Look For Me In The Shadows

by Suzi Wolf.

look for me in the shadows
for there is where I will be
telling the stories of the ancient ones
whispering tales to the people
look for me in the shadows
my face illuminated by the
clan’s fire or a storytelling candle
my shape moving among the people
look for me in the shadows
the stage lights are very bright
the spotlight blinds me
so I cannot see the people
and I must see the people
I need to see the people
look for me in the shadows
sitting with someone
holding their hand
as they listen, breathless
to a tale of wisdom and mystery
look for me in the shadows
and I will look for you
To Creator, who teaches me all the Stories

 

Storytelling offers a winding journey filled with beautiful landscapes as well as a few road hazards. Healing Storytelling also promises a journey, but one more akin to riding a motor scooter across the United States. You can make the trip, but it can be bumpy.

Since ancient times, storytelling has connected people, bringing comfort to the ailing, sharing laughter with the downtrodden, and carrying news of the kingdom. There were no televisions or Internet, just fascinating (albeit somewhat eccentric) people on mules known as Storytellers.

Storytelling is life at its finest, because around the Fire of Story, people can enter sacred space where they are accepted and loved just on the grounds of being. And it’s the best time I know.

I had been in the entertainment field for years but with no intention of being a storyteller. Then Story claimed me. I’ve never been the same. It happened unexpectedly: one day I was a performing artist and the next day I sat transfixed…mesmerized at a national storytelling conference. I was home. Story connected me instantly to self, to others, to more stories. I couldn’t get enough. And so, following the beckoning, I ventured from beginning storytelling to general audiences where I performed for quite a while. Then my soul-brother, Gene Helmick-Richardson, coaxed me into the arena of healing storytelling at a drug rehab/lock-up. That’s when my real work began. And I have never looked back.

But what I sometimes witness in storytelling is what I had also seen in the theater. A glimpse of various storytellers will reveal a few who are performing stories described as “healing” because they are seeking the spotlight…filling their own emptiness, craving the applause. Who knows what pain drives them towards approval and attention. Surely being comforted or nurtured are positive steps for their own healing; just not on the stage, please.

The audience is not our therapist. As Wisdom Tellers, we must be there for them ; our own wants should not be primary. Certainly it is healthy to feel good about our work but not with the expectation that the audience can meet our needs. Storytelling is a breathing life form with purpose. Just as Story connects us to self, it also connects us to the audience in a back-and-forth exchange. It is active and participatory, creating a community of dialogue rather than a monologue.

If the publicity or applause is the reason for telling, I question our ability to truly be a servant of Story. If you only follow the spotlight, you’ll miss the people’s faces. The hardest work we ever do is on ourselves—to heal from our own wounds, allowing us to be in touch with the true self. And the more at peace, whole and centered we are as individuals, the more we can help others heal with Story.

We all carry scars that may make it impossible to delve into certain areas on a performance stage. And if a story is too raw, too painful for us to tell, then we need to wait until our own healing allows us to share from a place of peace and compassion, rather than a place of need or damage.

So who heals the healer? Why not other storytellers. I have had the experience of being in a safe weekend environment with a small trusted group of tellers. It was there I could share the stories that were so painful I could barely utter the words. No controlling or rescuing behavior was allowed. It was designed to be a haven where a story becomes the catalyst for our own healing.

Only then, when it is no longer our personal yoke, can we allow that same tale to be carried through us to others. I would encourage the healing story community to develop similar venues in their own cities and see how wonderful the outcome can be. The best work I do is not on stage. I go where there are no cameras—out of the spotlight and into the prisons, rehabs and shelters. I go into the Shadows.

There is a favorite Armenian saying: It is easy to count the number of seeds in an apple, but who can count the number of apples in a seed? Let’s plant apple seeds while riding that motor scooter and add to the beauty along the way.


Originally printed in the Winter 2004 issue of the HSA Newsletter.

Susi Wolf is a multi-faceted New Mexico performer but her greatest love is healing storytelling. She uses original and ancient folktales in lock-up, drug rehabs, shelters and more; storywolf@yahoo.com.


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