The weeks between Thanksgiving and New Years Day carry a special tension that is unique to the festival year. At no other time is the heightened expectation, intensity of schedule, diversity of imagery, depths of emotion and tightness of stress – all happening at once. I am often amazed at how I can marvel at a beautiful window display, worry about the time, calculate my budget, realize I forgot to respond to an email, regret an encounter with my child and delightfully anticipate a dinner party – all at the same time!
Days like this are often hard and very tiring – and yet, there doesn’t seem to be a way to trim any of it away. Though children do not have our schedules and to-do lists, they still experience the emotional ups and downs and all-arounds. They complain more than usual, have tantrums more than usual, and demand more than usual. But again – we don’t want to MISS all the fun festivals and holiday events. We don’t want to STOP giving gifts and making treats and decorating the house. We just want to ENJOY it more.
So “storying” might be just the thing.
But first, a distinction. “Storying” is not a shorter version of storytelling. They both have story in them, but the intention is different. Storytelling is telling a story that exists. Storying is creating a new story. Both can happen at the same time, but it is important to know the difference. Right now, we are focused on storying.
Storying happens when we make up stories to tell our children – but it also happens over the course of our day. We “story” when we tell ourselves things like “there is not enough time” or “I wish I had enough money to buy that” or “that man was rude to me”. Those are stories about what happened. And we often tell them to ourselves all day long. It is not to say that the “story” is true or false – it is just to notice that it is simply a story: a story about what happened.
An example of that kind of story might be: “My daughter and I love Christmas but find ourselves running from place to place, always late and out of breath.” That is a story that we can think about ourselves. We can see the mother and daughter in our imagination running about looking exhausted. Familiar story. And we can tell that story to others, “Oh I love Christmas but my son and I just run from place to place and we are always out of breath”. Now that story is ours. We storied it, and we are telling it to others.
And it spreads – as stories do.
But what would happen if we storied something else? Say, instead of the story of exhaustion, frustration and lack, what if we storied delight and gratitude?
Imagine this story: “My daughter and I were running from the bakery to the stationary store when she looked up and saw the first flake of snow falling.” Ah, delight. We can feel it.
Or: “The man in front of me needed 25 cents extra for his coffee, and I was able to give it to him. It made the man happy, but it actually it made my day too.” Just listening to that story fills you with delight and gratitude. Then it opens a world of possibilities for more delight, and makes you want to spread it around.
So try “storying” this season. Notice when you feel unhappy, hurried or anxious. What are you storying? Then – you can try a different story – one of joy, delight and peace.
And if you need support? We have a story for you!
It is a free story from our popular Martin & Sylvia Series called “Finding Delight”. In this story, brother and sister start the day by complaining. They can only see what they don’t want to do. Luckily Momma suggests an alternative: start with thinking about the things that make you happy. They do: Martin thinks about how much he loves space ships, and Sylvia thinks about how much she loves porcupines, and suddenly – everyone is surprised by what happens next.
This holiday season, we wish you all lots of delight and gratitude – lots for you, and lots for those around you.
David Sewell McCann fell in love with spinning stories in first grade – the day a storyteller came to his class and captured his mind and imagination. He has been engaged in storytelling all of his adult life through art, film-making, teaching and performing. Out of his experience as a Waldorf class teacher and parent, he has developed a method of intuitive storytelling, which he now shares through workshops and through the Sparkle website. You can enjoy his original stories – both free and by subscription – at sparklestories.com.