About ReVisions and Storytelling|
Please indulge me as I ramble on a bit about origins and inspirations.
I grew up amongst storytellers in a large extended Irish family in Massachusetts. An only adopted child with sixty first cousins
and twenty-nine aunts and uncles, you would never consider me different as I was lovingly embraced by two clans. From an early age
I basked in the brogues and the tongue-wagging tales of elders, who gathered round kitchen tables and spoke wistfully over whiskey
glasses and teacups, recounting sorrows and joys of olden days. There were stories of McDonoughs and Sullivans, Rogers and Nihans.
They were from the stony shores and the green glens of Counties Galway and Cork and they were gypsies and horse thieves, orphans
and runaways. They died of starvation and sickness and of broken hearts. They were survivors of hardship and tragedy, some with
locked away secrets never to part lips. But even in silence volumes were spoken. Sometimes songs were shared in lilting voices,
presented with barrelhouse bellows, or through a troubadour's tears. Shreds of news about loved ones in faraway places ignited the
imagination as creased onionskin airmail letters was unfolded and read. I was gullible to a trickster grandfather, who called me
"Seamus", and would draw me into a tangled web of humorous deceit with twinkling eyes. I became the foolish believer of my Uncle
Bill, a missionary priest, who convinced me that dog biscuits were quite nutritious for a young lad. To be honest, they were
palatable. At home my mother often chattered on the wall phone, from Walker 2-6803, in lengthy bouts of gossip. With every
exclamation I would join in, anxiously assuming the sky was falling. Much later, I would discover my birth family, revealing an
extended culture and ethnicity, all with its own storytellers.
In subsequent years, the storytelling would continue. I became one myself and I was quite adept with a silver tongue, twisting truths
in order to get into, or out of, my chronic shenanigans. I began to paint and told stories through artistic means. I listened in
wonder to the lyrical laments of songwriters that included Lightfoot, Dylan, Cash, Kristofferson and Prine. I became a musician and
a songwriter myself, taking to the stage with guitar, presenting tales of life with my own personal perspectives. When addictions
nearly ended my young life, I began sharing my story from podiums in schools and hospitals and 12-Step meetings. In the latter's
hallowed halls, I surrounded myself with elders whose honed wit and wisdom would inspire and nudge me forward. Such humor in the
telling of egregious and grievous histories was a salve for one afflicted with deep shame.
Seasons passed and my journey continued. The path twisted and turned like a gravelly switchback road on a precipitous mountainside.
Today, with some surprise, I find I am still here, still on the road, having only come close to the calamitous edges of the abyss.
The downward spirals encountered in life could most often be attributed to my own faulty perceptions of events, foolhardy expectations,
and of taking personally the words and actions of others. Whenever I didn't have all the answers to something, I had an incredible
imagination ready to step in and "enlighten" me, filling in all the blanks with complex and creative fabrications. They were so
believable that I thought I had a complete and accurate understanding of a story, but it was fiction, not truth.
As I consider the power of my storytelling mind, I think back to an experience I had once on a spiritual pilgrimage. It was to be a
time of self-discovery and blissful moments. What happened was decisively different. On the last day, I set an intent, choosing
ignorantly to silence my mind. I was immediately challenged as it rebelled, its voice becoming more voluminous, as we faced off
in a battle of epic proportions. I was shaken by how masterfully I was lured in and deceived; how all that I believed was false
and how all that I loved was a lie. I had been so steadfast in my vigilance, and yet this thought-twisting trickster had won. Later,
when I shared my pitiful experience, considering the trip a failure, my teacher smiled compassionately and said, "Oh, James, you
have such a beautiful mind." And this was the revelation. I have a beautiful mind! It will always be active and imaginative,
creating stories all the time. It is not for me to silence it. It is for me to love it. As I perceive life, it will be right and it
will be wrong. Regardless, it can be my ally, not my enemy.
This book is the result of much contemplation about negative and positive thinking. Are the choices I make self-sabotaging or
self-nurturing? Do I count my injustices or my blessings? Is the glass half empty or half full? I must consider the voices that
speak from within as well as those that speak around me. Don Miguel Ruiz, author of The Four Agreements, refers to the mitote in
the mind as a marketplace where a hundred voices shout at once, vying for one's attention. How often have I listened to those that
fan my fears and promote angst and disharmony, separating me from others? This habitual pattern results in my own suffering, as love
is my true nature. When I slip into such doldrums I surrender my heart and spirit to the storytellers who will seduce me with a litany
of dark tales and self-righteous ideas. Whether they shout insistently or hiss insidiously, they seek my attention and, oftentimes,
they get it. In the meantime, I am distracted from the other voices, the ones that point out the beauty of this world and all that
I should be grateful for. There is a Cherokee saying about two wolves and of the one you feed becoming the stronger adversary. If I
focus on the negative it will grow. If I focus on the positive it will grow.
By choosing to look again at an old story, I give myself a much-deserved opportunity to find a silver lining and perhaps to create
a new story. It is an act of love and self-care. This does not mean becoming cheerfully delusional, or of telling myself a lesser,
more acceptable, lie. It is about having a clearer vision, or "revision". Each story presented in this book gives an example of a
limiting perspective followed by a more positive and loving point of view. Perhaps you will be inspired to look again at one of your
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