Our life stories are highly individual, magnificent creations made up of millions of shimmering fragments that coalesce into a beautiful portrait of our lives. On my podcast and media tour to promote my debut memoir SOARING into Strength: Love Transcends Pain, I am delighted each day to discover that my family’s poignant, funny, and zany stories resonate with people in deep and meaningful ways. That’s because our brains are wired for story—in fact, storytelling is the way we make sense of the sensory overload in our lives. It’s the way we empathize and connect with others who may have completely differently lived experiences. When authentic stories are shared, they resonate deeply in our souls. Storytelling is centuries old—from the oral tradition around the campfire, to cave writings, to ancient texts. Stories activate a surge of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which triggers our curiosity to learn more, to get closer, and to uncover the truth.
I was inspired to write my book, 10 years in the making, to inspire people to connect to their inner strength, resilience, and agency when they are experiencing challenges, setbacks, or trauma. However, the truth is, I also had a personal reason to share my story: I wanted to capture a lifetime of memories before they faded into the past like an evaporating rainbow, there one glorious moment and gone the next. According to Lisa Cron, author of Story Genius, “We don’t turn to story to escape reality. We turn to story to navigate reality.”
That’s been my experience. When I read stories from the first iteration of my book, my friends wept. It was too sad. But I had to get it all out on the paper and process these experiences on the page. Authors and writing teachers often refer to these early drafts as your “vomit draft.” Fortunately, after attending more writers workshops and applying additional polish, the later versions got tighter and more balanced. Funny and poignant moments elicited the full range of emotions—often in the same story, just like life.
During the early days of COVID, I went back and included a couple of stories that I had held in secrecy for decades. Through the telling of these stories, I was released from their tight grasp and shame. As a Positive Psychology thought leader, I experienced the healing power of storytelling to excavate and resuscitate stories as a way to shape and appreciate my reality. Dr. Jamie Pennebaker, the pioneering scientist best known for his groundbreaking work in the field of positive narrative, has conducted evidence-based experiments that show remarkable short- and long-term health benefits when people confront their deepest thoughts and feelings.
I hope that my life stories will illuminate and inspire you to become the hero or heroine of your life. Whatever you are experiencing in your life path right now—tremendous joy or significant difficulties—know that becoming the author of your story can help you navigate to a place of more understanding, acceptance, and connection to yourself and to others.
I’m sending you strength and love,