Thought bubbles: A good story

A good story can make me cry on a public tram, surrounded by other people on my daily commute. A good story coming through my headphones in the form of a podcast. The emotions may start as a slow build-up, one I feel coming and I’m okay with, ready for even. Or they may burst on the scene, perking me up like a static shock. One moment, I’m noticing the other people staring out the windows, listening to music, lost in the thoughts of their day and the problems of their life, and the next, I am overwhelmed with raw feeling, containing little and happy to be lost in the world of the story, grateful for the sunglasses that I had thought to wear that morning.

A good story can inspire feelings that I didn’t know existed. Get me in touch with a part of life that had, only moments before, felt foreign, like a stranger. And that word, “stranger.” As it arises in my mind, it makes me think of an interview I heard the other day with Krista Tippett and how she took issue with that very word. Stranger. She called it an abstraction. Posing the question: is there such a thing as strangers? We are all more familiar than we are different. And there especially aren’t strangers when it comes to emotions. Contexts may be new but the emotions are familiar. All of the building blocks are there inside of us, lined up, waiting for their turn to morph into the next shape. The calculated movements of a Rubix cube made up of our shared DNA, imbued with the intelligence of survival.

But what sparks those emotions in me, that’s not always so calculated. It could be a song that comes on that reminds me of an ex-lover, or it could be the way a woman on the street carries herself as she walks. It could be as simple as a stranger telling their story. The genesis of the spark, that is still somewhat of a mystery in the land of emotions, and this creates great fodder for stories.

But the mark of a really good story is when it likes to hang around for awhile. A story that lingers with me for the rest of the day, coming in and out of my consciousness, causing me to dwell for a minute or two before snapping back to the work at hand. These are the stories I want to keep close to the chest. The ones that cause me to reach out and take my boyfriend’s hand next to me, when previously, I was more content holding on to pride and petty feelings instead.

And for those of us who pride ourselves on telling stories, a good story can send a wave of urgency through us. An effervescence, an unsettling. It makes us adjust in our seat, sit a little taller and ache to tell a story as good as the one we just heard. To rip up everything that came before.

A good story creates a small pin-prick that gives way to a flood of gratitude. Gratitude that some “stranger” out there took the time to lasso all their nebulous thoughts, feelings and experiences and put them down in coherent sense on a page, all for the simple act of sharing, or maybe for the necessary release that comes from writing them down. All for a complete stranger to hear their own voice, feel their own untapped feelings and see their own reflection in it. To feel tethered by a common recognition of the beauty and the pain of our shared experience, our one life we all live side-by-side as we sit next to each other on the tram.

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