If a tree falls in the forest, but there is no-one to hear it fall, does it make a sound?
Our stories need to be heard, to feel real. For us to feel real. For the less geographically challenged (!) the people they grow up with, spend years around, become witnesses to their lives. Their shared experiences reaches across all the senses to act as proofs to the stories that make up their lives.
For the TCK however, our witnesses are dispersed across the globe. Few, if any, in our current location could speak with authority about our history, having not been eye-witnesses themselves. Perhaps they do not even possess a second-hand account, our own mouths stoppered with a hesitation to share too much of our precious stories, for fear of revealing ourselves the aliens that we are.
One of the significant elements of Life Story work is that I record the client’s two-hour long (some more, some less) narrative, and burn this onto a CD. Firstly, this enables me to listen again to the story and facilitates thorough coding. Secondly, however, this transforms the transient and ethereal nature of the life story into something tangible; the memories and experiences are transformed into physical presence. Most clients don’t feel the need to possess the resultant disc; rather the process of transformation, rather than the object generated, succeeds in grounding the TCK in their own story, and reminds them they are author, as well as narrator.
Our stories are already real. They are our Truths, and we are the authority on them. So often the significance of our experiences has been blurred, put out of focus by a lack of shared perspective with those around us. For many, including TCKs, even close family members have vastly different accounts and experiences of childhood memories and cultural identities. All this can contribute to a sense of un-reality… a blurriness about our Selves… a lack of confidence in our own Story.
For our stories to feel real, they must become tangible. For how can our histories be experienced in the now, carried into the future, and shared with new witnesses, if they remain invisible and intangible? We need tangible objects that can represent our histories and our Selves, especially when walking, talking witnesses to our lives are lacking. I refer to these objects as identity props.
Engage your senses… Sight, Sound, Touch, Taste and Smell… to bring your history to life through identity props. What pictures, artwork, jewelry, music, furniture, fabric, food, perfumes can you collect, either in one place, or perhaps disperse around your home? These objects represent parts of you, your story, and can bolster our belief and faith in our own experiences.
For me? I dig out recipes of my favourite foods from West Africa, and replicate them as best as I can when I’m feeling in need of comfort, or soul food… I have music that reminds me of home, and used wax print fabrics when I learnt to baby wear my daughter.
Remember though, your identity props will change, and adapt over time. Your need for them will flex and alter. When I moved into my home 3.5 years ago, I mounted some leather work pictures from my host country on the wall in pride of place. If pressed, I’d have admitted I didn’t really love them aesthetically, but they were powerfully representational to me regarding my story, and they witnessed to that story every time I had someone over for coffee.
This week, I took them down and replaced them with photographs of the people in my life now, the family and community that shape it and are acting as witnesses to my experiences now. This isn’t a case of my history disappearing, or even reducing in significance, but an instance of new witnesses emerging.
Your Story is Real. You are Real. Engage your senses to remind yourself of this today.
If you would like any support; if you need help finding your voice in your own Story, or have lost hope of ever gaining witnesses to it, get in touch here. I’d love to hear from you.