Not too long ago, I added the word "storyteller" to my LinkedIn heading. It was a significant step in my life because I'd never felt like I was good enough to call myself one. But sometimes you have to decide to own things even if you feel trepidation or doubt. Sometimes you have to kick your own ass and get out of your own way.
I'd never considered myself a good storyteller mostly because I'd tried to write novels and failed miserably - more than once. I'd start my story from a vague idea and then veer off quite dramatically, screeching the brakes and plowing into a wall. Then I'd burst into flames and slam the laptop.
Failed project. Done. Over. Definitely not a storyteller.
But the word storyteller is something I'm realizing can be applied to all sorts of things that most people can do. It's not just the traditional story like a novel or a screenplay, although I still hope to get there one day. But storytelling is also present in marketing. And in social media. And in day-to-day conversations. In fact, all of us tell stories every day when we recount something that happened or when we commiserate with our friends over a life situation.
We are all storytellers.
Why was I convinced that I wasn't able to do what every single human being can do? What nonsense. What a waste of time.
By claiming this word once and for all, I was empowered to move more in the direction I wanted to go. I think claiming things is important for everyone's personal development and that it's step one to achieving what you want to do. I mean, if you can't claim your dream, then who will? How will you ever get there if you don't say that it will be yours?
For me, claiming the word "storyteller" was an essential part of becoming more authentically myself because I'd resisted it for most of my adult life. I hadn't allowed myself to find real success because I'd been convinced that storytelling wasn't in my DNA.
Well, it is and I'm going to do it.
I'm already doing it, in fact, based on the response I've gotten from my network. And I've already done it for more than a decade on my other blogs and in my private journals. I just didn't think it counted.
Sometimes we hold ourselves back more than anyone or anything else, and sometimes it takes a long while to realize that this is the case. But often, I think, we finally understand it when the time is right - and not a moment sooner.
This was my time. This was my moment. And I seized it.
I started my new job as a managing editor – a chief storyteller - today.
Author Note: I wrote this post five years ago while trying to process the worst grief I'd ever experienced. It is based on true experiences. I can see deficiencies in my writing, for sure, but I also give myself credit for creating a voice that wasn't mine. I've never shared it publicly before.
Why are they shaving my paw? Well, I’ve seen this before. I think this means I get to go to sleep for a while.
But why is mama crying? I’ve seen her cry, but not like that. There’s something different in her face. I’m not exactly sure what it is, but her eyes look different. Usually she stops though, after a while.
It’s such a pretty day outside. I've forgotten how pretty the days are. I’ve just spent so much time in the dark under the bed. And the sunlight, and the moon, and the rain. It’s all so beautiful.
Maybe mama will open the window today so I can sniff at the air. That’s my favorite! Sometimes I smell grass, sometimes I smell squirrels, sometimes I smell birds. It always smells so good. I got to smell it yesterday. I went out and sat on the windowsill for a little while and it made me so happy. But then I had to go back. I felt so sick mama. I don’t understand why I’m so sick.
I’ve seen these people before. I don’t understand who they are. But I’m used to them I guess. I’ve seen them a lot lately. Sometimes they hurt me with their needles, but I can tell they don’t mean to. They seem so nice. Just like mama. So I’m not scared this time. They give me things to make me feel better. And I trust mama, she always brings me home.
So I guess soon I will go back under the bed. That needle hurt a little bit, but not as bad as my chest. Everything hurts. It’s hard to eat. It’s hard to drink. I don’t understand mama. I was just jumping and running not very long ago. The other day when I tried to jump on the bed, I almost didn’t make it. Maybe it will get better soon. I’ll just rest until it does.
Oh mama is giving me a hug. I hate those, but they make her happy. But she’s crying harder now. Poor mama, I hope she feels better soon. She's been crying so much lately. It seems like every time I wake up mama is crying.
Oh I guess they aren’t done with me yet. Ok. It’s ok mama, I know I’ll come back when they’re finished. You don’t have to cry. I do this all the time.
What a terrible scream.
Mama, I see you down there. But you’re screaming and holding onto daddy. Why do I see me? Where am I?
Wait, that’s me. That’s mama. That’s me. I’m not me. Me is there. On the towel. I don’t understand.
I hate seeing mama cry. I’ve never seen her cry like that. I wish I could help mama stop crying. I’m coming mama, I’ll be there. Mama can you hear me?
But wait, where did the pain go? I don’t feel anything anymore. Mama don’t cry. Mama. Oh mama I’m here, but I think I’m not here. Mama, I think I understand mama. I see myself but I’m not there. I see you but I’m not there. I died, mama.
But I feel happy. I’ve never felt this happy! Mama, don’t cry. I don’t hurt anymore. I was hurting so bad. I was hurting every day. Look mama, I can run and jump! I can play. Mama don’t cry. Mama.
I’ll just stay here a while and make sure mama stops crying.
Mama’s been crying for a long time. I keep watching her, laying there with daddy. She just keeps crying and crying. I don’t know what to do. Mama! I’m still here! Can you hear me? Mama!
Why can’t she hear me? I keep talking to her, but she doesn’t hear. Why can’t she hear me?
Mama! I’m here! Mama don’t worry. It’s ok mama. I’m here. I didn’t leave, I’m still here.
I’ve been sitting in my spot on the bed. It’s my favorite spot. I’m not really sure why I like it so much but I do. I just sink in and it’s so comfortable. I’ve been watching mama for a long time. I wish she could see me. I can see her, why can’t she see me?
Maybe she’ll stop crying soon.
Mama’s on the porch now. I’ll go out there too, and I’ll try to rub against her leg to make her feel better.
Mama seemed to think she saw me, but I guess she really didn’t. Mama I’m still here! Can you hear me mama? Please don’t cry mama. I can walk. I can run! I can play. It’s so pretty, I can see heaven just across the way. It’s waiting for me.
But I can’t leave you yet mama, not yet. Not until I know you’re ok. I’ll stay right here with you and wait. Sometimes I think you look at me, but I’m not sure if you see me. I call to you and sometimes you look, but you look through me. And you shake your head. Do you see me mama?
I’ll keep trying mama.
It’s night time now. I always sleep with mama, so I’ll go back to my spot. I don’t think heaven will go anywhere, I still see it over there. I want to sleep with mama. It’s been so long since I could jump on the bed and go to sleep.
I wonder if mama sees me now? Can she feel me against her leg? Mama is crying again. Oh mama, don’t cry. I’m still here mama, right where I always was.
Oh mama, heaven is getting brighter. It has such beautiful music. It’s telling me to come and see. Mama I don’t want to leave your side. You’ve been crying again today. I’ve never seen you cry this long. But the music mama, it’s so beautiful. I’ve never heard anything like it.
And I can see a rainbow with some white light mama. Oh how I wish you could see it! There are other kitties there mama. There’s one that’s looking at me. It’s black. She just keeps looking.
I’ll just go and take a peek mama, and then I’ll be back. That kitty there, she’s just looking at me and she’s telling me to come. I don’t know that kitty. But she’s looking at you too. She says come, it’s beautiful here. Mama will be ok, just come.
But mama I’m afraid to leave you. I don’t want you to cry. Except I have to go see heaven. Just for a little bit mama. Then I’ll come back and lay right there by your leg. But that black kitty, she’s still looking at me.
Do you know her mama? She seems to know you. Maybe I’ll just go over there and ask her, and then I’ll come right back. You just stay there mama. I’m still here, I’m just going to step right up there. Then I’ll come back.
Oh mama, it was so beautiful there! But I had to come back to see you. I think sometimes you look at me, but then you don’t. But you do seem to know when I’m here mama, even though you cry. Please don’t cry mama. It’s so pretty here!
I met the black kitty. She said she was yours, from when you were a child. She knew you before me mama, and she wants to see that you’re ok. I told her you’d been having a tough time mama, and that I took good care of you. She said she’s sad to see you cry.
But I told her you cried a lot, but then you always stopped. I told her, mama, that I’d come back and look after you for a while. It was hard to leave that place mama! It was so wonderful. I ran around and I jumped. And I played and I ate grass. Nothing hurts mama! I feel healthy and new and strong.
I want to stay there mama, but I can’t go just yet. I saw they were burning my body mama. Somehow I see everything. I wasn’t afraid. It was my old shell. It was broken and hurt. I was kind of glad to see it burned mama. I feel so much better now.
I’ll sing you that song you sang to me. When I was sick under the bed. I remember you sang to me when I was little. How much I loved the songs. They sound like the songs in heaven, but different. Can you hear the song mama? Yes, you hear the song. That’s me mama. That’s me.
They’re bringing my ashes back now mama. But it’s ok, that’s not me in there. I hear you when you call for me mama. I will stay here with you. Mama can you hear me? Can you see me? Mama I’m still here. I hear you when you call my name. But I seem to have lost my voice.
The black kitty in heaven says you lose your voice when you die. Your human friends can’t hear you when you talk, she said, but they can sometimes feel you. She said she could see that you felt me there, mama, when she was watching me from heaven. She said I can come back for a while mama, but then I have to go. And that I’ll go forever.
I wonder how long that will be? I’m laying here right by you mama, can you feel me?
Don’t cry mama, those are just my ashes. Those aren’t me. I’ll try to go lay where the bag is so maybe you can hug me too. That’s just dust and bone mama, my old broken body. It’s not me mama. Don’t cry.
I still see that pretty light and hear the music mama. It calls me to come every day. But I know that once I go I will have to go for good. So I’ll stay here as long as I can mama. Until I know you’re ready for me to go. Until you tell me I can go.
Those flowers are so beautiful mama! I watched you buy them at the store. Did you hear me sing to you while you were driving? It’s that song you sang. That same song. Sometimes you smiled and I know you heard. I’m here with you mama, I’m not gone.
The black kitty says I have to come soon. She says it’s almost my time. She says God told her so. And oh how I want to go mama! It’s so nice there. And I’ll be waiting for you.
I can’t wait to show you the pretty grass and flowers. The black kitty says it’s a special part of heaven. She says I’m lucky that I got to come. Only the pets who are especially loved get to stop here, she says. And I know how much you loved me mama, I always knew. That’s why I always stayed so close to you.
Those flowers are for me?
The ocean is so pretty mama, I’ve never seen it before. What did you say mama? I love you too. Are you sure you want me to go? Oh that song, that pretty song you sang to me when I was sick. Mama I love it so much, keep singing that song.
Mama are you sure? Are you sure you want me to go? Mama I’m ready to go, but I’m afraid. Mama I will miss you.
But the light is so bright mama! It’s so beautiful! I see the black kitty, she's telling me to come. She says it’s time mama. I’m trying not to go but it’s pulling me away. Mama, I love you so much. Come and see me someday mama. Please don’t cry. I’m so happy. So very happy!
The black kitty says you will be ok. She says another kitty will come to help you, just as I came when she had to go to heaven. She says you’ll be ok, and oh mama! I’m almost there.
I see it in your face mama. I see you’re ok now. I see why I must go now mama. I will always be with you mama, I’ll just be over here. Not too far away. Just right over here. Don’t cry for me mama, I’m going to be so happy. And the black kitty says you’ll come too someday. She says not to worry, she’s seen many humans come. They always come.
I love you mama. I love you so much. The light is so beautiful. The light.
The Big Pause