I hope that you will go out and let stories happen to you, and that you will work them, water them with your blood and tears and your laughter till they bloom, till you yourself burst into bloom.
Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Women Who Run With the Wolves
I suffer from multiple interest syndrome. I not only want to write, I want to see the writing in a three dimensional form. I like acting, and after directing Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues, I discovered that I love directing.
The common denominator is story. A writer writes the story; the actor tells it through acting. What I decided my role as director was to set the stage so the story could be told and heard.
Robert McKee, who presents – well performs – a seminar called “Story” refers to story as a metaphor for life. I would agree.
When I first took this seminar in 2000, I was emerging from a period of tremendous loss – loss so great that I was in a constant state of shock, without even knowing it. These were not losses caused by the death of someone; but rather the loss of the belief that love would always win out. I had lost the family that was my stepchildren.
For anyone who has been a stepparent (perhaps, but maybe not, particularly a stepmother), you know that that relationship is a delicate one – delicate because the heart is at once delicate and durable. Parent and child need and want to be loved by each other, but that is far more complex than Mother’s Day and Father’s Day can accommodate.
To preserve everyone’s privacy, I don’t want to go into details. But what I learned about being a stepmother was that I wasn’t issued a bulletproof vest. So when the pain of confusion broke out, I got caught in the gunfire. I felt as if someone ripped my heart from out of my chest, shot it full of holes, then shoved it back into my chest.
The surprise for me was that my heart, riddled with bullet holes, kept on beating. I had survived, and had to learn to live with it.
McKee’s seminar took place over three days. As he took us deeper into story, using examples from films, I found myself drawn onto a path that awakened my numbed heart and gave me a way to experience the feelings I had put on ice. I saw the story of what happened to me; saw everyone with compassion; saw how everyone acted as if they were right, from their point of view.
Being able to see the story of what happened to me, allowed me to see the humanness of everyone involved, including me. Allowed me to see that love is not about surviving – it is about thriving.
I had been blaming myself for having gotten so involved with people; that it was my fault that I got hurt.
But, seeing the story – a story that involved a cast of characters, allowed me to see without blame or judgment. I saw it with compassion – compassion for being human.
It created a metaphor for I could feel the experience without the trauma.
As I started this post, I was thinking of writing that stories are necessary for our survival. But in truth, story is required for us to thrive. To let stories happen to us, we need to be willing to experience the gamut of emotion, from joy to grief, from elation to disappointment, from success to failure.
We need to experience our lives with the compassion for being human, water our stories with our blood and tears and laughter till they bloom, till we ourselves burst into bloom.
Note: I eventually got my family back. We all had to risk exposing the tenderness of our hearts — to trust that the heart is both delicate and durable. I have no regrets.