Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Telling Ourselves Stories

We are constantly telling ourselves stories. That’s what consciousness is. That’s who we are. Storytelling beings, made up of the stories we tell.

The material from which we create our stories, and our selves, originates outside the body from sensory stimuli. We’re bombarded by our senses every second, sorting out at a physical or subconscious level those most necessary to our survival and bringing those to consciousness. That some of our stories never reach the conscious level doesn’t mean that our subconscious or our bodies are not telling, often acting upon, their own stories.

I am not, at this moment, conscious of the pressure of my hips on the chair seat or of my feet on the floor, the weight of my coffee cup, or the taste of the coffee. Nor of the sounds of the refrigerator or the air conditioner. I do, however, notice when something unexpectedly crosses my line of vision. My body tenses a bit. Oh, just a fly. My body relaxes because it has had enough experience with house flies to know that they’re not a threat. I didn’t have to think through, make a decision about that process.     

Ordinarily a fly would not become part of my storytelling, but having brought it to consciousness by writing about it, I am now involved in memories of a particular fly family, black flies. Memories of the job that required in-depth research of black flies for a real-estate venture. Memories of my boss, who he was during the five years I worked for him as his personal assistant.

One of my tasks was to protect him from the media. No photos, no interviews. But I’ve recently seen a photo of him at a gala with a new wife. I’ve seen an interview that mentions an affair with a celebrity, political alignments that I wouldn’t have thought possible. I’ve had to re-cast and re-interpret memories in order to understand how he became a man I don’t recognize. And I’ve had to retell myself the story of five years of my own life, who I was then and who I am now.

We all tell ourselves stories so that we can bring some sense of order and meaning into the randomness of life. New stimuli require new stories as we continue to create ourselves.


  1. An interesting take on story creation, Carol. I like the way the fly enters and leads you to memories of a former boss and a new story. I had never thought of how bringing something into consciousness brings or creates a trail of stories.

  2. Yes, how does that happen, Vick? Why do we notice the smell of honeysuckle today, but not yesterday? Why does that smell attach itself to a memory that enables us to finish writing a story we put away months ago? It's almost as though our creative projects have lives of their own are waiting in the subconscious for us to feed them.