Sharing Stories

Who doesn’t love a good story?  We read, watch, tell, sometimes even write them down.  Our tale-telling spans from the personal experience to the farthest fetched imaginings.  I have yet to find someone who has no interest in stories of any kind.  But for some reason, it was not until recently that I came to appreciate the need we all have to share our stories.  

 

It was a sunny Tuesday morning in late September, I was 41 weeks pregnant and noticed clear liquid dripping from my body….my water had broken.  waterbrokeThere was something else though.  A dark stain let me know that meconium was in my water, a sign that my baby might not be okay.  I texted my husband, who was in a meeting (with his remote job) just downstairs, that I thought my water had broken.  He was ecstatic.  I was in shock.

 

My preparation and hopes for a fully natural, peaceful, hypno-waterbirth did NOT come to fruition.  As most women will tell you, labor is no picnic…hahaha….. to say the least.  Due to the signs of fetal distress, I was constantly monitored, induced with medication, and unable to move nearly as freely as I had hoped.  epidural-is-magicalAll that being said, after feeling like a ravenous beast was devouring my internal organs for 9 hours, the midwife checked and found I was only 2-3 centimeters dilated (i.e. this state could have potentially continued for days).   Immediately and shamelessly I requested an epidural and 8 hours later had the most beautiful, peaceful birthing experience I could have imagined.

For a couple of weeks after my daughter’s birth, I felt an overwhelming sense that I needed to share the experience in great detail with people.  It mattered.  Not to everyone I talked with, but it mattered to me and with each telling, I seemed able to process my experience a little more fully and feel more settled and comfortably distant from it.

 

About six weeks after becoming a mother, I finally got to visit a friend who had given birth just a day after I had, and in the same hospital no less!  I had been so eager to hear her birth story, and originally really wanting to share mine as well.  By the time we finally got together, the details of my own experience seemed far less significant.  My friend, however, was still in a place in which she grew lively recalling her own birthing time.  birthing-reality

 

It was in this moment that I fully realized how important it is that we give people the space to share their stories, and truly listen with care and curiosity.  

 

I was reminded of experiences with my beloved Grandma Laurie and “Bumpa”, my step-grandfather.  They were both storytellers: my grandma loved to share family history.  She was an avid genealogist who travelled the world to meet distant relatives she discovered.  I’m talking across oceans to meet 3rd cousins twice removed.  The woman was one of a kind!  Bumpa, on the other hand, shared stories of his dust bowl era upbringing on a farm in Kansas.  Their stories were so different, but the common factor was their love to recount these tales.  

dust-bowl

Whether you are a lover of sci-fi films, news junkie, or any other type of story-telling, I hope the next time you have a story on your mind, you will share it.  And when you sit by a stranger on a bus or come home to your family after an exhausting day, I wonder if you will make space to truly listen to those who are ready to share.

story

We all have a story to tell.

 

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Learning through Loss

We all experience times of loss: when life takes an unexpected turn that throws you for a loop.  Sometimes there is no way to foresee the wrench life will throw at you, but you can decide how you handle it.  

I recently encountered some of these twists: the first one rocked my life plans and initially struck me as a very pleasant shift.  Six weeks later, another large “surprise” arrived, but one I was not so eager to welcome.  I tend to think of myself as a person who loves surprises, but Tony Robbins shed some light on this topic for me in his Ted Talk:

“You like the surprises you want. The ones you don’t want, you call problems, but you need them.”

So here I am, swimming through the “problems” Mr. Robbins says I need. I could wallow and wonder why this struggle is happening to me, but what good would that do? Following the mindful tradition, I allow myself to accept the emotions that come. There are moments of despair, times of questioning, and even occasions of recognizing the positives that exist due to recent changes as well. There are multiple ways of looking at any situation. I’m inclined to cling to ideas I like. However, to work through struggles, I have to consider multiple perspectives and try to see the big picture.

In his book, Zen Shorts, Jon J. Muth illustrates this Buddhist concept with his parable: “The Farmer’s Luck.”

There was once an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years.  One day, his horse ran away.  Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. “Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically.  “Maybe,” the farmer replied.  The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it two other wild horses.  “Such good luck!” the neighbors exclaimed.  “Maybe,” replied the farmer.  The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown off, and broke his leg.  Again, the neighbors came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune.  “Such bad luck,” they said.  “Maybe,” answered the farmer.  The day after that, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army to fight in a war.  Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by.  “Such good luck!” cried the neighbors.  “Maybe,” said the farmer.

I think we can all attest to similar ebbs and flows in our supposed “good luck” department.  We never can quite imagine what is around the bend, but I do find a flow of increasing positivity comes to those who focus on goodness, and downward spin for those who wallow in anger, fear, or self-care at the detriment of others.

Brazilian lyricist and novelist, Paulo  Coelho shared: “I have seen many storms in my life. Most storms have caught me by surprise, so I had to learn very quickly to look further and understand that I am not capable of controlling the weather, to exercise the art of patience and to respect the fury of nature.”

Whether stormy weather or stormy circumstances, we each get to decide how we handle the unexpected.  Will you stay weighed down in the weight of misery, or allow those painful feelings to flow through you, then allow them pass and move on?  I hope you will allow life’s clouds, at times light and in other moments dark, to cast their shadows and then blow on by.  Acknowledge the hurt, then move on and take in the moments of sunshine.  

There is always light above the clouds.

 

  1. Photo by Elijah Henderson, Clarksville, United States. https://unsplash.com/photos/DMED-sOt1Ak

 

  1.      2. The Kingdom, Sun above Clouds, 2008 © Seb Janiak