We are living in a time of tremendous uncertainty.
The Stoics would argue that we always live in times of uncertainty, but in this moment, when the familiar world has been overturned in a matter of weeks, the uncertainty seems loud and clear. We don’t know what the future holds, whether you’re talking about a week from now or even the next season. We’ve had to cancel plans to visit my family in the States and rescheduling isn’t an option yet. My children are confident that we’ll be able to go in the summer. But the truth is, I’m not sure.
So what about stories now? What role do stories play in a crisis? What do we do with the stories we are creating?
We crave stories in a crisis, it’s the way we gather and process information. Stories are the way we learn from other people’s experiences. This craving is one of the reasons why the news and social media are so seductive right now. We are isolated from each other, we are isolated from each other’s company, and we are missing the stories.
A normal working day or day out and about is filled with stories. We share seemingly meaningless anecdotes we share with friends, colleagues, and strangers. The “what did you do last night” stories and the “you’ll never believe what happened to me on the way to work” stories. We talk and rehash events to make sense of them and to understand them. We bring stories home to share with family members we haven’t seen all day.
When we spend the day working and schooling and living at home with the same people, it can feel like life is lacking stories. It doesn’t have to be that way. Today, I want to share with you some ideas about how you can inject a little more story in your social distancing life.
- Ask a friend to tell you something funny they did before you met them
- Find a storyteller who’s telling stories on-line
- Listen to an audiobook memoir
- Ask the person on the next balcony to tell you a story
- Ask your parents to tell a story about something they did when they were your age
- Read a short story from an online literary journal
- Read some 100-word stories from the New York Times
- Watch a random TED-talk
- Listen to a new podcast
- Ask a grandparent to tell you a story about your parents you haven’t heard before
- Ask your child to invent a story about their favorite book character
- Read a new blog
- Read a short story from a book on your shelf
- Host a virtual campfire with some friends (s’mores are optional)
- Ask a friend to make an audio recording of a story for you
- Check out an audiobook from your local library
- Listen to poetry on-line
- Ask a friend to share a story on social media
- Watch a story on Instagram live
- Ask your colleagues to share a virtual water cooler anecdote each morning
Go try any of these, try all of them!
The coming days and weeks will continue to be a challenge. We can get through this. By asking people to share their stories, you’ll be shifting the conversation away from crisis and towards sharing and connecting.
Don’t forget to tell your stories, too. If it’s an uplifting story, tell everyone. Believe me, we want to hear it! If it’s troubling, tell the right people, the people who deserve to hear it when you are ready to tell it.
We’re all going through this together. Let’s see if we can share a wealth of stories while creating even more.