Finding your story

Several people have told me that it is too hard to tell their story – that there is just too much to say and so it is just too hard to start. While I get that it can be hard to decide which story to tell, I have a suggestion for finding a way into telling your story. We are all hardwired a bit differently, and for some music triggers memories, for some it is smells, for some it is photos. Notice for the next few days what seems to trigger your memories. For my father it was a particular tune he first heard at a dance on the pier in Gt. Yarmouth when he was dating his first wife. Every time that song appeared on the radio he would spontaneously start to tell us more about her. As a rule he loved classical orchestral and organ music, but they never brought about the story telling that pop song did.

For me one particular smell brings back a stream of strong memories. I only have to smell a privet hedge in bloom and I am back on the front path by my grandmother’s front door. She died in the early 1960s, so haven’t been to her house in a very long time, and I couldn’t begin to tell you exactly what privet smells like! However when I catch the smell privet as I am out walking, I am instantly transported back to making a trifle with her in her kitchen or lying on the floor sorting out her buttons in the button tin. The smell opens up all sorts of memories that aren’t usually in my thoughts.

Photographs can serve a similar purpose. Like so many people with phones that take photos, I now take far more pictures that I did when I knew I would have to pay to get the reels of film processed. This has led to taking so many photos I often have to stop and remind myself to be present and enjoy where I am… The other side of this is that when I get home and can look at the photos more carefully, I am astonished by the story I inadvertently told – even though the expedition wasn’t ever intended to be a story. (You may notice the similarity between the photo from last week and this week! This photo I took of the cover of the book I created – and am still ridiculously excited to hold “my book” in my hands! It also shows that a story doesn’t have to be an epic adventure, or overly dramatic, or take place over decades.)

So what triggers memories for you? Which sense tends to transport you back to a different time and place without any effort? Which story does it bring to mind? Remember, it doesn’t have to be a huge story, it could be the smell of pipe smoke, the theme tune to a TV show, the feel of your mother’s coat. When you find that trigger, you can hardly help yourself but start remembering the stories about what else was happening when that sense got connected to that memory.

Now tell me that you can’t find a story from your life that you can tell from something triggered by a sense memory!