Powerful Stories of Courage and Hope
December 19, 2011
One day, out of the blue, I received a phone call from an old classmate named Randy whom I had not spoken to since second grade. We got to catching up, and Randy told me this story:
“I sat behind you for all of second grade. And one day you drew this picture of a boy and a girl holding hands. Under the boy’s picture you wrote ‘Randy’ and under the girl’s picture you wrote, ‘Mary Anne.’ I remember that you turned around to show me your picture and you had such a happy, bright face. I’m embarrassed to admit that I proceeded to slaughter you. In my defense I was only a boy of, what, eight? Well, even that is not a very good defense, and I am really sorry I did that to you. But anyway, truth be told, I made fun of you. I told you your drawing was stupid. I teased you mercilessly at recess. You never said a word. But your face I will never forget as long as I live.
“When we came back from recess, you went to your desk, picked up the picture you had drawn of us. With your eyes locked on mine and with the saddest face I have ever seen in my life, you crumpled your drawing of us up into a tight little ball. Then you turned away from me, walked over to the other side of the room, and threw the ball of paperreally hard right into the trash can.
“Then you burst into tears. You walked back to your desk and refused to ever turn around to talk to me for the rest of the year. I have never forgotten it all these thirty-seven years. I was so stupid. I am so sorry.”
I had no recollection whatsoever of this event.
After telling Randy he didn’t need to worry about this incident from our past anymore, I hung up the phone. I began thinking about what a tremendous gift this story from second grade was. Randy showed me a glimpse of myself as a very young girl, a girl who was full of resilience and strength. The more I thought about it, I felt this younger me was a me I could really admire and be proud of.
This story showed me that, at one time in my life, I had such a sense of self-worth that I would not allow another person to treat me unkindly or unfairly. That drawing, which began as my way of reaching out to share and connect with a cute boy in my class, ended up crumpled in the wastebasket as my clear message of separation from harm. My anger at his ridicule had motivated me to make this strong choice to destroy my own art.
However, even if the action was strong, the story clearly shows that my bursting into tears was a vulnerable and healthy kind of rage. My therapist told me that as long as children are not desensitized to their own feelings by abuse, they instinctively take very strong and quick actions to defend and protect themselves.
After hanging up with Randy, I sat and wondered where that part of me had gone.
In my memory as an adult, so many of my stories were about the times when I allowed other people to override my own instincts or intuition, to “walk all over me.” It seemed that mostly I could remember only the times I had been silent or not fought back when I should have. I had learned very well how to swallow my rage, my pride, my opinions and my strength. It’s no wonder I had become so angry.
With the help of very good therapists and loving friends, I have worked myself through much of my self-destructive behavior. It has been a process of learning to love who I really am, stripping away the layers upon layers of untruths that others have told me, negative things that I had believed about myself for decades as if they were facts.
I am not a “bad and ungrateful child.” I am not “stupid.” I am not “crazy.” And I sure as heck don’t have “thunder thighs!”
Today, the story of myself as a young girl, full of love, openness, and righteous indignation feels so much more familiar to me. She is more “me” than the angry, uncertain person I had allowed myself to become. After years of sorting through my life, I have finally come full circle to who I really am: the resilient, fiery, spirited, and also thoughtful girl who I was to begin with.
Resilience is not just the ability to bounce back from anything. Resilience is, in any circumstance, the ability to be vulnerable enough to feel in the first place. It is the ability to recognize that your safety and well-being come first. And if you ever feel something is not right, or uncomfortable or dangerous, then being resilient means that you have the courage and strength to immediately remove yourself from that situation, person, or location.
There are no exceptions to this rule.
None of us ever have to take care of others at our own expense. Resilience is the ability to take action on one’s own behalf, even if it is hard, makes waves or is out of sync with another person. Resilience is a deep awareness of what we each need to do for ourselves to protect ourselves.
I know now that sassy, strong, tender me was never really gone. She just became a little lost.
After all these years, I have made the journey home back to myself, like following the bread crumbs back to the cottage after spending so much of my life being lost in the woods. To get back to our true wholeness, we need both our vulnerability and our resilience in equal measure. This is a journey that we all must undertake eventually, even if we wait until the moment of death. It’s never too late. But, why wait?
From Me To You…
What part of the resilient, strong, and amazing you have you lost touch with?
The above blog is an excerpt from my new book out on Amazon called “Words to Thrive By: Powerful Stories of Courage and Hope.”
Here is the link to buy the book:
December 8, 2011
Earlier this year I participated in the traditional Japanese New Year’s rice ceremony called Mochitsuki, at beautiful IslandWood, an unusual 255-acre outdoor learning center on Bainbridge Island, Washington. Island-Wood was originally designed to provide exceptional learning experiences. I certainly had an exceptional learning experience that day. I discovered that the Mochitsuki ceremony is the perfect metaphor for my life.
In the Mochitsuki ceremony, glutinous rice is soaked overnight and then cooked.
The hot, cooked rice is then pounded hard over and over and over with large
wooden mallets called kine in a traditional mortar called an usu. Eventually, the
individual grains of rice have been pounded so much that they let go of their
separateness and change into a smooth, sticky, opaque paste of rice dough. This
soft, opaque white dough is twisted off and smoothed into balls called mochi.This mochi is then eaten with salty shoyu sauce, dropped into hot vegetable soup, orused to cover red bean paste, or ice cream and many other dishes.
Like the countless grains of rice in any batch of mochi in the Mochitsuki ceremony, all of us have had countless experiences. I have been pounded and pounded over and over again, and as a result, I am now much more smoother, more elastic, and more flexible. Just as I love each piece of mochi, different in shape or taste depending on what is around or inside it, the many experiences of my life have been tasty, some easier to get down than others, I’ll admit.
But each moment, each experience, has transformed me and helped me grow into who I am now. I have learned that the painful pounding, stretching, and shaping I have endured is as important to my life journey as my moments of deep joy, laughter, and peace. Each experience, from devastating to glorious, has had its own measure of grace. Now, I just try to be open to what is present in each moment and allow all to be well, no matter what comes.
We are, each of us, a collection of stories. In the end, the words we choose to define any moment of our lives will be the legacy we leave behind.
What are your favorite words and what do you imagine will be the legacy you will leave behind?
December 3, 2011
This is one of the most amazing speeches I have ever seen or heard. It blew me away. One young man’s courage to speak out on behalf of his mothers. Check it out!
And please let me know what you think AND if you have any problem with the link! Thanks!
December 2, 2011
I must say this is one of the most beautiful commercials I have ever seen!
What do you think?