You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours,
and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile, the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun
and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese,
high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
Up until a couple of years ago, my life was about hiding. Sharing only the pieces of my truth that I deemed ‘appropriate’ or ‘nice.’ I was entirely risk averse- the only thing I feared more than failure was success. If an opportunity that excited me came along I could easily list the 10,000 reasons it was not a good idea, why it wouldn’t work, why it would be fabulous for someone ELSE.
Bob. Weave. DUCK.
These past few years have been a season of huge change. The biggest change, perhaps, has been taking on things I was sure I could not do. Getting divorced. Falling in love again. Moving 3000 miles. Deciding to write professionally. Deciding to stop drinking. Launching my organization, Say It, Survivor, with my cousin Mary.
Perhaps most importantly, telling my story. Maybe not my WHOLE story, but a lot more of it. The dented, tarnished, broken bits and all.
My friend Kate is a rascal. She is a smart, talented, kind, ferocious, resilient woman who I adore- but she is a total troublemaker.
A while back, she sent me the link to the Wild Goose Festival’s 2016 application page. She said the theme was “Story” and that I should apply. Given the year I’d had, it was hard to argue with the fact that the theme was on point for me. I impulsively filled out the application because I KNEW I would never be chosen and I thought it would be a good opportunity to practice pitching myself as a speaker to bigger venues.
I’d never heard of Wild Goose until Glennon spoke there a few years back. At that time, I went to the website and learned it is a four-day spirit, justice, music, and arts festival. Um, OKAY. Those are like, ALL OF MY THINGS. I was crestfallen that I could not attend that year, but it became a bucket-list item. I swore I would go someday.
As it turns out, sweet friends, this July that day will come.
I got an email saying I’d been chosen as a speaker. They’d obviously not gotten the memo that this was a fantasy-realm exercise.
I was asked if I minded being paired up with someone else to present. Then they handed me the incomparable Rachael Clinton of the Allender Center on a silver platter. Um…no. No, I do not mind. Every time Rachael and I get off the phone I resist the urge to pinch myself. This woman is wise and brilliant and funny. And the other people speaking and presenting? My Favorite has issued a moratorium on me singing, “One of these things is not like the others, one of these things just DOESN’T BELONG….” every time I scroll through the contributors list.
I still do it in my head. I do what I want.
You all know what I believe about the power of story. Story is how we make sense of the world. Communities are built on stories, for better or for worse. We live out of our stories. We wear them. Story is how we connect to one another. When someone is vulnerable enough to lay their story down in front of you and you bear witness to it, it is a sacred exchange.
“Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.”
That line from Mary Oliver’s poem- my favorite poem of all time- sums up the entire ‘He wrote it down‘ experience for me. I wrote my story down. I sent it out into the world, and one by one people began saying, “Me too.” “Here’s what happened.” “Listen to my story.”
With each comment and email I read, the vice-like grip my own story had on me loosened. With each story I read, I realized how very not alone I was. I recognized the lies in my story that I had adopted as inarguable truths and I crossed them out. I reframed my story, and I wrote a new ending. I reclaimed my story and told it on my terms. For the very first time, I owned my story, not the other way around.
That’s how it works.
The write-up of our session at Wild Goose is as follows:
Survivor Stories: Untangling the Narratives of Pain and Harm
Not one of us gets to escape suffering, so what do we do with the stories of heartache, betrayal, trauma and abuse that shape us? We are story-making creatures. When we have experiences that we struggle to understand, we fill in the murky parts. We make sense of our stories of heartache and trauma the way ancient civilizations made sense of the weather and natural disasters- with story. We may lack the whole picture, but it becomes true for us. The story we believe informs our identity, the way we move through the world, the people we bring into our lives, the power we give them, and the way we understand God and God’s story. Courageously and compassionately stepping into stories of pain and harm helps us re-narrate our stories, bringing deeper truth, healing, hope and connection with ourselves, each other and God.
If you are interested in attending, it is held in Hot Springs North Carolina from July 7th-10th. I do not yet know what day I will be presenting, but I will post it when I do. Just because I LOVE THIS COMMUNITY and because the organizers said we could, I am happy to report that I can offer you a 25% discount on tickets, simply go to this link and use the promotional code, BEMYGUEST
I don’t know, guys. This all seems a little crazy- but I’m done ducking.
It’s time to tell my story.