The Narrative Gap



I am not sure how the above picture emerged but it relates to something I have been witnessing.
I think there are those who “see” certain dynamics in life. This is a gift and the sight is often clear and true.
The sight is not the problem.
The vocabulary, however, is.

In our lives and culture, there are certain narratives at play. These narratives may have everything and absolutely nothing to do with the truth.

The problem with the narrative is not that it exists, the problem is that it limits our experiences and our ability to relate our experiences as they are.

A couple of the topics on my blog push up against these “narrative issues”, one such topic being stepparenting. When you think about it, the only cultural narrative that we have surrounding stepparenting is the story of the evil stepmother.

This may be strikingly far from reality and a part of us may know this, but for the majority the relationship with idea of the stepparent begins with the “evil stepmother” narrative. Why? Because it is true? No. Because it is all we have.

What ends up happening, then, is the narrative drives the vocabulary and stories of all who come later. As a stepmom, I am well aware that when I engage in certain situations, I do not begin at point zero. The cultural narrative already has my score at ~ -812 based on the narrative starting point.

When I and others talk about stepparenting, the proverbial cat has our tongue, because we have limited language to pull from based on the cultural narrative available to us. We have to, in our mind, create bigger stories with more examples, and very precise words, to convey our experience, because there is no space for our experience within hte cultural narrative- other than the idea that we are “evil”.

These narratives, of course, are not limited to stepparenting.
They are bountiful and pervasive.

Ask someone who writes on child abuse how difficult it is to find the “right” words to express the experience. It is difficult to find the words, because our cultural narrative about parenting is that all parents are loving and self-sacrficing for their children, especially mothers. Live a life counter to this narrative and the vocabulary to express your experience is limited.

And, of course, we see the broader examples- the narratives associated with one’s skin color, gender, sex, sexuality and so on.

I guess what I think when I see this picture is that witnessing and seeing are powerful acts. In fact, they are the first step in change, because to dismantle the narrative, you first must see it.

Recognition isn’t everything, though.
We must create new narratives that more accurately reflect our experiences.

We must write, and re-write and struggle to find the “right” words, even when our word choices are limited, because that is how new narratives are built- one word at a time.

Above is a self-portrait- sort of. Sometimes my art gets away from me. I request and it insists on being otherwise.
I had done some research about a leg injury and (you will love this) – the injury related to the bladder meridian associated with “Eastern medicine”. This is a “yang” channel-and so I thought I needed some more “fire” energy. Hence, the colors of my picture.

I, personally, do not like this picture, but my inner artist does. It refuses to have the same scale of judgment as the rest of me. I sometimes wonder if my inner artist even cares what the rest of me thinks- I think it is too busy creating its own visual narrative.


15 thoughts on “The Narrative Gap

  1. I like the phrase “sometimes my art gets away from me”. I know exactly what you mean, but shouldn’t you LET it get away from you? To me that means what is coming out is your feelings and not your thoughts. Thats what separates you from an architect and makes your work so compelling! Merry Christmas!

  2. See, sense, and/or hope. I believe, Kim, when we learn to cast aside our biases and the cloudy filters through which we view and form views – and replace them with heightened awareness and an openness to possibilities, amazing opportunities unfold. Your painting, to me, conjures thoughts of ethereal awakening, in a non-narrative way. And I like it!

  3. Love this. I love how art and creating shows things that surprise us. I have found this with my own writing. I never know what will come out when I sit down to write. I am always surprised. ❀

  4. ‘I sometimes wonder if my inner artist even cares what the rest of me thinks- I think it is too busy creating its own visual narrative.’
    I love that it won’t allow censorship. Thanks for another thought-provoking post!

  5. What great truths, Kim. The development of narratives is crucial to change. Living inside abuse, without the knowledge, I was in darkness, believing that this was “normal” for a relationship. I hope and pray that through words shared, others may not have to suffer in the darkness quite so longπŸ’œ

    • Thanks so much for your understanding. It can be very isolating when our experience does not match the narrative we are supposed to be living. When we begin to create our own narrative, we find hope.
      I hope the holidays are peaceful for you and your kids. I know that is not a guarantee, given your situation.

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