Are We The Sum Of Our Stories?



In the atmosphere there were two things: oxygen and words. I desperately needed both. The words floated through my mind nonstop, begging me to pick them, insisting that I deal with them. When my head hit the pillow at night, they were closer. Without the quotidian distractions of my life, I could feel their breath.


In the inky silence of my bedroom, my mind hummed with the staccato rhythm of their footfall. I became a spectator on the sidelines of the marathon route. The words were racers flying past me, their numbered bibs flapping before they disappeared in pursuit of the finish line, where they’d wait for me.


Every park outing with my kids bent itself into a story. Something for the blog. A friend’s offensive comment about my nanny or a (perceived) slight while idling in the carpool line—all of it pressed together to form a bullet that I stuffed into the muzzle of my Word Press gun and shot out for all the world to read. 

I had to get the words out. 

Memories that had only ever lived inside of me became stories I told in 600-word increments. Now, anyone can read about the time the Boston Ballet deemed me too fat for their summer dance program. Or when the fifth grade girls at Preston Hollow decided I couldn’t sit at their table at lunch. Those stories, and others I’d assumed had fossilized or become fused to my bones, crept out of their hiding places. I used the 26 letters at my disposal to make them a new home. Outside of me. They squinted in the sunlight, so unused to the vibrance of natural light. They stumbled forward, experimenting with having all that space to expand, extend their limbs, stretch out.


They now belong to the world. They are no longer the sole property of my marrow. They still belong to me, but they are not Me. They are just stories—flat combinations of letters marching across a screen. But me? I’m all my versions of those stories, but of course more. Things that can’t be reduced to words or branded or packaged for a post. Things I don’t actually have words for. Things that change as soon as the words are memorialized.


Now I know there are more than two things, but without words and oxygen, I can’t begin to take them in.


25 thoughts on “Are We The Sum Of Our Stories?

  1. Mama,
    You are posing the great Existential questions. The first is, Who am I? I don’t think we are our stories, but my story tells me what I have done. Somewhere down inside me there is a person I recognize as Me. as I grow up, I am formed by the sum of my experiences and my reactions and responses to them.

    My story, as I’m sure your therapist will tell you, is the picture which allows one to see how he or she has expressed themselves and then gets to ask if that is a worthwhile and appropriate representation of the person one thinks they are.

    Some of those representations will be satisfactory to the teller of the tale and some won’t. The therapist helps one heal the wounds that gave rise to the unacceptable behavior. At this point one may choose to move on from therapy.

    Now there are more representations in the story which are not unacceptable. One gets to ask themselves whether that’s the expression of the person they aspire to be or become. If so, it’s time to celebrate. But for most of us, escaping jail or not falling into poverty isn’t enough.

    For some people that is where the Coach enters the picture. It is important to understand here that the Coach isn’t present to give advice or point a direction. The Coach is the person who holds the person’s vision paramount, even when the client forgets. The Coach helps the client discover what he or she can’t see themselves. And the process is merely asking questions.

    After all of this, then some people become who they really are. It’s a great journey, and well worth taking. If you ask me. Even though you kinda didn’t.

  2. I don’t know whether we are the sum of our stories, but I have been thinking a lot about stories lately and particularly the sharing of ourselves. A blogger I love and very much admire posted today about sharing our stories, and in it she wrote “Revealing ourselves is not unlike inviting others into our home and saying, I trust you. Come on in. This is who I am. Take a look around. Make yourselves comfortable.” (

    I love this idea, and think that this might be part of the reason I feel such a need to write my words and tell my stories. It’s important, and it’s how we share the pieces of ourselves that might otherwise stay hidden

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