Our Days Are Built With Stories

As many of you get ready to embark on Week In The Life™, I want you to think about this statement:

Our days are built with stories. 

Often when I begin documenting my week I'm hyperfocused on writing down the schedule of our day. Stuff like the times we get up, the times we eat, the time I leave the house to take the kids to school and the time I return home to sit at my desk.

I still plan to do that to some extent this year, but as I alluded to in my post earlier this week, I also really want to be conscious and intentional about the micro-stories that make up a day or seven in a row (remember that was a term Aaron first used wwith me when he was talking about what he wanted to remember from our Dave Matthews adventure).

Each of our daily actions is often just the tip of a story pyramid. Those of you who took my Hello Story class are familiar with the concept I focus on in that workshop which is simply this, "tell me more."

Tell me more about the why. Tell me more about the who and the where and the what. Don't just tell me you had a cup of coffee, tell me what you had in it or what you left out. Give me more details that will paint a clearer picture of the life you are living right now.

And then give a little more.

Consider these stories:

The story of why you wake up to an alarm on your iphone at 5:45am each morning. The story of why you wake up at different times each day, rarely following a set routine. The story of how your child runs into your bedroom regularly (at least for the last week) in the middle of the night for comfort from the fierce monsters in the dark.

The story of how your 12 year old now makes his own breakfast each morning but you still pour cereal (dry with no milk most days) for your 5 year old.

The story of why you drive each kid separatlely to school in the morning and how you treasure the time in between drop-offs when you get to select the noise in the car (NPR, please).

The story of why you don't exercise. The story of why you do and how that fits into your day. The story of how you think about it every day but still don't choose to put yourself first.

The story of how you take your coffee and how you hate those little disposable plastc cups in your single-serve coffee maker but how you love a hot cup each and every time.

The story of the moments of longing you feel at random points throughout the day. For something different, for something complete, for something you once had (or think you did).

The story of the moments of gratitude that pull you out of the mental funk - where you literally shake your head as a means of erasing the mental spiral.

The story of how you walk into your office building each day and are, like clockwork, greeted by the same older gentlemen who looks you in the eye and smiles or who barely acknowledges your existence.

The story of why you often skip lunch or why you eat the same thing at the same time each and every day.

The story of the things on your desk. Bills to be paid. Invoices to be filed. Hand-drawn ideas to be added to the bigger list. Lists piled on other lists, some things crossed off with a thick black pen, others with a thin red marker, but many simply waiting.

The story of your commute. In the car. On the bus. On the train. Is it long or short or beautiful or do you wish it away for some other life?

The story of the things you are working on - work stuff, life stuff. What's rattling around in your brain during these seven days in your life? What is consuming you? What do you wish you were consumed with?

The story of how you walked past a family in the grocery store, smiled at the Mom as she wrangled a toddler into the cart, and wondered what their lives were like.

The story of what you are reading. The story of what you are watching. The story of how you have so very little time for either. The story of how Candy Crush is your saving grace after a long day of stress and arguments and discomfort.

The story of waiting for your oldest child in the parking lot of the middle school and saying a silent prayer for a report of a good day, a happy smile, a sparkle in his eyes, a conversation - however brief or rote.

The story of homework, or the lack of, and a comparison to your experience growing up.

The story of how multiple times throughout the day you quickly contemplate dinner options but never settle on anything specific until the kids are past the point of needing to be fed and how you decide that popcorn, cheddar chesse and apples is always a very good idea.

The story of how your daughter recounts her kindergarten day in all it's glory and how the cast of characters seems to multiply exponentially as each day goes by.

The story of the hilarious amounts of junk mail you receive and how it's a sign of the times we live in.

The story of how your cat plops down on the hardwood floor after a long day adventuring around the neighborhood and meows until you rub his belly.

The story of why you chose one path instead of another on your evening walk becuase you know one includes more flowers.

The story of what's in your refridgerator and how you feel about it. Do you care a lot about what you eat or a little? Do you plan all your meals in advance or fly by from moment to moment? Is there very litttle in there because you regularly eat out? What's your favorite snack to reach for right now and why. Tell me more.

The story of your lonliness.

The story of your exuberant joy.

The story of your current fears and how on particularly bad days you imagine you are the only person on the planet with these fears and on particularly good days you know they ebb and flow and you'll work through them just like most other people do.

The story of the movie of the day, carefully selected via a negoation betweeen the 5 year old and the 12 year old.

The story of how you drink decaf tea with a touch of milk at the kitchen table after the rest of the family has gone to bed and how you give thanks for the real life you lived today.

What stories will you tell next week? 

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93 thoughts

  1. mpcapistran says…
    10/23/2014

    Oh Ali, you're not ALI EDWARDS for nothing. This post is brilliant! I am right in the middle of my week in the life (going on vacation next week so I wanted an ordinary week to document) and this post gives me a push to finish it and to revisit it and to add things and to look for more. This year, compared to the last year I made the project, I have way more words. Like WAY more! I'm was very introspective and I think the project will have to be kept close to my personal album. It's a lot of what's in my head that is pouring on these pages. :) And it's ok. I think that in a couple of years, when the kids are teenagers, and when I'll wish I could go back in time to when my kids were 4 and 6, it will be fun to look back and see how I felt at that time. :) The girls are cute, the pictures are fun, but it's not always pink. Off to document. Thanks for simply being there Ali. And to spark so many ideas and emotions in all of us. :)

    Reply 0 Replies
  2. cinback says…
    10/23/2014

    I am always inspired by you, and this project. But THIS post...it leaves me challenged in a way I've never been before. Thank you.

    Reply 0 Replies
  3. slmnontec says…
    10/23/2014

    I appreciate all the story ideas you listed today. Good food for thought. But how do you record them in the WITL album? Where do they go? Any examples? Thank you.

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  4. pamela123d says…
    10/23/2014

    This post was very inspirational and excellent guidance for doing a week in the life. I do have one question; how do you photograph some of the more essay-like stories, e.g. your fears? Or are those word only stories?

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  5. orangegearle says…
    10/23/2014

    Ali,
    Now I want to tell all these stories and I'm overwhelmed! LOL I agree with everyone else, this is a fantastic post and inspirational. I am also overwhelmed. This will be my first WITL (I've not even done DITL). I have a bit of a plan for documentation, and I've made a list of a few things I'd like to include, but how are you going to get it all in??? Everyday has all of those stories! Will you pick 1 or 2? Will you tell them all throughout the week? What about events like Halloween? (I almost didn't do the same week because I didn't want it to become a sort of "December Daily" for Halloween). GAH! Help! :-)

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  6. Lynnek says…
    10/23/2014

    What a great post! I am inspired and can't wait for the week to begin. This has given me some new thoughts about how deeply to tell the story and things to think about as the week goes by. But also in my story telling in general. Thank you!

    Reply 0 Replies
  7. ohmarggie says…
    10/23/2014

    Fantastic reminder! I will definitely keep this in mind while doing this project and make an extra effort to document the stories behind our routine. I love how you seemed to be writing your own story in this post. Inspiring!

    Reply 0 Replies
  8. SusanBowers says…
    10/23/2014

    Oh my Ali! That was amazing and so very inspiring. It really sets the stage for a Week in the Life - I really can't wait now.

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  9. Cookingmylife says…
    10/23/2014

    wow, totally wow.

    Reply 0 Replies
  10. debtxgal says…
    10/23/2014

    Oh my gosh - thank you!!!! I have read your blog for years, have admired your Week in the Life. I have never participated before because I do Project Life and felt it would be repetitious. Today I am inspired!!!! I'm running out and getting another binder. I will be participating next week. I am so excited and can't wait. Thank you!!! I'm ready to tell some stories.

    Reply 0 Replies
  11. simple says…
    10/23/2014

    That was Magic.!!!!

    Reply 0 Replies
  12. lidohdee says…
    10/23/2014

    Wow, Ali. Thank you for sharing from the heart and inspiring us to tell more meaningful stories. I know I am going to try...not very good at it, but hope to improve. Thank you!

    Reply 0 Replies
  13. sarahbluhm says…
    10/23/2014

    Bring on the MICRO-STORIES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Reply 0 Replies
  14. wendyg says…
    10/23/2014

    I agree with what every single person has posted. AWESOME post! And I'm sure you hear this ALL the time, but you are AWESOME:) Love the way you tell stories and share all that you do. So excited for next week! Thank you for being you:)

    Reply 0 Replies
  15. SuzMannecke says…
    10/23/2014

    I have always enjoyed your classes and have participated with DD album since it's inception but have never done WITL other than through the pages of my PL album. So loking forward to next week!! TFS Ali!

    Reply 0 Replies
  16. AmberCA says…
    10/23/2014

    Yes, yes, yes.....I love the realness of stories. Can't wait to start next week.

    Reply 0 Replies
  17. gina200 says…
    10/23/2014

    This is so awesome and inspiring. I'm going to try week in the life next week for the first time and have given it some thought but I tend to not be a very wordy person and this list this helps SO much. Thank you. I know this will be so interesting to look back and have. My kids ask me all the time about what o was like when I was their age so this will be an awesome glimpse of our life.

    Reply 0 Replies
  18. AmyJ says…
    10/23/2014

    I love this! It is why I try to document our every day lives. For me, I know my work has changed. . . and that's changed our routines. And I'm really looking forward to see that play out in pages for next week.

    Reply 0 Replies
  19. lbateman5383 says…
    10/23/2014

    OK seriously i have had at least 10 of these scenarios run through my head today. i have asked myself these questions!!! LOL.

    Reply 0 Replies
  20. krista_l_wells says…
    10/23/2014

    Loved this post. I've never thought about those 'in depth' or 'micro' stories before when documenting through 'witl' or day in the life. It's always the details but not necessarily the feelings behind the choices/decisions of my life. I LOVED this post.

    p.s: very much enjoying your retweets and quotes from the summit you are at this week. very inspiring. so much inspiration on storytelling. Love it.

    Reply 0 Replies
  21. squeekie23 says…
    10/23/2014

    Love this Ali!

    Reply 0 Replies
  22. maggie_massey says…
    10/23/2014

    wow. just...wow.

    Reply 0 Replies
  23. Bellaa75 says…
    10/23/2014

    Thanks Ali, this is wonderful. I am doing WITL for the first time this year and am doing it this week. I am loving the process although hubby is sick of me taking photos of everything and tells me to enjoy the moment instead! Anyway, I am doing a 6x4 page a day with your stamp "I want to remember" to include some moments I want to remember, similar to your layout for "lessons learned". Now with this post I think I will add one story a day like DD. You are amazing, so glad I discovered you a few months ago!

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  24. Cmjjohnson says…
    10/23/2014

    I wish I could join in. The thoughts on this post gave me a lot to think about. I work full time and go to school full time. Doesn't leave time for me to clear my head and breathe.

    Reply 0 Replies
  25. Borcherding says…
    10/24/2014

    GREAT post!!

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