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  • Writer's pictureBenita Garvin


When I was a kid, I lied, as my brother would say, "like a rug." My parents, particularly my mother, wanted to make sure I wasn't doing exactly what I was, in truth, doing, but lied about. The lies were small at the beginning: did you eat that cookie before dinner?" "No." Small time stuff. But as I approached my teenage years, I embellished. The more acting out I was doing, the greater the story I needed to concoct.

My mother was a good detective. She was always hunting for clues to prove what she knew in her heart was true, that I was lying. As I got older and had more freedom, I'd find myself weaving tall tales about my whereabouts even though my parents no longer really cared. While I was doing it, I would be thinking, why are you lying about this?

Later, many years later, when I thought back about my behavior, I felt ashamed. I like to think myself as a honest person, but I took such joy and pleasure in lying. I was particularly impressed with my ability to create a story on the spot. If I was caught in my lie, which happened occasionally, rather than admit it, I would simply adjust the story accordingly. I was quick!

I've come to understand that beyond the rebelliousness was something deeper. I'd fallen in love with story I was telling. I loved creating elaborate stories about what happened on the way to the library or how when I got to Susan's house, her mother was sick and we had to get her to a doctor.

We are hard wired to tell stories. Science has shown that when we tell stories and listen to stories it actually activates various parts of the brain. Storytelling isn't just about writing! We've been telling stories since the beginning of time. Before we had language and books and movies, we told stories. I saw it with my own eyes when I was France several years ago and we visited a site with cave paintings dating back tens of thousands of years. No words. Only drawings telling the story. It was astonishing.

We tell stories to make sense of the world. We tell stories to figure out who we are.

And these days, when we're isolated from so many people we love, harvesting our own stories will provide company and pleasure.

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