I have been telling stories lately, the stories that add, thread by thread, to the complex weaving that comprises the fabric of my thus-far life experiences and that shape who I am. Layer by layer these stories build upon each other, some painful, some humorous, some poignant. If I could find one concise word that sums up the me-ness of who I am I would use that to say, “This is me. Here I am. Love me,” but we humans communicate in stories.
We all carry stories.
While telling mine, I often become lost in the emotions contained within them. I fall down deep dark holes leading far underneath the surface of the telling and begin gasping for air, my lungs filling with choking earth and the dust of old wounds. That’s when I stray from compassion. In the telling, the wounds reopen and I am left with gaping, bleeding holes. I fill the holes with unshed tears but they just become larger. Deeper. Darker. The wounds become about the pain inflicted. I forget why I fell down the hole. I forget why I bleed. I only remember the pain of the wounds. The telling becomes about the old stories, and the telling makes the wounds more real. I forget that there are two sides. Others involved. Stories that aren’t mine to tell. I forget to tell my stories with compassion.
Afterward I retell the stories within me, replaying for my own ears the tapes of the telling, and remember. No longer lost in the deep holes of emotion, I see what I have done. I see my errors. And I feel shame. I am ashamed that I fail to remain mindful and aware. I am ashamed of who I seem to become in the retelling. I am ashamed of my mistakes. I am ashamed that I can’t seem to let go of some of the wounds I carry. I am ashamed of my imperfection. Ashamed, perhaps, of my humanity.
My friend Rebecca is a storyteller. Tonight she told a story for my community, and she began by talking about kapwa, Self in Other. She said that when you see the dark, twisted things in others, it’s because you have those things within you as well. I shudder sometimes to think of this when I become lost in my telling. It’s too easy to paint myself as the light and others as the dark when I am mired in my emotional cave. Only when I resurface again do I see my error and feel the shame cover me, the shame of my pointed finger, righteous brow, and victim’s cloak. I see the beautiful, light-filled compassionate people around me and feel pain in my inadequacy and my inability to remain mindful and balanced when telling my stories. I resolve to become more like those I admire. I resolve to always see the beauty in others. I resolve to walk always in light.
Rebecca said more, though. She said that when you see good things in others, it’s because you have those qualities in yourself. I heard that and knew the truth of it already because it’s what I teach others every day, but I wept. When feeling shame for my imbalance and lack of compassion, my eyes are covered and I can’t see the light within. I see only what looks like my dark shriveled heart. I see my wounds. I feel them begin to bleed again. I feel the pain of remembering.
It is easier to have compassion for others than for oneself.
In September I walked through a doorway of my creation. I wanted to see what would happen to my Now if I changed my Then. The door opened to a new world, one just as bright and beautiful as I knew it would be, but sometimes I forget to leave behind the parts of the old world that follow me when I crack the door open again through telling stories of the Then. I haven’t yet found the key to telling the stories from my new place of Now.
Perhaps, then, there can be a new doorway, one that stands in the light of compassion but contains all that the darkness holds. Tomorrow night’s Solstice Full Moon Eclipse feels like a time of many doorways, and I will be stepping through some of my creation to my What Comes Next.