willowbrook farm

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The Importance of Your Story

We are a full month into 2024 and I am just getting around to writing my new year’s greeting. As I was gathering  the notes I had taken through the month, scribbled on the surfaces of little snippets of paper here and there, the subject matter of last year’s greeting surfaced in my mind…Give yourself the grace card. Well, I am giving myself one big ole grace card for the timeliness of this new year’s greeting. I ended the blog post I penned at the beginning of last year with the intention that I was going to do more of what brought me joy in the new year.  Writing is something that brings me joy, yet I only wrote two blog posts last year. I took enough notes in the middle of the night as thoughts came to my whirring brain that somehow has more energy now at 3 am than it does at 11 am, but never penned them into complete paragraphs, let alone a blog post. So I didn’t reach some of my goals that I had set out for on the precipice of last year’s beginnings, but I did reach others that brought me joy…and for that…I should give myself a pat on the back, accentuate the positive and try, try again this year!

That brings me back to the last days of January 2024 and my penned new year’s greeting. I am making a deal with myself that THIS is the year that I take those little thoughts, big ideas, design inspirations and projects, and publish a blog post once a month. You see, I had been scribbling on paper in the middle of the night but now I have to utilize my phone as I can no longer see well enough to scribble without a light and putting on my glasses, which with all of that activity then most likely ends in having to make a trip to the bathroom. Many of you my age can probably relate. The words and ideas also seem to come to me in the shower. Maybe it is the fact that it is quiet, the water is therapeutic and trance like and if I can cut through all of my mental to do lists, then the thoughts start flowing. However they appear, the one that I am about to embark on is what I wanted to begin with in this new year.

There are so many little “stories” that I tell within the posts of our Instagram and Facebook pages. There are so many stories that I read upon the pages of others. There are even more stories I’m told in the course of a year in face-to-face conversations and those that I tell in return. Upon thinking about this more deeply, I asked myself this question…why do we tell stories? Why do we listen? In the basic form, we do so to communicate. The verbal telling of a story involves voice intonations, inflections and facial expressions that oftentimes reel us in and help to pique our interest in what the storyteller has to say. The written story does the same with adjectives and adverbs littered about to give detail. When we tell or listen to a story, we are not only communicating with another but relating to another, or trying to.

But there are deeper meanings in one’s story, especially in your own story. Your story contains things that are intrinsic to who you are. Each and every story is unique. There are similarities for sure, which is where we often bond and come together if your story is similar or contains  elements of sameness. For example, where you grew up, how many siblings you may have,  where you live, where you work, where you went to school, if you have children. Do you live in the city or the country? A house or an apartment? These are all very relatable parts of your story that are seemingly more superficial but they definitely contribute to the makeup of the person who is telling your story today…you.

The deepest parts of your story are comprised of the experiences that you have had and the ones you are currently living. Some of those experiences are based on the “superficial” information above and some are much more, containing heartache, shame, birth, death, complete and utter happiness and joy, despair, hope and bits and pieces of each and every emotion. Each and every story is unique to the story teller. They own that story and if they were to read the pages of their own story, they might find meaning in those experiences and the “why” of who they are today. That is important stuff.  If you were an outsider reading your own story, might you find it more impressive than you typically give yourself credit for? Might you applaud the character’s actions more frequently than when you talk to yourself? We all seem to be much harder on ourselves when looking at our own stories. Perhaps this is a direct result of comparing ourselves to others on social media continuously? Or maybe human nature is just exacerbated by that microscope that we all seem to live under? Whatever the case may be, if we can honestly look at our story and see reasons why we are who we are today, we might be better able to understand our actions.

Not only is the honest examination of our own story incredibly important in life but so is the listening others’ stories. All of our stories are relevant and important, mine no more so than yours and vice versa. When someone listens to your story, whatever part of that story you choose to tell, it fills you up. Can you not refute that? Everyone needs to be heard. Some more than others, especially if they don’t have anyone around them on a regular basis . Especially the elderly, who have written and lived novels and novels of stories in their lifetime. There is learning to be had in those stories. There is learning to be had in the listening of all stories. Listening is often a gift that you can give to others…for free. It doesn’t cost anything, except your time. It is in listening to others’ stories that we might be able to better understand each other. And we all know that our world is in dire need of understanding these days.

Let me tell you a story of something that happened recently. On a Saturday morning, a man knocked on our door and I could see from my window that he was an older gentleman who held a stack of magazines in his hands. I laboriously opened the door, as our front door is a heavy, solid wooden door whose hardware is beautiful but over 100 years old and quite cumbersome to open. Given that our front door is not used that often, it is even more so. I said hello and he stated where he was from and handed me the stack of magazines. He made a comment on the beauty of the door and asked about the date of the house. Well, anyone who knows me knows that if you only have a minute to speak with me…don’t ask me a question about this house or its history, for you will be late for where you were going. He kindly listened to my extended version of its history. He then replied that he lived in an old house with his wife and had since moved, but didn’t finish his reply without an extended version of the restoration he had done on his historic home. We exchanged some info on wood finishing products we have used and details about our homes and he then said his goodbyes. After I closed the door, my husband stated, “Well that was a long conversation.” I just smiled, for I had felt that both of us connected as we came alive retelling our stories about our homes’ restorations. It was evident that our love of a subject matter connected us.

A week or two later I walked into the Life’s Patina Mercantile & Cafe and as I made my way to the front counter to drop off some merchandise, I saw an older gentleman standing there. When he turned around, I recognized that it was the same man that had knocked on my front door. He had indeed just dropped off a stack of magazines for us to carry at our Mercantile & Cafe. We both smiled and started right up on the conversation that we had begun in front of my house. It was a busy day at the cafe and as people bustled about us, the man continued to tell his story. It began quite happily but then he became more reminiscent and sullen as he spoke of his wife’s passing. His story stirred my heart strings and I could feel the need for me to listen. I had to break away eventually as I had a meeting to attend but as I walked away, my heart was full, as I had felt the man’s need to connect and to be listened to. I’m hoping that his heart was a little lighter as well for being listened too.

The world we exist in today is a far cry from the time that gentleman grew up in. I am most certain that people gathered on front porches often, or in the grocery store, or the barbershop, or over a fence telling stories…listening to each other. There were no distractions such as cell phones that you could actually watch a movie on, scroll for hours on, or lose yourself on without having to really interact with anyone, and very few tv stations to watch. People were more connected then. Yes, that time period had its faults as well, but maybe we all feel so small today because we know what everyone else is doing and when we can watch what everyone else is doing, we compare and we never measure up. That’s a story for another blog post! We don’t listen as we used to when stories were the lifeblood of generations.

So in this new year, I wish for all of us more time taken for listening, more time taken for honoring our story and those of others, more time seeing and recognizing the validity of one’s story which oftentimes has a direct correlation to that someone’s actions. Our stories are certainly not filled with perfection but in fact with jagged edges, messy areas, highs, lows, positives, negatives, joyful laughter, gut-wrenching tears and every possible thing in between. Stories are teachers and connectors. Treat them as such and we will all have a little more understanding for each other and ourselves and maybe… just maybe, a more peaceful existence.

P.S. Please note that our new winter hours for our Life’s Patina Mercantile & Cafe are Wednesday thru Friday, 8am to 4pm, and Saturday & Sunday, 9am to 3pm. 

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