When Laurie Anderson was 12, she suffered a horrendous accident that nearly crippled her. Attempting her first backflip ever, she shattered her spine on concrete instead of landing in the pool.
A chunk of her youth was spent paralyzed in a hospital next to children in a burn unit. Doctors told her she’d never walk again, planting a fiery seed of mistrust towards adults.
“I remember thinking, ‘This guy is crazy. I mean, is he even a doctor?’”
Anderson eventually did walk again. And, this experience is the one she turns to when people ask about her childhood. As the years went on, Anderson became increasingly uneasy talking about it. She felt like a piece was missing.
When telling her story one more time as an adult, Anderson realized she’d only told the part about herself. She’d forgotten the rest of it.
In that realization, Anderson had an “audio hallucination.”
She remembered the sounds children make when they’re dying. The screams and smell of burnt flesh. The confusion when a child’s bed was empty in the morning without explanation.
“I realised my younger self’s version of that time was my way of coping with being very frightened. And so every time I told that story I got further from the truth, I forgot it.”
She’d subconsciously cleaned the story up, just as the nurses had.
The priceless lesson.
You don’t make a story particularly interesting. Everything else does.
While Anderson’s story of resilience and doctor disdain is impressive, it’s not particularly memorable.
You know what is? The haunting details seeping between the cracks of her mind. They’re emotive and sensory. They reel you in. They make this story memorable.
We listen when we can see ourselves through the teller's eyes. When we can smell what they smelt and fear what they feared and hear what they heard.
Sometimes remarkable stories are told unremarkably because we forget to see beyond ourselves. To look beyond the tangible.
Next time you tell a story, give us everything. Not just your journey or moment of empowerment. We. Want. Everything.
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