It is warmer today, the sun bright, a good day for sunglasses. A cutting breeze continues to blow. Yesterday the wind knifed right through all my layers, neutralizing the sharp rise in ambient temperature. When I went out to refill the back feeder this morning I was comfortable; I was also slowed by the deep snow which had increased a couples of inches overnight.
I always hope this blog creates a space for conversation and community, a place where we can chat about things that matter. I am always grateful when those conversations happen.
Rereading the comments about my last post and spending time with today’s post from Blog Woman set me to thinking about the joys and challenges of writing about difficult subjects online, especially when one’s role in the community is as a healer or therapist. I believe the difficulty is not so much the painful subjects touched upon as it is the relationship between challenging topics and society’s roles and expectations.
I find writing about the trials and joys of life to be a lot like writing about the weather. After all, are not illness and abuse, love and joy, and even acts of genocide or redemption, the weathers we humans experience? Aren’t we each living in a sort of micro-climate, our lives unfurling in close proximity to one another yet often subject to differing conditions and weathers?
Still, writing and speaking about painful, or even joyful, experiences may be fraught with complexity. If we are silent about the experiences, good and bad, that form us, we find ourselves alone. If we hold the role of healer, we want those who ask for aid to know we have experienced hardship so they know they are not alone. Yet, if we say too much, if we make our suffering or joy somehow unique, we may inadvertently invite those who seek our care to focus on caring for us, or intensify their self loathing. We also risk invoking voices in the other, and in the culture at large, that invalidate us as “broken,” and thereby undermine our ability to be of use.
Of course these dismissive voices, so present in our culture at the moment, are also understandable defenses against the awareness that whatever human inflicted trauma befalls any one of us is both normative and outside of the norm. I believe it is important for each of us to speak (and write) if only to challenge the authority of those voices, inner and outer, that insist that horrific experiences are somehow both dehumanizing and the fault of the person, rather than acknowledging them as both fully human experiences and failures of families, communities, and societies to protect.
I am reminded each time I listen to stories of harm and resilience that we are only truly human when we can honor both. I find each time I hold space for ceremony, and therapy and healings are also ceremonies, that we humans are accompanied by Ancestors and spirits, many of whom have also faced ordeals, and who, marshaling their own wisdom and compassion, join with us as supports and witnesses. It seems to me that psychotherapy, healings, and ceremony are, in part, paths that allow us to turn the unspeakable into story, to return from exile to the human community, and to find ourselves in relationship to a lineage of others. No wonder we crave ceremony and story, even as we may fear hem!
9 thoughts on “A Place for Stories”
You are right Michael, it is challenging to wish to care for others in kind ways and then for them to believe, that we view this in positive ways without opening for our own journey at all. How much to share and/or not.
Our life and lives from our ancestors all have had or still have challenges. When we try to view the bigger picture, all belong together and we, as humans, are much alike.
I prefer to read about real people and not so much about fiction, why I also appreciate to visit your blog, where I often find interesting topics.
I like your comparison of our joys and sorrows to the ups and downs of weather. Stories remain one of our most intimate and raw ways to connect with one another, which makes it such an integral part of any healing process.
I wonder whether we will once again begin to weave the weather into our stories as climate change makes both weather and societies increasingly chaotic.
Thank you for all your words Michael. My sense of you is mostly your openness to all creatures. As a healer you walk a fine line……still you bring love to those who come to you and healing.
You help me to step back and examine my own role as a writer and as a person, and recognize the important responsibility we have, as writers, to be authentic and thoughtful. Thank you.
Reading Sherman Alexie’s new memoir has reminded me of this. I am also reminded that authenticity is very often confusing and messy.
Beautiful statements, Michael. Thank you for these too.
Ha! I said this same thing to one of my boys yesterday.
He was commenting on the weather. Long hot 40+ degree (Celsius) days for weeks on end. Yesterday we got the promise of a storm. All fuss and bluster with no real outcome. Except a blackout. He said, what use was that storm, it made no difference, no cooling, no breeze, just more hot still air, and no power.
I replied, that it seems that weather is a good metaphor for life.
He sighed and walked away in contemplation. Politics and social justice are his favourite subjects. He gets it.
Holding space for harm and resilience sounds like a good way to go. It is respectful, not dismissive or overly optimistic but hopeful. Strength and struggle, the human condition.
There are so many demands to collapse space, to require ever smaller definitions of the human, to insist on “the overly optimistic. Resisting them is sometimes exhausting, eh? But so very rewarding!