My Story

A woman sits in a high-back chair carefully stitching a small patchwork quilt.  Her hands cradle the fabric. It is not a usual or easy task for her but she perserveres. Each day adding a few patches more.  As the quilt grows so does her belly.  The baby inside is nearly ready to be born.

patchworkmamaStitching the quilt helps the woman to stay calm and centred while she waits, impatiently.  A lens to focus her love.

Wednesday. Thursday. Friday.

By Friday night the quilt is finished.

“There”, says the woman, “it is done.  Now she must come”.

And sure enough that night the surges begin.

By Saturday the woman was exhausted but the baby remained inside.  Her body started to slip away into the gloved hands of those around her.  Her mind numbed.

Her labour stretched on and on under the dark Taurus moon.

Finally, on Sunday afternoon a beautiful baby girl with shining copper hair was pulled from her womb with a metal tong.  The woman was relieved it was over.

The baby girl, Sunday’s child, was bright and loud.  Her curly copper hair marked her apart – no need of a ribbon on her cot.  There was no mistaking her.

A week later the woman took her baby home.  The patchwork quilt warmed her as she slept.

******

As the girl grew her light and passion shone like her hair and she was beautiful.  The girl loved to sing, to dance, to paint and draw.  She saw colours everywhere around her.  Colours of real things and those special aura colours which they tell us not to see.

When she was older she learned to write, which she did every day.  And she always loved stories.  They were her food and she savoured them.

The girl with the copper hair wanted very much to be good.  To be loved.  She saw that many things she felt and did brought light to those around her so she did those things more.  She saw that some of what she felt and did and knew and saw was not wanted and caused pain and fear to those around her.  Those things she took and stuffed into the shadow bag which lay always at her feet.  Hiding them in the dark.

Into the bag went her power, taking part of her passion with it.  Into the bag went her ambition, her ability to set boundaries, to say no.  Into the bag went her deep connection with the other worlds, taking as well her empathy. As she grew so did the shadow bag.  It was almost as if she didn’t notice she was dragging it around with her always.  By the time she was a woman the bag was full.

******

20160526-_DSC7763The girl, now woman, knew she had gifts to share.  Gifts of healing, of intuition, of wisdom, creativity, and love.  She began her work healing, inspiring and teaching others.  And it was good.

But without her power people could take things from her.  And they did.

Without her fierceness people could hurt her.  So they did.

Without her wild romanticism she could make decisions with her head but not her heart.  She could appear rational.  But she could not feel she was loved.

The girl was happy as she knew she was blessed and cared for but always there was the shadow bag with her.  Reminding that she was only loved partly, loved for her light.  Those things were there lurking in the darkness.

******

One day the girl had a child of her own.  The birthing was unlike her own.  It was gentle.  Healing.

Through the birthing journey the girl with the copper hair travelled within to find her baby’s soul and bring it into our world.  On this journey she encountered some of those things which she had hidden in the shadow bag.  Her determination.  Her deep wellpool of love.

With the baby came these things, back out of the bag.  Into the open.  They helped her with her mother journey.  And she began to see that some of the other contents of the bag was good too.

Becoming mother was powerful.  Her energy was flung outward.  Exploding.  She reached out to the world.  Learning. Connecting.  Growing.

Her life, which before then consisted of separate unconnected parts, became sewn together.  Or at least that is how it seemed. In reality it was always connected, her patchwork life quilt, but it was by becoming mother that she saw her full self.  The girl realised that throughout her life she had been working on “patches”.  Through her work as teacher, writer, healer, doula, mentor, she was creating beautiful individual patches.  Through her connections of daughter, grand-daughter, sister, lover, wife, friend and now mother, she sewed those patches together.

The patchwork quilt of love, made by her own mother, was now resting on her own daughter’s cot, but not on the baby.  She slept on her mama’s chest.

A few years past and the girl had another baby.  This time a boy.

Again an explosion.  But this time, like a star collapsing, the energy rushed inwards. It was time to look within.  To reassess the family rhythm.  To find consistency in her writing and creativity.  To create peace and deep connection. To make real, practical magic

The girl knew it was time to start rummaging again in the shadow bag.  It was time to bring those hidden parts to light.  All of them.

What can a live rock concert teach us about storytelling? Pearl Jam Let’s Play Two: Live at Wrigley Field

Last night I went to the cinema to see Pearl Jam “Let’s Play Two: Live at Wrigley Field“. I went in expecting to see a live Pearl Jam concert. I came out with so much more.

The film weaves together the stories of the baseball team Chicago Cubs, Pearl Jam as a band, the personal story of lead singer Eddie Vedder’s relationship with the Cubs, and individual stories of both Cubs fans and Pearl Jam fans. The way it is knitted together is intricate, using old and new footage of Cubs games, plus Eddie Vedder and the band in the 90s, juxtaposed with the live concerts that took place in 2016. The director, Danny Clinch, and the team who worked on this totally nailed the story arc.

Chicago Cubs 2016 World Series

Photo via Time.com

I did not know (or care) anything about the Chicago Cubs before I saw this film, but, as with all great storytelling, it makes you care. It shows the Cubs progress from a club that has not won anything for over a century, through the qualifying stages (not sure what they call it) and into the world series. And, despite the apparent complexity, it follows a classic five act structure:

  • The opening sets us up with the history of the club and Eddie’s personal relationship with it. He used to go to the games as a child. (Act 1)
  • The club make some bold changes and start winning games more than they have for a (very) long time in its history. (Act 2)
  • The stakes are high and things get tough but the Cubs manage to get into the World Series. (It made me laugh that it’s called the World Series, there are no non US teams). (Act 3)
  • The first games of the Word Series go badly and the Cubs find themselves 3:1 down (I’m not sure what this means in baseball terms but it’s bad, and pretty much no teams come back from it). Things look bleak. All is resting on the next game. They need to win or go home. (Act 4)
  • They win (of course) and go on to win the next games and the World Series for the first time in over a hundred years. (Act 5)

Each act is enhanced by the skilful additions of the history of the band, showing some of their early gigs in Chicago, and adding in personal and moving stories of their fans relationship with the band. And of course, the soundtrack is killer.

The theme of this movie is very much about what it means to be, and have, fans; to belong to something bigger than ourselves. It explores what it means to be devoted.

The Cubs fans are not denigrated in the way sports fans very often are, but explained and uplifted. Clinch is also careful to point out that the people in the band are also very much fans themselves. It shows this most explicitly through Eddie Vedder’s obvious devotion to his home town team, but also through Jeff Ament’s more private honouring of those bass players who came before and inspired him. He has their names inscribed along the neck of his guitar.

The connection between fans and spiritual devotion is obvious in the movie, and must be deliberate. The band’s relationship with their fans is depicted as that of priest with congregation (repeated imagery of Eddie Vedder, arms outstretched, is intense and powerful). My husband (who doesn’t always notice these things) commented as we left, that Vedder is a very spiritual man.

image via The San Diego Union Tribune

Throughout, the music is emotional and spiritual. The band are clearly performing a service. Guitarist Mike McCready is moved to tears on stage, and the ground, Wrigley Field, is referred to as “sacred”. A space where people come together, week after week, their hearts full of hope even though they know the odds are not in their favour. And honestly, it really did feel that powerfully spiritual, both during the footage of the shows and of the baseball games. It made me want to go there. To pilgrimage myself. It made me want to act – in the way that all good storytelling does. It changes you. It changes how you see the world, it changes your relationship with the world.

If you haven’t seen it yet I’d totally recommend it. Even if you aren’t fan of the band or of baseball (and there are those who argue that the Cubs victory was not as against the odds and well-deserved as it seemed here) but that does not detract from this lesson in bringing together characters, setting and plot. If you’re a fan of great storytelling you will love it.

Choosing a word for the year – and what to do with it once you have it

Since 2012 I have preferred to choose a word for the year rather than making resolutions. 

It is a powerful practice that is becoming more and more widespread, as people try it and experience how wonderful and effective it is for focused intention, attention, and growth. 

How to Choose/ Find Your Word of the Year

There is no one right way to do this. You can find your word through meditation, visualisation or journeying (you can specifically ask for your word to be given to you during meditation, perhaps written on a piece of paper that is passed to you, or in the sky with the stars spelling out your word). You can free-write in your journal and see which words come – this can be surprisingly effective. When I was new to it I used tarot cards plus Amy Palko‘s Word of the Year Goddess Reading to guide my choice of word. In recent years I use my own Wheel of the Year Reading to inform and inspire my word choice.  I have also used Christine Kane’s Word of the Year Discovery Tool in the past, and that was interesting (and a little less woo) too.

However you do it, ideally you will end up with a small pool of words that resonate for you. It can be useful at this stage to mind-map each of the words, noting any correspondences, associations, memories, or thoughts they bring up for you. Then look up the dictionary definitions for each word. This often generates more meanings (and additional possible words) in a really interesting and useful way. Some people like to add pictures and colour references at this stage too.

And then, and I find this the most important part, try and put them away from your conscious mind for a while. Eventually one of the words – or perhaps a completely different word (but the right word) – will bubble up and make itself known to you. You will recognise it as your Word of the Year. Sometimes this happens spontaneously, without doing all those previous steps. Either way. You will know it is your Word.

What makes a good Word of the Year?

A good word of the year is a focus for your attention and enables you to grow and blossom as you move through the year. That is to say that a good word of the year is one that works for the person who matches that word. It will stretch you, challenge you, nourish you, enchant you.

Personally, I am drawn to words that can have multiple layers of meaning – ideally both a verb and a noun. For example, my word for 2017 was PRESENT. That can mean many things e.g. a gift (given or received); this moment; standing up and sharing wisdom – and that’s just for openers. It has been a wonderful and powerful word to work with for me.

 

Sometimes your word will not resonate immediately, but, given a bit of time to settle in, these words can be (extremely!) powerful. For example, a few years ago my word was HUNT.  It scared me a bit at first as it sounds so aggressive but looking back on the events of the year it was spot on!  It was a year when I uncovered more about myself and what I am here to do in this world than any other before and it wasn’t discovery in a passive, relaxed way.  No!  I was actively uncovering, searching everywhere, particularly my shadows, for the answers. (And it also fitted very well with my Goddess guide for that year, Artemis).

Another word that did not immediately jump out at me, but was so, so, good was my word for 2016: BUILD.  Build?! How boring I thought.  And initially when it popped into my journal I resisted it.  Build?  Yes, it’s practical but it didn’t sound very creative, or fun. But then I started thinking about things which are built: homes which protect and nourish us – our sanctuaries; meeting places where we come and share and trade ideas with others; temples where we worship our deities (or the divine in ourselves, like in gyms); libraries and universities – see where I’m going with this? And somehow build was less boring and more inspiring. And my build year was, fittingly, a year of slow work. One brick on top of the other. But my word kept me nourished and trusting. After all, that is how even the most innovative buildings are made. You can’t raise a roof without some kind of supports.

What Do You Do with Your Word of The Year?

This is where the magic lies.

You do all the same things as you did with your shortlist of words: Mind Map (mood board if you are so called); journal it; meditate on it; look up all available definitions of it. See where the spirals lead off. Continue to do this as the year progresses and see how your connection with and understanding of the word ebbs and flows.

Take it deeper by thinking about how this word is reflected in your life at the moment. How would you want it to be reflected? How do you feel about the word? What associations does it have for you? Which people, living or dead, embody this word for you? What does it mean for you to be/ have this Word in your life? What does your life look like though the lens of this Word?

Some people like to have their word in a prominent place, like on a piece of jewellery or art work. Molly Remer and Sherry from Dragonfly Inspirations have worked together to create beautiful custom Word of the Year Goddesses, who wear your/her Word hand-stamped on her belt. (I am definitely getting one of these this year!)

Custom Story Word of the Year Goddess

It is your word. Use it, and it will be a great source of power and wisdom.

A Goddess for the Year

A lovely companion practice to Choosing a Word for the Year, is discovering your Goddess connection for the year. Indeed, for some people, identifying their goddess companion comes first and inspires their choice of words.

This is not a practice which speaks to everyone but for those who it does resonate with it can be extremely powerful and healing.

You can find your goddess connection in exactly the same way as you found your word. Or you can use a specific Goddess Oracle deck.

Do let me know your words and your experiences with them. I love this practice so much, and find new layers are uncovered with every new word. 

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