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?