It is deeply heart-opening when people who read Embracing the Stranger in Me: A Journey to Openheartedness share how the stories in the book resonate for them in their own journey. And then they thank me for being so courageous to share those stories as they feel they have glimpsed into my own vulnerability. All true. And it has generated a curiosity for me about what my relationship with this book is – because it doesn’t feel quite so courageous from my perspective. This book has its own life, energy and flow – thankfully and interestingly.
How are your stories working for you?
And I get to remember, again, what I already knew and now know more deeply. I am not my stories. I am not my book. I am not the stories other people tell (or think) about me. And, you are not your stories. They do not define you – unless you choose to let them. Of course, they shape you. And, you have choices as to how they shape you – looking at life through the human tragedy or drama perspective or from the soul journey perspective – that which we are seeking to learn or experience at the soul level.
There are moments in my life that are seared into my memory as pivotal moments. One such memory, complete with date, is March 1998. I was halfway through a severance period, having been royally fired from my job, in the middle of a divorce and having bought a home, for me and my two young boys, predicated on a salary I no longer had with no idea what I was going to do next to support myself. I was in the highest anxiety of my life – to that point. I could only focus on what was right in front of me – the next moment, maybe the next day, but certainly not weeks, months or years down the road – because otherwise the stress was overwhelming to the point of being debilitating.
I was sitting in my kitchen, making a choice of which book to pick up and read – the practical What Colour is Your Parachute or the transformative The Dragon Doesn’t Live Here Anymore. I didn’t know it would be transformative when I picked it up, but it was. I was transported to another world. Mesmerized. It moved me to tears and to laughter. And I understood maybe for the first time: I am not my stories. I am not my failure. I am not my divorce. I am not my job loss. These are things that have happened in my life. I have a choice as to how I view them. The Dragon Doesn’t Live Here Anymore offered me a different, expansive option for how to view these things that happened to me. The author, Alan Cohen, offered that I had attracted these things into my life. If I had the “power” to attract those life altering “negative” things, I had the equal and opposite capacity or power to also attract more life affirming circumstances into my life.
What I understood is that I had been increasingly drifting away from the things I hold true in my life, the things I valued – or said I valued. My actions did not always support my beliefs and what I thought I valued. I was in increasing dissonance and did not know how to live a fractured existence anymore. At the time I felt like I was looking out a picture window at my life as it unfolded, I was so dissociated from my experience and my existence. And I did not have the skills to know how to navigate it – or relationships – in a healthy way. It made me believe the human tragedy/drama perspective – that I must be a bad person, maybe even evil. Otherwise, why would these things have happened to me?
In this one day, I was liberated. I was invited into choice. I wish I could say it was only a generative upward vortex from then on but of course it wasn’t. It was, and still is, a human journey, fraught with the rollercoaster of emotions and experiences. It took me another decade to surrender into the journey with a greater degree of fullness and I’m still learning about surrendering.
The book was and is intended as an offering of stories for others – for you even – in your own journey. An invitation to journey on, journey deeper, journey more lightly. An invitation to view your stories in a different way from different perspectives, ones that generate more expansiveness, spaciousness and choice. An invitation to trust what you doubt, to know someone has navigated similar waters with varying degrees of success, sometimes at peace and sometimes in turmoil – because this is life and this is how we grow. To understand that life is more than just the physical experience and to trust the non-physical as you experience it, as you surely do. To treat yourself with compassion, love and forgiveness and to invite that into your relationships – all of them, even the ones where you would prefer to hold onto a bit of resentment.
When you live your stories as if they are you, you disempower yourself. When you understand your story shapes your journey but is not you, you show up more fully in your strength and your power and it is a thing of beauty to behold.