So … this is a story. A story about a dill pickle story.
Written by a person who’s been reading about the importance, or centrality,
of stories in human existence.
I’ve been reading Thomas King’s brilliant The Truth About Stories
& just before I was served up the dill pickle that reminded of my dill pickle story
I’d re-read Anne Lamott’s essay ‘Steinbeck Country’ from Grace (Eventually) – Thoughts on Faith
& I want you to understand
That I don’t really understand why so many big thinkers
Always say (it comes up ALL the time)
That stories are
To all of us.
I really don’t get it.
Anyway. Here’s my dill pickle story:
The day my eldest was being dropped off at university for her first year, she’d insisted that all of us, her sister, mother, father & new stepmother all be part of the farewell committee, as it were. Bear in mind, this was a 4-5 hour drive away for all of us. We all met up & the five of us went out for lunch together (not something we were exactly in the habit of doing). My ex sat down between his new wife & me – & when his meal arrived, I reflexively reached over, absolutely by instinct, without a moment’s thought, to nip the dill pickle off his plate (once married to the man for 20 years, I well knew he’s always disliked dill pickles). I managed to catch myself before actually eating it – & mercifully, there were two of them – & say hurriedly to his new wife, “Are you a dill pickle person?” To which she replied, “Yes,” so I then said, “Well, how about I take one & you take one?”
I’ve always gotten such a kick out of that story… :)
So … it was the dill pickle on my plate (while eating in a restaurant in the area where a lot of my own personal life “story” took place) that reminded me of the dill pickle story.
& what came to me, sitting at that table in the restaurant
is how desperately we all want
not even just want but need – ache, even
to fit in.
& so much of what happens to … all of us?? Many of us, at the very very least.
Is definitely definitely definitely not stuff that makes us feel like we belong
but just the opposite.
Makes us feel like aliens.
Or maybe that’s just my own story talking.
But I don’t think so.
(I feel like an alien decently often, one way & another, just for the record.)
The times I feel really, really good
are not the times when I feel like an
- outsider or
But the times when I feel profoundly at home
Profoundly that I belong.
& I must say
Stories can do that for us, can’t they?
Even other people’s stories.
I know I so often feel at home…
that I am really resonating with someone else’s story
a character in a book, say
or the writer her/himself
when I am reading.
& now I can see, when I put the dill pickle story under the microscope
it too is all about belonging.
& fitting in
& not wanting to be an alien, outsider or imposter.
& you know? Sometimes
Sometimes … not often
I’m afraid if I open up the floodgates
& let the tears start flowing
I will very likely drown in them.
Not ever be able to get them stopped.
What came over me, as I sat in the restaurant remembering the dill pickle story, was not tears, but the poignancy of it all.
Our loneliness, our isolation, our really quite simple & rather basic human needs.
Our too-often sad, weary, broken hearts, & spirits.
The messes we make, have made, continue to make – of our lives … of human existence.
Of the state of life on our beautiful, beautiful planet.
p.s. Stories, eh?? All this at a time when it has surely-surely-surely to goodness become crystal-clear to everyone by now that whatever big stories we human beings have been telling ourselves (for however long it is we have been telling them) are terribly terribly terribly inadequate, broken, flawed stories … & that they are leading us to a very very very unhappy “ending” indeed.
Oh dear. Oh dear oh dear oh dear oh dear oh dear…
Quotes with this post: “Energy always flows either toward hope, community, love, generosity, mutual recognition, and spiritual aliveness or it flows toward despair, cynicism, fear that there is not enough, paranoia about the intentions of others, and a desire to control.” ~ Michael Lerner, quoted in The Great Turning – From Empire to Earth Community, by David Korten
“We are not meant to fit in; we are meant to stand out.” – Sarah Ban Breathnach
“The best things in life are not things.” (source unknown)
“There are no passengers on Spaceship Earth. We are all crew.” – Marshall McLuhan
“Driven by the forces of love, the fragments of the world seek each other, so that the world may come into being. Love alone is capable of uniting living beings in such a way as to complete and fulfill them, for it alone takes them and joins them by what is deepest in themselves.” P. Teilhard de Chardin (1881 – 1955), French philosopher & Jesuit priest (1881-1955)
“There is not a problem with the system. The system is the problem.” – Source unknown
“It is not genius, nor glory, nor love that reflects the greatness of the human soul; it is kindness.” – Henri-Dominique Lacordaire
“Whatever is begun in anger ends in shame.” – Benjamin Franklin
“Energy always flows either toward hope, community, love, generosity, mutual recognition, and spiritual aliveness or it flows toward despair, cynicism, fear that there is not enough, paranoia about the intentions of others, and a desire to control.” ~ Michael Lerner, quoted in The Great Turning – From Empire to Earth Community, by David Korten
“In any case, community is not about perfect people. It is about people who are bonded to each other, each of whom is a mixture of good and bad, darkness and light, love and hate.” – Jean Vanier
“This is the true joy in life – the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one. The being a force of nature, instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die. For the harder I work, the more I live. I rejoice in life for is own sake. Life is no brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid torch I’ve got to hold up for the moment and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it to future generations.” – George Bernard Shaw
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” – Mary Oliver, New and Selected Poems
“…everything on the earth has a purpose, every disease an herb to cure it, and every person a mission. This is the Indian theory of existence.” – Mourning Dove
“Change your thoughts and you change your world.” – Norman Vincent Peale
“Writing and reading is to me synonymous with existing.” – Gertrude Stein
“Only connect. This is how we make meaning. This is how we learn to think as Nature thinks.” – Gregory Bateson, anthropologist
“It’s one of the secrets of the world. We all have the key to one another’s locks. But until we start to talk, we don’t know it.” – Michael Silverblatt, host of KCRW’s ‘Bookworm’ radio show
* TONS of great quotations gathered up in ‘Quotation Central’ section here
 Okay okay okay. I do get it, now. I do, I promise I do.