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This is your very first post. Click the Edit link to modify or delete it, or start a new post. If you like, use this post to tell readers why you started this blog and what you plan to do with it.

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Life is Story

Life stories begin the day we are born (sometimes even earlier if our parents share with us their experience of pregnancy). From birth to death, our lives are an ongoing narrative. At the beginning we are mostly passive recipients of our family’s care. Our identity begins to form as we hear stories from our parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. As we develop we become actively engaged in shaping our experiences. Each day we continue the process of writing, through our interactions with others. Some chapters of life are filled with joy and celebration. Others are driven by frustration, sorrow and loss.

This past year for me has been a very difficult chapter, a time of emotional upheaval and turmoil. I was “let go” from a job, my mother was diagnosed with cancer, our election created both personal and cultural crisis. So when we celebrated my birthday this past Monday, I made the decision to finally “give birth” to a blog that I have been thinking about for a long time. It is with a touch of anxiety and fear that I begin this process.

First, I love stories: reading books and articles, listening to people share their stories, watching stories told on social media, television, in movies and theatre. They are often emotionally powerful, thought-provoking and sometimes life-changing. They touch our hearts, create connection, empathy and understanding. Sometimes stories make us angry and challenge our assumptions. There is beauty and pain in the telling.

Working with people in mental health for years has made me aware that “we are story”. We determine and are responsible for most of our own story, though it is often shaped by others’ decisions and influence. Creating our story is not a solo endeavor. Things happen to us that we have no control over. The people we meet and the relationships we choose shape us. We are also intimately involved in the shaping of others’ stories (family, friends, community). Things happen as a result of our own thinking and responses, the meaning we give to experiences and how we interpret them. This continues to impact ongoing events and choices.

Amidst life’s challenges, it is vital to pause, explore and reflect on our stories, what has happened and what we want to have happen. This is especially important when we are in a chapter of life where we feel powerless. Do we like where our story is going? Would we like to change our narrative? How do we go about changing the narrative? If we cannot change the narrative, how do we find meaning in it? This past year, though difficult, has provided me with that opportunity. In the days ahead, I want to share some of my experiences and things I have learned along the way. I hope that as you read this blog, you will share your stories as well.

Finally, while “giving birth to” and telling our narrative, our children are also experiencing their own stories. With that in mind, I want to thank my daughter Kelsey who often expresses her story through the creation of art. She designed the image for this blog to capture the sense of one woman (me) writing her story. I’m so thankful to share this process with the people I care about and the people I hope to get to know.

Holly Nordheim Dutton