What’s Your Story?

Film poster for Pretty Woman - Copyright 1990,...

Film poster for Pretty Woman – Copyright 1990, Touchstone Pictures (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Remember this line from the movie, Pretty Woman:

“Welcome to Hollywood! What’s your dream? Everybody comes here; this is Hollywood, land of dreams. Some dreams come true, some don’t; but keep on dreamin’ – this is Hollywood. Always time to dream, so keep on dreamin’.”

I feel like the guy asking the question; only you could say my question is:  “What’s your story? Hey, come tell me your story.”

No matter who you are or who you’re becoming. No matter where you are, where you’ve been, or where you’re going. You have a story.

I forget that sometimes. As I wind my way through the city at the start of each day. Passing other parents with waves and nods as we drop our children off at school. Smiles and conversations of varied brightness.

I don’t remember it as I stop-go-stop-go-stop-go down the road to work. Weaving my way through traffic, we’re all trying to get somewhere. It’s part of our story.

I fail to see it when I cross paths with my coworkers in the halls and as I interact with clients of diverse backgrounds and influence.

And by this point in my day it’s only 8:30A. Imagine if I were to consider all the potential touch points of my day. How many people have I passed? Are you with me? How often do we see people without seeing them as people? As a collection of joys and sorrows; hurts and celebrations; and gifts and shortcomings. Broken, healing, and broken again.

Story matters. It’s important. But I selfishly tend to focus on the stories that directly have an impact on my life. Or stories that I am personally invested in like my husband and dudes; my friends and extended families, because to do otherwise is overwhelming.

More and more, lately, I don’t have a choice. Stories are finding me. Women are seeking me out and telling me their stories as if I’m the Happy Man standing on the street corner calling out to them.

The spectrum of women ranges from “I only know you by sight but can’t remember your name” to “Something must be wrong because I haven’t spoken to you today and we talk every day.”

Prompting isn’t required beyond a “How’s it going?” or “What’s new with you?” The levels of disclosure are vastly different; from incredibly intimate to superficial – I’m just having a bad day. Usually, they are unloading a burden or secret. Sometimes they just need someone to listen to what might seem mundane. Or, they may want to trust someone with their dream.

At work, this week I stopped in the kitchen area to get sweetener for my coffee. A coworker was frantically looking through the cabinets.

Me:  “Good morning.”
Coworker: “We’re out of creamer.”
Me:  “No we’re not. There’s some right there.”
Coworker: “Oh yeah but I like the flavored creamer.”
Me:  “Oh okay.”

She sighed and went away with black coffee. I felt bad for her. I went back to my desk and pulled out the last of my flavored creamer and took it to her. About 10 minutes later she sent me a note thanking me for taking what was an already bad morning (before the creamer issue) and helping her overcome the crabbiness about it.

It didn’t seem like a big deal to me but it was a big deal to her. I received a glimpse of her story in that moment. My response changed her story for the day.

After writing my notes for this post, I met with two very busy lawyers. I just needed input on materials I was working on. I wanted to respect their time and promised to be brief. To my surprise both women engaged me in lengthy conversations about their lives. They just needed to talk.

Why me? I don’t know.

There is a burden of responsibility when carrying around someone else’s story. They have to be handled with care. I am amazed by the depths of trust freely given.

And the most surprising and rewarding outcome is that caring for a story that’s not my own and not mine to tell, alters my story. My life is enriched by it. I am forever changed with each secret shared and I am grateful.

Now I am calling out:  What’s your story? Who do you confide in? What do you do with the stories placed in your care?

Photo from Zemanta …


  1. I have been marinating on this blog since it was posted. Normally, I would be posting – “Oh yesssss, I know. I’m totally the same way…” But, now, I sit on the flip side, living a life story that is emotionally up and down. And, I am keenly reminded how special it is to have a “Gail” around who is willing to listen and share. I feel confident that your act of generosity ministered to more than just some taste buds. My heart is warmed by the knowledge that there are people who are listening and do care. And I am reminded to take my eyes off myself and look to others – and in those acts of kindness, hope is restored. You have blessed me. xoxoxo

    • Thanks TLC … I am the one who is fortunate in this relationship. That I have a “Talli” in my life. But I am thankful that you feel like you get so much from me. Looking forward to our next writer conversation. Can’t wait to see where our journey leads us. ~Gail

  2. It’s a girl thing, this telling stories and keeping secrets. If blokes go around like that it’s a bit creepy. We just get on with running the world 🙂 But I have to agree that it makes the world a happier place if you can find the time for a kind word or gesture.

  3. Gorgeous, Gail! I’ve been thinking about this a lot since rejoining the 9-5 world recently. I’m still the “new girl” but I am involved in so many lives now – a smile in the stairwell, avoidance in the narrow hallway, a gruff encounter in front of the microwave. One day I’m sure I will learn more about many of these nameless faces. For now, I only have brief body language conversations which tell nothing and everything to me in a few precious seconds.

    • I love the way you phrase things Beautiful Britt … I hope things get better at the 9-5 and you can move beyond the “body language conversations” to some deep and meaningful ones. Thanks for sharing!

  4. I agree that other people’s stories can impact your own when shared. I feel so special when someone else shares their story with me. It makes me feel like a trustworthy person. I feel like they look at me as their friend and I feel loved… worthy of love. Because the opening of a heart is no small thing.

  5. My story is a long and complicated one. I may be the only person who knows all of it but my husband of 5 years, who is also my best friend of 11 years knows most of it. As for the stories placed in my care, theya re not mine to tell, so I listen and sometimes share or advise but never tell. 🙂

  6. You really have to take care of other people’s stories because they can easily be misinterpreted. I love the fact that everyone (no matter who they are or what they do) has a story 😀

  7. Thanks for the link back Stephanie.


  1. […] What’s Your Story? from the Jotter’s Joint Gail talks about one of my favourite topics: storytelling… ours and others. […]

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