"Storytellers speak in the language of myth and metaphor. They tell us a truth that is not literal, but symbolic. When we listen to stories with our outer ear, they can seem absurd and untrue, but when listen to a story with our inner ear, they convey an inner truth that can be understood on a very personal level and absorbed..." -Anita Johnston
This week I have written a story in the language of metaphor. I ask you to listen to it only with your inner ear, in hopes it resonates with your own story.
One cool and damp morning a little girl awoke to find the biggest, softest, most complex-looking animal sleeping right next to her. She was startled, of course, but she quickly realized its harmlessness. In fact, its giant body was its most comforting feature. She ran her hot pink polished nails through its thick, shiny fur and traced her hand over the intricate and unique peaks and valleys of its face. Her big brown eyes were alive with curiosity, as she tried with all her might to roll the animal onto its side to see if it was a boy or a girl. But this great, big animal would not budge. She let out a frustrated groan and to her surprise, the animal groaned back. When she took a breath, it too cycled air. When she smiled, the animal mirrored and so on. Lacking the knowledge of its gender, she decided to name this animal, Life.
She felt excited, giddy, as all little girls do when they've met a new friend. She could not keep this a secret. She threw on her favorite purple knitted sweater, her grandmother made for her last winter, rushed into her village and cried, I've found the biggest animal I've ever seen! It's name is Life. I'm going to keep it and you're welcome to come over and visit us anytime! The village people --not to be confused with the music group-- laughed, as one big headed, short sighted man said, Well, just don't let it grow too big, it may very well swallow you whole! An equally arrogant woman chimed in; you'd better starve that animal to make it smaller or else it might kill you. They told her she'd soon lose control of Life.
Confused, rejected yet resilient, the little girl rushed home, to the safety of her new companion. There, in the 'castle' she'd made of sheets and blankets in the middle of her room, began a friendship, a support system and a deep fondness for this wild animal. When Life seemed hungry, the little girl fed it, when Life had difficulty falling asleep, she sang lullabies. And on super chilly days, she made soup and layered homemade blankets on the animal. She took care of her Life the best way she knew how. Naps, imaginative play, reassuring hugs, delicious meals and belly laughs described their typical day. Everything was lighter. It was like a film had been removed and she could see her friends more clearly. She felt more graceful and accepting of her family. She was easier with her love and in turn, her family was easier with theirs. The bigger the animal grew, the fuller the little girl's heart became.
Then one day, something changed. A parasite of sorts crept in and burrowed itself in the carefully knitted web of solace and joy, that had become the little girl's truth. Everything looked different, especially the animal. This dear friend, confidant, nurturer now looked and felt like an enemy, something not to be trusted. She realized in that moment the villagers could be right; this animal is certain to control me. This animal could kill me. She decided in an instant Life wouldkill her. She began to grow inward, isolating herself from her loyal friends, her loving family and especially her monstrous companion. Her world was small and windowless, no room for light, no space for learning. All she wanted was for the animal to go away but as it turned out, Life had grown too big and her body would surely break if she tried to move it. So she decided to starve it. She stopped feeding the animal, only to find its growth had nothing to do with food. She stopped signing lullabies and discovered it fell asleep faster without her song. She took the warm blankets off the animal and learned nakedness was it's truest, most comfortable form.
Despite her efforts, there was nothing to do, except continue loving Life. So on they continued, filling their days with belly laughs, delicious meals, reassuring hugs and imaginative play. Despite everything else that everyone had said, the little girl knew in her heart that her friend, this animal she'd grown so fond and trusting of, is no monster at all. It's just Life.
*When my life was governed by the notion that smaller is better --smaller portions, a smaller body etc-- my life was smaller. The more I tried to tame my hunger and restrict my food, the more uneasy I was with my love. But when I was willing to be vulnerable in front of a larger plate of food and unafraid to accept my body exactly the way it is, I was able to provide myself a heftier helping of life, as well. I now actively acknowledge that as a human on the earth, I will always have an appetite. I will always be hungry for big, colorful and delicious meals, long, firm, meaningful reassuring hugs, imaginative play and great, big, loud, obnoxious belly laughs*
What are YOU hungry for?