a story that touches

from Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, NM, 2009

For the last few months, I’ve been following the NieNie Dialogues, a blog about Stephanie Nielson and her family.  And I’ve fallen in love.  Not in the weird stalker-like way.  In love like I so admire this woman, her humor, her tenacity, her truthfulness.  She is a woman–and mother–telling her truth every day. 

And boy does she have an extraordinary story to tell. 

You can read this incredible series about her journey from author Jaimee Rose.  For all the talk about storytelling as of late, this one might just be the most poignant for me yet.

And then, check out her daily blog.  I think it’s here that I truly fell in love with Stephanie’s spirit.  The one that lives in each of us.  It reminds me so much of the women I sat with on retreat, released from prison, who were carrying on.  Who were able to still see beauty and humor and truth in the world.  Who were able to find a reason to keep living…and creating a life they could love…even after grueling times. 

I hope you fall in love with her too.  In that boy-I-wish-she-was-my-friend way.  And we all can become NieNie groupies.  Whadya say?

storytelling

 

Magic happens when we tell our stories.

When we are witnessed.

It’s a stepping into our own powers, I think.  It’s an honoring of our own voices, our own lives, and the whispers of our hearts. 

For most of 2009, I have focused on returning to my story.  The one that tells why I do what I do and who I want to be in this world of ours.  The one that is my authentic voice.

It’s why I began this blog.  And why I led retreats this year.  It’s a commitment that still feels messy, a bit confusing, and sometimes tiring.  Not so much the being authentic part (although sometimes).  But the part that is the unraveling.  And I am most certainly still in it…still meandering about, exploring shyly how much to tell and how much to hold in, learning how to express my stories and how to engage with life messily.

This intention to return to my story is also why I joined the cast of Your Story is My Story two weeks ago today to create a play in three days and then perform it during the annual KDVA/KASAP Conference.  Christy Burch, Director and the Assistant Director of U.K.’s VIP Center, led us through a process of answering powerful questions, fostering comfort and safety together, and producing a play of our own stories.

We wrote. We read to each other. We cried and laughed. We hugged. We transformed the bits and pieces of our lives and work into monologues to share. We listened to what stories wanted to be told–and then we released them–with some trepidation (I’ll admit!), with courage, and with love.

The first act was telling the stories of advocacy, the stories we hear as advocates, the stories that impact our own stories.  Even though I’ve worked for and with violence prevention organizations for almost 12 years, first as an advocate and trainer and now as a coach, I just recently experienced one of my most profound moments in the work.  For my monologue, I wrote about being on retreat with 13 formerly incarcerated survivors.  This was a retreat that changed me simply by being part of it and witnessing.

“It was a day we thought would never come.  And I was a witness.  Thirteen women, released from prison, gathered together on retreat.  They had endured nearly everything to survive.  And now they’d come to sit together, to find comfort and joy in connecting, and to speak of how they are creating new life on the outside…

On a day we thought would never come, I witnessed.  This circle of thirteen showed me that the human spirit has a deep capacity to endure, to heal and to carry on.  That we are a courageous people–all of us–intersecting in this movement [to end personal power based violence].  They showed me that a deep tenderness can exist even after the most grueling of times…”

The second act was sharing our own story of being or becoming an advocate.  For me, this was an act—quite literally—of claiming my work.  My work as an advocate for advocates.  I’ve been struggling a bit these past few years in defining who I am as a coach.  A coach of advocates and changemakers and brilliant, creative people who are of service to the world.  I’ve been struggling because what I do doesn’t always fit neatly into the box of “coaching.”  It often feels like a blend of advocacy, cheerleading, and sacred retreat.  And I’ve realized that my work is truly about being an advocate for other advocates.  It’s about caring for them and walking beside them in their process, just as they do with their own clients. 

“I am an advocate who bears witness to other advocates.  I will be a sacred container for you to release your own ache.  I will walk along side you.  I am an advocate who asks the questions gently yet raises my voice loudly.  I can rally and roar for justice.  I am a conduit of change.  I see healing possibility everywhere–everywhere!  I am an advocate, too…for you, my advocate tribe.”

This year I’ve realized that the more I step into my authentic work and create a juicy, often misshapen, authentic life around it, the more meaningful my life becomes.  Even in the midst of trying times, a million questions, and heart-aching work. 

In the third and final act of Your Story is My Story, we shared what we are inspired to change going forward…and what we are ready to reclaim.  And I talked about how we do not have to do this work alone or silently anymore. 

“Imagine yourself in this circle of brave souls, with courageous story tellers who are giving so much to this world.  Can you see the candles flickering and hear the music drumming?  Can you feel the magic created of our own alchemy, of sitting together for comfort, caring and witnessing?

And so this is my invitation.  I invite you to love yourself as much as another, to give yourself permission to feel it all.  To find your own safe shelter.  To believe that we can change this world and it begins within.  To never forget why you are here…

The world I see is possible.  It is a new way of doing this soul-stirring work together.  A way that feels kind to our spirits, despite the work that must be done and the tales we all must hear.

Imagine yourself in this circle.  Everyone of us is invited.  I will be there…”

My peers on stage shared their own powerful stories—of being daughters, survivors, friends.  They claimed their own vision for our future to end personal power based violence in our lifetime.  Just like the 13 women I retreated with earlier this year, this circle of playwriters has also changed my life.

I’m not sure what led me to participating in this play.  I’m not certain what the consequences will be.  But oh the power in telling.  To be witnessed. To be heard. 

 We each have stories to be told, tales that are gifts to the universe. What are you ready to share? What’s the most powerful way you can tell it to the world?

bits and pieces

Oh what a week it’s been…filled with connecting, creating, claiming and choosing.  Filled with magic.

It’s been so filled to the brim that for now I’m dosing out bits and pieces of what’s filling me up this afternoon.

I spent three days at the KDVA/KASAP Annual Conference.  It was delightful to meet up with advocates I have known over a decade, as well as advocates I am meeting now for the first time.  On Tuesday morning, I decided to join a group already formed the day before, a group that was writing a play for conference-goers on Thursday morning.  Yep, we wrote and produced and performed a play in three days (one day for me!)!  Between leading two workshops, hosting a booth, and meeting colleagues during an evening reception, I crafted three monologues for the play, Your Story is My Story, inspired and directed by my dear friend, Christy.  This was a turning point for me, which I’ll tell you more about next week.

As I prepared for my workshop Inspired Service, I happened upon this beautiful piece by Kelly Rae Roberts, an artist and writer whose blog I frequent almost daily.  I asked Kelly if I could share her piece in my presentation and she graciously agreed.  Thank you Kelly Rae! 

Today I am unpacking, physically and emotionally from this feast of a week.  It’s been a big one.  Momentous in that I am finding my way again with my work.  And it seems to happen most easily when I am connecting with deep love, connecting in my own authentic voice, connecting by boldly telling my own true tales.  And even though I did not write about the final two chapters of Martha Beck’s The Joy Diet, I realized that I just did.  Connection.  Feasting.  Sh-boom! 

P.S.  I came across these two inspiring goodies this morning:  Goddess Leonie’s Radiant Goddess e-course and this superhero necklace.  Don’t they look and sound yummy?