By Way of Encouragement to Tell Your Story

Yesterday morning, I almost ran over a Giant Pheasant on the rural highway that takes me to work. I was in the 63 mile-per-hour zone (the state continues to refuse my reasonable written requests to formally change the signs from 55mph – geez), and as I rounded a corner by the Onion Flats, there stood the bird in my lane looking prehistoric and noble and also totally immobile.

Until that very moment, I didn’t realize that Giant Pheasants were a thing. But when I saw this

except this size,

I was pretty sure.

I mean, it wasn’t exactly those colors. More washed out and muted. But I would’ve gone pale, too, if I found myself on a highway with a bright blue Pontiac bearing down on me at 63 mph, so who am I to judge?

And also, it had tall, road-runnery legs.

And also a ridiculous, bobbing head piece that looked a lot like a peacock.

Oh my gosh! It was a peacock! Except not a peacock because it wasn’t blue and green and iridescent and shiny. It was a peahen. A weary, brown, matte, sleep-deprived peahen who, in her exhaustion, forgot to put on any make-up or change out of her ratty old pajamas and who was, by God and an epic effort of sheer feminine will, doing her very best to put one foot in front of the other and was about to be slammed anyway for not moving fast enough.

Or I might be projecting a tiny bit.

Sometimes, I forget that living in Oregon is different than living in Other Places.

I forget that you might not wave at llamas on your walk or veer sharply in your car to avoid a wayward, overwhelmed peahen.

I forget that there’s anything at all interesting about here. This place. This life.

I forget that there are beautiful, special, wonderful things.

I forget that not everyone spends their summer evenings gathered with neighbors to watch the local fire department conduct a controlled burn of the old house at the llama farm a stone’s throw from our back gate.

And that your kids might not come home two hours late smelling like soot and excitement because their daddy loved the fire too much to bring them to bed on time. And that the same kids may not tramp muddy bare footprints through the back door and the kitchen and down the hall and up the stairs to the laundry room because wearing shoes to a Burn is overrated.

Somehow, our special life slips over and over into the mundane, and I make the mistake of thinking it’s common.

Somehow, when I look at other lives online, their uniquenesses are so vivid and blue and green and iridescent and shiny and obvious – with their travel and accomplishments and fancy head plumes and long legs – that I allow their blinding brilliance to rob me of my story. I let the doubts sneak inside my soul, and I feel shabby and boring and like I’m standing still on the highway about to be run down.

A few nights ago, I had a conversation with a mom I like. She’s always funny and personable and witty. She loves to read and to talk, and I think she’d make a terrific writer. But she told me her life is too boring. “Not like yours,” she said, and that’s rattled and rolled like a loose marble in my head for days now because I’d love to hear her story. What is it like, I wonder, to live your whole life in one place? What is it like to have geographical roots? What is it like to take your child to see the places you saw through your own childhood eyes and to not have your past lost in murky moves that make it forever a fairy tale and also totally inaccessible? What does it feel like to live in your skin? Does it feel like it feels to live in mine? All strange and stretchy and too tight and familiar and lonely and joyful and broken and human and sometimes divine?

And so I write this as an encouragement to you – and a reminder to me – to tell our stories.

Tell stories. Tell stories. Tell stories.

Tell stories like Jesus who showed us how to Love and who our neighbors are.

Tell stories like Nora Ephron so we can watch Meg Ryan fake an orgasm in public and ask to have what she’s having.

Tell stories like my grandmother who was passive aggressive and funny and crazy and wrote poems about squirrels and named herself after me.

Tell stories because they knit us together and put us in each other’s skin.

Tell stories because they define us and root us to history.

Tell stories because they’re the best, clearest path to the truth.

And tell stories because there’s a peahen who’s stuck on a highway who needs to know she’s OK.

And if you have a favorite story that hits you in heart and ties you more firmly to the funny or the mundane or the magical or the meaningful – a story you’ve read or a story you’ve told or a story you’re going to write right now – hit me with a link below, because I want to read it very much.

With love,
B

………

P.S. I pilfered that pheasant image from Oak Ridge Pheasant Ranch. I image they know the difference between a pheasant and a peahen. Unless there are weary mamas who work there, too, in which case they might make an occasional but well-intentioned mistake, and I think we should all give them a freaking break and a big hug and a hearty, “Good job, mama!” because they probably really need a kind word when they screw up. OK? OK.

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ABOUT BETH WOOLSEY I'm a writer. And a mess. And mouthy, brave, and strong. I believe we all belong to each other. I believe in the long way 'round. And I believe, always, in grace in the grime and wonder in the wild of a life lived off course from what was, once, a perfectly good plan.
23 comments
  1. Beth I love reading your blog posts! I laugh so hard so often. Your great, big Mama heart comes singing through too. I love reading your stories. They make me look at life in a different way that is encouraging.
    I have a blog too. Not so much for everyone else, but an outlet for me. Mostly I have it to read other’s stories.
    http://www.sarahsthoughtsandphotos.blogspot.com

    Thanks for writing.

  2. Thank you for the encouragement. I keep my blog as an ‘online baby book’ for my kids. I put picture and stories from our days, but it is not a reflection of me. I have held back from putting myself in there too much since I feel like it is theirs and not mine. Recently, I have been kicking around the idea of starting something else. Something just for me to write my thoughts and emotions. My grandmother wrote her memoirs in her final years and I love them! I treasure them and encourage (nag) my parents to write theirs. My father told me he wouldn’t know where to start. I told him just to start writing. I need to take my own advice. Thank you.

    You’re so right. We do discount our own stories. One of my favorite, absolute dearest friends pointed that out to me. She lives in the city, is single with no children and has a fancy, high paying job for a big company. I live in the suburbs with my husband and five kids. I have a decidedly un-fancy, un-paying job working for those five tyrants. When we talk, she asks me what I’ve been up to. I always say, “Nothing interesting.” Because she is a lovely, wonderful lady, she asks follow-up questions and I launch into dozens of stories about my life. She pointed out to me that my life is quite interesting. It’s just hard to see that when we live it every day.

    1. I would LOVE to see your memoir-style YOU-stories, Beth! DO IT DO IT! Life as a mama of quads + one? Um, yes — please write it, and we will come.

  3. Maybe life doesn’t feel boring when we do tell stories because we’ve made a point in highlighting the unusual. Bizarre breeds bizarre sometimes. ( ; Here’s a story I tell often:
    http://www.creativefamilymoments.com/children-and-teeth-and-spying/

    1. Thanks for sharing your link, Heather! There might, um, be places in my bathroom I’ve never seen, either. 😉

  4. I’ve got stories in me, and I too appreciate the prompt, having always answered the “What do you want to be when you grow up?” question with “a writer.” Now I am lazy, and busy, and worried and stressed, and I can not seem to throw together a decent sentence without the mess creeping in on it. I will try, although you may not be as amused with me as I am by you.
    I have kept a blog for about 8 years, and recently I went back and read some of my old posts, and I actually liked them. Anyway, right now I have to go back to trying to stop worrying and remember to trust that God is looking out for us.
    See, none of that made sense to anyone but me.

    1. Oh, and I forgot to mention: here in South Jersey, it is not unusual to see families of turkeys, ground hog couples, peacocks and hens (apparently they eat ticks?) an occasional heron, frogs, turtles, millions of rabbits, too many skunks, foxes, also too many deer, and an occasional bear. We are much more rural than people think. We are also the blueberry capital of the world, and are famous for sweet corn and delicious tomatoes. We are also a major portion of the Ocean Spray cranberry cooperative (not my family, but many I know-practically our entire church.)

      1. I’ve been reading your comments for a while now, Cathie, and they’re always funny and warm and personal and funny and funny. WRITE MORE! DO IT! LINK HERE TO YOUR BLOG. I’m certain you’re very, very good at it.

        xoxo,
        B

  5. I LOVE it (and get geekily excited) when my little RSS-feed-gizmo tells me that there’s a new blog entry of yours to read…

    Thank you for sharing your stories… and for, somehow, being in-tune with putting out exactly what I need to hear in the time I need to hear it. I initially found your blog when my partner and I agreed to foster five kids who needed a home… and I needed reassurance. I scoured the internet to see that others, in fact, have raised five kids and survived. Without trying to be too butt-kissy… you are my inspiration from time to time. And my sanity. And my source of laughter. And my reassurance.

    And, now, I have to go help someone wipe their butt.

    1. Every once in a while a comment comes along that I want to take for walks and pet and smooch and snuggle.

      This is one.

      Thanks, Kevin. You make the silly story-telling and more agonizing heart-revealing that I do here seem worthwhile, as though there’s a Reason for doing it. You made my week.

      Sending love to your family,
      B

  6. Hmmm, I had lived in six different places by the time I was four, then my parents settled down and lived in the same house for 30 years. Maybe you should ask Greg if it was pretty boring living in the same house, same town, with the same school friends from pre-school through high school. We seem to have plenty of stories, even so!

    1. Greg has never used the word “bored” when describing his childhood. Although, if it was, he might LONG for those days. 😉

  7. I have a story, of sorts. You may have read it already because I wrote it last month, but it just won’t stop hitting me square in the jaw and stopping me short over and over and over and paralyzing me just a bit. It’s not funny or about my roots or the magical or the mundane, but right there in my backyard during bedtime (because don’t all moms hide in the backyard during bedtime on occasion?) something meaningful happened. Here it is: http://www.mythisnthatlife.com/2012/05/on-mowing-grass-and-integrity.html

    Oh, and also? My life feels pretty mundane most of the time. I should probably watch for peahens, huh? You just never know. They’re probably out there and I don’t even notice them.

    1. Thanks for sharing this story, Elizabeth!

  8. I am fascinated by stories – new stories, old stories, made up stories, true stories, happy stories, and even sad stories. Life gets busy and the stories get lost. Life is so dull when that happens! Thank you for reminding me to guard and share my stories.

  9. Oh music tells stories too… here’s my link http://teamaidan.wordpress.com/2012/06/29/soul-food/

    and because I think my husband is both mundane and magical…http://teamaidan.wordpress.com/2012/06/20/how-my-husband-is-not-romantic/

    I’m looking forward to hearing other people’s stories.

    1. I admit, I’m an utter music failure. I just have terrible, terrible taste in music other than a rather unhealthy obsession with Sting and lying down in fields of gold (whatever you say, Sting!). It’s a lovely piece on music, but I adore your piece on your nonromantic husband. It’s really great, Heather!

  10. Thanks for the prompt, Beth. I need to get back to a few of my stories. Maybe I’ll even send you some of them. I’m one of those with “geographical roots” whose children attended the same elementary school as their dad did and who lived in the same house herself for 17 of her first 20 years. I confess, sometimes it feels more like being mired than rooted. I’ll be thinking about this post…

    1. SEE? I didn’t know that being rooted can feel like being mired!

      1. Mired. . . . Yes, a very accurate way to describe what “rooted” feels like at times when a person has lived in the same town all but five of her 62 years (and in all that time in only eight different houses). Upon returning from a few days in other places, however, rooted is a very good feeling and familiarity is very comfortable and I feel more confident here than in any other place.

  11. Love this SO MUCH! Wonderful words.

    Good job, Mama! 😉

    xo

    1. And you, Fiona! You’re doing a grand job of telling your stories and dedicating time to writing. As you know, I love reading your words and only in the smallest part because I always make you sound like Mary Poppins in my head. 😉

      This one of yours on juggling is a favorite… http://www.teawithafriend.co.uk/2012/04/juggling_18.html

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