As most of you know, there is a section on my website called 'stories: connection is medicine' where anyone can submit their story and then receive a personal poem from me in response. I want to take a moment to further explain what this is, show you what it looks like in action, and encourage you to either get involved or send a friend who may need some love and encouragement to my website to get involved.
I believe that stories are medicine. That when we grant ourselves permission to give birth to our stories and send them vulnerably into the world, we can begin the true healing work. I also believe that connection is potent and necessary medicine. No matter what you're going through, community is honey. Sharing what burdens our hearts and seeing it met with willing and open arms brings irreplaceable sweetness into our lives. This is why I created this series. To heal. To help others heal. To create a space for communal healing. To softly take people's hands and maybe, just maybe, heal the world. Together.
The first submission I received to 'stories' broke my heart over itself and swiftly stitched it back up again. I created this series as a way to connect with people, create an open and vulnerable community, and offer love or encouragement to anyone who may need it. What I did not anticipate was how healing it would be for me to connect with people this way and then take the time to write them a personal poem in response. As much as I set out to help other people or offer them hope, they are doing the same for me. The dialogue that unfolds after the submission is the most open and raw thing I have ever experienced -- and I am forever grateful. I tell each person who writes to me the same thing:
Thank you for trusting my arms with your heart. It is such a precious and irreplaceable gift.
I want to explain the process to you so that you understand how much time and intention goes into the making of each poem. This series is a true soul project. The gratitude I have for its lessons are infinite.
The first thing that has to happen is someone (anyone) taking the time to go to my website and submit their story. This could be anything: a past trauma, a current difficulty they are navigating, a heartbreak they have experienced, a fear they can't seem to let go of, a dream they have, their hopes for the future, their longing for love, a soul project they want to embark on. Anything. The good. The bad. The ugly. The beautiful. The mundane. The extraordinary. The soft. The hard. The story they want to re-write. Anything.
There is space for every piece of you here.
Once a person submits a story, I will read it and respond through email. This usually leads to an honest conversation where we get to connect as two people who are, as I like to say, GTI (going through it). We are all a work in progress, and even though I am the one writing a poem to offer hope, it doesn't mean that I am perfect or that you should read my poem as some omnipotent voice of truth. I am imperfect and am coming into the conversation with my own hopes, past experiences, biases, and growing pains. Take what you will, leave what you won't.
I want people to know this: I am not writing to you with the hope that I will fix your problem or supply the exact insight you needed to accomplish your dream. I am writing to you as a friend. I am writing to you in the hopes that my words may become sweet honey for your tea. I am writing to you with a prayer that my words will inspire you to keep doing the hard work. To continue on the healing path. To continue chasing your beautiful dream.
It takes me about two hours to complete a poem. I sit with the story for a moment and try to feel the person's heart in my hands. What does it need to hear today? I write the poem out on paper. Edit it. Scribble all over it. Edit some more. Meditate on what I would want to say to them if they were with me in my living room, sipping on camomile tea. Then I transfer the poem to a word document and continue to comb through it. Once I get the poem perfect (ish) I write it out by hand in the card I will send to them. Having a handwritten version of the poem is a personal touch I make sure to do for each person. I also include a couple reminders, love notes, and short phrases that I want the person to hold on to. Little prayers to keep in their pocket and pull out when they have forgotten how far they've come. Then, I create a poster with the poem that will be printed on eco-friendly card-stock so they have a sturdier version to slide into a notebook, hang on their wall, or keep in a bedside drawer. When all this is done I slip a couple more customized things into the envelope: for some it is organic rose-buds and calendula flower petals to either make into a tea or put into a relaxing bath. For others it is dried sage to smudge and feel cleansed. For others it is lavender to help them find peace. For others it is fresh eucalyptus or camomile buds. I try to put as much effort as I can into individualizing each packet of love so that when a person receives it they feel thought of and cherished -- the herb they receive will always connect back to their story and hopefully become another reminder that they are deserving of a beautiful and abundant life.
Close friends and acquaintances have submitted stories and so have strangers. Friends have submitted for their sisters. Strangers have submitted for their families. It does not matter who you are: if we've met thousands of times or if our lives have yet to cross paths in the flesh. 'Stories: Connection is Medicine' is made for anyone, no matter who it is, to feel wrapped in love. Enveloped in warm light. To be seen through eyes of acceptance. To feel like there is a place to deposit some of the weight that sits on their shoulders every day. I hope that the experience of writing out your story and receiving a poem in return whispers to you:
"Here, let me help you carry this. You are not alone here."
My heart continues to break and mend each time a new submission pours in. More than anything, I have discovered how inescapably human we all are. In each submission I have seen my own hurt, trauma, and dreams reflected back at me. So many of us are walking around feeling incredibly alone in our pain. We think that the things that weigh us down, weigh only us down. This couldn't be further from the truth. It is like we are all trying to transport individual parts of a heavy lead table... and instead of coming together to assemble the table and share the weight, we continue to struggle on our own. I hope that 'stories' becomes a safe place for all people to bring their portion of the table, put it down for a while, balm their wounds with a spirit of vulnerability, and then continue on the healing path with a community ready and willing to share the weight.
A poem will never fix the world's problems, I know this. But poetry has saved my life more times than I can count. It soothes my anxious heart daily. It teaches me how to love better. It wraps me in a warm hug on days where I feel alone. It pushes me to fight for my dreams. It drags me through the mud, dirt, and soot. It brings light in the dark and shows me how worthy I am of a beautiful and passion driven life.
I cannot guarantee that my words will connect with you, or that the poem I write is exactly what you need to hear... but I can guarantee that I will try my best to make you feel seen. To make your story feel heard. Sometimes I think that this is all we are all looking for at the end of the day, anyways, the chance to feel seen.
So, thank you. Thank you for trusting my arms with your heart. It is the most precious gift.
This is a short section of a longer piece I wrote for someone who submitted their story. I keep coming back to it. I hope we can all learn to trade fear for the freedom to come alive in the face of the unknown.
my dear, perhaps,
this is what this season is all about,
choosing to trust
what you do not know,
choosing to feel
what you cannot see,
alchemizing pain into
trading fear for the freedom
to come alive in the waiting.
and how gracefully you are learning
the art of surrender,
the fierce bravery required to
follow your dreams
in the face of
the wild unknown.
I hope I get to hear your story... and if I don't... I hope you find the courage to share it with the people around you. You will be amazed how deeply your heart will affect people.
connection is medicine, your heart a spoonful of honey.
sending love, light, and a warm hug your way,
whoever you are.