I’m in the midst of completing my doctoral dissertation. It’s a long and arduous process at least that’s what I thought until I went on a trip to California the past 2 weeks. I spent time with a nonprofit, Visual Aid, who works with artists facing life-threatening illness continue to create. They were gracious enough to assist me in recruiting potential interviewees.
I was sitting in the first interview and felt like I had come home. I was interviewing an artist whose story was so authentic, hopeful, and complex (not meaning difficult, but layered like his art). As I moved through the interviews I found the same qualities with each participant. I was taking a journey to the depths of storytelling that I’ve never experienced, even in my thousands of hours of hours working with psychotherapy clients individually and in groups. These twelve artists shared with me verbal canvases that were masterpieces. Their stories matched the work, and their spirits were the greatest masterpieces of all.
It confirmed the importance of our stories. The interviews catapulted the story to the top of my list when it comes to inspiration, hope, and possibility. These are three qualities that are crucial when living life with a chronic or life-threatening illness.
While in San Francisco I was reminded by the importance of our stories. I went to the Contemporary Jewish Museum, and in the corner of one of the exhibits was a booth with the words StoryCorps written at the top. National Public Radio airs stories of people from around the country who step into one of these booths and record for all of posterity a story that is important to who they have become and how they got there. It was one more sign that the story was at the heart of the dissertation.
If you know an artist with a life-threatening illness who might be interested in telling their story, I hope you’ll pass on my information. I think this project will impact how we look at illness, and the stories of those who tell them. Please refer them to firstname.lastname@example.org and look for more stories!