the company of four newfound friends, all of whom are co-travellers in the Story Skills Workshop. One of the assignments is to record yourself telling (or reading. Yeah. There’s a difference. One I’d not been fully aware of before.) a story, and then invite others into a live story-telling-session. 

It was a lot of fun, very rewarding in terms of feedback given and received, and, as always, feedback given by someone to another story-teller, is sometimes as helpful, or perhaps even more helpful, than feedback directed straight at me. The round-about-way is, perhaps, more palatable, in the sense that I am more easily open to take in what is being said, when it is not me, my story, my performance, my telling, that’s in the spotlight. 

The direct feedback I got was extremely valuable though, and here I am, contemplating a re-write of my story, to encompass all of the insights and nudges I got after my first round of telling it. 

However, as I woke this morning I remembered… I’d recently read  s o m e t h i n g  that spoke precisely to this. To the re-telling, the embellishment, the ’making more of’ that I was busy doing, in my mind’s eye. But what was that something? And where did I read it? 

I turned towards one of the four books I am currently reading, neatly stacked on my nightstand, and picked it up. I was hoping it was this one (A Primer for Forgetting, by Lewis Hyde), and not The Naked Now by Richard Rohr that I’d finished a week prior, and subsequently had borrowed to a friend. If it was that one I was in trouble, as I didn’t have it at hand. 

Flicking through the pages of Hyde’s book, going backwards from my bookmark firmly lodged on page 126, I glance at my marginalia, hoping that it will pop up. Luckily, it does. On page 100, so not even that many pages back. It’s a chapter titled FEED ON THE PRESENT and in it Hyde recounts a  story he’s heard recounted, of a man coming to a realization on the actual recounting of his story. 

As I am extra fond of these meta-me (or meta-Larry, in this case) conversations, here’s a few paragraphs from the book:

”… when he got home and recounted the story to various friends, ’the telling started to change a bit, from it just being a straight report of a fact and what I went through. I saw that it was promoting the self. […]’ The story had picked up self-importance along the way; ’there was some mileage coming from it.’”

’… this kind of self-making may be unavoidable and often harmless, but as a matter of Buddhist practice it should at least be noticed, be brought to mind. ’I saw what the mind was doing; the mind was taking materials from the pastas first they were just ’factual’ but then immediately started to use them for the present, the present sense of myself… The self if constantly using the materials of the past and the future to nourish itself, to build itself up… I didn’t do it consciously… It just happened. The ego is going to work, and that’s what it knows how to do.’

[…] to describe how the ego functions: it feeds on the past and the future.

– Lewis Hyde, A Primer for Forgetting

Now.
I am not a journalist.
Embellishing texts and stories is well within my prerogative, and yet.
I do believe there’s something to the awareness alluded to by Hyde (and Larry). If I am conscious of what I am doing, as I am embellishing my stories… I don’t know. There’s a greater chance of me being careful with the message? Or intentful? My stories are often centered around me – my learnings, insights, difficulties – and I honestly don’t want to make me into a person far removed from the people I am trying to reach, be it through writing or telling. I want the threshold to be lowered, rather than increased, and if I were to simply embellish as much as I can, I fear that wouldn’t be the case. 

Perhaps this is simply a message for me, as this is part of the usefulness I make of my writing:
I discover myself while writing, and if I then embellish freely, is it me I am discovering, or an imaginary me? 

(My old me did stop here, leaving you, as well as me, hanging. But, in having a story scaffolding to drape my story across, when I did, I came to the realization that this is an incomplete story, if I want it to actually read as a story. The missing part is the consequence. Where will this all lead to? What will this all lead to? 

Again. I don’t  h a v e  to make it into a full story. That’s my prerogative. Each and every time. But, for the purpose of the learning and discovery-journey I am on, let’s say I do want that:)

I’d say, my answer to this moral dilemma, centers around what my purpose is.
Am I writing only to find me? If so. Go ahead, make it less story-telling-worthy. Don’t embellish, stick to what helps me find me. 

But if I am also, or only, writing in order to get a point across, to publish a text that I hope will resonate with others too… then by all means. Put a bit more effort into it. Check to see that the story scaffolding is active in each and every step. Make sure I do engage my audience, that the challenge is clearly seen/felt/understood, so that the resolution points to a change, leaving no-one in question as to where the story ended for the heroine. 

Only… that leaves me with the worst answer of them all: It all depends. 

However. I actually think this speaks to what the Story Skills Workshop is truly about. For me. (Important bit, that last one. For me!) I write, a lot, and seldom am I intentional with my writings. Neither when sitting down to write, nor when I ship. And honestly, I don’t necessarily want to be more intentional when setting out to write. I do so enjoy writing only to discover when I am knee-deep in, what I am actually writing about. 

But the latter part. Doing the post-analysis, using the story scaffolding, helps me see what the piece is all about. And prompts me to ask myself: What’s the purpose of this piece? What do I want it to be? What do I want it to do? Does it want to become a story, or is it (I!) content with having it be a non-story?

Depending on the answer, I might, or might not, do what I did here. Go back to the writing, deliberately and intentionally shaping it (or not), embellishing it (or not), clarifying it (or not), so that I know I’ve done my best to give it the necessary prerequisites of being able to live up to my intention/s. Story or non-story alike.


#tankespjärn, for those who wish to discover. More. Other. New.
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I write to discover

December 7, 2020
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The bottom line:
When to use the framework and tools I am learning from the Story Skills Workshop, and when not to. A great discernment to make!

I know now why I resist the story scaffolding.
When I write, I mostly write to discover. Not to learn, and definitely not to teach.

When I write to discover, it is as much a surprise to me, as to anyone else, what will come.
It’s truly a matter of what wants to happen here, very far from I want this to happen now.

Like this piece.
I had the start – the insight that I write to discover. But that was it. Nothing else, nothing more. Once I put fingers to keyboard, it comes, whatever it is. I let it, and I love letting it, sometimes chuckling to myself over what is revealed to me, sometimes confused or surprised, now and again moved to tears.

Given this, I am seeing the use of the story scaffolding for me to vary on account of what type of writing it is. A piece such as this, I’d best put it out of my mind until it’s done, all has come out. Then it might well be of use to me to play with analyzing the text, seeing if I can discover all the elements of a story in it, and depending upon what type of text I’ve written, if it is a story, an actual story, that analysis can help me make the story a better story, a more succinct story, a more complete story.

If I set out knowing that I am writing a proper story, one where I know the beginning, middle and end, and the point I want to get across, why, then performing the analysis according to the story scaffolding ahead of time makes perfect sense. That will help me structure the story, get the arc of it in place in a way that serves the reader.

And then… there’s all the other stuff I write.
The non-stories.
The stream-of-consciousness-pieces as well as the poems, the book reflections and anecdotes, the invitations and…
At a loss for words, I’ve realized I’ve batched most everything into the concept of story, something the Story Skills Workshop has shone a light on, making me discern more consciously what is a story and what isn’t, but I am far from on firm ground here. So I don’t know, what else might I be writing that is a non-story?

I don’t know, and I am eager to discover more on that topic, as well as what will happen when I start to use the framework and tools from the workshop more actively, more deliberately. And I wonder… will you notice? Will there be a sudden shift, in what I write, how I write, how you, the reader, will perceive it (I don’t think so. But if I am wrong, please tell me!), or will it be a gradual shift, invisible in each and every piece to its own, but when put together, next to one another, small incremental spets will be discernable, when looking back (Yes. If anything, this!)?


#tankespjärn, for those who wish to discover. More. Other. New.
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The note from heaven (book 4 of 12)

April 28, 2019
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in Tip
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“[…] getting closer to authentic expression, deeper into the music. Away from the ego, into the soul. Finding balance between the chaos of feelings and the dictates of the intellect. Disappearing somewhere between these two states, and growing from that place through the music.”

At the No Mind-festival in Ängsbacka the summer of 2018, I attended a workshop with Githa Ben-David on the note from heaven, and was enthralled. A roomful of people all singing on Aaarh, to their inner note from heaven (or at least aiming for it), for half an hour, that was energizing, let me tell you!

“That which touches the heart is never boring.
We come up against the same truth again and again. It is the essence that is important, not the story itself.”

Then I found out she’s married to Lars Muhl of The O Manuscript, this magnificent book-reading experience of mine, and was even more curious. So I bought her book: The note from heaven, by Githa Ben-David.

“When your light shines, you activate the light in others, and help them to remember that they are complete beings.

Anybody can shine! It is a matter of choice. If you wish to set your light free, then you need to unfold your wings. Let the wind carry you, and be prepared to land on both feet so you can fulfil your destiny on earth.”

I tried explaining to a few friends what The note from heaven is all about… and failed. I couldn’t find the words to explain or convey what this is all about. In short, it centers on the fact that everything is vibrations, truly e v e r y t h i n g. This means that with vibrations we can start to resonate, and dislodge, free, liberate, old memories and traumas, that stop us from shining our light into the world, shining fully as that which we are.

And this resonates enormously with me. It’s synchronicity in the making for me, as I stumble upon shine over and over again. It comes up, in conversations, in comments, in my dreams and the words I write and speak.

“When you find a form of expression that brings you joy, you will naturally wish to share it with other people This is a spiritual law: joy is like fire. When you pass it on and it is accepted, it spreads.”

Instead of trying to give this book the credit it deserves (besides the content and the essence of the story: The language. It is beautifully written!) when I fumble for words, I let the quotes speak for themselves. If they resonate with you, and you get curious about sound-healing, pick up the book!

“Open your arms so that you can contain as much light as possible. Receive everything that is given to you. The more you shine, the better you can serve the all. Pure energy flows like water, catches fire, spreads like love. It must be passed on. If you push it away, you lose it. If you hold on to it, it will be taken from you.” 

Shine on, you crazy diamond! Shine on.
And I, I will shine on right beside you.


The book I am blogging about is part of the book-reading challenge I’ve set for myself during 2019, to read and blog about 12 Swedish and 12 English books, one every other week, books that I already own.

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Difference is a teacher

October 27, 2018
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in Tip
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I want my story heard, because, ironically, I believe Picasso was right. I believe we could paint a better world, if we learned how to see it from all perspectives, as many perspectives as we possibly could. Because diversity is strength, difference is a teacher. Fear difference; you learn nothing. – Hanna Gadsby

A dear friend of mine posted a summons on Facebook to watch Nanette, by Hannah Gadsby, telling me and his other friends, to “Watch it. Thank me later.”

I watched it a few months ago, at the suggestion of my ex-husband. I watched it then, and was astonished. Nanette is sensationally good, and Hannah Gadsby nails it, over and over and over again. But as I sat down in my sofa, wrapped in woolen blankets, with a cup of hot tea with honey, trying to scare away a headcold that’s been creeping up on me, reading Caspians summons, I figured, why not watch Nanette again?

So I did.
Just as astonished. Bowled over. Nailed. Over and over and over.
There is simply no hiding from her, from her justified anger, from her story.

I am angry, and I believe I’ve got every right to be angry. But what I don’t have a right to do, is to spread anger. I don’t. Because anger, much like laughter can connect a room full of strangers, like nothing else. But anger, even if it is connected to laughter, will not relieve tension, because anger is a tension. It is a toxic, infectious tension, and it knows no other purpose than to spread blind hatred, and I want no part of it because I take my freedom of speech as a responsibility. And just because I can position myself as a victim does not make my anger constructive. It never is constructive.

Laughter is not our medicine. Stories hold our cure. Laughter is just the honey that sweetens the bitter medicine. – Hannah Gadsby

To finish off, I’ll simply quote Caspian:
Watch it. Thank me later.

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Educated. A must-read.

May 25, 2018
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in Tip
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A few months ago, my brother sent me a podcast tip, of Tara Westover in conversation on Talking politics. I listened, intrigued and curious after reading this blurb:
David talks to Tara Westover about her incredible new book Educated, which tells the story of how a girl brought up by survivalists in Idaho and who never went to school ended up with a PhD from Cambridge.  Along the way we discuss what education means and what Tara’s journey has taught her about politics and about life.  Really, this is a conversation about the important stuff.

I searched for the book in my local library database, didn’t find it, and sent in a purchase request. As often happens, the library got the book, and sent me an email saying I could come pick it up. I did. And didn’t start to read, busy busy, with all the other books I’ve been reading (this being the 38th book I’ve read so far this year). Got another email from the library, saying I had to return it – managed to extend my loan, and still didn’t start to read, busy busy… Third email dropped into my inbox, saying the book was due back again. Tried to repeat my action to extend my loan, but alas, someone else has requested the book, due back this past Monday.

EducatedSo… I immediately returned it? No. Despicable me did not return it, but rather, finally got around to reading it! I just finished it, and I promise I will return it to the library come Monday, cross my heart and hope to die. And boy. What a book. What a story. I am very glad I took the time to read it.

Educated is…
impressive.
haunting.
hard to wrap my head around.
and a definite must-read!

During a visit to Cambridge in the UK; Tara get’s to walk atop the chapel of King’s College (it’s beautiful!), and walks up there, amazed at the sights. Her fellow students and the professor accompanying them, stays close to the walls, walking slowly and crab-like, afraid to fall to the ground. Tara doesn’t, and the professor points it out to her, asking how come she’s comfortable way up high on this roof.

“I can stand in this wind, because I’m not trying to stand in it,” I said. “The wind is just wind. You could withstand these gusts on the ground, so you can withstand them in the air. There is no difference. Except the difference you make in your head.”
He stared at me blankly. He hadn’t understood.
“I’m just standing,” I said. “You are all trying to compensate, to get your bodies lower because the height scares you. But the crouching and the sidestepping is not natural. You’ve made yourselves vulnerable. If you could just control your panic, this wind would be nothing.”
“The way it is nothing to you,” he said.

I’ve never actually thought about it, but she’s right. Why would it be harder to walk atop that roof, than down on the street below? Why is it harder to walk along a plank laid across a creek, that it is to walk across the kitchen floor? There is really not much of a difference, except the difference you make in your head. And once again, I am pointed back to the truth of how our thinking creates our experience of the world, in each and every moment.


Inspired to continue blogging on the theme from the #blogg100-challenge in 2017 I give you:
The book ”Educated” by Tara Westover

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Our past is a story we tell

April 28, 2018
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in Tip
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I think that something that was a real turning point for me was the realization that we have a choice how we view our past. I could have come out of dad’s incarceration, that time of separation, this kind of wild years, when I was a teenager and really hurting a great deal and seen it as a tragedy that this had happened to us, and told the story, that our dad abandoned us you know, and he made this choice to be a drug trafficker when he had young children, and can you believe that?

Our-past-is-a-story-we-tellI could have decided to tell the story that way, and then I would be a different person, and a less happy person. But I chose to tell it differently, and I chose to see it differently, and I believe in my version of events very truly but it is a choice that we make. Our past is a story we tell, and how we tell that story is a choice we make about who we are, and how we want to be perceived, and who we want to be, and I think being aware of that certainly empowers you to rethink in some ways. 

These are the words of Tyler Wetherall, a woman who grew up with a dad on the run, at the end of her long conversation with Jonathan Fields on the Good Life Project podcast. She touches a topic very dear to me, something which I certainly have given a lot of thought to these past years.

The realization that it is I who give value to my experiences, I color them, I make them significant or insignificant, meaningful or meaningless. With each layer I wrap around my experiences I have a choice. Each layer presents itself as an opportunity for me. I get to choose victimhood or ownership. Love or hate. Making myself large, or small. Helpless or in charge. At the mercy of someone else’s choices, or at the helm of my own life.

Does this mean I always make “the right” choice? No. Of course not.
But the more I practice (with ample help in my most valued question How does this serve me?) the easier it is to make decisions in the moment that do me good rather than the opposite. We get better at that which we focus on, at that which we practice – so I’ve made a choice to focus on being gentle towards myself, and being aware of the choices I have, is one way of honoring myself.

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