I sat in on a community building group at the YWCA tonight, it was led by a remarkable woman, a zen reverend. The kind of person who makes you feel like they see you with an x-ray into your heart. Like someone who took care of you as a child, who you forgot, but she did not forget you, is glad to see you again and is proud of who you have become. She asked us to describe our ’emotional weather’ and tell the stories of our name, community and gift. What made an impression on me was the way she facilitated. She did not take volunteers, no one was allowed to be a leader, and no one was allowed to observe without participating. But this is the kicker, you weren’t allowed to forgo your turn to tell your story, but if silence was all you could give, that would be respected. Hawaiians believe that silence is the voice of God, she said, also that our thoughts come from the area just below our belly buttons, where brain, heart and intuition come together. If all you had to contribute was silence, then we will accept and embrace your silence.
Also, no one interrupts without permission, not even to pat the back of a woman in tears. The story belongs to the teller. We respect the humanity of the teller of the story by simply accepting their story and whatever it evokes in them.
That made an impact on me, the story belongs to the teller.
So often in life we do not take ownership of our stories. Especially as women, we are socialized to apologize for ourselves, for the burden of our presence, for our emotions. We are blamed for others behavior toward us. As a society, on social media we make fun of others for being themselves, through whatever picture or video they get caught on. We become judgmental or envious voyeurs in the world of reality television. We gossip, we bully, we judge. We blame ourselves for the stories of others. We give up our ownership of own stories.
To respect ourselves and others for the stories we own is to affirm each individual’s humanity.
I need to own my story. I need to figure out what my story is, and learn to tell it with humanity.
What is your story?