The Story I’m Telling Myself

I’m not a writer, I’m a storyteller.

I try to correct people if they call me the former.

Writers are intentional and their work has a conclusion. Storytellers are reactional and their work is always in progress. Plus there is this thing called grammar which ruins writing for me every time.

When I was young I used to tell myself stories about me. Sometimes fantasy stories of magical powers. Sometimes realistic stories of gigantic fortune. But always with a baseline in reality. A foothold in the everyday. Rooted in the mundane.

I see my own girls do this now, at even a young age. Evan has decided she wants to be a babysitter in a hospital when she grows up. (I finally convinced her she should probably just be a Pediatrician, which is basically the same thing but gets paid a lot more.) So her stories revolve around that. Lulu wants to be an artist, with crayons being her medium of choice. Some good stories start right there.

Now I tell stories about my family. My life old and new. Parenting, librarianing, adventuring. I tell them in my head. I tell them in my dialogue. Sometimes I tell them here. I’m always telling, but rarely writing.

Except for the last few weeks where I feel completely storyless.

The cause is a condition brought on by a story, although a really, really, bad one. A story about a librarian who on her 31st birthday led a group of children in silly dancing and somehow impaired her knee to the point that she would spend two surgeries, two years,  8 months of physical therapy, crutches, braces, endless visits and procedures just to try to get it back to a tolerable state.

It’s a shitty, pointless, frustrating story. However, medical professionals seem to get great amusement out of it.

It’s not one that I want to tell. I see no redeeming lessons or takeaway nuggets.There was nothing I did wrong aside from being a tad bit clumsy. I didn’t have any great epiphanies when I came out of anaesthesia. I just screamed at people that I wasn’t at all numb. I  didn’t get inspiration from pain meds and a vacation from work. I just slept and dreamt about weird unicorn sightings in Russia. (NPR in the background + Norco =s some crazy dreams.)

So what is the story I tell myself about this time? I believe in the omnipresent power of stories. I believe the narrative we tell ourselves matters. It is what makes us grow up, then continue to grow, into the people we want to be. And although the stories may change, and a hospital babysitter may shift into a new character in a new setting, the stories have to continue.

But I don’t like this story. I don’t like that I’m not in control of it. I don’t like that my character is whiny and dependent. I don’t even like the pain meds which are the only story perk!

I can’t re-write it, because I’m not a writer. So I will have to learn to tell it in another way.

The story I’m going to tell myself is one about humility. A lesson in what it is like to realize how different some people’s stories are because of their own physical limits. How pain isn’t something everyone can use a pill to diminish and legs aren’t something that everyone has to start with. That crutches are temporary but my inability to access or participate in so many aspects of my normal life is all too permanent for many, many people.

Humility in the number of stories I have overlooked for much of my life.

That is the point in storytelling after all, isn’t it? Connecting our lives to those of others.

So this isn’t a wasted story. At least not in the version I am telling myself.





  • I enjoyed this and can definitely relate.


  • Healing vibes heading your way!


  • I have a similar story I’ve been unable to write for the last five years, about my eye. How my retina detached (don’t know why; my doctor, himself, called it “fate”) and three surgeries were unable to restore my vision in my left eye. How I continue to have problems with that eye, and futile procedures attempting to fix it. (How rudimentary modern medicine actually is!) How different that eye looks from the other, and how that’s affected my self-perception and esteem. It’s a long, long, story that could probably be a book, except that I don’t think anyone else would want to read it.
    I liked your conclusion here, that your story is about humility. I’ve had to learn that too: That everyone gets “something” at some point, one or more difficult challenges they have to overcome or endure. That was an important lesson to learn about life.


    • It is certainly one that I’m still trying to learn, and I’m thankful you just shared with me to add to that lesson. I’m so sorry for what you’ve been through. I hope you are also able to find a conclusion.


    • People would read it because in the end we are attracted to those stories that give us a glimpse into other people issues helping us to see our struggles are not unique ….write it it, publish it for free and people will read and some of us will pay for the privilege


  • I too can relate. I am also a librarian. I also just had my second knee surgery and have spent the last 4 months in physical therapy doing everything I can to get back to where I was before. I’m not even close to being able to walk like a normal person. Every step I take requires effort and thought. To me, one of the worst things is how much of the time I have to spend thinking about my knee. I feel selfish because I have to focus on myself this much. But like you said, it’s a temporary state. My mantra has been, “a little stronger everyday, a little better everyday, and attitude is everything”.

    Thanks for sharing. It’s helpful to know I’m not the only one going through this.


  • Pingback: You can’t have my body, but I’ll loan you my brain. | Hipmombrarian's Blog

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