“In the end we all become stories”
Joan Didion writes simply yet powerfully that “we tell stories in order to live”. The stories that we tell each other enable us to live better: more reflective, more meaningful lives. Storytelling is the oldest of the arts, older than the written word, older than civilization even and it has always had the power to transform us, to empower us to transcend and to release us so that we can evolve and grow. In telling our stories we learn about our history, then use our stories to make a difference in our world; broadening our perspective because we can now see further; acting beyond a story that if not shared may have simply enslaved us rather than becoming the crowbar to open the door of the prison. We are able to live more of our spiritual and earthly potential. Being unable to tell our stories is a living death.
Becoming and being a mother is often the most profound, life changing, important story that a woman will ever write for herself yet in a patriarchal culture mothering has been a repressed aspect of experience. There are so few available stories with which to identify and who will listen? The wisdom of the forgotten feminine has typically been trivialised as irrational and superstitious folklore. Stories from the motherline form part of an ancient tradition rooted in a particularly feminine experience; the mysteries of conception, pregnancy, birth and child rearing that may be difficult to hear accustomed as we are to rational thought and scientific method. This deep seated sense of inferiority makes it difficult for women to honour their own lineage.
I have always been fascinated by stories. The Plastic Ceiling Project is also a vehicle for collecting qualitative data for my doctorate. My research is about parents but particularly about women like me; working mothers who juggle families, work and study. During discussions with participants in previous research I noticed that although both males and females with parental responsibilities highlighted many similar practical challenges, emotional challenges such as guilt and shame appeared to generally be the preserve of mothers. The scenarios depicted are representations of real events reported by participants but they are interpreted and re-created by me and I have subverted feminist iconography by using Barbie dolls as the characters. The stories told through the images aim to bring the women to life, they are not just participants but vital, alive, imperfect human beings trying to navigate a path which though travelled many times does not so far have much of a map. We need to tell our stories for ourselves and as a gift to future generations. My inspiration is to encourage, nurture and support the writing of that map for future generations.