It’s something like this. There are all these stories you told yourself when you were a child, the stories about life that you whispered to yourself as you closed your eyes to sleep. They were the stories that kept you safe, or explained the big, wide, scary world, helped you make sense of it all. Some of them were stories someone told you. Some of them were stories you made up to keep yourself from being hurt. Some of them were simply stories that seemed to make sense at the time. They kept you warm and cozy if a little bit boxed in. At very least they enabled you to close your eyes and sleep.
But that’s not how the world is. You are older now, and you know better. You see that the world is not that small and maybe, yes, not that scary. There is a world of possibility and abundance all around you. You know this. Your spiritual teachers have taught it to you, you have seen amazing miracles unfold. You have been inspired by amazing heros who don’t seem limited by stories. Seeing is believing they say. And you chose to believe.
So you have papered over the old stories with new ones–stories of Universal goodness, hope for the World, richness and abundance in the most glorious senses. You whisper them to yourself as you fall asleep at night. You can close your eyes because of them. You gather hope from other people’s stories. You hold them in your head as a new manifesto, solid if abstract truths and for awhile it worked. It carried you somewhere else. It brought you here. To this place.
One day you will break down, because suddenly it stops working. The more you try to lean into the new stories, the more you find that even though you have papered over all those old stories with new shiny pretty ones, those old stories never went away. In fact, the more you have tried to give into the new sparkling stories, the more you hear the old ones shouting from the depths. Those old stories still sit simmering in their smallness, festering. Incongruent and confusing. And you somehow feel like you can’t settle, like something is tugging at you restless. You may feel like you are being broken open. Or maybe you will feel blocked. Maybe you will feel like a fraud. Or maybe all of the above.
And then out of the murkiness–an epiphany. You cannot paper over old stories with stories that aren’t yours–you need to transform them. You cannot abstract yourself out of this box your old stories once put you in. Its time to take another leap and while you don’t really know how to do this, can’t imagine what needs to be done, you know that all the stories need to shift. The jig is up. You can’t simply layer stories upon stories–it doesn’t work that way. What happens is that you have mind full of stories and a confused heart. So you start again, but this time you start the way you did as a little girl.
No abstractions. No theories. This isn’t about the Universe or the World or someone else in their juicy magical wonder. No stories of anyone else’s journey will give you the calm you need. The only stories that will really settle now are the ones about You and your blessed and messy heart.
These new stories may start: “I live in a world of ease and abundance…” and then they go on to describe the way the light falls on the baseball field at 7pm just before the boys pick up the bases, and the smoothness of the cheesecake you had for dessert and the sighs of the cat who is dreaming of birds and the angelic face of your sleeping child and the virtuous circle of kindness and love that you witnessed in a group of runners. Perhaps they will start, “I am powerful and wise…” and then go on to sing about how you balanced the checkbook and fed the children and made it through that really impossibly hard time. Or maybe they will start, “I am exactly where I need to be…” and then you will describe how every time you allow yourself to pay attention you learn something amazing. You will forget every abstraction and stop finding inspiration in others and instead make yourself the hero of your stories. Because this is the only way it will move from your head to your heart.
You must tell yourself these stories every night. Concrete and real and very personal stories of power and triumph and wisdom and kindness and yes of the kind of heart break that comes from leaping and falling and getting up again. This will be your bedtime story. Until you know what else to do. Something like this. Something like this.
I used to think:
That if I was a good girl and showed up, did my spiritual work, pushed through, endured, gleaned the gems from the muck, learned from the impossibly hard times, opened my heart (anyway), kept going, was clever, was generous with spirit, believed in the impossible and kept marching forward with hope,
That one fine day the gates of heaven would open up, or a fairy godmother would touch me on the shoulder, or some hero would rescue me and I would be rewarded with ease, with love, with joy, with rest.
Now I know:
That life has served to hone me into someone who is brave and strong and able to stand on her own. That I am incredibly powerful–powerful beyond measure and that the reward for all the hard work is not a fairy tale ending but the courage and strength to bear the heavy loads without faltering, to be able to trek the mountains by myself, carrying my whole life on my back while singing. The reward is the ability to create this wild, wooly, sometimes treacherous but always thrilling adventure that is my life. The reward is to know that I have it in me to keep going no matter how rocky the coast line, how high the mountain, how dark the forest.
Ease and joy and love (and even rest) have been ever present all along the path–Mine for the taking, like fruit that grows on the trees I pass, mine to recognize and harvest and savor. These gifts are not my destination but what has sustained me all along, what will sustain me as I keep adventuring on, all I need to do is pay attention.