How Stories Serve Us

Author: 
Rachel Hopkin

I’ve been in a bit of funk recently; nothing serious, just part of the ebb and flow of being. I had become a little tired of the relentless Vegas sunshine, I’m homesick for Kentucky, and I’ve also been suffering from some minor, but draining, health issues. Casting around for ways to pick myself, I remembered advice I’d previously and variously received - not least from that doyenne of self-help, Oprah – to keep a “Gratitude Journal”. I didn’t actually get around to putting this concept into practice, but if I had, the Friday before last, this note to self would have topped the list:

“Today I am grateful that, aside from this morning, on no other morning of my life have I had a rat pop up out of the waste disposal part of the sink whilst I was doing the washing up.”

How this unwelcome rodent had come to be there is a convoluted saga that I won’t bore you with. Suffice to say that I have an indoor/outdoor cat who has a strict hunt-but-no-kill policy. Said cat is now in the dog-house and I am contemplating having her made into a pair of gloves.

Another strategy to get out of my funk, this time one that I acted on, was to go on a short meditation retreat. The location was rural Arizona. It was beautiful but rustic and most attendees stayed in tents. Those like myself, who were lucky enough to get a bed indoors, had to share.

My roommate-to-be turned up shortly after I myself had arrived. We introduced ourselves. She seemed pleasant and talkative. Um. Very talkative. Indeed. So much so, in fact, that within minutes of our meeting, I found myself making a further mental entry in my hypothetical Gratitude Journal, this time to express heartfelt thanks for the fact that the retreat, once officially launched later that day, would be silent.

And as far as talking went, silent it was. However, unfortunately for me, my previously loquacious room-mate also turned out to be a grade A snorer. The first night I tolerated it, the second night I suffered, and on the third night, I could bear it no longer. In desperation, I decamped to one of the dorm’s two bathrooms, deciding that a hard floor in a not-so-sweet smelling room would nonetheless be preferable. It took me a while to get to sleep but eventually I managed it, only to be awoken moments later by the sound of … my own snoring.

Ah, judge not lest ye be judged!

Both of these incidents reminded me of something I heard a few months back on On Being, the radio show that explores “the big questions at the center of human life”. The guest was the author and playwright Kevin Kling and during the interview, Kling referred to a medicine man who had once told him:

"You can survive anything with sense of humor and sense of self."

Kling went on to say:

“And our stories give us both of those.”

Ain’t that the truth!

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