I was recently in Durham at a girls’ getaway to see some live music and “The Monti Story Slam,” a nonprofit storytelling competition similar to The Moth. We started the evening at Motorco where I stood in line at the bar behind two 20-somethings whose looks and energy I couldn’t help but admire. The girl was petite with my favorite “automatically curly” kind of hair and the guy had long hair and these gorgeous big blue eyes. They were confident, at ease with each other and, as one of the oldest people in the place, I also couldn’t help but envy their youth as I stood behind them imagining their hip lives.
When we got to the theatre, we learned from the host that there were four requirements all stories had to follow: 1) they had to be true; 2) the storytellers couldn’t use notes; 3) there was a 12-minute time limit; and 4) all stories had to revolve around a predetermined theme. The theme that evening was “lost.”
The host announced the first storyteller, told a short story himself, then invited the announced storyteller to the stage. This was done for each storyteller. When the fourth storyteller got onto the stage, I was surprised to see it was the hip dude from Motorco!
His name was Matt Junge and his story was about having woken up one morning a few years back to discover he had completely lost vision in one of his eyes. Doctors had told him he had optic neuritis, an inflammation that damages the optic nerve and can cause pain and temporary vision loss. As time went on and his vision hadn’t returned, the doctors thought he might have MS, an infection, lupus, or another immune disease but they just didn’t know. Further tests over the years continued to be inconclusive: he might or might not get his vision back; he might or might not have MS, lupus or another disease; he might recover completely. He then told us he’d recently started to lose vision in his second eye. I thought about the storybook life I had imagined he and his friend were living. And then I thought about other stories I sometimes tell myself: stories of inadequacy, of saying the wrong thing, of falling short of my own or another’s expectations…
How about you? What stories do you tell yourself about someone else’s youth, looks, intelligence, friendships, money…? How often do you compare your yoga practice to the person’s next to you? How do the stories you tell yourself about others reflect your own story?