Tell Me a Story – Lyrics
Tell me a story I know it’s hiding in you.
It’s just a story… a single version of truth.
Tell me a story, I know you’re scared someone will see.
That you’re imperfect, you’re not the crystal image of a king.
It’s not like you can tell me anything I’ve not heard before.
It’s just a story, not who you are or what you’re worth.
I see through this…it’s breaking you inside you know.
Tell me your story let me help you carry this load.
You think you’re solid but you’re walking ‘round a loaded gun.
‘Cause what’s inside has been eating you for so long.
It’s just a story…can be misconstrued by anyone
Tell it to me, it can’t be worse than what I’ve done.
Don’t let a story dictate how you’re going to live your life.
You have a purpose here, you’re not just meant to survive.
You have a story, it fills you with regret and shame.
Tell me your story let me help you through this pain.
Tell me a story, I won’t be taken aback.
I won’t make judgment on what you do, who you are, what you lack.
It’s just a story, but it holds you in a tight fist.
You must know deep inside there’s more to you than just this.
It’s a story, but it plays to you in real-time.
It’s a story, no worse or better than mine.
It’s a story, a version of what happened before.
Tell me your story, you don’t have to be alone anymore.
You don’t have to be alone anymore.
You don’t have to be alone anymore.
(Ang teamed up with photographer Laurie Goodman to create this video. Many thanks to the beautiful people who shared their stories in front of a camera.)
“We share with people who’ve earned the right to hear our story.” – Brené Brown
One person’s story can do many things. It can teach, heal, open our hearts, alter our perspective or even our whole worldview. The sharing of stories is what matters to me these days because I’m realizing the power of a great story lies not only in the story itself, but in the person telling it… AND the reason they’re telling it. Tell Me a Story is about the healing power of a story and the storyteller who opened my heart and altered my perspective.
A few years ago, my dear friend Lise, hired me to perform at a leadership conference that she was hosting with her business partner, Matt. My job was to engage participants through music at the beginning and to help them reflect or integrate their new learnings at the end. Since I was only needed for about fifteen minutes at the beginning and the end of each day, my plan was to show up when needed and to relax in my hotel room the rest of the time. I had no interest in leading others so I didn’t feel I had much to learn at this conference. Plus, by this point in my life, I had developed an aversion to assuming leadership roles and a severe distrust for leaders in general. I never liked having a boss nor did I enjoy being one. Needless to say, I wasn’t interested in hanging around leaders any more than necessary. However, Matt had other plans. He INSISTED that I fully participate in the entire event! I was reluctant, to say the least, but he wouldn’t take no for an answer.
Almost as soon as I sat down in the giant circle among all of the leaders, I noticed a woman who stood out from the rest. She was tall, blonde, and commanding. As we went around the circle, the leaders took turns introducing themselves and sharing what they hoped to get out of the conference. Right off the bat, Matt and Lise were strong in their demands for authentic conversation. I could see some of the leaders squirming in their seats as their turn approached. They were clearly struggling to connect with their authentic selves and I was clearly judging them for being shallow. Then came the blonde woman’s turn to speak. I felt irritated from the moment she opened her mouth. She talked slowly and concisely as though she owned the room. I judged her as having a sense of entitlement. I imagined her living in a fancy house, wearing fancy clothes, and having fancy friends who drank fine wine and enjoyed spa days. From her long-winded monologue, I gathered that she had a high-level management position and had come to this conference to learn how to fix her many flawed employees. She was confident, all-business, and definitely a leader among the hundred or so other leaders at the conference. As the day went on, the woman dominated most of the conversations, lending more evidence to my preconceived judgments of her.
Near the end of the day, after more intense talks and reflective activities, we regrouped and we were encouraged by Matt and Lise to share some of our deeper issues and desires. I remained quiet, despite being asked, more than once, about my own personal and professional struggles. Again, it was the blonde woman’s turn to share her thoughts, and again, she started going on about her staffing issues. I was preparing to tune her out when it happened…. Like a flower, she opened up and started sharing some of her personal struggles. I perked up, listening intently to her every word. I could see she was struggling with being so vulnerable in front of the whole group, but Matt and Lise encouraged her to keep sharing. Tears began to roll down her cheeks as her composure unravelled and her story came pouring out… so raw and real. Instantly, I realized how wrong I was about her and how unfair my assumptions had been. Yes, she had many of the wonderful things I had imagined, but she also carried hardships that I never would have guessed. The whole room was melting as she told us about her past trauma and the current problems that made every day difficult for her. Suddenly, my heart was bursting with affection and admiration for this incredible woman.
Being the strong leader that she was, her gesture of courage triggered others to authentically share pieces of their story. As the tissue box got passed around, hearts opened and judgments evaporated. Again, I was pressed to share my own story and, this time, I did. I hadn’t realized how deeply buried some of my struggles had become until the words started to come out of my mouth and the tears poured down. It felt like the entire room had walked into an arena with protective armour and willingness to fight, but by this one, courageous action, we had all decided to put our swords down and embrace each other in our heartfelt vulnerability.
At the end of the session, I approached the blonde lady, no longer intimidated by her confidence and composure. I thanked her for sharing her story and told her how moved I was by her courage. She was also moved by mine and this moment of connection marked the beginning of a friendship, as well as a fantastic shift in perspective. As it turns out, I did have a few things to learn at this conference. 1. I am a terrible judge of character! 2. I have to be more careful with my judgments; and 3. Everyone has a story…including me.
In the years to follow, I fully participated in many more conferences and healing retreats. I tried to enter each one with an open heart and an open mind. As a result, I have been gifted with a huge collection of stories from people from all walks of life, many of them survivors of emotional, physical and sexual trauma. I have grown to understand that the noisiest and happiest people (sometimes seen as socially obtrusive) are usually the ones hiding the most sorrowful stories. Those with high expectations and strong leadership skills (sometimes seen as bossy) are often hiding a story that caused them to believe they could never measure up. Those who gossip and gather in smaller groups (sometimes seen as snobs) often have a deep fear of rejection because they have a story of abandonment. Then there are the story holders like me, who behave in many different ways – including the ways listed above – because of distorted beliefs about myself, about others, and about the world.
The truth is, we all carry “stories” that dictate our thoughts, feelings, and actions. Many of these stories are hidden under walls of guilt, fear, and shame. Like the princess and the pea, whether conscious of it or not, these stories affect us and block us from becoming all that we can be. But, when we authentically tell our story, it allows us to learn and grow, and it is what makes us who we are. We don’t need to share with the entire world, only with those who have earned the right to hear our story. Sharing with someone who has the strength to listen without getting entangled, or trying to fix us, is the key to healing. Once we find someone who is able to listen to our story compassionately, then we ourselves can become caring and compassionate listeners, willing to help carry the load so that others don’t have to be alone.
Now more than ever, I appreciate people who are willing to tell their story, as well as those who are willing to listen, because I believe it is this exchange of stories that will heal our world.