"ignore the story. see the soul. remember to love. you will never regret it" --- Seane Corn

"ignore the story. see the soul. remember to love. you will never regret it" --- Seane Corn
it's a jungle out there

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

What's your story?

Yogini Shannon told a tale about a Frail British Woman who attended one of her yoga classes. This lady was so sure she was gonna break she wouldn't get into a down dog. She feared for her neck. She feared for her wrists. She feared for her back. Yogini Shannon asked if the Frail British Woman had any injuries to explain her fear. Nope. No injuries. She was just really scared she would... break.

Me? I would have been aggravated by the Frail British Woman. I would have smiled calmly to stop the fucking judgemental bitch in me from screaming get a grip Frail British Lady suck it up. Be strong

Yogini Shannon said she realized this woman had a story. She had an idea about herself... Maybe its based on something she was told about herself when she was young. Maybe an experience... who knows. But the story she tells herself is that she's fragile. She'll break. We all have a story. We all have ideas about ourselves. We all define ourselves in certain ways. But we can change our stories. That's what Shannon said.

It was like a gong going off in my brain. We all have a story.
And once we have a story it becomes who we are.

A few weeks back, on a Monday evening at work, I walked into an exam room to see a mom and her 11 year old twin boys. One boy has a learning disability. The other is oppositional and has anger issues and is medicated. Both boys have bad eczema and one has bad asthma. They were all dirty and smelled like an ashtray. The mom is probably in her early thirties. She sat there with her wheezing kid moaning about getting stuck down in Maryland at her sister's during Snowmageddon and not having the kid's asthma medication. And the car breaking down on the way home.
whine. And she's just so tired. moan. And you know Dr Michelle I have rheumatoid arthritis. whine. And now I'm having seizures. And the medicine for the seizures makes me feel terrible. moan. And my doctors don't know what to do. wallow.

And I stood there boiling on the inside and wanting to yell shut the fuck up! stop whining! Get a grip. Deal. Do not be a victim! You. Are. Not. a Victim.

I put a lid on it. I kept a patient voice
I think. I hid my irritation I hope and my disdain. And I sat with the discomfort I felt based on my reaction to this lady. Compassionless. Lacking compassion. Feeling impatient with this woman's inability to see herself as anything other than broken. Feeling aggravated at her inability to see herself as anything other than a victim. Feeling irritated at her inability to be anything other than overwhelmed and negative. Feeling frustrated that she could allow her shit to compromise the physical and emotional health of her children. Annoyed that she could have so little faith in her body, so little faith in herself, that all she could do was sit there and moan and whine and wallow in it.

Yup. That's how I felt. And I wanted to get the fuck out of that room because I didn't like what I was feeling. I don't like to know that I'm being judgemental. I don't like to know that I'm lacking compassion. That's not my story

So as I'm about to escape the wallowing whining, the woman sees my ganesh necklace and stops short mid moan

What is that? Do you meditate with that?


Well, I don't really meditate
liar with it. It's a Hindu god get me out of this room

Hindu... Like yoga? Do you do yoga? Have you ever meditated? Cause I just keep thinking that if I could meditate and calm my mind down my body would feel better and maybe everything wouldn't hurt so much and my seizures would stop. I just have this feeling that my body would follow my mind and I'd be so much better. Do you know where I could learn about meditation? Or yoga?

Are you fucking kidding me?

My aggravation irritation frustration came to a screeching halt. I was witnessing this lady have a glimpse of a different ending to her story. The potential for a plot twist. A way to rewrite her character.

Somehow, somewhere, she knew she had options. She knew that maybe life could be better for her. Somewhere deep in that moaning and whining there was a spark of deservedness. The desire for peace of body and peace of mind. The feeling of wanting her life to be better. The hope that it could be better. The belief that there was a way out.

An answer.

We all have a story. I have a story. My story today is very different from my story 2 years ago or 20 years ago or 40 years ago. But today's story is not any more or any less real than the story of 40 years ago. It's all about what we believe about ourselves. So when I sit in my overalls without makeup and all the lame-o therapist sees is a young black girl and she says you work at the front desk right? Even though I've told her what I do, where I went to school, what my father did. All she can see is a young black girl who works at the largest pediatric office in the state and I must be clerical cause what else could I be? And for a moment I am 9 or 12 and I'm a young black girl who, by definition, must be less than. And boy did that knock me for a loop. How quickly that feeling that I remember well but thought was long gone could come back. How quickly my story could change from being a smart compassionate badass mama to a less-than-never-good-enough little girl.

It's just a story.

We all have a story. And our stories can change. We can change our story. Our story is only what we believe about ourselves. But often the stories are dictated by others and become our narrative until we are able to see the possibility of plot change, character development. The possibility of a different ending. Or a new beginning.


  1. Ya know I love Yoko Ono, right? And she said that "Everyone has a story to tell."
    You know it, I know it. We just have to remember it sometimes. And sometimes it's a fabulous story and it kicks us in the ass and heart. And sometimes- not so fabulous. But, there is always one there. There's a woman that takes yoga where I go sometimes who cannot do savasana. She can't do it. She tries. And then she leaps up and gives an excuse and dashes from the room. I wonder what her story is. Something. Something.

  2. I needed this today, of all days-needed this post. My daughter needs to read this post, too. I have tears over this, for reasons too deep to even go into here.

  3. Much to think about. Maybe a post of my own. Thank you.

  4. Dammit woman you are so in my head. Are you sure we're not related? Or the same person perhaps?
    Can we meet for drinks and solve the world's problems? Please?

    Loved this. (duh)

  5. So very strange that I had this conversation with no less than three other people today (one of them in the comment above).
    You're awesome.

  6. I read this post a few hours ago and then had to leave and just mull it over. I wondered what my story is; I winced about the way I tell my story sometimes and then I came back and read this story again and -- well -- it's fantastic. So much to think about --

  7. so interesting.

    we know this from our thousand-and-one banked hours of self analysis, but your words have me seeing a couple fresh facets;

    ...i can write a new story, though at any time that little black girl might rear her big-tooth head, and perhaps suggest that those early chapters stay in my library, like a vestigal tale(he, he...tale, get it?!).

    ...part of my story might be that i am compassionate. believing this, i may give myself permission to behave in a less than compassionate way. what at first appears positive might prevent me from humility, from checking myself, and reaching toward that pie in the sky; as dr. ali says, in order for it to be compassion, it must be universal.

    ...i do not live in a vacuum; like water molecules that take on shape influenced by thoughts, sounds, words, i can be influenced by everything/one around me...that's got to effect my day-to-day story.

    maybe i have to wake up, look myself square in the face, and re-write my story every single day.

    good one, meesh.

  8. Wow. You've got me here with tears dripping and goosebumps. I love this post, love your writing, the way you tell your stories. This is so wise and important and amazing. Oh, and I just feel so happy that your necklace caught her eye. And...well who knows, that Ganesh is magical. You are magical. I am working so hard on changing the stories I tell myself about who I am, what I can do. It's so ingrained, and everyday I tell it, even just a little to myself, is a day I don't live the right story, the story I need to be alive. Thank you for this post. Wow.

  9. Wow. Thanks for that. You told the story the other day, but reading it and then you moving into that other space with it is beautiful. I am blessed to have so many amazing yogis and yoginis in my life who teach me daily. Thanks you for being MY teacher, yogini Michelle.
    btw- I love that everyones face was contorted today when they were working on getting into firefly- except yours. You just had this funny serene smile on your face....

  10. I LOVE THIS POST. sorry for the capitals but i'm too tired to write a long reply but i really love this. thank you.

  11. I also love this.

    Here's a moment that stopped me in my tracks. My kid started T-ball yesterday. I watched him be the slowest runner, one of the less coordinated, and I fretted.

    Just like my dad did with me, always wanting me to be something I wasn't.

    You better believe I'm changing that story.

  12. It takes hope to believe you can change your life. I think some people have less of it because of the temperament (and life circumstances) that they are born with. I'm glad that woman saw a glimmer of hope in your office this day.

  13. Oh Michelle. I don't even know what to write in response to this. Just know that I thought this was wonderful. Truly, exceptional. So simple, so wise, so true. That's my story and I'm stickin' to it!

  14. Michelle, long ago I worked in a bookstore. We had a sales rep whose opininions about books I respected profoundly. Once he told me that he had a collection of second novels. Second novels, not first novels. This was unusual in the publishing business, where people liked to collect first novels for their potential value, you know, if they took off and were big and you owned a first edition, that kind of thing. But this guy's take - and it changed my view forever - was that EVERYONE has one story. Everyone has one novel. It's the people who can reinvent themselves and WRITE about it who make real writers, whose stories we all want to read. In addition to all the other things you are, all the other stories you have, you're a Writer.

    Thank you.
    Love, love.

  15. When does a story becomes history? I have to re-write my story frequently because of so many outside factors more powerful than my own. Indeed we all have our stories, some are great, some are best left behind at that place where the past is silent and the future unknown.

    I think often about how I would remember some people and how they would remember me. Not because of ego but mostly due to curiosity. I want to know what I was never taught, that is all. I love intuitively and I don't create scenarios because I was trained to do so by my long forgotten and never lamented former profession. I rather being the story created by the scenario, not the other way around.

    So my stories change, if not constantly often enough to bring pondering time, reflection time, and the only story that never changes for me happens in my kitchen. Love flows freely there and of all the things I am, being a nurturer, be it by food or love, friendship or compassion is the only story I want to remind myself I need to be faithful to. Always, no excuses to fail if the other stories change. As they surely will with the aging of my time.


so... wadaya think?

Your fairy is called Columbine Icedancer
She is a bone chilling bringer of justice for the vulnerable.
She lives in mushroom fields and quiet meadows.
She is only seen when the bees swarm and the crickets chirrup.
She wears lilac and purple like columbine flowers. She has icy blue butterfly wings.