Tuesday, November 8, 2011
The Stuff & Story of Heroines & Heros
....losing one's way innumberable times, refusing the first call, thinking it is only one thing when it really is, in fact, quite another--as well as entanglements and confrontations with something of great and often frightening magnitude." writes Clarissa P. Estes in the introduction to Joseph Campbell's seminole work, The Hero With A Thousand Faces. What am I afraid of? Why do I keep throwing boulders upon my life's path to climb over again and again and again on my heroines' journey? Why do I refuse what is in front of me, that which is asking me to step out of my comfort zone? Am I afraid of success? Is my calling of "great and often frightening magnitude" paralyzing me?" Am I afraid of failure? Or, all of the above?
For me, the questions are probably 'all of the above'. Soul and purpose have been nudging me for ten years to stand up and sing my metaphoric music. I've grabbed the microphone, dipped my toes into the pool frequently, but always scurried back to shore as quickly as possible. I am a pensive heroine for sure. (Of all of Webster's definitions for pensive, I just focused on: dreaminess or wistfulness, may involve little or no thought to any purpose. Pensive is also defined as: reflective, has a strong implication of orderly, perhaps analytic, processes of thought, ususally with a definite goal of understanding.) The proverbial angel and devil are camped one upon each shoulder as I re-read the conflict of the two definitions. Quickly my imagination wanders to the Linda Blair character in the movie, The Exorcist, head spinning like a dervish in an ecstatic dance!
This 'pensive' contradiciton currently occupies my mind as I two-step with the angel and the devil. It's an age-old portion of my story; a stuck place where I dance around in the same ole circle, yet I also see the progress I'm making. I want to get off this merry-go-round, it's rather boring. I want the merry-go-round over there, you know the bus that is passing by which appears to be full of happy, successful people, unlike the one I'm on. But maybe, it's not the bus, but the bus driver. Early in recovery an imposing man, with a James Earl Jones vocal range, related voraciously at an AA meeting that until he discovered who he was allowing to drive his bus, he was always getting into trouble. I ask, who's driving my bus, who's driving yours?
I like to think that it is good for us to tell, write, yell, paint, dance, whisper, scratch and scamper for our stories. If we don't, they twist our guts and psyches into knots that soon impair our ability to live authentically. Oh, I don't mean whine every chance we get about our drama, but find a venue to let it leak out drip by drip. After the whinning is done--whinning simply keeps us treading water--when we're ready, willing and able to become responsible for everything in our lives; when we're ready to release others with forgiveness, we begin our heroines'/hero's journey. Note that I said "willing," which comes just after awareness, and is followed by action. As a child, I recall wanting my mom to listen to my anguish, not tell me not to cry. She told me not to cry because she didn't know how to fix me and she believed it was her job to fix everything, she didn't realize that I simply needed to be heard. So, I learned to bottle-up my story--no one cared anyway--and soon the bottle became the listener.
How do we tell our story? If you've read any of my previous blogs you may have gleaned that most of my story-telling is done in my journal, and now this venue. I've also done it in therapy, in group settings and in bits and pieces with friends, but I relish in the quiet listener that my journal is. It doesn't take anything personally, never refutes me nor does a transference of its stuff onto me. I can trust it as an extension of my soul, in fact, it's my soul's voice; it's a soft place to fall when life seems full of sharp objects aimed directly at me. "There is a "hearing capacity" in the psyche." writes Dr. Estes, "It loves to listen to all manner of nourishing, startling, and challenging dramatic patterns...whether they take shape in day-time reveries, night-time dreams, or through the inspired arts...They are meant to be conveyed in blood-red wholeness and authentic depth." Yes, we bleed as if cut open. To be authentic, one must muster courage. "The heart that breaks open can contain the whole universe," wrote Joanna Macy in World As Lover, World As Self.
My experience in attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings is that wounded souls get a chance to tell their stories: a snippet here, a snivel there; wounded souls who have finally found a place where "intimate strangers" have gathered to bear witness. There are some amazing heroines and heros at 12-step meetings. There are also some whinners, who can be extremely tedious as they become that ole broken phonograph record. The heroines/heros touched my soul with their deep sharing, their authenticity and courage to share their experience, strength and hope. Often their honesty, their grasp of wording, the depth of their unwitted message, called forth in me a story that I hadn't discovered the verbage for, a story that had been rattling my psyche, but had no platform of expression. For a dollar an hour, it is the best therapy that I've ever received.
Our stories are about more than us--get out of your limited thinking. Each of us is a resident in the web-of-life; strum the web in this corner, it reverberates in another. Doing our personal work, telling our stories--even though all of the 7 billions sets of earth ears cannot hear them--they are felt! We each have a responsibility to the whole to not live in our hole: isolated, arrogant, self-absorbed, because all stories vibrate the web. Yes, the untold stories create energy and maybe not the kind that we want to continue to circulate, and until we tell it, release it, give it its due, it has a low-vibrational energy chokehold on us, and consequently, everything in the universe. In AA parlance, "We're only as sick as our secrets."
Myth is the secret opening through which the inexhaustible energies of the cosmos pour into human cultural manifestations. Joseph Campbell
Make space for your story. By this I mean slowing down long enough to go into the crevices and corners, the convave and the convex of your being to discover who you truly are; not some manifestation that someone, somewhere, somehow has told you you are, but who you decide you are and have always been. This means there might be stories that once told need to be flushed away, scattered to the wind, sold for pennies to the pound. These are probably the whiny stories, the ones that silent groans and pitiful glances are cast at. Then there are the meaty stories that bear repeating whenever it's appropriate to help someone else's story,to add to the "cultural manifestations"; the experience/strength/hope stories. (I've rearranged the letters of Experience/Strength/Hope into the acronymn S.H.E. Strength/Hope/Experience. Appropriate because it comes from the feminine side of our psyche to dig deep, to feel our feelings and talk about them.)
And it's not just the good stories, the happily-ever-after type that are meaty, though there can be merit in them. For me the best stories are the ones where someone has an obstacle on their path and finds a solution to push that boulder down the hill, not Sysyphus-like where he kept pushing the same boulder over and over. These are the metaphors and myths that help us understand our lives; these are the heroine/hero nuggets where alchemy happens. Mythology is a grand place to discover ourselves and understand our stories; to find our depth, our breath, our height, our wisdom and a damn good light to show the way.
A poignant question is usually how a journey begins, how a story starts, how a myth or a legend engages, even though it might be alluded to. "Nothing contributes so much to tranquilizing the mind as a steady purpose--a point on which the soul may fix its intellectual eye," wrote Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, author of Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus. Line up your pencils, straighten your paper, grab your compass and set sight on the land of story--your stuff and story of the heroine/hero you truly are. Do not avoid the bumps, be willing to free-fall, take all dark, scary paths, listen deeply to your guides, ask the right questions, do the unthinkable, get our of your comfort zone, and most of all: BE WILLING TO KNOW THYSELF................................... Ready..... set..... go!
Believing that my S.H.E. (Strength/Hope/Experience) may shine a light on your parade. Until next time.
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