Good news: your story is not yet locked in

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters    February 18, 2018

I’ve been thinking about storytelling lately. I encounter a lot of patient stories from my Heart Sisters blog readers here, as well as from the women who raise a hand during my Heart-Smart Women public presentations. (I’ve learned that even the briefest of questions often hides a story behind it). I also tell stories – both my own, and other women’s. A heart patient’s story often kicks off with a profound this-can’t-be-happening-to-me sense of disbelief as we try to make sense out of something that makes no sense at all. Telling the story to others helps us do this at first. “How did this happen?” demand our worried family and friends while we lie there, overwhelmed, and thus our storytelling begins.

I’ve also learned that the way we tell that same story to ourselves and to others changes over time. And as NPR broadcaster Glynn Washington (of Snap Judgment) said in a recent interview, when you start changing your story, you change the storyteller:  Continue reading “Good news: your story is not yet locked in”

Oneupmanship: you think YOU have pain?

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by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

Have you ever been in the middle of telling somebody something important to you, only to be interrupted because what you’ve just said has reminded them of their own (far more fascinating!) story that clearly outshines yours? It’s a scene-stealing moment of oneupmanship. Or as author Stephen Covey once lamented:

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”

Oneupmanship is perhaps most memorably represented in the iconic Monty Python Four Yorkshiremen skit (pictured above) in which the lads sit around and argue about which one of them had endured the worst poverty in childhood. “A house? You were lucky to live in a house! We lived in one room, all 26 of us!”
Continue reading “Oneupmanship: you think YOU have pain?”

I don’t want to talk about it…

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

When you get together with your girlfriends, are there any conversation topics that you believe are not open for discussion? Any that are off-limits? Any personal stories that you think are, well, just too personal to talk about to those women closest to you?

No, me neither.

Nowhere is this communication openness more visible than with our health. We generally like to share our medical news, updates on that medical news, and our opinions about each others’ medical news.  Health topics appear increasingly popular as we age (and thus have way more medical news to discuss).  It’s what my friend Dave likes to call “the organ recital”.  But when it comes to serious health conditions, do you ever wonder if all that sharing is necessarily a good thing?  Continue reading “I don’t want to talk about it…”

Tell me a (heart attack) story

by Carolyn Thomas       @HeartSisters

Before the start of each shiny new year, how I love sitting down with both my current calendar and my brand new one side by side. I like flipping through both, month by month, transferring all the important birthdays, anniversaries and already-booked dates from one to the other. For the past four years, those new calendar dates have included my upcoming public speaking events as I continue to take my WomenHeart presentations on the road each year.

Besides sharing some sobering facts and figures about the very serious diagnosis of heart disease (for example, heart disease kills six times more women each year than breast cancer does, and in fact, more women than all forms of cancer combined), my presentations are mostly facts wrapped up as stories. Women in my heart health presentation audiences may think that they’re just listening to my dramatic story of heart attack misdiagnosis and survival, but by the time I get through with them, they’ve also learned about cardiac risk factors, research, anatomy, symptoms, treatments and prevention. Research tells us that “storytelling is a vastly powerful tool.”  And here’s why.  Continue reading “Tell me a (heart attack) story”