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  • Writer's pictureACTIVHISTorian

(Hi)Story Telling

Our stories matter and we must find the courage to tell them.

As a person more familiar with telling the stories of others from the past, the thought of telling (parts of? all of?) my own brings a fair amount of discomfort. I don't think I'm alone.

The photo here offers a hint of the challenge--but perhaps also my determination to nonetheless meet it. Step by step, bit by bit, as I did when hauling heavy luggage up 4 flights to get to my room up an ancient stairway during my 2023 Paris sojourn.

I learned during that trip that in the future, ground floor or an elevator will be my preference. And telling one's story can require a bit of help too. At some point, we need to recognize that and follow up.

I recently earned a certification from TheStoryTellingLeader, under the generous tutelage of Co-Founder and Co-CEO of DesignConvo, Anca Castillo. After hearing them give a keynote at Arizona Women in Higher Education (AWHE) conference in April 2024, Anca and her Co-Founder/Co-CEO, Dr. Cary Lopez, welcomed my interest in their Human Design Strategy and Consulting work as I find my own entrepreneurial way forward. Their all-too-short keynote was yet another reminder that I need to get my story-telling self together.

Anca's two-meeting StoryTellingLeader process allowed me to develop a bit more confidence in how to develop and use stories in strategic ways, but also in developing more courage to tell my own--because THAT History Matters too.

But maybe the most important thing I absorbed is that, as I would tell students for many years: The process will get you there. And it will get Me there. We get clearer about the actual significance of our experiences, our history, and our lives by telling the stories.

For all the writers and psychologists out there, that may sound obvious. But bear with me.

The photo here is of the ubiquitous pavés that cover so many streets in France--in this case they are in Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris. As noted in the Gallery on this site, I go there for research purposes. . . but I was also there to leave the last of my mother's ashes I'd received, as well as some of my daughter's ashes. I guess I figured they would have enjoyed Paris if they had been able to go together and I wanted a bit of them to be forever associated with a place that matters a great deal to me.

The pavés always remind me to move forward, keep walking, step by step along the undulating pattern initiated centuries ago. But also to keep moving forward in life.

Simultaneously, they also remind me that in other eras of their existence, some formed ingredients in barricades during violent upheavals. And some in the photo, now surrounded by a fair amount of calm in Père Lachaise, saw the murderous revenge wreaked upon men, women, and likely children, by government troops as the 1871 Paris Commune collapsed. And, despite the romantic notions they can inspire when the cherry blossoms bloom and add a pink hue to the mosaic, walking on them for long periods, even in hiking boots as I tend to do, can be exhausting.

So their collective story is perhaps not so different than mine and those of many humans.

We can each inspire and experience romance, upheaval, the death of loved ones, war, and take part in remembrance. We have many stories to tell that aren't necessarily visible in a given moment of time. And our personal pavés that make up the undulating story of our own life carry secrets as well as history.

Secrets--or at least silences--surround us. I was in France during a fair amount of social/political upheaval and Père Lachaise is a place where workers are remembered and where they remember each other--from the past and the present. People leave flowers at the wall associated with the final stand of the Commune, where so many lost their lives. It is a space of remembrance even as it's unlikely any two people are remembering the same thing.

But among those acknowledgements is the bouquet I brought to place there over the ashes of my mother and daughter. It joined bouquets still there after a month since my initial visit on this trip. And also, the ashes I distributed were far from the only ones scattered there. I took comfort in that bit of community and hoped my mother wouldn't be too upset to be left among so many, well, socialist-minded folks. Still, her father spent his time in WWI in and around Paris so perhaps yet another connection.

I mention all that because we come upon flowers, a cemetery, a grave marker, people chatting while eating lunch on a bench--or just in their own thoughts with music piped in directly. But each has a multitude of stories, each noticed thing has a story, most untold. So we take things for granted, whether it's a pavé, a flower--eventually drooping and dried--or a wall that people built and others died against.

My own curiosity is piqued now, after taking the story telling course and having to trust that the process will indeed get me there.

And if you're ever in Paris, wear good walking shoes, go to Père Lachaise, find the Mur des Fédérés, and know that countless stories surround you, including one of mine. And say hi to Bonnie and Beth.

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