I’m telling that old story again. I hear myself dragging it out to tell, that raggedy story of scarcity and separation. How attached I seem to be to this victim version of my life events. And when I finish the telling, with its drama and powerful contrasts, all I feel is— small. And bored with the tired old tale!
This time my scarcity story was about the three boys versus the six girls in my family, how disenfranchised and undervalued we were as girls, not allowed into the family business, rejected even as stockholders by the brothers, just as the father had done to his own sister. And what a terrible difference, right along the gender line, this made for financial security among the siblings later on. For example, my little sis died of cancer after the stress of her husband’s medical bills, their bankruptcy, and her working as a salesclerk at Target for minimum wage, in the same little town where the baby bro was the big cheese of a successful company.
I notice that in this current telling, I brought in my little sister, morphing it into a story of injustice. And don’t I sound more noble in the telling, hiding the poor me aspect through my focus on her? Yet underneath, my framing of the events is poor us, the same victim stance story. The brother, by the way, was as helpful as he could be to my younger sister when she got sick, but since that fact didn’t enhance the injustice theme, it got left out of my telling.
This is the last time I’m going to frame the story of my childhood in that way. Today I shake the story content of my life in a mythical magic jar. I shake it up so vigorously that when the kaleidoscopic pieces settle at the bottom, the pattern of my life appears quite different. So I begin to tell it differently. And the more I tell it differently, the more my experience of the past seems to change. Here’s how this part of my story goes now.
I am from a family of abundance and belonging. There was always enough money, food, clothing, culture, and education. My mother, due in part to the excessive attention paid to her as an only child, allowed us kids to raise ourselves. I belonged to a sibling group of nine, easily recognized on the streets of the small town by family resemblance. I was tucked in the middle of the nine, nestled securely into belonging. The six girls, as they became women, had an extra freedom; whereas the boys were burdened with a heavy expectation that they would remain in the family business, the girls were blessed to be able to leave and make our lives anywhere.
I apply this conceptual reframing process to each of my life stories. My old story of being disenfranchised as a girl in the family business, voilá, becomes one of gratitude for freedom from rigid expectations, gratitude for an open path. My old story of being unwanted by my mother turns, ah, into a deeper understanding of her capacity and choices as well as a story of gratitude for experiencing so very little supervisory control.
Another tired old tale I have reframed is the one once called Failure in Love. Here’s how I tell it now. I came to earth this time to explore love. So, I had many Loves. I have been truly rich in experiencing the wonder and the intimacy of longterm love, already eight times in my life. I came to earth this time to explore love. So, I became the mother of an amazing Boy of Stars who forever changed me, and opened me so very wide. I came to explore love, so for fifty years I have been privileged to make love to roomfuls of audiences all at once by sharing the music of my poetry.
My stories used to star me as a victim. Now I decide to retell them with me as the agent, the one who engineers the events. The family habit of drama and tall tale exaggeration is no longer required. My stories are full of excitement and enthusiasm without embellished contrasts. I am thrilled to ditch scarcity and separation, thrilled to embrace abundance and belonging, as my life story themes.
I send this reframing of my story into the time-stream. I send it into time both backwards and forwards. In this way, I change my very experience. Now my story can grow into a broader belonging than I ever conceived possible. My new stories create for myself a new past. Today I tell the story of a little girl finding out that she was never lost after all. The story of a woman who found out, as her life unfolded, that her story is her treasure, and more importantly, that the fashion in which she tells it, is what directs her future story path!
All of us are part of a universal story, a Big Belonging. Thich Nhat Hanh calls it Interbeing. The Lakota phrase is Mitákuye Oyásin: “I am related to all things, and all things are related to me; or simply, all my relations.” I no longer separate myself by means of a victim stance from this Big Belonging. I cast my personal story in the new framework theme of abundance and belonging. This catapults me into discovering, ah, that the Big Belonging of our Oneness was true for me all along.