Let’s start with one of mine. I was born with a fairly good-sized mole on my face, specifically on my left nostril. That mole has always made me different. It’s unique to me and now I wouldn’t change it for anything. I can’t imagine my face without it, but when I was a kid I definitely wished it would disappear. I wanted to be like everyone else and I endured a lot of ridicule for it. Kids were not kind about it, and I already had enough things that made me different. A name no one could pronounce, a family that spoke a weird language, ate strange smelling food with their hands, dressed in funny clothes (this was before everything Indian became so cool and trendy), and of course just being a brown skinned girl. I didn’t also need this unsightly growth on my face. I heard all kinds of things about it with the most popular being, “eew! You have a booger on your nose!” I’m pretty sure most days didn’t go by without hearing something about it as a kid at school.
I never did anything about it or said anything to any of those kids that teased me. I just internalized it and let it sit heavy on my heart as some kind of defect I was born with. By the time I got to 7th grade I had taken just about all that I could about it. So one day when a kid in my sewing class (yes I took sewing back when they actually had those classes in school) teased me about it, it was the straw that broke the camel’s back for me. In that moment, I don’t know what happened but that kid got everything I never said to every other kid that teased me. I don’t remember what she said and I don’t really remember what I said. What I do remember is how I felt like I had finally let the lid off the pressure cooker. I felt a little freer and walked a little taller after that. It was my first moment of empowerment. My first real act of standing up for myself, of honoring myself and loving myself. I’m really just realizing that now as I’m writing this.
That realization helps me reinterpret this experience of being teased and of forever having something about me that makes me different. Telling the story allows me to transform it and give it meaning. It could just be a memory about me being teased for something I couldn’t change, or I can see it as part of the larger journey my soul wants to evolve through in this life. I can look back and see that I finally rose to the occasion and gave myself my first experience of feeling my own power. It’s a theme and a pattern that has been presenting itself all through my life, giving me so much opportunity to practice boundaries and self-empowerment. Opportunities to say no to what doesn’t feel good in my heart, opportunities to not let anyone else decide what my experience will be in this life, and opportunities to step into my power have been the overarching theme of my life. It’s an inside out development that’s been going on since my early years. Telling my story helps me to see the past differently, from a more liberating perspective. It gives me the chance now to discover nuances and connections that I hadn’t noticed before. It helps me heal.
As Richard Stone says in his book The Healing Art of Storytelling:
“As an interpretation, the past can be reinterpreted at any moment. If there is such a thing as freedom, this may be it. No longer must we be a victim of the stories we tell about our past, forever suffering the emotional and physical pain associated with disturbing childhood events. We can become both a character in our play as well as its author.”
This is why we need to work with our stories, write them, and share them. So that we can learn from them, see the past differently, receive what they have to give, and in the process heal ourselves. But we don’t only heal ourselves, we have the opportunity to participate in the healing of others. When we share our stories with others, we share our humanity and we see our mutual pain. We commune and the act of communing changes our experience of our present world.
So, let's come together and bring back the lost art of storytelling in our communities. It’s an act of inner revolution we can make against so much in our society that would have us live in our differences and our separation.
“Each of us is a constantly unfolding narrative, a hero in a novel no one else can write. And yet so many of us leave our stories untold, our songs unsung—and when this happens, we wind up feeling lonely, listless, out of touch with our life’s purpose, plagued with a chronic sense that something is out of alignment.” – Lissa Rankin