Sometimes I fear I have no story. I don’t mean writer’s block. I mean that I have no story, no narrative that spells out what it is I’ve done, or what I’m doing, with my life.
This struck me the other day when I recalled a children’s story by Irish singer-storyteller Tommy Sands. It’s called “The Boy with No Story.” I remember it from taking one of my boys to hear Sands perform 20 years ago.
It got me thinking about the power of story, and how it’s inextricably linked to the human experience. At the same time, I was getting smacked pretty hard in the gut by some revelations and discoveries about my past — difficult ones, at that.
I believe there’s some sort of master plan that put these things in front of me all at once. That plan has me asking, “What am I doing here?”
Don’t get me wrong. I love telling stories. Other people’s stories. It’s in my Irish DNA, and for good measure I kissed the Blarney Stone on one of my visits to the Erin Isle.
Telling stories is my life’s work, a huge part of my life’s play. For more than two decades I wrote for a newspaper, telling other people’s stories. I still tell stories as part of my current job and I do it here on this blog, where “Everybody has a story.”
But I have yet to write my own story. Which brings me back to Tommy Sands, and “The Boy with No Story.” (The boy’s name is Paddy McGee, so how could I not relate to the wee lad?)
Paddy is a good boy, but is distraught, empty and isolated because he has no story to tell. Then one night he is visited by faeries who send him on a mission. It’s a grand adventure that involves a rainbow-colored horse, a sea monster and a certain significant newborn in the Christian religion.
Paddy returns safely (of course!) to tell the faeries the good news they had been waiting eons to hear. Much revelry begins.
Paddy returns to his life, with quite a story to tell. He is welcomed everywhere, for people love to hear his grand tale of the faeries and the courage he showed in the face of danger. His listeners hate to see him go.
Unlike Paddy, I’ve had the luxury of telling other people’s stories. In a way, that is my story. It’s been a fair decent tale so far. It’s given me access to wonderful people I likely wouldn’t have met had I not been a writer.
Other than a few literary figures, the people I’ve written about over the years are not well-known. I like that. If I don’t tell hidden, untold stories, maybe no one will. Then those stories would be lost forever.
I will keep at it. But at some point, I may try something different. I don’t know exactly what that is, or where it will take me. But maybe there’s a story there somewhere.
Here’s a recording of Tommy Sands reading “The Boy With No Story.”