Personal narrative

The author of “The Recovering” talks to HuffPost about the power of personal narrative to show us what we share with each other — and what sets us apart.
Imagine: A room full of New York's finest doctors sitting through a university lecture on how storytelling can help them better appreciate and better connect with their patients.
Having no idea what to do next hurts, even as it might excite us on some level. Whether graduating from college or retiring from a long career, the road ahead may appear to be devoid of landmarks - intimidating in its blankness, goading because freedom is supposed to be so desirable yet its reality is often heavy with perplexing dilemmas.
If you're tempted to let a blogger know her struggles with an alcoholic husband in prison for his third DUI just isn't as bad as your cousin with some late stage illness, why not bypass personal blog essays or posts about the Kardashians or the latest celebrity divorce to spend a few hours reading Proust or Kafka?
Even by Hollywood standards, the majesty and misery of Judy Garland's short life was extreme, defined by its operatic intensity and an epic series of (mostly) public peaks and valleys.
Life is chaotic, and the order we impose upon it in the form of storytelling is crucial to our own happiness and success. I think it is the main difference between an optimist and a pessimist.
Perspective is so personal -- like faith. You either choose to believe or you don't. You try to make sense of everything. You try to set your own course. That is, until you find yourself floating. Not because you are lacking something, but instead, because you are ready for something different.
The Pascales are the few people who can light that flame of hope through their beautiful and touching stories, especially during this grim time of capitalism that overshadows individuals' basic rights and needs.
They could champion me; I was the brown girl at student senate representing what otherwise looked like a very homogeneous white space. I was Muslim, but not "scary Muslim."
What exactly is your story? Your story is the culmination of your entire experience both personal and professional. Within your life story, there are dozens of chapters. Within each chapter are nuggets of wisdom.
Them: OMG! [Imagine two 44-year-old men actually saying "OMG" for a moment] Husband: It must just be weed. When I told the
Both of my grandfathers are the strong but silent type. One is from the modern-day capital of North Korea before the 38th parallel was drawn. The other has roots in the deep South of the Korean peninsula. Neither are talkers.
"What do you write about?" I'm often asked. The answer, um, is I, uh, write about myself, which automatically puts me in the company of Kim Kardashian, Paris Hilton, and others who exude the belief that their lives are of inherent interest to others.
The scholarly and professional styles that earned you good grades and your way up the ladder won't win the hearts of readers of fiction or memoir. These readers are looking for the real deal. These readers want the feral you, the wild you that answers to no one.
Writing is just one manifestation of this tension, this nagging, lifelong struggle to be you or be perfect -- to live a messy, real, vulnerable life, or an edited one. In writing, you get to arrange things just so, like a museum curator piecing together the perfect exhibit.
It's important to honor and acknowledge your past, to tease lessons from the stories that make you, you. But at some point the past becomes a crutch, something to fall back on when you're uncomfortable in the present or fearful of the future.
In not knowing, just for a moment, you can directly discover yourself. This discovery does not arrive by thought, but by your own immediate direct experience. What is here, before every thought, after every thought and during every thought?
At midlife, it's time to sort through the life stories we tell, pitching out the ones that no longer fit.
Storytelling is a two-way street. Illnesses unfold as stories, and physicians need to learn how to listen to those stories. The same is true of giving advice, for if good advice is given in the wrong way, the patient will not follow it.