At lunch the other day, an elderly woman (we will call her S.T., as she is the original Story Teller), came into the restaurant where I was eating; S.T. was eager to share her story and did not wait for others to ask “how are you”? S.T. was meeting a couple of friends, and S.T. could not even wait to sit down at the table, before sharing the big news in her life.
S.T. was moving to a retirement community that had condos (I could not help but overhear, and I’d like to think if I had stopped to introduce myself, she would not hesitate to tell me her story too). She described a 2-bedroom condo that was almost identical layout to the one she was currently living in, so all the furniture would easily fit into the new condo.
S.T. was also very proud that she was close, but not “in” the main administrative building. This would give her the support she was looking for, but also the independence she was not ready to give up.
S.T. talked of her new place, with such animation and emotion that it was difficult not to get sucked into her conversation. Just as the final details were being told, another friend came and sat down. And before this new arrival had the chance to settle in, S.T. started her whole story again! With all the same intimate details, with all the same emotional nuances, and with the same passion. So, within a very short period of time, S.T. had shared her story twice, and twice was able to process this big change in her life.
As a man, I admire her greatly for her ability to be so open and vulnerable. Growing up, whenever there was a gathering of family or friends, the men talked about the weather, sports, or news in the living room. There were lengthy discussions about batting averages, winning streaks, player and team comparisons, and endless comments over how the weather was especially hot, cold, wet, or dry.
Why didn’t they talk about difficult issues at work? Why didn’t they compare notes over marital issues? Why didn’t they share stories of worry, fear, anger, or anxiety? Why did they have such defensive walls around them?
Would sharing their experience not have given them the same relief the S.T felt?
Just like women, men experience the same sense of happiness, sadness, anger, and fear, and will experience a sense of relief by sharing their story.
If a man would have been the one moving, he stereotypically would not have said much unless asked. Even then, the answers could have been “fine”, “good”, “almost done”, but not many “I’m worried” or “I’m relieved” comments. In fact, the famous TV character, Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor, would probably just have grunted a time or two in order describe his experience.
So, let’s give ourselves permission to be strong and brave, and let’s start to share our stories. After all, it WILL lead to a happier, healthier, and a longer life.