Alchemical Storytellers

conch shellJust finished redesigning a house. A bank account. A host of motives. Woke up this morning knowing my novella’s main character’s circumstances were all wrong for the plot, mismatched for the themes.

Switched it around in a great rush. Then rested, wondering where those first images had come from, why they’d felt right before, even if not quite convincing or sympathetic.

A wide, slow ocean-wave of revelation rolled in. I had been painting the superficial dreams from my childhood, so carefully cultivated by my environment as indicators of personal worth and social value, of fundamental identity. The portrait had been of what I felt I was supposed to have, do, be. Inevitably then, by definition, the story had been free of inner drama, challenge, dilemma – vacuous inside the unconscious fantasy. When I listened to the “new” character just written, I felt depth and dynamism, some truth about the human condition.

How did this happen? Was I already aware of the need for a change? Or was I rerouted by a TED Talk I listened to yesterday? Or had my psyche awakened a little more in a call from a friend, from years ago, one who’d been part of my life the last time I almost made the childhood dream look real?

Maybe all three happened simultaneously, in a magical mixture, a solvent that dissolved one of the hard-shell layers of my remembered dreams. Now that I write, I’m seeing how this tight-wrapped layer of familial expectation has always been the invisible standard, against which nothing in my real life (or other lives) could be favorably measured. What a liberation. I can still see the pleasures in the fantasy, but as decorative options, not soul requirements. So there’s no need to engage them in depth or make them the center of my work.

There’s a universe of people who feel the power of real story, so I’ll share a link to TED Talk storyteller clips, in case one or more of them can light up the readers here. We can all rewrite our lives, moment to moment, and be free of what was written into us. Every choice becomes more conscious, more harmonious, more open-ended, capacious.

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PS: It’s Shakespeare’s birthday today. I’m celebrating by going to see Anonymous – reportedly a crazed drama calling into question the supposed bard’s significance. I’m still glad I got to live the dream of seeing plays in Stratford-upon-Avon, so am thankful for those childhood fantasies, and for the family resources that made them possible to act out. How many self-encircling layers of drama does that make?