If you’re not telling your story then who is?

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It came to me in a dream one morning. I woke up thinking one word. I thought:

Visibility.

I started to think about visible versus hidden and I knew that it was very important. I woke up thinking that it was THE answer. I didn’t really know why, I just knew.

Why then? Why is visibility the key?

Visible – because when our wounds are hidden, they can be used against us, in obvious or more subtle ways. If we are ashamed about it, we can have an ‘Achilles heel’ way of thinking about it. Of course we should go underground when our wounds are fresh. Tend to them. Go slow. Be gentle. Lick them, or get cared for by our tribe. At these times, surround yourself with care and those who care.  When our wounds are healed, we may have a scar for the rest of our lives that we have to be careful with, for that new protective layer of skin will always have more sensitivity than other parts of our skin. Then we go back out into the world. Our scars are not a sign of weakness or something to be ashamed of. They are battle scars. Scars that show we struggled and were knocked off our feet… for a while… They show that we are still here, still thriving, and after all that too.  Survival is no shameful thing but a badge of honour. Wear it. Not to thrust in everyone’s face – like a flag to wave at them – but a badge. Maybe a brooch you wear on your outside clothes, holding the corners of your cape together in a certain way. It is part of us and we have only pride that we are here and still fighting.

Visible – because there are mechanisms that are like machines in our society. We have lost our way. We are no longer part of an ecosystem. Like a living, breathing tree, interdependent on the other beings around us. The trees surrounding, whose roots we choose to grow away from, or towards. With whom we build a strong, interconnecting soil. And, in this and with this, we all stand strong. We have built our brave new world like a machine. Inter-connecting parts but with no flow; hard edges, disparate, separate. Made not growing. Some parts of the machine are more important than others. Ironically, their spacious avenues are usually tree-lined, their large gardens filled with trees. Many would prefer that we never raise our voices. Be hidden. We are not meant to be visible.

Visible – because we gain strength from knowing others’ stories. It gives us insight into who they are. It gives us a means of communication. It gives us feelings of sadness that are shared. It gives us HOPE. Hopefulness. It gives us solidarity. It makes us feel less alone. It makes us know that we can be understood, that others can “see” us as we really are and that they have an idea of what we have been or are going through or what we stand for. It makes us feel heard, that someone is listening to us, and they believe us. That they believe IN us. It makes us feel known. It makes our story have edges, feel its way out into the world. Instead of being one patch in a quilt we are a whole quilt of patches. It has strength. It has presence. It has power. It makes our experience more than just ours. In that space, we are no longer isolated. “It was just me”… “It was my fault”… “Why me?” … “why could I not deal with it?”… if it happened and happens to others and I look at them and think that they are all right, then there’s more chance that I am all right. I am ok, bad things are not my fault/destiny/fate/ upbringing…

Visible – because if our wounds were visible, we’d all feel a lot less alone. If we could stop trying to be perfect, we would find allies all over the place. If we could admit more readily, without shame, we would find ourselves in very good company. If we stopped pretending that to have nothing wrong with us. We wouldn’t constantly feel bad because we will always fail the impossible standards. We could all exhale. Stop holding our stomachs in to try to look good and know that we would look good if we let go too… We would look good anyway because we wouldn’t care about the “appearance” of looking good. We could just be ourselves. The relief – the breath out – would be palpable. We could relax and realise that we’re all normal (with the bumps and scrapes that life has left us with and that we all have them).

Visible – because our airbrushed, stick-thin, silent, starving selves deserve more. They deserve better. So hooray for the spots, the greasy hair, for big thighs, rounded stomachs, hairy faces. We are all animals, human animals. Celebrate this. What made us think we have pretensions to anything more?

Visible – because, although we can find and share our links and our similarities, we are also not all the same. There is only boredom if we all sing the same song over and over. So let’s make our differences very visible. Let’s celebrate all our colourful diversity – our loudness, our joy at different “things” in the world, our singledom, our  skin colours. The world would be so much richer and beautiful if we could all make the variety visible and valid.

Stories are like the amazing mycorrhizal fungi that link being to being under the soil: tree roots; plants; the decomposing matter that makes up the soil… everything linked. And in being linked we are stronger. Take away too many trees on a hillside and you’ll see a landside before long. Root out all the vegetation and your housing estate will become a floodplain in no time.  As the structures that give it balance no longer exist and the land cannot hold itself out of that place of loss.

Let’s make our stories visible.

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the importance of the grandiose can’t be overestimated…!

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i have lost a lot of things in my time… i have also given away a lot of things… some of these have been offerings to other beings or the spirits of a given place…

in getting to know another being there is etiquette – we may not always know exactly what it is, and we may not always listen (or be able to listen) to the response – but it is always there… so it is in our dealings with other people, you wouldn’t run up to a random stranger in the airport and then hug them for 5 minutes or kiss them all over their face in an attempt to get to know them… most people would run screaming onto the next flight, whether it was theirs or not…

so it should be in our dealings with other animals – i have cringed over a whole group of us tourist humans jumping over the side of a badly driven too-close boat and people virtually harassing a whale shark, which – thank the gods – swam away… i have also been lucky to be able to befriend a lone dolphin, which took a serious amount of looking up things that dolphins might be interested in and offering them: rattling the chain on an anchor; singing high pitched “songs” (ok, just wailing really!) or offering a piece of seaweed… whilst keeping my distance and not making any attempts to approach or make physical contact… there are unspoken rules of engagement, you have to let the dolphin make contact with you first, lunging and grabbing is just plain rude and just means that they avoid you, at that moment and longer term…

so it should be in our offerings to places or deity too. we are attempting to create relationship, and, in this too, there are unspoken rules and a kind of etiquette… what we offer is important to the offerer. i have learnt that you don’t need to pile on the physical gifts – at first i was always trying to do this, keen to “give” as much as i could… but most times, i think the offerees were not that impressed, this just added clutter in an already over-cluttered world… just as you can pile on huge amounts of presents on someone, but these will not have the heartfelt meaning of a letter, handwritten in green ink, detailing your innermost feelings for them… i was lucky, i think they tolerated me and they have taught me to do the equivalent of writing to them in green ink…

and this is where the grandoise comes in… you wouldn’t give a gift to someone without making a ceremony of it, you’d put the card in an envelope, you’d make tea and toast for them in bed, flumpf the pillows a bit, wrap up the carefully chosen gift in glittering paper with a silver bow… you wouldn’t just throw it at them and grunt “there you are” and expect any kind of warm reception for your troubles… i have done the offering equivalent of this and felt so empty afterwards… the offer has to be accompanied by the ritual, however you design it, and this may change over time, as indeed any kind of ongoing relationship between two humans does, the first offering may look very different to something else further down the line…

grandoise language is also much appreciated too… a poetic spin on words, a plea to the winds, a song or a poem on the tongue – i will never forget the first time i heard song offered, in a kauri tree forest in new zealand, an old maori song sung deeply and beautifully to the largest tree, tane mahuta, in the early dusk, the shivers down my back stayed for days… if you want to woo someone, you need to attract them, you need to let them know how you feel, how attractive you find them, how they make you feel… if you fall in love, you tell them – you find new ways to say just how much you love them all the time… but you’ve got to mean it, words without feeling it are empty promises and will get you nowhere – the wind will scorn your lame efforts and whip the words away from your breath, they will sound hollow and cracked…

as we try to craft our relationships with those around us, like animals (other than humans) or trees or certain places, or even those far away, like the moon, we can learn – if we’re lucky and listen and resolve to refine our practice each time… how best we progress in this relationship and we receive as we give…