Since coming back from the storytelling festival in Romania I have wanted to write so much.  Ideas build up in my head, needing to find expression but held back by the other things in life that need to get done.   Some of these ideas have an urgency to them – words of hope I want to speak into the darkness of the world (because I know by writing such words I can speak them to myself, to dispel the darkness that creeps into my own heart).  Some are words of joy, the desire to share things we experienced and people we met in Romania.  Some are just the seeds of a thought, that I would love to water by writing with time and attention.

But at my stage of life, time and attention for writing is limited.  So these ideas unexpressed, which began as life-giving thoughts, become yet more entries on the list of unfinished tasks.

So I write now to remind myself that my life (and yours) is much more than a list of tasks.  Life is not a forever unfinished burden, something I am always trying to catch up to but never reaching.

It is a story, it is happening now, and it has threads running through it – of love, perseverance, hope, a journey and a destination.   When I imagine my life as just a series of tasks, I lose the threads.  I can’t see the wood for the trees.

Which is an interesting cliche, because I noticed at the storytelling festival how many traditional folk stories are set in a wood, and involve a journey.   The forest seems to me like a metaphor for the unconscious.   And our unconscious thoughts govern our experience of life powerfully.  Do we see the forest (the story of our lives), or are we preoccupied or overwhelmed by each tree?

I am learning that I get less bogged down in writing (as I am in danger of doing now) when I develop my thoughts instead as a story or a bit of poetry.  Like my last post.  I increasingly find that story and poetry get me a closer to truth than analytical thinking.  I am inclined to read factual books in an effort to learn and improve my mind, so I have to remind myself to read novels, as they feed me better – in my heart, soul and spirit.

When I try to pin something down in analytical writing, it eludes my grasp or becomes diminished by the smallness of the box of words that I make for it.  When I let it flourish in story, the truth expands through the open doors of metaphor, and has a chance of touching others too, according to their own interpretation.

I am learning also to embrace paradox.  The unresolved or contradictory truths of life.  The loose ends of the plot.  Such as this:  life is short and life is long.  I believe both are the truths we need to hear at different times.  Life is long enough to let things unfold in their own good time – be patient.  It is short enough that we mustn’t waste it – be bold.

But, again, I am in danger of losing my thread, or grasping too many threads, and I should have just written a story.  So here is one:

A man was discouraged, weighed down and unwilling to change.  He went reluctantly to a far off land.  It was a place he had been before, long ago.  It used to inhabited his dreams, but had since become irrelevant to his responsibilities.  He had become ashamed of the tears he used to cry when he left that place.  He returned now only to accompany his family, duty being the new order of things.

Deep down, he feared the hold this place used to have on him.  Not because it had been a vice-like hold (not at all – it was more like a bear hug, a loving grip and an invitation to be his best).  But he knew that if he returned to that place, and discovered it no longer had a hold on him, he risked revealing to himself that he had changed beyond repair: that the fullness of life he once knew there really was gone, and even returning there couldn’t brought it back.  Or that it was just an illusion in the first place.  And if that old life proved dead to him on return, it would be dead indeed.

At first his fears seems fulfilled.  For he found himself different, and the place different too.

The unfolding days spent back in the city on the plain brought experiences both new and familiar.  And as he made forays into the forests and hills where old friends lived, he discovered them both changed and unchanged.  But his heart was warmed to see them.  Bringing his daughter with him he saw them afresh through her eyes.  And he realised with wonder that she herself was new – even undreamed of – back then.  And all the world to her now was brand new.

He started to realise that life is change.  Sometimes death, but always, one way or another, life.  All will change and so it should be for all is a story, and stories move forward.

The joy of new experience that he saw in his daughter reignited something in him.  A glimmer of the old days, but more importantly a delight in the new.   And the new friends he met, the storytellers who he had first felt like an outsider to, became slowly, imperceptibly, suddenly, like his own kin.  For they knew already what he was only just discovering had been true for him all along: that all is story, and story is good.

So he knew, when he left, that the sadness he felt leaving behind his new friends was the same sadness he had felt leaving behind his old friends.  And it was a good sadness, and the future too would be good.

 

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