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The Greatest Agony


There is no greater agony than a story untold. ~Maya Angelou

Who are you? Who am I?

Who are any of us but a series of stories, stories with many chapters replete with plots and subplots and unexpected twists and interventions by the three Moirai, the three fates? Episodes during which we felt abandoned by God and walking alone. Episodes where providence seemed to steer us away from harm toward safety, toward joy, toward a better tomorrow.

We like to believe our lives are a continuous progression from the from past through the present extending into the future. However, our stories rarely come out in a linear progression. Even when we try telling our life tales from the beginning, there are gaps in our memories, stories we try desperately to erase.

We store them uniquely. Some so deep they may never come to the surface but for our nightmares and then we bury them deeper into the unknown hoping they will be forever forgotten. They are categorized, stuffed into slots, story slots which remain locked until a unique key penetrates the lock, opening the legs, freeing the story into the universe.

The key is a feeling of safety. We release our stories into the heart of another based on the safety in the relationship.

Do I feel you are safe enough to peak at my soul? Do I believe you will seek to understand my history rather that twist it into a weapon, a knife to stick in my back? To a new acquaintance, we will reveal the safe stories.

Safe: I am David.
Safe: I Coach Agile software development teams for a living.
Less Safe: I write multiple blogs.
Vulnerable: I fear…

I think the best way of getting to know someone is by listening to them tell their personal stories. The telling is as important as the story, the words used, the words not used. The sequence in which the stories roll off their tongue. Best to worst times? Worst to best time? Random?

If these story gifts are received with tenderness, with care, with respect, the revelations will go deeper, become more intimate. I will lift my dress higher and higher exposing more of my secrets. Security in the relationship allows us to cross the bridge into the scary, dreams, disappointments, fears.

We reveal ourselves in dots of paint on a canvas. Each story it’s own colored dot. The canvas contains a lifetime of stories requiring multiple lifetimes to share. Most of us never reveal the entire painting even to our dearest friends, even to our intimates. The agony comes when a person never feels safe enough to reveal enough stories allowing others can get a glimpse of our souls. The agony comes from revealing too much too soon and someone uses our stories to shame us. Our treasures become weapons…weaponized stories.

Each of us wants to be known by someone. Each of us wants to know someone. Storytelling is a process that opens the door to knowing and being known. It is in the telling of our stories that we connect with our fellow refugees for we are all refugees in some sense. It is a process enabling us to become fully human.

It is through the telling of our stories that we escape the agony of isolation, that we become connected to the organism of humanity. It is important to tell our stories, to find someone who cares enough to listen, to be the person that cares enough to listen deeply. The first step is to lend our ears to each person we encounter, to embrace them and their stories so the can achieve full humanity.

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