Stories and Gratitude

essay gratitude life lessons
Surrounded by stories. That’s what I am. I wake up to blinking cursors on words of client stories waiting to be edited. I take breaks reading about the voyages of Doctor Dolittle (or whoever it is I fancy at the time). I listen to my mother perpetually telling true-to-life stories that, if documented, can without a doubt rival those New York best-sellers. Then I hear my sister tickled and flushed over her Korean soap operas. I talk to my fiancĂ© and giggle like a teenage schoolgirl over his stories or jokes of the day. Then right before I roll back to sleep, I cry myself silly over Coca Cola advertisements on Youtube or videos on dogs, babies and old people.

It’s a beautiful thing, this being surrounded by stories and breathing well to appreciate their existence as my personal life source. I know when this life source starts to drain when I stop living on the present story and worry too much on the next one, when I take long pauses on reading, when my overwrought psyche is clogging the flow of events and preventing the stories in my life from fully developing. I know when this happens because I will start wondering if my life is boring—working hard, reading less, more client meetings, lesser leisurely travels, more emails than talks. 

When that time happens, it’s a clear signal for me to fix my perspective and renew the balance by doing something about it and remembering one word: stories. As I am writing this, stories are going on around me, linked with my own story in one way or another, connected me to the bearers of these stories whom I get to meet in the next hour or in the future in some way or another. How I make my own story affects myself, my future and others. So I have to take care of my stories and the stories of others.

I look at my parents, for instance, and I feel overwhelmed at how my life story started when my father, in his quiet way, courted my mother and both decided to scrape their way to the church to get married. I take care of their stories by not being such a pain, by working hard, by studying hard, by not depending on them too much.

With my mother, there’s a story in everything—in the dress she wore for her wedding, in the picture frame she brought from the nearby warehouse, in the umbrella I won in a raffle and given to her, in every grocery trip, in every fiesta visit. Some of these stories are simple, some of them exaggerated. But with stories, I feel connected with my mother who got me through Caesarean birth. Of course, there’s only one thing left to do in order to take care of her stories: listen to them, in the same way she listened to her mother. Now she is the bearer of her and her mother’s stories, which form a mosaic of little stories that piece together the family pride and heritage.

I look at my sister and I smile at how she spiced up my life with all those hell-raising, door-banging and lip-pouting moments in our younger years and all those recent trips to coffee shops to debate about the worthiness of Korean music stars and argue about the competence of current fantasy movie celebrities.

Then I look at my fiancĂ© and, every time, my heart swells at remembering the stories linked so we could eventually meet. In our case, things happened one story after the other. If he became a pilot just as he had planned, we would not have met. He would have a good job, hooked to a pretty girlfriend from Manila. But no, he stayed in Cebu where we met, where we have been staying together for the past nine years. I am proud and happy with every story that happened between us—from the first moment to our recent conversation not more than 10 minutes ago—which shows in the Save the Date card we started giving out to relatives and friends.

Surrounded with stories. That’s what I am. And stories I cannot live without, for, as writer Philip Pullman puts it, “after nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.”

Nancy Cudis-Ucag

Image: The Holy Family by Nicolas Poussin
Source: Wikiart


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