The best stories, the ones you pass down, the ones you share with your children and your children’s children and the ones that those progeny will continue to cast forward long after you are gone are the true stories. The settings may be modified, the characters magnified, the conflicts simplified and the constraints of a time line ignored but still they are based upon actual things that happened to someone in our past, in our future, and may even be going on as we read.
They also all begin the same way…
Once upon a time…
There was a little girl who grew up in a happy crowded house set deep in the forest. She was loud only when she sang but no one complained as her six younger siblings amply covered her quietness. She was more Scrabble than soccer. She would try new things, carefully. As it is for most children, she did not appreciate her youth as it flew by, impatiently wondering and dreaming about what was going to happen next.
She studied and played and studied and worked and in a blink of an eye she was in her own home with her own little boy, and then a girl and another boy. But somewhere along the way she misplaced her voice and stopped singing altogether. As in all things insidious it started quietly and built to a deafening crescendo.
Doubt whispered in her ear “You’re not good enough.”
Doubt ransacked the house “You’re powerless.”
Doubt crushed “You deserve to be hurt.”
Doubt laughed “You are alone.”
So she stopped breathing, averted her eyes and hid, building a bastion around and in herself, allowing merely the children in, but even they could only get so far because it was safer to feel nothing. You would not have noticed anything was so wrong. Lots of people gain weight with children. Many people are shy. Everything appears fine. Days are full of music lessons, sporting events, play dates, homework, housework and all manner of things to keep us occupied until the next day.
And so it went, day after day, month after month, year after year. Barriers constantly reinforcing, going through the motions of existence.
This may have continued the rest of her life, but as it happened, doubt took a working hiatus and her baby now five, inexplicably taken with flying kicks, chops, flips and swords, was invited to a birthday party at a martial arts school, not far from their home. It would be more dramatic if the school had been dimly lit, mystical and set deep inside a cave or high on precipice but instead it was in an ordinary neighborhood and was bright, open and orderly. You immediately had a sense of safety. It was run by a outgoing wizard and a kindly giant. Her son wanted to enroll on the spot but she scheduled a conference to be sure it was something manageable.
The meeting was uncomfortable. Not because she was unwilling to sign her son up for classes or did not appreciate what the wizard was saying, but he kept trying to capture her eyes. She left relieved, happy, and bothered all at once.
As the classes went on she would read a book, work on some writing, or talk a little with the other parents but always she was listening. “Pilsung! I can do it!” was repeated over and over. The positive atmosphere and energy infected her other children. Soon they were students as well.
And she thought about it and wondered how it would be if what they were saying and teaching applied to her.
She thought about it some more. And soon she couldn’t get the idea out of her head. She took a deep breath and asked the wizard (still without looking directly at him) “Would it be okay if I sat in on the noon class?”
She took one class and then another and another. After each one she felt better. They reminded her to breathe. They were always encouraging. Slowly she lifted her eyes. She wanted to practice all the time and found a training partner of unparalleled dedication and enthusiasm. They found a third to keep them grounded in humor and take the blame for everything that went wrong. She got to know the other students. There were so many strong and talented people. They lifted each other up. They became like family.
Still, there were always challenges and reframes.
“I can’t fall, Sir”
“Ma’am! Don’t swear in my school.”
“I can’t do that kick.”
“Ma’am, watch the cursing.”
“I am incapable of meditating.”
“That’s still profane. There are many ways of meditating. You have to discover your way. It’s all good.”
Everything taught made her stronger and when the Grand Master issued his 100 push ups a night challenge her first thought was “I could do that.” And when her training partners were invited to be on a special team she wanted to be a part of it. She continued to train and volunteered at the school because there was no place she wanted to be more.
That strength helped get her through when she needed to go back to work after eight years of being at home. She liked her job but started to think that wouldn’t it be great if I could be at the school all the time.
“When can I work for you, Sir?”
This would be a good place for a happily ever after. Because he took her on. And it would never be just a job.
But in any good adventure the seemingly defeated antagonist rises up to take a few final shots at the hero. When you open yourself to feeling you have to reconcile the good and the bad. The anger and hurt and sadness left to fester for years came back with a vengeance. She didn’t know what to do with it and it was going to kill her.
“When will it stop hurting, Sir?”
“Give it time Ma’am, but you have to keep moving forward.” But…
Doubt sighs, “They don’t need you.”
Doubt soothes, “Just stay in bed.”
Doubt crouches, “Nothing you do matters.”
Doubt revels, “No one will miss you.”
This is not the ending she wants. So she takes it day by day. Learning and doing, practicing patience and perseverance because she wants that black belt. But even more she wants to help other people, who may not know it yet, to discover what the school can do for them. How much of a difference it makes to hear those positive messages. How important it is to set those goals for ourselves, physically, mentally and spiritually. How wonderful it can feel to let some of that stress out. How it can make you a better student, a better parent, a better friend.
So it’s not an ending at all, but rather a discovery of self, a renewal, a beginning.
Because she wants to be everything the wizard sees in her.
And then she wants to be a wizard.