Storytelling Heals the Soul

When it comes from the heart, the heart comes with it. Words on a page, the dip and hobble of a lifetime of stories never told. Coming to peace with our pasts, with the people driving us, for better and for worse, and the words form the stories into crystalline wishes carried off on the wings of clouds, lightening our load.

Last night was the first of a six-session writers workshop I’m hosting this fall, and it was a fabulous gathering. Birch logs crisped in my fireplace while we passed stapled packets around the living room. A food essay. The beginning of a book about a narcissistic mother. A memoiristic essay about tragic moments that built a life. The mellifluous prose of a family grappling with a late mother’s Alzheimer’s. A blog post with equal parts humor and self-deprecation.

Bravery, all. To put one’s feelings on a page and share them with others is perhaps the bravest work there is. To dare to speak aloud what harbors in your heart.

We all have skeletons in our pasts. Some are long and gangly, bones bumping in the dark. Some are tiny and seemingly insignificant – but to each person, those hidden secrets, the details that directed us on perilous turns, they are huge.

We give voice to the ills of this life, and it frees us. There is really no need to carry around the heavy, bulky baggage of the past. It is so over. So way back there. Why drag it into the now?

And so we gathered, eager writers with important voices, preparing to launch their words into the world to help others, and to free their souls. It was lovely. It was warm. Reassuring. A quilt of talent and voice in a safe space to become who we are meant to be.

I love teaching writers who want to write. I’ve taught college English and children’s writing and adult ed and more. Each class was a gem in its own right, but truly, the adults who choose to write and to immerse in learning how to write better and more are the best students. They want to be there.

Yesterday, I had my first Hebrew tutoring session. I learned Hebrew as a child and I can read it well enough, but for my forthcoming trip to Israel, my first in seven years, I want to be able to speak a bit, to get by without reverting to English, as we Americans do the world over.

My tutor reviewed verb conjugations and pronouns, the gender of the language. I asked for homework. I said I would do better with practice. Eager, devoted, I wanted to be there.

We make the best students when we choose to learn. What better situation to truly take the lesson inside yourself and be changed for the better?

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