fellow storytellers, meet Heather

Hi there. Nice to see you again.


When I was in grad school, I took a course called Storytelling and Healing: A Lifespan Approach. The course description read as follows: “Healing process through developmental approach to the lifespan through the storytelling of autobiographical events.”


First of all, this is the most awkward of sentences. But if you can get past that, you might see that it’s, in essence, the heart of why many writers – including this writer – write. As a word nerd, I’m always one for inspirational quotations, a truth that is at once endearing and self-limiting because I can’t break free of an identity that makes people go, “Aww…” with their hands over their hearts. It sounds lovely, but it’s a monotony I can’t escape no matter how much I try to foster more scintillating qualities in myself...Where was I going here? Okay, yes. Right. Let’s try this again.


As a word nerd, I’m always one for inspirational quotations. Therefore, I gathered several varietals for this storytelling theme. I eventually landed on the ol' wordsmith himself, Lin Manuel Miranda, who, in his Oscar acceptance speech, said the following:


“There are stories wanting to be told and there are people waiting to tell them.”

That's why I write. It's one of the reasons at least. You see, as an extrovert, I love telling stories. However, with the whole stuttering factor, I sometimes have a hard time getting through them. I also love amusing banter, but humor is all about timing and, well, that’s not a luxury I always have. Punchlines lose their punch when you can’t get the words out. There’s nothing worse than seeing your audience waiting with bated breath and tripping over all the stops you have – bumbling laugh-talking, rapid word switches, slightly prolonged cadences – all in a failed attempt to bring it home smoothly. However, I continue sharing stories, because, well, I have things to say, and I have things you want to hear, whether you know it or not.


Unfortunately, I recently stumbled across a New Yorker article (aka legit) written in 2017, called “The Personal Essay Boom is Over.”


I admit, it gave me pause. Here are some highlights:


  • “They were too personal: the topics seemed insignificant, or else too important to be aired for an audience of strangers.”

  • “First-person writing should not be cheap, and it should not be written or edited quickly…”

  • “I want to encourage people to talk about mostly anything other than themselves.”


I thought, “Huh.”


I thought, “Well, shit.”


I thought, “Sounds about right, Jamie: neck-deep in something that was deemed ‘over’ two years ago.” Like those bootcut jeans – which are, for the record, trending again this year. Thanks for pointing that out, Leah.


Then, after this downward spiral of self-judgment, I thought about the past few stories I’ve shared and what happened when I shared them. Women from all eras of my life came out of the woodwork to share their own conception journeys – and genuinely thanked me for sharing. Multiple people shared they, too, never learned how to ride a bike – and they thought they were the only ones. These stories connected deeply with my (significantly low number, but still) readers.


That's ultimately why I write.


This is my third blog iteration. I started the first one during the down time following my arm break, and it was all about fitness and health. I started the first version of jewolff two years ago, and I struggled so hard to brand it with use “effective” language and slogans, to identify my target audience, to solidify an overall theme, and to develop some kind of cohesive structure between blog posts. Then, this past July, after a hiatus, I tried again. I decided to stop trying so hard and simply write what I know.


All of this is a pathetically long-winded set up for an introduction. Friends, meet Heather. Heather works with me on the Education team at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN), and she currently works as a health coach. She utilizes painting in her coaching for mindfulness and stress management, and is the curator of the Art Gallery for Retrain Pain. However, this is just the tip of her rather impressive iceberg of a self.


Heather he is a woman of many passions and talents. A true Renaissance woman. Before she went into holistic wellness, Heather worked in independent film as a curator, professor, and filmmaker. She shot and edited several films including the documentary feature Doctor/Patient, an intimate look at her relationship with her father after he suffered a traumatic brain injury. Most recently, she’s the author of a memoir, Insatiable.


Heather also understands the whole “life is a journey” idea. The woman doesn’t have a gallbladder, for one thing. I mean, I had a sesamoid bone removed, but it’s such an insignificant part of the body that 99% of people don’t even know it exists. For the record, it’s about the size of a pea, and it’s a “floating bone,” which means that it’s not technically connected to any other bones. You have two sesamoid bones in the pad of each big toe, and they allow you to bend your big toe. True, this is important for walking, but you only need one. So, really, I just had a useless bone removed.


But back to Heather, who had her gallbladder removed – a body part that I’m willing to bet you’ve at least heard of and probably understand on some level is kind of important for some kind of bodily function, namely digestion. Beyond life-long digestive issues, Heather has also battled anxiety and eating disorders. She openly shares her ongoing journey with courage, elegance, consideration, and even humor, on her blog, and she peppers her words with beautiful watercolors (painted by herself, because, again, she’s a true Renaissance woman) that draw the reader even more into her world. From the value of simple self-care to breaking negative thought cycles, she makes her readers feel honored for the intimate experience of reading each piece and grateful for the range of emotions – anger, sadness, joy, sarcasm (is that an emotion? I feel like it should be) – elicited. Each piece is a full experience of, well, life. Life in all its pain and glory.



Years ago, I heard a TED Talk by Frank Warren, the founder of The PostSecret Project – a collection of anonymous secrets shared via postcard. As Warren said in his talk:


“Sometimes when we think we are keeping a secret, the secret is actually keeping us.”

I've recently revealed a few of my "secrets," including my journey to Mamahood and my learning to ride a bike at age 35. As you probably know, secrets and shame are not-so-strange bedfellows. In fact, they're quite familiar. And do you know what often (never speak in absolutes, use your best judgment here) helps? Sharing them.


Readers, our world is one hot mess of constant sound bites and word bites and image bites. My husband calls me over to see something he just passed on Twitter and, if I don’t come in time, he’s passed it, and my opportunity is gone. I miss 70% of my sister’s Instagram stories because I don’t see them in time. People wonder why I didn’t show up at their party, but I missed the Facebook invite.


Call me old school, but I don’t want to share photos of my food, and I don’t want to take daily selfies of me doing mundane things. I want to share real stories, and I want you to encourage you to share yours. Stories are how we make meaning of our lives, and they matter. They remind us that we're not alone, that we're not the only ones. And, after all, don't we all just want to belong?


So, as my Storytelling professor put it: welcome to all ye tellers and healers, including my inspiring friend, Heather, whose words you will most definitely see grace this humble website soon.


Thanks for stopping by. And keep sharing your stories, because someone wants to hear them.

© 2017 jewolff.com

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