I don’t remember much from sixth grade, but I have vivid memories of my teacher’s after-lunch reading ritual. The ritual was simple: We’d read our way through a book, a chapter at a time each day after lunch and recess. I’m terrible at remembering details, but somehow the tiniest elements of sensory data resurface when I remember this daily event: the feeling of my arms and head down on the cool, smooth surface of the desk; the image of the bland beige desk top sprinkled with flecks of brown; the feeling of my finger absently pressing into the divot of the pencil holder. Most of all, I remember the relaxed bliss I felt from that teacher’s voice falling into a lulling, engaging cadence while she read aloud.

I loved this book-reading practice. It was my favorite part of the day.

I’m sure this reading practice was simply a way to get energized sixth graders to settle down after lunch and recess. (It was very effective, as I recall.) For me, the practice enhanced my love of reading and story. But, it also served as a good introduction to the way we humans make meaning – through the telling and sharing of stories.

In a recent On Being podcast, Krista Tippett interviewed psychologist Pauline Boss, who has done most of her work on what is known as “ambiguous loss.” She has worked with families who have lost people in particularly difficult ways – MIAs, those lost in the 9/11 attack, those losing a family member incrementally to dementia or Alzheimer’s disease – and she has learned that the process of grief is never really over. What grieving people do over time is change or edit their story, their understanding of the loss which brings them a sense of relief and closure.

This past year has been particularly heavy with loss. We have the collective trauma of the loss of people to COVID-19. The loss from the violence of police shootings or other mass shootings. The loss is particularly acute if you’ve lost someone personally. Still, we all have been affected in profound ways by this collective loss. We will spend the rest of our lifetimes forming our personal and collective narratives around the events of this past year.

I invite you to find practices in which you write and rewrite your narrative. Find an artistic medium you like or even one with which you’re not as comfortable. (Watch this week’s Mindful Monday video for some suggestions – and a story of my own!)

Use an artform to help you tell the story. Now, what you create doesn’t need to be beautiful or profound. The point is the process, not the product. Notice how this process helps you shape and reshape the narrative you are telling yourself and others.

Share in Storytelling: I have two events coming up that will help you shape your story: