Story-Telling – Creating Common Grounds
Over time, I have been asked multiple times why I do “that thing that I do”, referring to the blogging and why I’m writing about being transgender and autistic, here and on social media.
The short answer is; because I can’t help it!
The longer answer digs a bit deeper into a need for story-telling, starting with, but not limited to, my own. Which again can be boiled down to a strong belief, that if we just listen to the stories, each of us have to tell, then maybe we can gain a better understanding of each other.
And the crazy and amazing thing is: the stories are everywhere. They may not have found a voice yet, but they are there!
The Story-Telling Blog
In it’s very early days, Rocking the Spectrum wasn’t even called Rocking the Spectrum! It was simply named after me and it started as a way to describe mental illness and mental vulnerability, primarily to family members who’d bother to read it. This was prior to my autism diagnosis, so my main focus was depression and anxiety.
A lot of those blogposts don’t even exist today. They were from the time, the content of this blog was written in Danish. They were from before my writing crossed border lines and the majority of my readers came from other parts of the world. I still have no clue how that happened – but it did, and I’m extremely grateful for that.
Over time, Rocking the Spectrum changed it’s focus; from depression and anxiety, to autism and it’s strengths and challenges and to discovering and going through a transgender process.
Somewhere along the line I gave up aiming for that golden “you gotta have a niche”-rule that usually gets mentioned in blogging 101 tips.
Because really, what I WANT to do and crave to do and need to do, is tell stories. And I want to tell the stories about anything that bloody well fuels my fire.
And being both autistic and transgender, I also don’t sit well with being confined into narrow boxes. My entire life and being has been about – however not chosen, but fully embraced – “not fitting in”. It’s been about having slightly edgy or odd ways of doing things – which tends to come across, when I write.
So, when you read through this odd blog of mine, the grand total is, that you are reading my story. For better or worse, I might add.
You are reading ME.
Some of it won’t matter the slightest to you – because we are not the same. But there will probably be pieces, posts or paragraps that resonate with you, that might make you think for a bit or might even make you discover something, whether it’s an inner epiphany or a new band to listen to.
My point in life – and the point to this entire blog – is telling those stories. Giving voice and words to thoughts that may or may not touch another human beings.
Lucky thing about my chosen freelance profession is that I’m never really out of a job.
Story-Telling and the Dimensions
Remember back when we were kids and mum or dad told us a fairy tale, and we would hold our breaths until the witch was defeated and the prince won the princess?
Fairy tale, a news paper article or a blogpost. It doesn’t matter. If the story lives and breathes within the words and sentences, it will hold the power to momentarily break down our dimensions. That is why, when we read a crime novel, we can sometimes feel like we are actually there, chasing the bad guy.
Growing up, stories taught me a lot about all the social difficulties I had and still have. The stories gave me ways to navigate around those obstacles. The most important lesson I got, was understanding that we all come with different backgrounds and therefore different ways of interpreting the world around us.
The stories provided company for a lonely child. By breaking the boundaries of the dimensions, and having a strong visual mindset, living myself into the story was easy-peasy.
So in many ways, I have grown up flying luck dragons, chasing Captain Hook and manoevering the Batmobile in my childhood small town area – not to mention what MacGyver and Rambo did for my sence of survival skills.
I was absolutely guttered though, that I couldn’t make a small fire cracker out of bushy leaves, mud and some salt and soap from my mum’s kitchen cabinets!
I will bet you, that you yourself have your own memories of how you would role-play a specific story or how a novel or movie got to you so bad, it still stays with you today.
That is story-telling at it’s finest. When the words are so carefully considered or so naturally connected, that they unlock that barrier between the dimensions.
Because, you see, stories are not just entertainment (although I’ll agree that some stories today, especially on TV, seems to be created merely for entertaining) – when stories are done right, they not only entertain us, but they also throw us a lesson, a little glimpse into what it means to be human. Of any kind!
Creating Common Grounds
Have you ever read “Roots”? I got this torn paperback from my grandmother and I chose it because Alex Haley kind of sounded a lot like the name Axel Foley (I got a lot of my childhood laughs from Beverly Hills Cop!). I wasn’t even adept at English, when I was given the paperback. But “Roots” was one of the books, that changed that. I read it with an English-Danish dictionary from the local library on the side.
“Roots” was and is a novel that if you have a heart, you are in for a heart breaking read. I might even say that I was probably too young to read it the first time. But it taught me so much just from feeling the injustice in my bones. I can never fully comprehend how it’s like living with that heritage, but the story – and the gut wrenching feeling – has stuck with me for over 30 years now.
And it opened my eyes to the fact that we as humans are defined by, but not controlled by, our heritage. I understood the depth of heritage itself and how many stories one person, every person, carries on their shoulders. It made me observe people and imagine how their parents and grandparents were like. It was mind blowing to this little curious sponge of a bloke.
Suddenly the entire world was spun into a web of stories, intertwining with each other and yet living their own lives. That in turn gave me a strong feeling of being connected. That I too was somewhere inside this web, being part of it all, with someone depending on my story and me depending on theirs.
Which ultimately leads to the one conclusion; we are all in this together. The stories, our stories, are our common grounds.
The stories’ playground is where our upbringing, our cultural differences and all of our shitloads of bagage go to die. We connect to each other on that playground, because we relate to the stories.
The Voices of Story-Telling
I may focus a lot on novels as the main influencer, but story-telling is of course not limited to novels or short stories.
You find it in cartoons, news paper articles, sculptures, painting, tv-series and blockbuster movies.
You find it in the deep lines of an old man’s face and in the tattoos on his arms.
Take a look around your grandparents’ home – or your parents’ even. There is a good chance, that some of the items on the shelves, their choices of books or choices of decorating tells a story too.
Novels, short-stories and movies just tend to be the easier pick when it comes to exemplifying story-telling and it’s nature. The reason is simply that in these methods, the story-telling part is very explicit. They hold a very clear narrative that takes your hand and guides you all the way to the end (whether it’s an open end or not).
When it comes to sculptures, paintings and the choice of decor at your grandparents’, the story is more implicit.
It hovers underneath the surface and somehow craves to be heard.
Have you ever caught yourself sifting through your grandparents’ shelves, minding your own business and suddenly your mouth says. “Grandma, why are there so many figures of birds on your shelf?” and she looks at you with eyes so deep and takes one thoughtful sip of her cup, before her voice fills the room?
And suddenly you find yourself caught up in your grandmother’s story about that one time, she chose to feed the pidgeons in the park and was crying, because she felt lost and suddenly this young man offered her a hankerchief and sat down and talked with her until she was sad no more – and that was how your grandparents met. Because your grandfather happened to walk past that particular bench on that particular day, your grandmother was feeding those pidgeons.
And from then, the little figures of birds on the shelves get a whole new meaning for you. Dust collectors become little treasures.
Stories are everywhere.
Even news paper articles are stories, although – granted – there is a big difference in the skills of the story teller. Some are dull, because they lack the human connecting elements, others try to connect or influence too much and become obnoxious (usually tabloids) – but sometimes the journalist catches that sweet spot, between merely communicating the event and telling the damn story.
It’s All About Connection
You see, stories are more than just laying out facts.
Think about the History lessons and how some teachers could just make the French Revolution a pain in the arse, and how other History teachers could build the Stone Age with their words right there in the class room.
That is the difference between laying out the facts – and actually telling the story.
I had a Latin teacher in high school that would end each lesson with a chapter from Ovid. Now this is Latin, so the sentences itself were challenging even in their translation. But the way she read from those pages, she was telling the story – and not just reading the words. It was captivating.
In this day and age, you will hear a lot about how communication is key. Pretty much no matter what the context, communication will be the highlighted skill to want. And it’s true – we are depending as human beings on good communication, not to mention having and understanding various ways of communicating.
But it’s when we connect, that we – as humans – find our common grounds.
It’s when we recognize the emotions and relate to them, we realize that autistic, transgender, cisgendered, service staff, head of marketing, skin colour – we are all made of the same cloth. Communication can take us some of the way, story-telling takes us all the way.
Story-telling can make that annoying colleague of yours become an endearing member of the staff – because you finally get his quirks. Story-telling can make you understand that the lady next door isn’t angry at you, but just suffered a brain injury, that makes it seem that way.
Stories reach out. And it’s by reaching out from both sides, that we find that connection, that we are all essentially craving for.
Your Story Matters to Someone
If you’ve read my posts before or follow me on social media, my occasional pissant tone will come as no surprice.
I wasn’t always like that though. By nature, I’m pretty introverted and for decades I was actively hiding myself from what could even remotely be referred to as public eye or centers of attention. Like many others, I put myself in a corner, believing I had nothing to offer the world.
But I did and I do. By taking myself out of the corner and putting words to what I’ve seen, felt and gone through, I realized that my story mattered to someone.
And your story matters too.
Like I said, we are all in this together and when we feel alone, it’s a comfort and even empowering to discover someone who went through the same. Your story can be someone elses safe shore. Your story can create awareness, understanding and inclusion.
This is why I will dedicate my life to telling the stories – not just my own – but offer my words to those that might not have them. The vast majority of those stories will not have any ground breaking measures what so ever – but I’ll write them and tell them, because they fuel my inner fire and I believe that someone outthere needs the story too.
Be it for the sentiment of hope, the reminder of love and humanity or the edgy push to take a stand – or for the inspiration.
Stories crave to be heard. So let your story out.