Are You A Story Teller?

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A page out of my visual journal, using cut out words and pictures.

A page out of my visual journal, using cut out words and pictures.

I’m a storyteller. You’re a story teller. And so is every one you pass on the street. I’m also a writer and tell stories about my life here on my blog. But the stories I write here are not the ones I’m talking about in this piece.

I’m talking about the stories that can fill up my head on a hourly basis about who I am, what I’m doing, where I’m going, what the world should be like, and how things are going to turn out even before any event begins to unfold.

Those stories are usually about fear, wishful thinking, how things are supposed to be, and blame. They’re inventive ways of dealing with the possibility of being disappointed, building hope, or preparing for things we’re afraid will happen … like being humiliated, or just plain terrified. They’re often about the end of my world or about how I’m  going to be the world’s next biggest and brightest star.

Like when I was about eight years old and truly believed I was going to win a beautiful palomino pony because I sent in the very best, most awesome name for that pony … Star. When it was announced that some kid in New Jersey won the pony instead of me, I was angry and complained that somebody had made a seriously terrible, horrible mistake. No name was as good as the one I sent in!!!! I was being cheated.

Stories like that have at times stopped me dead in my tracks and kept me from moving forward. Crazy as it sounds I thought that if I worried myself to death that which I was worried about would go away.

When we’re busy and not paying attention, our minds have a way of running and sometimes ruining our days, for  at least a while. A beautiful afternoon walking the dogs can turn into a nightmare because I hear thunder in the distance and I’m sure we’re not going to make it home before we’re struck and killed by lightning.

I can also go the way of being so full of myself that I just know that my memoir will be #1 on every best seller list within two days of launching it. Yeah, right!

Stories of that ilk can make me laugh when I look back, but if I’m constantly building dramas in my head and being neurotic and narcissistic, it can be a real problem. These days I’m trying to break this very silly habit and retire from the drama.  Our world is full enough of that stuff and I don’t need to adding more.

So instead of playing truth or fantasy with myself, I’m working hard to stop making these ridiculous tales up. If I’m worried about something, I work at letting it go by asking, “What’s the worst thing that can happen?” And I tell myself that life is a great adventure and worth every moment, even the ones we wish wouldn’t happen.

The good news is that scientists are finding that we can send our stories packing and change the way our brains operate by labeling our stories when they show up. I label mine silly stories, lies, wishful thinking, or horror stories. Another way I let them go is by putting them on pages in a visual journal, like the one in the photo.  Once I can SEE them, they become just what they are … thoughts, stories. They wash away into the gutter just like fallen leaves after a hard autumn rain.

I want to live in the moment, getting rid of expectations and judgement, letting go of fear and desire. I want to  live life as a thrilling escapade. Though it can be extreeemely difficult, it’s a step toward believing I can and will handle whatever comes along.

I can’t predict the future. So Why should I waste my precious time worrying and being scared? Life is all about learning and experiencing joy, sadness, pain, anger, fear, hatred, and oodles of love. Why not relax and let it happen?

Do you tell yourself Silly Stories? How do you wash them away?


Wishing you a beautiful, awe filled day!


  1. Oh my yes I tell myself silly stories. I caught myself spinning another yarn of doom last night, in fact. I recognized it for what it was and was able to send it packing. I think that may be the key for me: recognizing it, calling it out, and letting it go. Sounds like a better alternative than the many days of my life that have been wasted in a spiral of ‘what if?’ worrying. That’s my theory anyway. I’m going to give this approach a try.

    • Joan Rough says:

      It sounds like you have a handle on it, Linda. Recognition is key to ending the story cycle.

  2. The hamster wheel of negativity is a difficult ride to abandon, isn’t it? I love the idea of resigning negativity to a visual journal—that sounds like an active way to deal with fear and more effective than just telling yourself to stop thinking about something (which makes me think about it all the more). I’m starting my journal today—thanks, Joan!

    • Joan Rough says:

      Wow, Candace. Happy to help. Telling myself to just stop worrying has never stopped from being an idiot. This works for me and hope it’ll work for you as well.

  3. What relief when we realize our stories are not the truth.
    And then we get to work on creating new stories that we want to live by.
    Lovely post Joan!

    • Joan Rough says:

      Thanks so much, Val. Yes, it’s a huge relief and I often ask myself what took me so long.

  4. You made me stop and consider how I think of stories my brain spins: “I label mine silly stories, lies, wishful thinking, or horror stories.” I guess I’m labeling too when I count my blessings in my gratitude journal, rant in another journal, let loose on my blog (remember the recent “London” post!) But I also have a loony loop in my brain that I try to rein in by meditating, doing Pilates, and not taking myself seriously – at all – after 8:00 p.m. when I’m tempted to “awfulize.”

    You speak out often on the quandaries of being human – and, best of all, offer solutions too. So helpful, Joan.

  5. Joan Rough says:

    Thank you so much, Marian. Yes you are labeling with your journals and meditating and doing Pilates are awesome things that keep me sane, too. Recognizing our “Loony Loop” is so important along with being able to laugh about it. We are all simply human beings and seeing ourselves for who we are is so important.

  6. Joan — I just submitted an article and in it I quoted T.S. Eliot who wrote, “Teach us to care and not to care.” Letting go is that practice. This wonderful post of yours brings that to mind.

    • Joan Rough says:

      Laurie, You always honor me with your kind words. Thank you so much.

      I love that quote and will keep it nearby should I forget to let go.

  7. How timely, Joan. A lovely post about something we all do. “Silly stories,” once identified, owned, and honored can be put to rest. I’m in the “owned” phase of mine; and it’s rather exciting. I’ve been writing about discovering that the story I’d been telling myself (about myself) turned out to be not true (or was it?). Shocked, devastated, sad. Or, thrilled. I’ll know more when I’m done. I can’t believe how timely this is. We must exist under the same set of stars.

    • Joan Rough says:

      I think we must, Janet. Being human is that and more. We are all so similar while being so different. Owning our stories is a huge step and I believe once owned they automatically fade and new stories are w written.

  8. One moment at a time – At age 76, and feeling the time slipping away so quickly, that’s the only way I can live it – Thanks for this –
    Much love, Patti

  9. Joan, you certainly hit a universal chord here. Sometimes the most difficult person I have to deal with is myself. Journaling has always helped me to sift and sort through my responses, whether it be worry or fear. Somehow reading the words swirling in my brain take on a new meaning on the page , most often creating a lessened, more manageable, clarifying effect. Sometimes it takes a concerted effort , but sending those silly stories packing sounss like a healthy plan. Thanks!

    • Joan Rough says:

      I agree, Kathy, that the most difficult people to live with are ourselves. Journaling is a huge help when we can see what we’re doing in words that we write ourselves. When we are telling ourselves stories in our head they are too easy to dismiss for a while and always come back for another round. Once I write my problem down, it’s there on paper and can’t be dismissed. It becomes a fact rather than just a thought.