What does it mean to read your life like a fairy tale? We can point to the Hero's Journey, or the Heroine's Journey, but how do we listen to the story our own lives are telling and determine what part of the arc we are at?
The complication that makes this work so worthwhile, is that the story can be said to begin at so many places in our lives. We can read the arc of every relationship, of every job or career move, of every change of place, as its own distinct story. Each strand of story is woven, braided with other strands to create the multicolored, shimmering, living rope of your life.
Let's take a familiar example of Little Red Riding Hood. We can say that the adventure begins with the girl setting out into the woods with her basket. but perhaps it really begins with the red hood itself. We can read this story, and say, "oh, this is like when I went off to college, and I met that guy in the quad..." That assumes that we are the heroine of the story, that we are the central character. And it's not wrong. The scene of Red's encounter with the wolf in the forest is the turning point of the story, the moment of decision. You have thought of a moment in your own life that felt that big, and seemed to push your life down a path you hadn't wanted.
Once we identify this piece of story, this potent scene that stands out so sharply against the rest of the narrative, we are ready to begin working with our own story. It's important to identify the work to be done here. Do you feel shame over the encounter? Maybe you are wanting to understand what happened next. Perhaps the emotion that arises with the story is one of rage, and perhaps it's a gentle, happy wonder -- "Look what would have been different if I hadn't met him! I would be someone else."
We can look for echoes of that moment -- where did it happen again? And again? And where is it happening RIGHT NOW? Where are you giving the time of day to someone or something you know to be destructive? Where are you taking a risk to move beyond prescriptions?
It's important to create these scenes as vividly as possible -- recreate that moment in your mind. Feel what you felt. Smell what you smelled. Hear the music. See if there are details that you thought you had forgotten. Can you shift the view? Can you see the story through the wolf's eyes? Through the hood's eyes (if hoods had eyes...)? Are you, in your life, in one of those other roles today?
This is just the beginning.
If something comes up that feels too big, let it go, or take it to a professional. I'm not a counselor, social worker, psychologist, or pastor. I'm just a fellow traveler.
Are you intrigued? Here is a link to a group journey with two fairy tales -- Mother Holle, and Baba Yaga (tale 1). I'd love to have you along. You can also sign up to do some individual work with me, using a story I will choose just for you.
You story is waiting, and yet, it is running even now. You are in this story. Let's take a look around together.
This summer, I got to go to the National Storytelling Network's summer conference for the first time. It was amazing to be surrounded by storytellers from around the country, and some from other countries, who were exceedingly welcoming, supportive, and kind.
The day before the official conference opened, I took part in the Healing Story Alliance's pre-conference workshop, led by Lani Peterson. Lani does deep, world-changing work in Boston with people who have experienced homelessness or incarceration, and with other community members, facilitating their understanding of one another through storytelling.
There was a lot A LOT of stuff that I took away from that workshop. I'm not a trained psychologist, so much of it went over my head, but there was a part of the morning when we talked about helping people to tell their stories in order to re-construct their sense of self, helping them to "thicken" their stories. We go from the old normal -> through an experience of liminality and "undoing" our story -> to arrive at a new normal, where we are intentional in our responses. We then can return to the beginning of the story and help others.
This is the hero's journey, folks. We get to take that fairytale, mythic path every single day.
But it goes deeper.
We get to take that path every single moment of the day. In the pause between stimulus and response, where we make a conscious choice, we are responding to the call to adventure. That moment is sometimes briefer than the blink of an eye.
In every breath, in every response to our children, in every time we choose to speak up against hatred, and in every moment that we respond out of choice and not out of habit, we are heroes. We can have a thousand epic journeys in every day.
Those tiny, miniscule stories are woven together into the novel of our lives, the huge bildungsroman that tells of our journey from innocence to knowing, and then, we hope, into wisdom.
There is so much more to pull out of those few short hours, and I hope to bring you examples and insights over the next few weeks.
If you missed last night's facebook live, I have the video for you right here! Enjoy!
Thank you for reading. For commenting. For clicking. For listening.
Thank you for supporting me and my work.
Thank you for living in this world. For working and playing and cooking and tending and stitching. For building and tinkering.
Thank you for feeding people. For teaching them. For opening your doors and hearts and hands.
Thank you for all you do and are.
As a special Thanksgiving weekend gift to you, I am offering an additional $20 off my new program through Sunday evening at 11 pm CST. I'd love to have you along with me on this journey. You can click here to learn more.
I'd also like to offer you a free download of tips for a Magical Bedtime! You can click here to download my best ideas for creating a beautiful bedtime routine! Edited to add: on Sunday evening, this offering will become an opt-in for my mailing list, so you'll still be able to get it, just not here! :)
I know, I know. It's the holidays. You are, maybe, frantically checking your bank balance daily to make sure that you can cover all the food, feasting, gifts, events, clothing... Or maybe you're super organized and have it all in hand, carefully budgeted.
I want to encourage you to give yourself this gift. A gift of a new way of seeing your life story, and your path into the new year.
Mother Holle and Baba Yaga are well known in their home countries. They are powerful expressions of the wild feminine. Both have been pointed out as expressions of pre-Christian goddesses hidden in tales for children. Mother Holle rewards the good and punishes the bad. Baba Yaga, in her chicken-legged hut, provides information, wisdom, and initiation, but only to those who follow her rules and don't get themselves eaten in the process.
What will you get out of this work? A stronger sense of your own power to understand and choose your life story, artistic and writing invitations to take you deeper into the stories, and a potent technique for shifting your viewpoint when you feel stuck, overwhelmed, or lost in the woods.
We will be exploring two stories together over the course of four weeks. Want to know a little more about the kind of work we'll be doing? Check out this post: A Taste of Story-Reading.
Maybe you feel a little lost or fearful, or maybe you are downright terrified. Maybe you are searching for a new start, or a new way forward. Maybe you feel lost in the woods. Or maybe you feel like you are finally coming into your own.
I'd love to support you through story. My Story/Readings are an opportunity to explore your life story through the lens of fairy tales. Together, we venture down these ancient paths to find the wisdom you seek. From high, far-off cliffs and from humble cottages in the woods, we find a new perspective and new possibilities.
I've lowered the price on my story/reading sessions and simplified the offerings. It would be an honor to work with you.
Want to try it? Click here!
Questions? Comment below and I'll answer!
They have their own stories and struggles.
no one wants to hear how tired you are, how late you were up,
how the baby wouldn't sleep,
how work was hard, or just long.
No one really wants to hear about your aching feet, or head, or heart.
Unless you are willing to punch through the tired, the ache, into the source, into the deep
Pull back the tight-wound layers of it all, the election,
the dishes, the words bitten back, the ones you regret,
and take a moment to tell me
what the moon looks like tonight.
tell me about your anger, or your sorrow, or your need for something
you can't quite name.
It's so much more than tired.
No one wants to hear
they want too much to see, to touch, to hold.
to hold you up.
to hold your hand.
to hold on when you are so ready to let go.
I'm tired of battle metaphors. I want a metaphor of building.
less tearing, less fighting, less struggle.
No one wants to hear how tired you are.
I want a soft pillow, and a gentle hand, and strengthening sleep, not just for me.
for you, and for them, and for the person who made you angriest.
Goodnight. Tomorrow, the sun will rise,
and we will go on building.
originally published 11/5/2014
:bring on the daily posting!!
fairy tale of the day: The Devil and the Three Golden Hairs. Read it here: https://www.cs.cmu.edu/~spok/grimmtmp/022.txt
The lovely Jana Kingsford has suggested that starting my workday with a blog post is the way to go. Remember how I did that "NaBloPoMo" thing a couple of years back, and posted every day in November? That might be what's going to happen here, with Prolific Posting becoming more important than Amazing Content.
There are some who will tell you that the whole point of a blog is to attract readers. And for some people, that may be the case. I came up in the world of Live Journal, though, and dial-up BBS services, so for me, it's more of my letter to the world. My open-book journal. My place to pour it out. And that still makes me incredibly leery, because LOOK! This is an open platform -- what I put here is going to live on into eternity, thanks to the Wayback machine and other such things. My first blog, back when we called them Weblogs, was at PITAS. I can no longer remember my password, so I don't know how on earth to remove the account. At least my friendster account has gone the way of the dodo, along with friendster.
I'm feeling better today, but also feeling really sad about the rough day my poor kiddo had yesterday. "Everyone thinks I'm such a brave kid," he says, "but I'm scared of a lot of things." Halloween is rough on him, because he loves costumes and magic and candy, but he HATES the gruesome ghouls and floaty, gauze-wrapped skeletons everywhere.
And lately, I am butting up again and again against the pull of video games and cartoons on my son. I am not totally anti-media, but I feel like I'm getting sucked down and powerless against the riptide of violence and the addictive quality of screen time. He's still little, thank God, so social media isn't a concern yet. But UGH.
Sparkle Stories is always a help in this whole ordeal. They are what my son turns to when he can't sleep, when he needs some comfort, when the world is too much. Funny, heartfelt, touching, and full of truth, beauty, and goodness. There are five free Halloween stories on their site right now; that's where we'll head tonight.
I'm sitting down to write, and I feel empty. A beloved guest from far away is staying with us, and my panicky only-child self is at war with my desire to spend time with my dear visitor. So I over-extend and do too much, and don't set boundaries, and then wonder why my heart is racing and I'm snapping and sniping at my child and spouse...
And our time together is good. A mirror is being held up, though, to how much i rely on my own routines and patterns to get by.
I hate that I'm letting my child soothe himself with tech -- games and cartoons on the iPad -- when I retreat to my phone and computer to tune out.
I hate that my kid is eating so much sugar, when I search the cupboards for a quick snack instead of a meal.
I hate being begged for a toy or soon-to-be thrown away thing, when I am letting money run through my fingers and bills are piling up while I don't work enough.
Im in a rough and whiny spot tonight, and angry with myself for not being happy.
This photo is from last year. The dogwood never got this colorful this year. Writing feels like wading through moving water. I'm pushing along but not making a lot of headway. In my big project, I'm at the point where I'm really doubting what I set out to do, and I feel like what I'm doing isn't any good anyway. Other writers assure me that this is part of the process...
I'm forcing myself to blog, just doing it, just ten minutes of actual writing that isn't for money and isn't related to this one project, this one project that has gotten so narrow and yet so big at the same time. I've been burned before by what I've put out into the world, by daring to be open and talk about how I feel in public, and that being seen as unprofessional. What do you think? Is it unprofessional to talk about your feelings? To say, "I've self-imposed an unreasonable timeframe on this work?" To acknowledge that the work is bloody hard?
I remember being fifteen and weeping hysterically to my mother that it was so important that I be who other wanted me to be. That if I didn't, there was no place for me in the world. And to a certain extent, I still behave that way, afraid that if I talk too much, shine too brightly, stand out, or, conversely, if I don't shine, if I let myself need help and need support from other, if I talk about my problems, I'll be outcast. And I wonder, what is to be gained by staying within parameters? and what is to be gained by breaking out? And can I get back in?
SO I'm still working on being more authentic, and at the same time, at molding who that is, who is that person who is still learning and growing and feeling like a child in so many ways at forty?
And there is October, this month of glory, and I don't want to miss it. It's passing by so quickly, and we still need to make a costume for kiddo's halloween, and to decorate and carve and store up the sweetness of summer for the long winter ahead. We've been told to expect a long, snowy winter this year, and my heart is full of dread. Trying to sway that, to turn it around into expectation and wonder.
Leaves of red and gold are littering the grasses now. Some trees are already bare. Others are blazing and delighting. And on the edge of my consciousness are test results and scans and a lingering unknowing. Best to blaze now, isn't it?
Sara is a storyteller, writer, artist, teacher, wife, mother, and singer living in Minnesota. I write about storytelling, and about living a life with stories.