chair-and-window-250x250Last month, I described a path towards finding your big story, the narrative you can use to make your career or business come alive.

Today as I return from a week’s writing intensive, filled with the magic of learning from writer/performance coach Ann Randolph, I am reminded of the magic to be found in the small.

A story comes alive as we notice the small moments.

A story can come from a memory, object, or event that awakens in us an emotional reservoir and invites us to dig into the multiple dimensions of meaning found in a closed door, a set of silver, a child asking for a hug, the arrival of a puppy, a time you swore at your boss. The small stuff.

The richest moments are often laden with a mix of feelings: ecstasy and dread, gratefulness and anger, shame and forgiveness – feelings that remind us of what we love but also touch us with their sorrows.

Moments that tempt us to skim over them – or move away.

As an academic, I was used to presenting sweeping statements, theories and big conclusions.

These, on their own, rarely draw us in.

Small stories engage us with their raw honesty. In sharing one moment on a journey, or one detail that changed your life, you lead others towards truths the remember from their own experiences.

In this crazy, crazy, pre-election time, the forces of latent fear, anger, grief are being turned into impossible political propositions.

What if we could simply hold on to our feelings for a moment, and plumb them for their poetry instead of seeking quick relief?

Let’s stop, take a breath, and notice where a story lives in the unanswered questions, hidden memories, or surprises we discovered yesterday on our walk. The small stuff. The little pains. The joys.

A quote from the tenth of Rainer Maria Rilke’s Duino Elegies inspired me this week, especially as I was working to go out beyond what was comfortable for me and write from the burning embers where my most vivid stories lived.

Rilke writes:

How we squander our sorrows, 
gazing beyond them 
into the sad 
wastes of duration, to see if maybe 
they have a limit.

But they are 
our winter foliage, 
our dark evergreens, 
one of the seasons 
of our secret year 
– and not only a season,

they are situation, 
settlement, lair, 
soil, home…

Let’s not squander our stories or lose the gifts in our joy,