I had an experience once. It was impacting. It was great/amazing/life changing. It involved this person.
It is a true and valid story.
You had an experience once. It was impacting. It was hurtful/life changing/painful/destructive. It involved this same person.
It is a true and valid story.
I am a double Libra. I was told this one September afternoon in 1994, by a close friend who does astrology. She was paying for my officiating at her wedding by doing a natal chart based on the position of the stars at my birth. Now, I knew, as most of us do, that I had an astrological sign and that it was Libra. But double Libra? Crazy. I asked what that meant and her reply was “It really really really really matters what people think of you.”
At that point in my life, that was a true and painful statement. Yet, to be Libra, well, to be ourselves, is a complex and layered thing. Beauty. Through growth, personal exploration, and deliberate maturity, I have grown into other characteristics of being a double Libra. Namely, now it is really really really really important to me to see all sides of a story.
A few years back I had the pleasure of taking a two week intensive course with the gifted writer, Barbara Brown Taylor. It was a class on pastoral writing. In it we also focused on the writing of memoir. Barbara had us read several books in this genre and pushed us to accept that our recounting of a story is valid and perfect, even if all the people don’t recall it the same.
One of her students in another class, was aiming to write the most accurate memoir of her family. She painstakingly interviewed siblings and parents on key moments in the family life. She finally came to Barbara, crumpled in an editorial heap because the stories were not lining up. In fact, family events which to her were formative in family dynamics were barely remembered by other family members. Quotes that were emblazoned in her memory were told differently by other family members. What to do?! In the name of accuracy, dear God, what was she to do??!!$#*!
She was to write her single story.
For her memory of the event, of words spoken, of import are valid. The sibling’s memories of events and words spoken, while different, were also valid.
Because it is our own story.
There is much given to the idea of the danger of the single story. When we hear one person speak their story about a larger narrative, and we then believe that it is emblematic of all stories related to this narrative, we go forward as though our fingers are stuck in our ears and our mouths are lalala-ing so as not to hear the other side. We may discredit a person’s story if it conflicts with something we’ve heard before from a credible source. We may turn our perspective from a previous understanding because of the next single story.
Ultimately, there is no single story.
In the first photo in this writing, of the sassy pink high heels, their are stories. The woman could go out with a single shoe on, but would be out of whack, tippy, unbalanced.
A single story, told by one person, can be listened to deeply, respectfully, even reverently. It can be all we need to hear to determine our own engagement with the ongoing story.
However, without the other shoe, we simple have a lopsided knowing. With both (shoes) stories, we begin to see the layers of truth and experience. We then can bring our own experience in from similar situations, and create a larger screen of knowing. As we add to the story telling with perhaps news reports and photos, our single story perspective which once was compelling now seems flat. For the reality lies more in the hologram of 3D compilation of all the stories, news items, photos, personal reflections.
But there is the single story. You have a story. It is valid and true.
You deserve to be heard and believed all the way through the telling and beyond.
As a professional listener (best job in the world, I must say), I am only interested in hearing your single story……
…YOU are ready to explore the complexities of human interactions that might be at play. That may mean that you tell me your single story again and again and again, until your own trauma or celebration gives way to the larger story, and your soul understands it is now time to widen the view, the scope, the reflection in order to move forward, to heal, to grow.
I believe that this is in part what Jesus, that masterful man of heaven on earth, meant when we are told to love our enemies, to forgive 70×7, to pray for those who persecute us. No one can do this with authentic realness immediately. Not until they are ready to let their single story enter the larger story. If we push too soon, we do more damage to ourselves. If we never do it, we do damage to ourselves. If we hold tight fistedly to a belief that I have the only real story, we do damage to the cosmic interweaving of all of creation.
But if we allow our single story of success, failure, joy, sorrow, trauma, damage, violence to be told and it is heard (this is perhaps the most important coupling of actions), we are then able to move into that place of deliberate maturity that owns our own viewpoint and experience while understanding there is a larger one that impacts our own. It might even change it.
Our success, may ultimately be on the bent backs of another. Our experienced violence may be the newest link in a generational chain of violence. Our loving relationship may be sweeter because of previous soured stories. Our failure may stem from choices we have made and have unwilling to admit.
Back to being a double Libra.
I automatically hear the space of the other stories when I am listening. I may not know those details, but I hear that space. I feel that space. I know that space of the complex hologram of 3D layers of something bigger. I won’t press you into that space, however. It will unfold when you are ready to move into it. And that will be a good day.
Find someone to tell your story to: a couple of friends huddled at a hightop at the local cafe, a bible study group, a support group. Make sure there is at least one person who gets that your single story is valid and true. Get it, yourself, that others may move quickly into the wider, larger story of opposite possibilities and explanations because they are uncomfortable with what you’ve just said. Let them know that you may one day get there, but for now, your single story is sacred. (an argument for choosing friends wisely).
O Story Receiver
O Cupped Hands to Land In
Live our lives alongside of us
in the particular and holy
in the achingly personal
in the Oneing that you already know
but we are not quite ready to embrace.
Hear our prayers
Hear our cries
Feel our tears
Feel our ripped souls.
For that is all that is needed today.
Tomorrow will take care of itself.
(thank you for the larger story, even when I cannot step into it just yet).
In the name of the Now and the Not Yet. Amen.
To your story,
images used from google are licensed for reuse.