A few weeks ago I registered for the “New Story Challenge” pod, a “21-day challenge to share stories of lived experience.” I was intrigued by the idea of this online group coming together to interact and share, but I wasn’t really sure why I was drawn to a group about “stories.” I have never been a storyteller nor a creative writer, and I don’t keep a journal or a blog. I have loved ServiceSpace for many years, the start date for the pod was fast approaching, and so, on a whim, I signed up.
As I write this, the story pod is currently in its third and final week. For the last few weeks, I have been writing posts in response to pod prompts and reading and responding to other participants’ posts. As the end of the “New Story Challenge” is approaching, I am realizing that it wasn’t an accident that I signed up for this pod. It’s where I was meant to be.
A couple of years ago, my sister died. My sister was the last member of my family. I am single, no kids, and my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles are all gone. I was devastated by the loss of my sister and the realization that my family is gone. I received genuine, caring support from a sibling loss support group and individual grief counseling. Yet I was still feeling more lost than I ever had before. A secondary loss that I had not anticipated was the loss of my history, and I felt unanchored and disoriented. Friends told me to write my family memories down before I forgot them, but I insisted that the memories didn’t matter anymore if I was the only one left to remember them. I held steadfast in my conviction that, if I’m the only one left from the family, it would be ok if my memories disappeared.
And then I landed in the “New Story Challenge” pod with daily writing prompts that took me straight into the heart of my family memories and the history that I had been pushing away. It was a profound and transformative experience as I realized that I need to hold and honor my story, all of it. As I retold my stories, my memories, I could feel my heart open and soften around them. Something shifted as I welcomed back a part of me that had been missing and I reconnected with that history that I thought was lost. When I posted my stories, I received kind and supportive responses from other pod participants. By sharing my stories and reading stories from others, I gained in compassion and perspective for myself and my family.
As I was writing my stories and starting to find lost parts of myself, a quote from Thich Nhat Hanh kept coming back to me: “If you look deeply into the palm of your hand, you will see your parents and all generations of your ancestors. All of them are alive in this moment. Each is present in your body. You are the continuation of each of these people.” This quote was a concept for me before but now I really get it. I see my life as a story that continues to unfold, and I hold it with love, compassion, and gratitude. I have found a peace I have not felt for a very long time. And it is all with deep gratitude to the volunteers and pod participants of the “New Story Challenge.”
If you'd like to join a similar circle, please explore upcoming pods.