Re-Storying

Thank God for “Wisdom Ways,” a ministry of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet.  Last evening I joined thirty others for a three-part program, “Storying & Re-Storying After Personal and Family Changes.” That’s a fancy title for a writing course that meets for two hours over three Tuesdays.  We Minnesotans need something to gather us out of our houses on sub-zero evenings in February – mental juices freeze up too!

The theme for Session #1 was “There & Then and Here & Now.”  Ted Bowman, of U of M fame, did a masterful job of stimulating our creative juices.  I was especially drawn to his invitation to take something we experienced when we were younger and compare it with the meaning, understanding and significance that storyline has for us today.  It could be anything… birth, death, dance, sport, flipping pancakes or looking both ways at an intersection.

We were given ten minutes to write.  My thoughts were scattered and my plan was to exercise the other option, not to write anything.  At the last moment I chose to simply begin and let anything flow in a “stream of consciousness” style.  Here is what poured forth:

I’m absent from the family reunion
half a continent away
insulated, smug, oblivious
distant, unknown, missed.
I was what I wanted
being superior, arrogant, important.
Others admired my way with people…
Knowing their names, birthdays, spouses.
I was close to God.

You are absent now at the reunion
I cannot attend
tranquil, intimate, consoled
complete, resolved, finished.
I did not want you to go
too soon, so final, unexcused.
You broke ahead as people must…
names fade, death holds, love endures.
I miss your reunion with God.

I share this, not because it is any literary masterpiece, but to encourage you to reflect upon your stories.  What surprises, delights, consolations might they hold “then & there and here & now”?

You will certainly see in my poem the lingering grief that comes with loss of family – five of my nine siblings have died.  But there is also a kind of loss and necessary grief that comes with self-initiated change like moving from a career of many years to “taking early Social Security.”  There is a two-sides-to-every-coin or Both/And-ness in the later years of living.  Contentment, peace, happiness come from embracing that reality.

In that light, three quotes shared by Ted Bowman were especially poignant:

“If something is unmentionable it is unmanageable.”  — Folk Wisdom 

“Healing requires the reconstruction of meaning; the unspeakable must be spoken and heard.”   — Judith Herman 

“Not everything that is faced can be changed but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” – James Baldwin 

Give it some thought.  Put pen to paper. Please excuse the awful pun, but “re-storying” is at the core of “restoring” our lives.

Finally, I leave you with my attempt last evening at a Haiku:

Show up
Pay attention
Let go.

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