The Power of Story

As you probably already know, I’m doing cancer treatment right now. It’s a difficult process during a difficult time for us as human beings. So, it’s not easy, in fact it’s pretty tough. But is it doable? Yes. And not as bad as it could be? Yes.

There really is so much good in this world — beautiful people, edifying messages, helpful caring behavior, and many wonderful things. But sometimes it’s hard to maintain my focus on them because the difficult, negative, concerning, and fearful stuff is so ridiculously loud.

So, what do I do? Among other things, I turn to possibility thinking, and creative thinking and doing. Lately my creative doing has been writing — in particular poetry and the stories I tell myself.

It’s amazing really, how deeply my thoughts and stories impact my emotional, mental, and physical wellbeing. Do the words I choose, and the stories I tell, actually change my situation? Hmmm … that’s a tough question because they answer is no, and yes. Or perhaps to quote John Daly from the old What’s My Line show, “We’ll give you a qualified yes.”

What I mean is, even with all the positivity I can muster, even with all the real, beautiful, true things I notice and tell myself, there is currently still Covid, still unrest, and still cancer. However, and it’s a big however, the words I speak, and the stories I tell – to myself and others – make a difference. They make a difference in how I see things. They make a difference in how I react to things. And, they make a difference in how my body, mind, and spirit are able to manage the battles they are fighting.

I still remember working with my brother on his Strength Training for Fencers book. He wanted me to being able to power clean half my body weight. After laughing, I embraced the task. Much like now, it wasn’t easy. But, the ease of the task, and my experience of the weight on the bar, changed depending on what I said as I approached the task. When I approached it with an inner conversation of “yikes this is a lot of weight” I experienced it as such. When I coached myself through it differently “You’ve got this, it’s not that heavy” I had a completely different experience. As amazing, or unbelievable, as it may sound, the weight of the bar appeared to be less, and the task was easier, when I told myself it would be.

Our bodies and minds are incredible creations. They hear what we say, and act accordingly. There’s a doctor who suggests our brain is our second immune system. She suggests it isn’t our immune system that gives up first, but our brain. Our brain decides it’s hopeless and says, “We can’t do this.” Our immune system hearing it, says “Oh, we can’t do this? Ok.” and lays down its arms in defeat.

With all that in mind, I turned to the power of story — in particular written story through poetry. I found an online poetry workshop — or perhaps it found me — that has been perfect for my purpose.

Our first task was awe. Notice the things around us and be in awe of them — the big and the small, the extraordinary and the very ordinary. Our second task was making meaning. Find the things in our lives that mean something to us, remind us of something or someone, speak the truth to us, and then look even deeper, and articulate that meaning for ourselves and others.

Here are my poems. I used a photograph for the first poem’s illustration to show the detail and reality of my words. I sketched the illustration for the second poem — taking artistic liberty — so I could enhance the meaning. The orange pill really is quite tiny – not even 1/2 an inch long. It doesn’t say cancer crusher on it in real life – but wouldn’t it be fabulous if it did? And the plate is not covered with roses. But the story — the meaning — is about the shower of roses and blessing, and the power infused into that tiny orange cancer crushing pill.

I hope you enjoy the stories I tell. Perhaps even more so, I hope you are inspired and encouraged to write and tell your story. There really is power in the written word. Take the risk and write. You don’t have to share it with anyone but yourself. Perhaps you will, but either way, the power is there. It’s changing things with every letter written, and every word and sentence formed.

I Am in Awe of My Silver Icon by M. James, June 30, 2020

I am in Awe of My Silver Icon

I am in awe of my silver icon
created by hands
that love the Lord
delivered by hands
that love me

She stands
surrounded by affirmations
prayers and
blank pages
waiting to be filled

She is
Queen
Protectress and
Amplifier
of goodness and connection
through time
with great love
to me
~M. James, June 30, 2020

Gather and Speak by M. James July 2, 2020

Gather and Speak

Pink roses
adorn the sides of my cup
reminding me I’m not alone

Therese is letting fall
a shower of roses
from heaven itself

Her loving hands send graces
as we gather at the altar and speak
saints angels and me

A small orange pill
rests in my hands
I ask that it may be blessed

May its power be increased
by the prayers love and presence
gathered here

I set the pill
reverently
upon the pink rimmed plate

Then I speak
to my beautiful body
the house of my sacred spirit

Do not fear
do not resist
be brave

Embrace and welcome
this little orange pill
with joyful hope

Accept it as a gift and
magnify its efficacy
with your courageous participation
~M. James, July 2, 2020