Princesses, Pigs, and Stories

This evening I sat with an ice pack on my shoulder following physical therapy, listening. There were conversations all around me between patients and their therapists. It was a struggle to not join in. I’d hear one subject and realize I had a story about that, or an opinion on something else, or a desire to laugh – one guy told a hilarious story about how his darling princess daughter tackled a pig. I restrained myself because those were not my conversations, didn’t involve me, and comments from a stranger probably wouldn’t be appreciated. But when I am included in a conversation, it’s very easy to talk. About anything, to anyone, anywhere.

The thing is, it wasn’t always that way. All throughout school I talked only to my small group of friends. I’m sure most kids didn’t know I was in the room. Except when called upon by the teacher, when I would flame brightly into existence, the blush putting me right on everyone’s teasing radar.

I used to think the ability to be comfortable talking to people, or being in front of a crowd came about because I took on a job in the 70s that required my having to talk. But now I’m not so sure.

One thing that seems to make a difference is having something to talk about. I now have life experiences. I’ve been through many things that allow me to relate to those around me, which creates a sharing environment. At eighteen my life was still very sheltered. What was there to talk about? Heck, at age 30 my life was still sheltered but that’s another story.

Lots of talking here: You did WHAT? You swam WHERE? Are you INSANE? I had no problem finding words...

Lots of talking here: You did WHAT? You swam WHERE? Are you INSANE? I had no problem finding words…

A teacher tried helping one time as I stood, shaking, contemplating an oral report. He said, ‘pick something you know’. It didn’t help then, but now I see the wisdom of that. If there are things you know well, that inspire you, then it’s going to be easier to talk to someone. Might even be hard to get you to stop talking. So I think that helps some, too.

And then there’s the simple blossoming of a storyteller. As we’ve talked about here before, there is a story behind everything. From a simple trip to the grocery store to the spider in the bathroom, to the latest headlines. We all have tales to tell that connect us to one another.

Of course not everyone wants to talk or tell a story. My husband, for one, would be very happy if, when out in public, he didn’t have to interact with anyone. Which works out great because I fill that silent void. Give me an excuse to tell a story and I’m off and running.

Well, okay, the husband can hold forth occasionally...

Well, okay, the husband can hold forth occasionally…

Posted just because I've always liked this photo

Posted just because I’ve always liked this photo

Like the princess and the pig: the little five-year-old girl dressed up for dance class, and dad stops at a friend’s for a quick visit. The little girl got charged by a pig and before the dad could react she grabbed the pig, bit its ear, yelled ‘take that!’ and sent the pig running, squealing.

That little girl is going to go far in life. And I bet she’ll be talking the whole way.

12 thoughts on “Princesses, Pigs, and Stories

  1. Oh, my, Lisa! You bring back memories! A million years ago, when school was just invented, I had precisely the same experience as you; talk to friends, turn red (add sweat and stutter) when called on by the teacher. And to give and oral report? Debilitating anxiety! What did help me was exactly what you were advised: talk about something you know — only it was when I was an adult, and over 30. I talked about riding — taught, actually. The fact that people (my students) listened and didn’t make fun of me was a great help. I recall my parents coming to visit and watching me teach once. They were stunned. Now, I still listen more than talk unless I have something to say that a listener wants to hear.
    And that little girl and the pig …. priceless! I would love knowing her!

    • Funny – I would never have thought of you that way. You always seem so self-confident and assured. Amazing how school years influence us and how we blossom outside of that environment. At least some kids, and at least blossom socially. I know for some school is the epitome of social self confidence.

  2. Lisa — To paraphrase Don Marquis, there are some people (even at the tender age of five) who can tell you they went to the store to buy a pack of gum and make you thrill and vibrate with the adventure. Others (of any age) might tell you they discovered the lost continent of Atlantis and fail to impress you with the importance. You are decidedly in the thrill-and-vibrate category. BTW, I loved The Memory Keeper.

  3. Some people know me as a lifelong talker, others know me as a quiet/reserved listener. It depends a lot on context, and on the personality of who’s doing the describing. I do notice that as I get older I seem to be talking a little less but more boldly — a shift I’m totally fine with!

    • I also speak my mind more as I’ve grown older, and I think that part is connected to confidence. Or finally realizing it doesn’t matter if people disagree with you. Mainly, for me, it’s reaching a point where my views have as much value as another person, and why should I put my opinions behind others. It’s rather freeing.

  4. I loved this piece! I, too, had experiences where my tongue could not say anything because I was self-conscious. But being able to tell the stories and make them interesting, now that is a timely message for me right now. I am in the process of polishing my old journal writings for a group of women hikers. We were together for almost 30 years, climbing mountains, balancing on ridge tops, and going on adventures in the wilderness. On one of our adventures, I took detailed notes. My account of it was cumbersome, so I edited it and gave each of my friends an “abridged” edition. Years later (now) I found even the abridged edition to be tedious! In the descriptions of the exquisite beauty, I still could not feel the color and excitement as I re-read the piece. I realized that what people want to hear are the stories of the trip, not the endless descriptions of the terrain. I am starting over with it. Thank you for your blog post! It confirms what I have been thinking just this week! I need to bring the stories alive so that my women friends can retrace their steps in their memories. You are helping me.

    • Glad to hear it. And you’ve touched on something quite deep – we want to connect to the stories and share them. Maybe this is the old adage about showing vs. telling. Your descriptions were ‘telling’ and what you are now doing is ‘showing’. Your stories will let people see the areas even more strongly. Interestingly, I have a friend who belonged to a hiking group for years and has produced many beautiful poems from that time period. Good luck!

  5. I’m so glad I found your blog. I both enjoyed and identified with this post. I made my living teaching, consulting, speaking in public, yet I wander to the quiet side in social situations, totally unable to start a conversation with strangers in an elevator or chat up someone next to me in line — unless they speak first, which, in some weird way, seems to cause me to babble. Oh dear.

    • Do you think the ability to speak publicly as part of your job comes from a sense of responsibility? And that socially that professionalism, so to speak, is missing? I wonder if the lack of talking socially doesn’t come from shyness so much as needing the subject matter presented by another to kickstart the conversation. Aren’t we a fascinating species! And thanks for wandering over here; I always love your thoughtful comments on Red’s Wrap.

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