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- Peace to Prosperity – the Space Between
- The Prosperity Process II, Creating a Culture of Continuing Education
- Emerald Valley – One year old!
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- On Communities Growing Professionally…
- Storytelling…What it Helps to Know
- Storytelling…Why We Tell the Stories
- The Prosperity Process, A Conversation in Three Parts
- On Authenticity…
Category Archives: Growing, Personally
Kevin Kling came into his own as a storyteller when while in college he realised: Saturday night was only as good as the story you could tell about it on Sunday.
It’s the way in which we share the full measure of our experience.
The onus is on the listener to take what you like and leave the rest. Carefully chosen words unconsciously deliver a full message. Just how full, is revealed not just in the first telling, but when compared to the retelling.
We, in the West, let go the gift of storytelling in the last half of the twentieth century; in large part because we devoted ourselves to science. Science would reveal explanations for everything “unexplainable”. We no longer needed to spin yarns for children about the noise of thunder or from where the rain came.
The filmmakers, songwriters and poets never lost sight of the value of a good story. Interestingly, and most notably in the case of film, they just keep retelling the old ones. If I said that StarWars was the Jesus story redux, a few might agree, some would deem me blasphemous, others just dismiss. If I argued that the Matrix was like the Abraham story, perhaps the same result. It doesn’t really matter, the telling of a story is enough. J.K. Rowling got a generation reading again! Harry Potter’s adventures don’t require interpretation, but -
the Monomyth is a term academics use to describe one story common to the mythology of all cultures– the Hero’s Journey. The visual says it all:
My intention is to further explore how our understanding of this universal story can inform our own. How grasping the significance of it may actually be a call to action. There are hero’s among us. You are invited to explore your own story.
We live in challenging times. We can choose to despair, or to allow them to be transformative. You can choose the journey. It begins with you.
If you are intrigued, these links may be of further interest:
The developer of the Matrix, Christopher Vogler, describes it in his words http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=73c36lzbyNw
A lovely comparison of the myths of different cultures and life stages can be found at: http://library.thinkquest.org/05aug/00212/monomyth.html
Our own history on this island was well preserved by the efforts of the Irish Folklore Commission: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irish_Folklore_Commission
The archives are available to the public, and many on-line thanks to University College Dublin: http://www.ucd.ie/folklore/en/
A Belfast filmmaker recently described the experience of growing up next door to a police station. Awakened frequently, the family regularly evacuated and returned to blown out windows. Did he realise that 25 years later that he referred to the building next door as “the playstation”?
My work centres on helping folks get “unstuck”. I support their journey through career change and business start-up.
The method is rooted in their stories. They learn they are not “Sean the accountant” or “Susan the mother of 4”; I begin to know them while they begin to understand themselves. They describe where they came from, I reflect their story back. They start moving in a new direction. Not one I choose for them, but one illuminated by the light of their own story telling process.
Simply put it is the way in which we share the full measure of our experiences.
Stories are delivered not entirely in the words. Therein lies the magic. An adolescents’ yarns spun about where they were and what they did reveals the most important truths often in what was left unsaid.
The onus is on the listener to take what you like and leave the rest. The carefully chosen words unconsciously deliver the message in the moment, and a fuller one later when compared to other tellings.
Sometimes hard truths are so painful that while we initially take in the whole story, we describe only part of it to ourselves and others; it is how we are able to live with the pain. Later, over many years in the retelling, we process the experience in safer times and places. Ultimately, we come to terms with the whole truth, by observing the edits and enhancements across time.
When we devalue storytelling we lose a way to communicate, even to ourselves. How many of us have told the story of a difficult experience so many times, that in each retelling we let go of a piece of the shock, pain or horror and come to terms with it. We plant the episode in the past, we grow and learn new ways to cope. In retelling or reframing an experience, we are applying new coping skills to the remembered event.
That Belfast filmmaker now tells stories for a living; more importantly he has come to understand the grievous long term impact of having believed a life of midnight evacuations and shattered windows was “normal”. He now knows it was not. It was trauma.
Fear is the Enemy of Creativity; Fear is the Thief of Dreams
Recently there was an “ah ha” moment in the shower; have you ever noticed that the last half of the shampoo (and toothpaste) last longer than the first? We mete it out more carefully when we are approaching the end – whether or not there is a “back up” under the sink.
That certainly explains a lot about my impatience in this “third half” of my life.
Irritability with folks “slowing me down” has crept up; oh I’ve always been the impatient sort, but the idea that folks are “stealing” what little time I have left on the planet is accompanied by a rage that is shocking, even to me.
I don’t know what’s worse: that I‘ve been downright uncivil with Sky, Talk Talk and BT while waiting over 4 months for proper phone, cable and broadband, or that I’m not embarrassed by or inclined to apologise for my incivility when I reach a call centre powerless to resolve my complaint.
Then there are the adaptive accommodations to aging I didn’t even know I was making.
My arthritis had been advancing markedly for years but when I moved my household from two years of storage, I was unable to use kitchen tools like the peeler and the paring knife that I had just unpacked, I was astounded. Unconsciously, when I’d only moved a few favourite kitchen things, I’d chosen the handiest and most comfortable. They were all the newer – with fatter, softer grips. Unconsciously, adapting all along, I hadn’t noticed just how disabled I’d become.
Joan Walsh Anglund is the poet, this is an excerpt:
I shall be older than this one day.
I shall think myself young when I remember.
Nothing can stop the slow change of masks my face must wear, one following one.
These gloves my hands have put on, the pleated skin, patterned by the pale tracings of my days.
These are not my hands! And yet, these gloves do not come off!
I shall wear older ones tomorrow, til glove after glove, and mask after mask, I am buried beneath the baggage of old women….
I was enamoured of her sweet, simple rhymes illustrated with charming drawings. This is the only one I remember; I was haunted by it. At fifteen I knew I was seeing my future.
If you have been in the way of my impatience lately – or experience it in the future, I apologise. I’d just like you to frame it with the knowledge that there is much to do and I’m trying to squeeze twice as much production out of the last third of my days.
All this is punctuated by crankiness over the fact that now that my head is screwed on right, my body is failing me… and customer service at BT needs a heads up, I’m calling tomorrow for a new line.…
Bridget is the Celtic goddess of abundance traditionally honoured on February 1st. A floodgate is the metaphor I’d used for years when I described my fear of being paralysed if I unearthed a long buried childhood trauma. Rage, even the expression of mild anger, was forbidden in the household and schools I was reared in. Portray life as it “should” appear: Don’t emote.
Still I’ve learned to trust that life is to be lived and not controlled. So, I spent 4 days raging that after half a century the floodgates opened. Last week, I fully experienced the memory of a trauma that sent me into a rage. Pretending life was “normal” became impossible. In that rage though, I reclaimed myself from the polite peace I was maintaining to make things comfortable and normal for the folks around me.
Apparently, I’d wasted half a century fearing I would drown in a flood. Perhaps the liquid metaphor was right, but it turns out that I was dying of thirst.
The most important lesson distilled in the “Artist’s Way”, is that to recover an authentic, creative self, one needs to embrace anger; it is a friend. Not a kind or gentle one, but a loyal one. It is truthful.
The other message is that we recover our authentic selves one day, one step at a time. Our unconscious minds are to be trusted. That memory I’d feared and suppressed did not return until I was able to handle it. It is for that I am most grateful.
If you are interested in taking steps to reclaim your creative self, decide to. Adopt a discipline of listening to your body and being mindful of your real feelings. You are first and foremost a human being, not a human doing. If you are “doing” polite, if your life is about pleasing others, all work and no play – rethink it. Take a walk, a yoga class, have a massage. Feel yourself.
I am often reminded of a catechism lesson of my childhood: “Who made you? God made me, I was made in the image and likeness of God”. Embrace the divine within you. Even the gods of our ancestors raged. One even sent a flood.
Yesterday was Bridget’s day, I’m particularly grateful that the gods and goddesses described by Christians, Jews and Pagans are consistent in their message. I needed to be reminded that even an abundant flood of anger is empowering. And a blessing.
While we’ve never met I felt compelled to write. I read your letter in the Irish News and I am sorry it was a problem for you to have your children participate in Remembrance Day activities at school.
First let me offer that what I say is coloured by a the fact that while Irish and living here, I was reared in America. It was a gift that my grandparents left in 1908, I knew nothing of the troubles. I am sorry for the trauma that characterised your upbringing and sadly continues into the present lives of your children. I mean to neither minimize that pain or deny its legacy. For you personally and for us all.
That said, as an American I witnessed the horror of having my peers return from service in Vietnam, wounded if not physcially then spiritually by the horrors they experienced. They witnessed the destruction of entire villages – napalmed out of existence – and some barren to this day. Children raped and murdered, comrades killed and captured. Those who returned met with having their experience ignored at best and villified at worst. Many were called baby killers by protesters meeting planes.
We did, however, learn an important lesson. While a majority of us did not support the imperialism to which you refer – by the time of the Kuwait and Iraq invasions we collectivley responded with “I support the soldiers not the war”.
And this is my point. These young men and women are every woman’s sons and daughters. No woman experiences labour and delivery and sleepless nights for two decades to think of her child as mere cannon fodder.
So I would ask for you to let go of your hatred of the British for long enough to love for a moment the children of heartbroken mothers lost on the fields of Europe – 50,000 of them Irish in WWI alone. I would ask you to remember the Irish soldiers who served in the liberation of Italy – Ireland was neutral, but many served with allied forces, US and British. I would ask you to remember the Irish messenger, a former war chaplain, who brought Churchill the news that in the name of those fallen in WWI, Ireland had no more sons to give. Young Englishmen died in their places.
I proudly have a poppy and pray for peace. I wear my poppy in solidarity with the mothers who paid for my freedom with the blood of their sons and daughters. Because before I am a citizen of Ireland or America, before I am a Jew reared Roman Catholic, before all other things I am a mother. Blessed to never have had to sacrifice a child.
For an earlier blog post on Remembrance, Poppies & Homelands: http://www.eveearley.ie/?p=255…
We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned so as to have
the life that is waiting for us.
Yesterday I returned home, from home. Contradiction? Perhaps not. Ireland is my home now, then again, so is the place where my children live. Sometimes that is the Philadelphia suburb where they were reared, sometimes New Orleans where two of them go to school. In March, it was Sedona, Arizona where I joined my good friends, their children and grandson as they gathered for a family visit – regrouping in the Arizona mountains now that everyone has settled far afield of “home” in Pennsylvania.
Home. It conjures images of holidays spent with family and friends, safe places, warmth and familiar comfort. Idealised images. Hardly the stuff of everyone’s experience. Yet we are, as a culture, obsessed with it. We outfit and decorate our nests with the care of young brides planning “their day” for years. We obsess about making the best choices. We choose houses and neighbourhoods for school districts, sometimes long before children are born. We make largely emotional decisions about the most significant investment of our lives. It is little wonder that we hold fast to the illusion of the “ideal” and deny what is often the “real”.
The purpose of this visit was to empty my house and sort through the “stuff” accumulated in the last three decades. I’d lived in this house a dozen years – having retreated to it as a sanctuary when my marriage ended. And a sanctuary it was. I’d “feathered it” with the “stuff” of my girls’ childhoods, a playschool “Hello Kitty” house, and the hand knitted sweaters given to my oldest and worn by her sisters after her. Photos and scrapbooks – and unfiled photos and scrapbook material. Kindergarten report cards and every manner of report through high school and beyond; notes to and from teachers, untried recipes ripped from magazines and my own grad school papers and transcripts. When I suggested my children go through the piles and take what they liked, there was little that appealed to them. Though for the most part they delighted in teasing me for having squirreled it all away….
I was home, comforted by their rolling eyes and their giggles, their delight and frustrations with each other, and with me. I was at home in the same familiar way I was in a Sedona market shopping for dinner as my friends and I had done over many years on other holidays with our merged clans. In the way that I was at home when my dog greeted me at the door of my house in an Irish village – 3000 miles away from, well, home.
So in addition to Joseph’s Campbell’s wisdom, I will add Geneen Roth’s. The author of Women, Food & God reflects on what happens when you separate yourself from your story. I paraphrase here – but her message is that you are not your story; it is merely a familiar version of yourself. You without your story will come to prefer simplicity over complication, freedom over familiarity. You without a voice rehashing that version of you to yourself will begin to embrace that you are worth your own time, you will believe that longed for possibilities are out there. That you deserve a life without a “story”.
I’d already come to that conclusion (but still lose sight of it from time to time) when I made this home for myself in Ireland.
Having embraced that wisdom again, I am happy. I am finally home. Home after a lifetime of longing for the childhood home lost to me at nine; after inventing and reinventing facsimiles of it; after telling myself I was homeless once and would likely be again. By letting go of that story, I finally know that I carry with me the only sense of home I will ever need.
Apparently it was waiting for me to own it, all along.…
Much of your pain is self-chosen. It is the bitter potion by which the physician within you heals your sick self. Kahil Gibran
Who chooses pain? “Not me”, I want to shout.
Julia Cameron refers to the morning pages taught in the Artist’s Way as meditation suited to westerners. They work for us because one doesn’t actually have to be still, you write to access the wisdom of your interior self. In my box of “recovery tools” this is one I have favored lately. There are many others.
Which tool works best? “It works if you work it” is the chorus spoken in unison to routinely close most 12 step meetings. Still I find there are days I resist picking up any tool and “working it”. Take the morning pages – “I am cranky, so I didn’t write them” or is it “I’m cranky because I didn’t write them”? Am I troubled and unfocused because I haven’t been vigilant, choosing self care, good food, less drink, more rest? Have I been doing too much and not allowed myself to just be?
This month I can answer yes to most of those queries, thus, I guess I must conclude:
So who chooses pain? “Clearly me”.
In my troubled times especially, when focus is difficult and the morning pages have not been enough to quiet me, I pick up a book of daily mediations from one of the 12 step programs. This quote about “the bitter potion “… begins a July meditation in the OA (Overeater’s Anonymous) book, For Today (1982).
If it were not for the pain, I wouldn’t be here (in recovery). Only when the pain of food addictionbecame worse than the pain it was intended to kill did I become willing to abandon the pretense of controlling my life.
Getting in touch with my pain is a new experience. Until the day it brought me to my knees, food was my first line of defense against any and all pain, even that caused by the food itself.
In OA, I have come to understand that I must let myself feel the pain before I can recover.
For today: I no longer choose to avoid my growing pains. My Higher Power, my program, my meetings, my friends – all stand with me as I face, head-on, whatever must be faced.
Have you “chosen pain”?
My guess is that if you are still reading “food” might not be part of that choice, or even alcohol, drugs or gambling – but perhaps workaholism, depression, perfectionism, love addiction (see Pia Mellody’s landmark book, so titled). Whatever behavior we use, I have used almost all of the above, we choose the behavior to numb the feelings we think would otherwise overwhelm.
What feelings are we numbing? To know you have only to honor the physician within you. And start assembling the tools that will be the help you need in order to be supported on your journey inward.
You are the physician. The sick self is merely the part of you that is keeping you from being the best you can be: the most content, the most available to joy, the most fully present in each day.
And let me close with an apology if this seems trite or canned or easy. My own struggle began with not even knowing there was a sick self to heal. I was fine. I was in control. I had it all. The fact that I was irritable, cycling through moods from depressed & paralysed to wildly energetic & creative was not a problem, it was simply “how I am”. It took hitting bottom – multiple times, confronting the demons of addiction in my behavior, perfectionism; in my attitude, pessimistic; in relationships, codependent and controlling; and substance, food; to bring me to my knees. To the “rooms” for AlAnon meetings almost thirty years ago, OA meetings and a treatment program twenty years ago, CoDA meetings after that, and therapy all along.
Sadly, as I read that instead of the gentle voice I have cultivated in my efforts at self care – I am hearing a bit of a judging tone, “really, you needed thirty years to get this?” So let me gently assure myself – and you - that this is not a linear process.
Recovery is the journey of a life time. Simply living a conscious life. There have been struggles on the way – daily in the work itself, but the struggle left me not bloodied and scarred but open and vulnerable. This is not an arming for battle, adding a layer of armor to deflect blows. It is a stripping down, a shearing of the thick coat of matted, coarse and wiry fur insulating us from real feelings. And as we work through the grief and the sadness, experience the anger cleanly and throw off resentment we expose soft skin. Only then can we await the touch of kindness and support available when we learn to seek it from the right people in safe places.
And if learning to trust the abundance of good people and safe places takes you less time than my thirty + years, I can confidently assure you that every moment of pain experienced is redeemed with many more moments of exquisite joy.…
There it was in my morning pages, but I had observed it while emerging into consciousness. Writing now fully awake with intellect engaged, is an entirely different matter. Some parent just sent me off on an unpleasant assignment.
That would be, of course, the loving, all knowing parent who resides in the unconscious and shares her wisdom when I am mindful.
This “morning page” discipline often contains a list of things for which I am grateful. There is a gift in counting the things that have gone well before I rise and start measuring the bad. Face it, we all complain about the rain as though our very existence didn’t depend on it. If I acknowledge the beauty in the blooms or the view of the mountain, I have taken away a bit of the power of the rain to bring me down.
Grateful for unanswered prayers, why? I’ve learned to honour why they went unanswered.
Self will was obviously problematic for many and through the ages. As early as 2000 years ago the imparted wisdom of The Lord’s Prayer was “thy will be done”. It was a powerful and empowering closing for a people who in the same breath were reminding the divine to send daily bread and forgive trespasses.
Thy will not mine. Wise folk frequently remind me: “I am rarely granted what I ask for but always given what I need.”
What were some of my unanswered prayers? Too many, trust me to name; but a few would have included relief and healing in my marriage, enough money to not have to work, the success of a relationship that was just not meant to be, life for children unborn.
And what might that have looked like? Well because the divine with whom I am in touch, has a sense of humour this week I have had to face this head on. And on multiple fronts.
My children speak often of their father’s subsequent relationship. He is well loved, they are respected. He no longer knows a loving qualified in our being disappointed in ourselves. We found each other very young and thought what we saw in each other was what we wanted. When we began our family I came to understand that what we said we wanted (largely to be different people than our parents) was not necessarily what we could deliver, the imprints of our original families overwhelmed. Imposing my will would have allowed none of us to move forward.
“Enough money” – well we do come to learn there is never enough (10% more would surely make life easier). Had there been whatever I thought that was, I’d not have learned the assortment of skills I did while working an assortment of part time jobs. Not a single one of those skills or contacts goes untapped as I have moved into this stage of my life. I needed every one of those lessons and experiences.
Life for children lost; I have the gift of three grown children for whom my attentions are frightfully inadequate (back to enough, I know). They all feel wanting of more or different from me – and had there been four or five of them, would the stories of these three be as they were meant to be?
And that other relationship? Joyful and sustaining as the memory of it was, I find this morning I was back to my usual admission to the divine: Okay you win. I have learned that our paths might have crossed a dozen years ago and my first reaction to this was a descent into “what if”. It was often an unspoken prayer or dream – and yet the reality of the “what if” would have been disastrous. Oh, I’d have gotten my way. But none of the great happiness I now know could have come to be.
And even with this proof I still rise every morning struggling to get out of the way of my willful, judging self. I rise wanting other people to treat me better (really, their world is about me?), specific opportunities to become apparent (really, isn’t it arrogant to think I have envisioned the best of all possibilities) and the sun to be shining (really, next winter’s sweater will come of a thirsty sheep?).
Deliver me from the evil that is my willfulness into the redemption that is simply letting go.…
A gift of the discipline adopted from The Artist’s Way is the morning pages. Three pages written in the fugue state between dreaming and waking when we are most in touch with our wisdom. Wisdom unsoured by intellect. Our human being absent our human thinking and doing.
I am often astounded by what lies written on the page before me. Today, in the midst of a tumultuous period I ended with: Buoyantly and consistently hopeful for the first time in my life. Not in the way of Jennie’s “when you grow up”…then again, was she right?
For history, Jennie was the loving grandmother who would swoop into the chaos of my childhood and assure me that everything would be all right “when you grow up”. I often remark that I learned none of the codependent behaviours of children of alcoholics, developmentally – over time and experience as an adaptive response. I learned them at her knee – the express course. By the time I was five she’d taught me everything I had to know –she’d learned it by 1890 in the chaos of her abusive and alcoholic home. She taught me to keep my head down, pretend everything was fine, foster the illusion of a “normal” family for the outside world, deny my feelings and be a parent to myself – and my younger brother. If I did all that perfectly well enough to keep tempers calm (because children really believe everything is within their power to control) I would grow up to leave home and be happy.
What I suspected in the thirty five years between leaving home and now was that she meant well but that she’d missed the mark. Because really, everything wasn’t “all right”. Everything was what you would expect from the life of a child turned adult who brought to the world a wounded, unparented self, unrealistic expectations that she could continue to “create the illusion of a normal family”, and on a mission to recover but with the “two steps forward and one step back” that comes with the territory. There were moments of blissful joy, dark despair, celebrated life cycles, achievements, depression, calm and cycles of more of the same.
The most significant “ah ha” moment in my recovery was in my mid thirties while mothering three young children with the wildly hectic and erratic schedules of suburban America. They had school, sports, ballet, figure skating, and religious school, play dates etc. The youngest rarely had a midweek nap anywhere but the back of a station wagon! I’d raced home between carpools to unload groceries from a mad shopping run. With a sleeping child in the garaged car I was tearing through bags to unload the perishables. SPLAT goes a container of yogurt all over the kitchen floor. It smeared up and down the chairs, the fridge, the wallpaper – in short beyond a mess.
And I lost it. I broke down into the keening crying wail of someone who has lost everything. And I had. Three decades of unshed tears, unacknowledged pain and sheer grief welled up in me. The floodgate I’d used to hold them back was gone. I heaved and cried and rocked on that floor for a long time. My cry was the hiccupping cry of a child. The choked words through tears: “I don’t want to be a grown-up”. What I knew in moment was that if I didn’t clean it up, no one else would. I understood in a core way that I did not want to be a grown up when I was 5, 15, or 35, for just a while I wanted to be taken care of – a well parented child.
Recovery for me has been that. Reparenting myself a day at a time. Trying to be gentle and to silence the critical voice that sabotages my efforts from the mundane of housework (really, ?! that floor looks clean enough to you?), to my appearance (really, ?! that’s the best you can do with…..), to my work (really, ?! that was your idea of “well prepared”). Some days now I never hear it. Some days there is still a faint echo. But I wake every day knowing it will take discipline to keep it silenced.
It has been quieted enough and I have been rewarded with many more moments of joy in these last 10 years than the 40 before. I have been empowered to change my life significantly and I have been happier than I ever imagined being. Still there has been a nagging, sabotaging little girl who really does not want to be a grown up.
And two days ago, for the first time in my life when I was called upon to take care of that little girl, to put her and me first – in the way I would have sacrificed my needs to care for my children, I made that choice for her. It was not without pain and even frankly, the resentment that would at times arise when I chose my children’s needs and priorities over my own. There was, however, the loving resignation that there really was no other choice.
So really, Jennie Muscara, you were right. The day after I did finally and fully decide to be a grown-up parent to my needy little girl, everything really was all right. I am buoyantly and consistently hopeful.…