I have always loved transformation stories. My favorite movie is “It’s a Wonderful Life,” the inspirational and gut wrenching tale of a man that is so scared and full of fear for how he’s messed up his life that he thinks his loved ones would be be better off if he were dead. God gives him his wish, and he is so traumatized by realizing how his impact has changed their lives into completely different humans, that he realizes that life is worth living, no matter how messy.
I’ve spent most of my life immersing myself in transformation stories. I’ve read memoirs, self-help books, literature from around the world, and watched the stories of women and men onscreen. In most of these stories, it’s the classic hero’s journey, a universal experience in the literature and in “real life,” this process of learning while going through the steps of transformation and becoming new. I think that there is another level of ordeal before we go into the special world, something tragic or world shifting happens. That’s just my thinking however, and I’m NOT Joseph Campbell, I’m like an amoeba in comparison to his understanding and literature on the subject.
But I run a major fandom inside my heart for transformation stories. I love the idea that a truly wrecked person, or shallow person, or living small person, or narcissistic person, or just a regular Jenny, can choose to answer the call to change.
My astrologer told me the same thing the last two years in a row. She said I was being called to change. My body worker told me this as she was working the demons out of my body through massage. My work in Holiday Council through Stratejoy called me to change. My therapist told me I was being called to change. But I resisted, as is common in the initial journey. I didn’t want to do the work. My refusal was legendary in its protest. Oh Lord, please don’t make me do the work. I’ve suffered to greatly already.
So, I stayed stuck, I let myself be small.
Then God intervened and gave me a seizure and said
“maybe she will wake the fuck up now.”-God
And I woke up. I became willing to feel more and more pain with the promise of (perhaps very far future promise) of being in a place where my demons could be out in the light, snacking, me acknowledging them, and me going about my day in spite of and because of them.
I know what every one of my traumas means to my transformation. I know that I am not my trauma. It’s just something I experienced that made me who I am.
My biggest learning through facing my biggest fears, (facing all my my repressed trauma) is that of earth shaking gratitude for the experiences of my life that gifted me with my NOW. I am ME because I experienced everything I lived through. How can I be anything less than grateful for the life we have lived on this planet? How can ANYONE?
Cathy Heller of “Don’t Keep Your Day Job,” podcast reminds us that we were each chosen. The miraculous fact of our existence on this planet is proof enough that we are here to be our whole selves. OF COURSE shit is going to happen to us. That’s what happens in a life. The trick is to get to the point that we are able to look at all of it and go, “well, that was interesting.”
I came home today from parent-teacher conferences. I spent the whole day struggling with a very embarrassingly located muscle tear or sprain in my groin region from overzealous exercising in my Beach Body program and then NOT working out for a week. My hips were tight all day yesterday, and then last night I managed to be in so much pain in my right hip flexor that, well, I literally limped all day today. The flip side is I had parent-teacher conferences. I adore conferences. And last year I came home on this same day and had that seizure God gifted me with, to shake me up.
No matter what, I love getting to know parents and telling them about how magic their children are. One mama told me that her son said, “MOM YOU MUST tell me everything she says.” He was determined that he is my favorite. OH MY I love that he thinks that. I want them ALL to think they are my favorite!
I got home after this full day to seven muddy piles of nasty dog diarrhea piles (a dog I know has been sneaking cat food and cat turds behind my back). My house smelled like a sewer.
Yeah, it was really gross. My floors aren’t sealed yet, so some…eh…got in the floorboard cracks and I had to scrape it out with wood shims. Yuck. BUT how can we possibly not be thankful for the piles of shit along with the piles of joy? Seriously, I know this sounds like I’m on crack, especially to those of you in the beginnings of your journey back to yourself. But why spend a single second of your one precious life worrying about the dog shit all over your living room floor? There are far more interesting and juicy things to occupy your brain space with.
We are here living this life, y’all! We were chosen to be here, and to live life in all of the mess and in all of the glory.
It has become incredibly clear to me that this year teaching is unlike any of the previous ones in the last 30 years. I have just arrived at the zone of “Go to work with JOY every day.” I am excited to be there and learn and be with students, and I’m excited to be home, growing in my personal sanctuary, and living my own life. This is all a very new way of living.
I look back to two years ago, and the teacher I was then, and I shudder a little. I was not prepared mentally to be the best teacher I could be. I had let my own negative life experiences color how I taught. I was truly doing the best I could, but it was not the best for my students. I can’t judge myself, because I was doing the best that I could at the time.
Teaching is such a personal journey. It can be so empty at times, thankless, lonely. We truly do the best we can every day. But two years ago, when my 29 Kindergarteners needed me most, I was not ready. I had let myself be steamrolled by what my relationship with someone was asking me to do, even though I didn’t want to do it. I knew I wasn’t making great choices for myself, and I continued to do them, anyway. I let my life be guided by someone else, without any thought and care to what my intuition was telling me.
There is a lot to be said for intuition. I was sharing this even in conferences tonight. A mom mentioned book reading level and how her child chooses books that are too easy. I shared that I believe that students know what they need to read, for whatever reason. They may be drawn to “easier” than they can read books, or “harder” than they can read books, but I trust that they have a deep intrinsic guidance system that is showing them some truths, that is helping them make the right choices.
When we are cut off from our internal guidance system because we have given up ours in order to let someone else’s guidance lead us on the path, it’s never going to work out very well for us. Sure, we can fake it for years, maybe even a decade or two. But our heart will always try to right itself, always try to fight for the transformative experience to lead us back to our true north.
When I earned my first Master’s Degree in 1999, I wrote a thesis called “The Transformative Uses of Storytelling in Education.”
Yes, even in 1999 I knew that storytelling and shared experience was something of a sustaining life force to humans. I’ve been drawn to story forever, perhaps as far back as other lifetimes. Perhaps I’m just finalizing some soul lessons in this current lifetime.
Being human is not easy, but it is the most rewarding thing I can think of. We get to live a life full of mess and glory, and we have the voices and hands and legs and breath to share it.
My grateful is huge.
Life is grand.