Stories are Emotion – How Do You Feel?

It seemed to me many of my friends were feeling more down than usual the past couple of weeks. Blame it on the weather or the fact that Mercury was in retrograde or the ever-present worries about the pandemic. One of my friends apologized for “complaining,” saying that since I write novels about World War II, I’d probably remind her we have it better than people did then and tell her to count her blessings. But that’s not what I was thinking at all.

Hardship is never easy, and these have been really tough times for so many of us. We live in a culture that admonishes us to “look on the bright side” or “pull ourselves together” or to choose action over “complaining.” But all of those admonishments are just another way to tell us not to feel. They encourage us to stuff our emotions deep down inside because that’s where they belong. You can only do that for so long, though, before they come boiling to the surface or turn into physical pain or lead to depression.

We call the World War II generation the “Greatest Generation” because of all they survived, and I’m filled with admiration for them. We think of them as being stoic, but I’ve interviewed many people who cried when they told me their stories, though those events had happened 50, 60, or even 70 years ago. The emotions were still there because they were inseparable from the story.

It might be true that many of us can’t compare what we’re living through now with what the people of WWII endured, but it’s also true that 30 years from now, some young person will say to us, “How did you survive the pandemic? It sounded so hard and so sad and so scary.”  And many of us—especially those who worked in the overflowing hospitals, those whose loved ones died with no one by their side, those who lost their businesses or their homes—will cry when they tell us what this experience was like for them.

Our emotions are inseparable from our stories. And that’s okay. Tell your stories.

By Teresa R. Funke

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