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In Times of Uncertainty, Tell Stories

At this moment, most of us are busying ourselves with the important tasks of making sure we are stocked with provisions should a hard quarantine go into effect. Toilet paper? Check. Dry goods? Check. A little whiskey to make the time pass quicker? Check and check.

Soon, after of we are hunkered down and our situations are settled, we will fill the time with Netflix and crafts. Our closets will be organized. Our books will look new and enticing when put in alphabetic order, or better yet, according to book cover color. We will most likely spend a good chunk of our time alternating between worry for our family and a deep annoyance of our family. We will say, “Everyone, leave me alone for 20 minutes!”

It will take some days for a certain kind of longing to become loud enough that we will notice. A sadness that will sit in our guts that won’t have a name at first. We will miss our book clubs, our volunteering, and our “Winesdays” (as my mother calls it). It isn’t necessarily the wine, or the book, or the giving that we will miss the most, but the sense of community. Actually being a physical part of something bigger than ourselves. It feels good to commiserate in person and indulgent to express schadenfreude (even if we know it to be a petty emotion). There is an unexplainable sense of joy that we feel when we get to live vicariously through our friends and see their faces while they tell you their stories of happiness. And sure, we will have social media to help scratch that itch, but it just isn’t the same. We will need our people.

None of us have ever been HERE before. When we come out on the other side, who will we be and what will we have learned? Better yet, how will we have spent our time? How will we have filled that the hole that community would normally fill?

“After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.” 

Philip Pullman

Stories will feed us in a way that our emergency provisions cannot.

This is the time to collect them, tell them, listen to them, and invent them.

If you are hiding from your kids, call your girlfriend and whisper to her that you miss her face. Remind her of that time the two of you got drunk and sang bad karaoke till four in the morning before kids were even a thing.

When you think your kiddos are starting to feed off of your own anxiety, sit them down on your lap and tell them story of how they farted on the Priest during baptism, or how they yelled, “MY MOM HAS A VAGINA” in Walmart (this absolutely happened to me), or how delicious the top of their head smelled when they were a baby.

Most of all, I want for you to carve out the time to call your elders. They need you and you need them. Let me them talk and ramble on and tell you stories about when YOU were little. Let them tell terrible jokes. Even if their anecdotes and stories aren’t that appropriate or even “woke,” let them feel heard. Your presence on the other end of the line will get them through.

In this unique moment in history, it has become clear that my experience collecting, sharing, and telling stories might be valuable to my community, even in a small way. Plus, it makes me feel good. Connection and community are a big part of who I am. So, over the next month or however long we are in this, I am inviting you to participate in a series of virtual storytelling projects. Some of these will encourage you to use available digital tools and social distancing to record the stories of your elders, your neighbors, even yourself. Some of these projects will ask you to document your day-to-day stories (which may seem mundane but will be so important for future generations to hear). And some of these projects will be entirely for the purpose of creativity. Let’s hear it for escapism! Finally, for those of you that feel like Luddites, I will also be offering tech tips to help you out.

I can’t wait to see what we do together, even if we aren’t together together. Now, go wash your hands and start thinking about what stories you will share.

Love,

Jessi

*You can join and participate in multiple ways:

The Folk & The Lore Facebook Community Group

The Folk & The Lore on Twitter

Story Hotline: 775-525-1088 (You have three minutes to tell me story. Just know that your story may be used in any of my blog and social posts. Please make sure you are in a quiet space that isn’t windy so I can hear you.)