Saturday, July 30, 2011

Narrating your life

Training in anthropology included a great deal of writing. One of my instructors assigned us the task of writing an ethnography of something in our own lives; for many of us, it was a deviation from the careful, rhetorical writing we were used to.  It was uncomfortable, to say the least, to write that ethnography , something that others could see and read. Mine was written about the interplay of authority and politics that goes into maternity care, as I was seven months pregnant at the time. That discomfort, however, was one of the experiences that made this blog possible.

We are the narrators of our own stories.  We write faery tales and mythologies, alongside histories and ethnographies, to explain ourselves.  We are the editors, publishers, and marketers of ourselves.  Whether these are used to defend our inner dialogues, or they are a means to explain ourselves to the others in our lives,we have this creative authority.  What we exclude from the narrative says as much about us as those experiences we include. Narratives, my their very nature cannot completely convey experience, so we take our experiences, our memories and our feelings and we distill out of  them, an elixir that we put forth as representing who we are and what we have done.  Literally, we create our past, and that is powerful and heady magic.

It is with this incredible alchemy in mind that I write about myself.  I put forth a distillation of my life for you to sample and share with me.  I invite you in, as far as I am currently willing, to join me in celebration, conversation and communion.  I narrate, that you may understand me, but I know that nothing will ever truly bring you into my experience.  It is a strangely satisfying and mysterious act, to narrate one's own life.

I invite you, to pick up your pen (or sit at your computer or with a recorder) and begin the process of narrating your life.  As you do, you find some experiences literally shout for attention, while others shrink form the light.  As you look over your memories, you will find lessons you don't exactly recall learning.  Pride and shame color events, even those shared with others, in a way that makes them uniquely yours.  Every story, every human life is important and fascinating, but if you want others to understand you, you will need to narrate your story, yourself, or you will have to be satisfied with the knowledge that someone else will.

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