your ordinary life is a fairy tale
and that means it's the best kind of real.
Theodora Goss is a writer of beautiful poems and tales. Her website is a treasure trove of writerly advice, exploration of fairy tale themes, and generally exquisite loveliness.
Today, I want to share with you her amazing series on The Heroine's Journey. Students of literature, psychology, and folklore are all familiar with Joseph Campbell's description of the Hero's Journey, and you can learn more about that here. The heroine's journey looks a little different. I am delighted and honored to link you to this fantastic post.
Click here to read installment one, The Heroine's Journey.
No brave souls have commented on my last post. That's totally okay. It takes a huge amount of courage -- not to mention uninterrupted time with a computer/device -- to type your answers out and send them into the world. It's scary to tell our stories to strangers, but sometimes more scary to tell our stories to our loved ones.
The scene that stood out most to me, was when Tokoyo took the girl's white robe and put it on herself, ready to sacrifice herself to the monster. All along, I think she knew that she did not mean to go down without a fight.
I am still working on finding the connection to my own story with this. As I consider this scene, I look for the themes, the archetypes, and the feeling of the setting. Where have I felt lost in my search? Where have I made what looked like the most wrong move ever? Where have I stepped up to take on pain that isn't mine, hoping that by doing it I can bring about deep change? Who is the priest? The maiden?
And maybe, I am the priest, witnessing the scene. And perhaps, I am the maiden, resigned to my fate, but still somehow hoping for deus ex machina.
When we share our biographies, the stories of our lives so far, we offer an opportunity for connection. We may stumble and stammer out a story of such pain, such humiliation or shame, that we think the listener will hate us forever, but then comes a moment of grace. That moment, that "Oh, oh!!! ME TOO!" moment, the momen,t when someone else steps into the story with us, and says, yes. This is being human. And I, too, have stood on the cliff, hoping someone else will take the fall. That connection can save us from the pain of being stuck in a moment of the story that felt like the end.
Shifting our point of view in the story, saying, "perhaps, I am actually not the heroine here, but I might be that deer running by. I might be the sea monster. In this moment, I am the emperor," allows us to shift from our role as victim or savior or perpetrator, into a new way of being.
The goal of all this work, is to find ourselves. We are in the story. The story, our biography, is not us. The story is how we are becoming ourselves. And we are not at the end yet. The story is always beginning, always ending. We are able to say, at any moment, "What if instead of seeing myself as fighting the sea monster now, if I can see myself setting off to rescue my father? What if, right now, I am really the emperor, granting pardon?"
Let's see what shifts.
Click here to listen to the story Tokoyo. This will work best on a desktop or laptop computer, unless you have the Dropbox app on your mobile device. As you listen, consider this question: Where are you in the story?
Afterwards, come back here and comment with your answers to these three questions:
1. What scene stands out most vividly to you from this story?
2. Where in your life has a scene like this played out? What was happening -- describe the moment, with sounds, sights, smells, tastes... Who was there? How did you feel?
3. Where are you in this story, Tokoyo, today?
I can't wait to hear from you!
Beautiful readers, I want to talk to you. I want to tell you about what it is I'm offering, for you. Maybe we can find a way to do it together? Let's do it here! On the blog! It will be a series, but you will have to participate for it to work... I want to share this story/reading work with you, because it is so powerful, and so deep. I've gotten such pointed, poignant feedback from those with whom I've done this work. It really can shift things.
SO, here's what we'll do! Next week on Monday, I'll post a link to an audio file. The audio will be of me reading or telling a story. I will also post three questions. Comment with your answers, if you dare. I want this to be an open, community discussion. Then, the next day, I'll post some questions for further deepening. Be ready to journal, paint, dance, discuss -- however you process.
sometimes, I wonder if it's just me. I assume it is; maybe that's my only child individualism talking -- I assume everyone else is doing just fine, and I need to suck it up and get on with working, cleaning, writing, caring ...
Like the way I assumed that my sudden panics, the way my chest would constrict and I would dissolve into desperate, sobbing tears throughout my adolescence and early adulthood, was just me being overly dramatic and self-absorbed. And then I found out I had a heart murmur that was causing my sympathetic nervous system to flip out and go into panic mode. I'm okay; it's a pretty low-grade valve issue, one that runs in the family, one that doesn't threaten my life, just my feeling of being able to cope.
Or else, I assume that everyone feels like I do, and I need to stop making the choices that lead to pain -- it's a sign of immaturity and weakness! Like the way I just assume that I'm over-indulging, that people just can't eat salad and something greasy and alcohol at the same meal -- that no one can, and that I'm to blame for the gripping pain and nausea and illness.
Like the way I assume everyone has stomach pain after eating, or some other pain, and I'm just whining. Everyone is tired and emotional. They just deal with it better than I do.
But I'm actually ill. I'm severely anemic. My body is harboring bacteria that are making my stomach hurt, and perhaps even bleed internally. I may have had these little invaders living and thriving in my belly for years. They have been linked to ulcers, gastritis, tension headaches, anemia, anxiety, depression. And if we can get rid of them, and support my system's return to health, maybe the symptoms will go away.
Having answers, like h. pylori and a hemoglobin level of 8.0 and dropping, helps a little. It also raises more questions -- is this to blame for everything? How long has this been going on? Who else is suffering with this? How much slack should I be cutting myself, and how much do I need to just get on with it?
The other question that came to me last night was, "What story do I need to hear to find my way out of this? Where am I right now in the story? What do I need?" When I found these questions in the parking lot of the grocery store, as I loaded my low-fiber foods into the car and shivered a little in the crisp October air, the light seemed to shift a little. Not a lot-- I haven't found the right story yet, and these questions don't have answers yet -- but a little. These are the questions that can lead to healing, when we identify our story, and can begin to find our way through.
Sara is a storyteller, writer, artist, teacher, wife, mother, and singer living in Minnesota. I write about storytelling, and about living a life with stories.