The Stories We Carry: Unlocking and Liberating The Message

stories we carry

One of the greatest joys during this Long Road Home moto-book tour has come not from sharing my story, but from listening to the stories of others. We’ve all got them and we share universal themes. They’re passed down through the generations and form our worldview.

Stories help us thrive and survive; they can also weigh us down, like excess baggage. They operate from our subconscious without our awareness and often don’t surface until we run into a life situation that makes us question them.

Through my travels and conversations, I’ve heard the same themes from people with diverse cultural and religious backgrounds, from South America, the Middle East, and Asia.

It’s hard to recognize influences that have shaped us. Stories don’t have to be delivered orally or in written form; they’re lived through actions and traditions. One person told me she was really lucky that her parents had not influenced her growing up; that they’d allowed their children freedom to be who they were while they spent their time away golfing. What messages did their actions portray, I wondered.

Let me share three examples of how stories shaped me and how I reconciled them. I’ve dissected them but in reality, they’re wound together in a complex web.

Don’t question authority.

As a child, I understood that questioning God and church teachings showed lack of faith and was a sin. That filtered through to parents and anyone in authority. Once I explored this value during my quest, it was easier to understand why it was so deeply engrained. My grandparents survived years of terrorism, famine, and traumatic loss. When your family’s survival and culture’s way of being is threatened, there is no time to question leaders. You retrench and prioritize to survive. I didn’t share those experiences yet those engrained beliefs lived in me. Although my ancestors needed those stories, I did not. By understanding this, I could let old concepts go and write my own story.

Never give up, no matter what.

Perseverance is a major strength, yet it can become a detriment when it’s expected at all costs. Again, this came out of a need to survive extreme hardship in Russia/Ukraine, continuing as they started life in Canada, even with my parents as they struggled to make ends meet. This mantra dogged me for decades to continue an unfulfilling marriage and career. Giving up meant failure. Only when I felt like an empty shell, did I take action in midlife to break free from that story and allow my spirit full expression.

Hide your feelings, wishes, and dreams.

When you’re fleeing adversity, there’s no time for grief, even when you’ve buried your infant daughter the day before you leave the country of your birth forever. When an early frost wipes out the crop, crying or wallowing in self-pity doesn’t bring it back. You’ve got to figure out other ways to feed your family. This tenet mutated into opening your heart and soul to another was dangerous. You could be ridiculed, ostracized, or persecuted. It took decades to extricate myself from this one, but that’s when things really opened up for me.

Only when we’re being who we are can we attract like-minded others in relationships and interests. Only when we understand the stories we were raised with can we understand ourselves, express our gifts, and fulfill our potential.

If you’re interested in exploring the stories that live in you, watch for the next Stories We Carry Workshop, next in Winnipeg on September 27.

Photo credit: Nick Kenrick. on Visualhunt / CC BY-NC-SA


Author, writer, and student Liz Jansen combines her artistic mediums to create stories that inspire readers to embark on their own journey of self-discovery.

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