Once when he was pretty little, maybe three or four, I was telling Elly a story. At one point he stopped me and asked where the story came from.
“I’m making it up for you.” I told him. “Just for you.”
“But how do you know what to make up?” he wanted to know.
“I dunno, Habibi,” I said, “I guess I’m just listening to what’s already there.”
I’ve been telling him stories for years. Stories filled with characters we’ve gotten to know very well. Dosa the Spice Merchant; The Witch of the Woods (who is really a healer) and her impossibly old student Samuel; The Librarian Prince; the Spider who wove herself a violin; The Soldier Who Waited.
All these characters move in and out of the stories I tell him. Sometimes spending months with us, sometimes disappearing for years to make room for new people. It’s a big story. And I make up each part as I’m telling it.
That’s not easy. At all. It means I have to do a lot of listening. I have to listen to him. I have to listen to myself. And hardest of all, I have to listen for the story.
Because sometimes listening is incredibly simple. The story is love. Sometimes that’s loud and clear. Sometimes even overwhelming.
But sometimes that Love story is drowned out by the Wrong story. The story of doubt and shame and everything I think makes me wrong.
And both stories are already there.
They have to be. I wouldn’t know love without heartbreak, I wouldn’t know courage without fear, and I wouldn’t know joy without sorrow. They have to be there for the other to exist.
Last week I was having a hard time hearing the Love story. Maybe because Elly was away and I didn’t see him. Probably not, though.
Really what was happening was that I was spending too much time listening Wrong story. The other voices.
I let them convince me that I wasn’t deserving of those things I want, that my perceptions are wrong, that I’ve over-estimated my abilities. That I’m wrong. About everything.
So I wrote to one of my teachers. She gave me some very difficult practices to do.
And she also said “[The heart] is an empty vessel for light to come through.”
The Love story is loudest when the heart is open. The Wrong story is loudest when it’s closed. That’s why at some of the most difficult times, we feel most constricted. Emotionally and physically.
Sometimes it’s hard to open your heart. Being human is hard. We have to balance a lot. Those things that frighten us and those things we love. We need to accept both. Both are already there.
Both stories are with us for this whole life.
But it’s up to us to choose which one gets our attention.