It was somewhere in the midst of the 2020 pandemic when I got my hands on a copy of Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari and perhaps one of the most powerful things the book did for me is simply point out something about human nature I had not had highlighted before, our ability to tell stories.
Stories, it is told, is what has helped us organise large masses of people, has fuelled our development, our religions, our society and all of these other larger themes. But this little nugget sat with me the whole year, and I noticed it on on a smaller scale, as I saw it often make richer illustrations of the behaviour from myself, my friends, my family and even politicians on the telly.
When I realised that I was going to be alone this New Year’s Eve, I felt the sinking. I had said up until that point, I don’t mind what I do, I just don’t want to spend it alone. But here I was. I felt the light and energy leave and the cold shadow of insecurity creep in. I’ve learnt enough about myself to know when to pull myself out of slumps like this but it dawned on me that something was going on here: it was another story. A story I was telling myself of what it meant if I was spending New Year’s Eve alone.
I threw an unsightly cloak of loneliness onto ‘alone’ and weaved tales about the quality of my life, what I was doing with it, the realness of my relationships. Very quickly, I realised what I was doing and decided to re-write the story appropriately, instead, I held a magnifying glass up to the everyday routine that I did have with my life abroad in Berlin. With this zoomed in focus, I enlarged my feelings of gratitude for the essence of what my life was, without the peripheral view of the life of others.
I was recently watching a series where a woman dying spoke on the essence of living, she said it is to turn every moment into an eternity. What that meant to me was this zoomed in process I just refered to, which I often find is achievable by soaking a single moment in gratitude and so: more stories. A story I often like to tell myself is how lucky I am to be drinking a hot tea, my favourite tea at that, on an icy day, from the safety of my window, in a city I love. And so, that first the sip of tea becomes more than that moment, it tells the reader, or even your mind, that this is a blessed person indeed.
And so it ensues, we are relentless storytellers, whether it is for good or for bad, but knowing we are the penmans, can surely offer us a hand-sparkler sized glimmer of hope for where our mind can take us this 2021.
This topic lay on my heart to write when I headed to social media on New Year’s Eve. Opening my apps, I immediately felt drowned by the review and celebration posts. This often happens to me when people on social media are talking about a single topic, I feel like I don’t want to add to the sea of noise.
It’s almost as if seeing it on scale you notice how insignificant the contributions can be, what does it mean, what does my sharing do for the human experience? What posts brought joy? What posts were purely aesthetic? What posts have the potential to make people feel shit? (I say potential because I am one of these lucky people who don’t feel sad/jealous when watching people’s lives on social media as I don’t think it represents reality).
Another thing I felt while scrolling through the apps, was feeling the sheer number of people who were most likely celebrating an unconventional New Years, among them, the single adults whose lives mirrored my own, and it dawned on me that behind their posts, they may be too weaving terrible tales of what their quiet celebration signified, and what it meant about them as a person.
So, my gift to you, I hope? Is reminding you that although you may not have ‘writer’ in your bio, you certainly are one. And though we may not have control over what happens in life this 2021, you can certainly control the voice of the narrator, which may be doing your precious life a disservice with its framing of the things you do. One of the most powerful quotes I ever heard was one by a man named John Milton. It goes:
“The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.”
So let’s both (so that’s me and YOU) remember that for the upcoming year.
Warmest regards from Berlin,