I have a story to tell you.
It’s a tale of triumph and overcoming, of heart-rending losses and self-chosen beginnings.
It’s a story like Star Wars, in some ways, and in other ways more like Downton Abbey, with the protagonist moving between the Upstairs and Downstairs lifestyles.
But let’s pause a moment and go back two dozen years to a father and daughter having a rare lunch together. Bright sunlight speckles their table and a yeasty warmth seeps from the brick ovens in the restaurant’s kitchen.
The father asks the daughter why aren’t you writing? Why aren’t you working on a novel?
The daughter, with all her twenty-something angst, shoots her father a withering look. Yesterday you wanted me to have a steady job with good health insurance. That and writing a novel are mutually exclusive, she smirks.
Besides, she adds quietly, I don’t have any stories that need telling.
Fast-forward twenty years and that young woman has lived stories that need telling.
But the one that is holding her heart right now is the story of a father and a daughter. It goes like this:
Once upon a time there was a dad who often missed dinners or sat through the meal practically vibrating with the words needed to complete a half-finished brief sitting on his desk or the closing argument running through his mind.
This father worked weekends and evenings, and even holidays were cluttered with legal pads and files the size of small accordions. Which is not to say that this father was cold or uncaring. He made time for touch football with the neighborhood kids and took his girls to cheer his favorite teams at the nearby stadium.
But one of his girls didn’t like balls or bats or baskets.
She liked horses and novels and chocolate chip cookies. She liked debating the merits of her father’s cases and looking for loopholes he had missed. She never felt much understood in her family of joggers and dieters and baseball fans.
But her father worked to keep her in horses and novels. And while she grew up feeling like an outsider, her life was filled with the things she cared about.
When this girl was eighteen, she was sent off to college. She didn’t much want to go. She wanted one more year to see if all the time and training she had put in with her horse were going to take her to the places she secretly dreamed of, like the Olympics or the Spanish Riding School. But her parents decided she would go to college immediately and her horse would stay home.
And then it was decided, unbeknownst to her, that her horse would be sold.
When the girl learned what had happened, she was heartbroken and furious. She was bereft and betrayed.
So when her father handed her a check for $500 and said this is for your next horse, it was all she could do not to spit in his face.
But even angry the girl knew that her dreams cost more than $500, so she studied the stock market, invested in mutual funds and her $500 grew. Ten years later, when the girl was a woman who wanted a house and not a horse, that $500 had grown enough to make a down-payment.
The house she bought made her mother turn green… and not with envy. It was rough and worn and broken in places. But the girl-turned-woman worked evenings and weekends fixing it up.
When she stopped to eat dinner, she would practically vibrate with the paint and trim colors racing through her mind. When her father visited he smiled and nodded and assured her that he, too, could see her vision.
Three years later she sold that house for a tremendous profit.
That profit gave her the year to pursue her dreams, the year she wanted back when she was eighteen.
Her year-long adventure began with a trip ‘cross-country. Her father flew to meet her as she crossed South Dakota. They explored the Badlands and Mt. Rushmore, and when they climbed Bear Butte, her father took tobacco to the peak just because she asked him to.
This was the beginning of her year of stories, the stories she needed to be the writer she had always hoped to be.
And now it is the year of writing. And writing is letting her see that maybe her father did know her and that she was not so very misunderstood after all.
We all have hurts and wounds and places where we have felt misunderstood.
Tell me yours… and tell me what helps you pull back, see the big picture, and understand your life as a Hero’s Journey.
P.S. You may have noticed my website’s been a bit of a glorious mess. Since our Webwitch left us to write her book, I’ve been in charge of the site. I’m a bit like a kid with a new set of finger-paints; websites are super fun after you move past the intimidation factor!
In the next few days I’m planning a big renovation so if the site is down, send chocolate and good wishes. I’ll have it back up soon!