Pain That Aches to Be Healed: Finding Holy Ground in Creating Round Table Storytelling Academy

By: in Storytelling Sessions
on May 11th, 2022

When I was a young girl, I wrote a poem as a portrait of my uncle Johnny. He died of cancer, and we were heartbroken, and so I wrote an elegy. Memory is fickle, which means I can’t really grasp what all the lines and stanzas were about, but I have this image of the grass, brittle and sharp green. Nothing else stands out, except that verdant color. And sadness, because the first time you lose someone you love, no matter what age you are, the hit of loss leaves a bruise on the body, even if invisible. This hurt carries with you—and you lose not just the loved one, but all the things attached to that person.

Uncle Johnny had a farm, and hunting dogs, and clay pigeons, and white plastic lawn chairs, and cows, and rows and rows of woods. And after his passing, it wasn’t long until the farm went too. Slowly, we began to see his family less and less, and as the years went by, the memories continued to fade.

All the while, that poem I wrote as a preteen, memorializing his memory, was still tucked away in a box of old childhood writings, loud in its lament.

Art is incredible in that way—it remains alive, even after its muse is long gone. Art is everlasting, ethereal, and eternal.

Perhaps that is why I love it so. Whatever art captures can never be lost.

And so, I get to keep Granny Hala in the painting of flowers I made for her weeks before I lost her.

I get to keep Pippi in the dress I sewed and presented on opening night for an art gallery.

I get to keep my childhood pets—Hans and Pange—on the canvas with every brushstroke.

I get to keep Poppi in the porcelain I fire in the kiln.

I get to keep David in the feature articles I write for the newspaper.

I get to hold on to every person I love for as long as I want, all because of the magic of art making.

Maybe it’s not art for you. Maybe it’s not even loss. But some kind of pain that is aching to be healed is tugging on your heart right now. And there is something you can do to release the pain and soothe the heart. It might seem unconventional—it might even seem radical—but I promise the freedom is right within reach.

And it all starts with story.

Heros Journey Diagram2022 2

“This course would be a journey of discovering oneself—perhaps for the very first time—and seeing the confidence of that self-surgency unfold day by day, lesson by lesson.”

Surrender in Storytelling

When Corey asked me to cocreate a storytelling course for a client, I should have known the adventure would not be easy, nor would it be quick. I should have known when I said yes—and crossed the threshold into the creation process—that the vision would go beyond the horizon. It wouldn’t just be one course and it wouldn’t just take a few months to build.

It would take two years, and from it would come a lot of challenges and a lot of choices to redefine who I was and who I wanted to be.

But back in the autumnal months of 2020, I said yes to this beautiful project without much thought to the future. The project seemed exciting and curious. The structure of the course would borrow from Joseph Campbell’s concept of the hero’s journey, which mapped the storytelling structure of various ancient myths and came to the conclusion that great stories have several elements common to them, from the hero, to the mentor, to overcoming the ordeal, to accepting the reward. I had studied this structure before and enjoyed many of the novels and films that borrowed from it. But I had no idea that the course would be more than just a writing course, more than just a storytelling course.

I had no idea that while I was conducting interviews with Corey and we were talking about his childhood and his relationship to feeling special and his fear of feeling invisible we were excavating a clear path for people to uncover their purpose and shine light on the unique gifts they possess in service to bettering the world.

I had no idea while I was crafting the reading materials and writing the journal prompts that this course would be a journey of discovering oneself—perhaps for the very first time—and seeing the confidence of that self-surgency unfold day by day, lesson by lesson.

I had no idea while I was creating FAQs and revising surveys that this course would be a safe place for a community of like-minded souls to connect and share stories with one another.

I had no idea that this course would unlock vulnerability so fiercely that I would openly cry in front of strangers and feel like I knew them for years instead of only minutes.

I had no idea that this course would wrestle with my intellect and break my pride; no, I do not have all the answers, and this course taught me that.

I had no idea that this course would save lives, would be the anchor someone needed while they battled cancer, would be the grace someone needed to let go of their past, would be the affirmation someone needed to begin writing the book they were always meant to write.

I had no idea that this course would be holy ground—a place where participants could kneel before the broken pieces of their life’s story and surrender it all, and find healing in the surrender.

“I did not see this coming. I did not see tears being shed, past hurts being released, relief flooding in, joy buoying up, and radical healing occurring from within.”

Stories Heal That Which Hurts from Within

This course is healing. There is no other word for it. When I agreed to work with Corey on building this course, I had no idea what would become of it, but I can guarantee you that I did not see this coming. I did not see tears being shed, past hurts being released, relief flooding in, joy buoying up, and radical healing occurring from within.

Storytelling has always been magical to me—it has always been a place of healing. Art has always been that solid ground for me; with every heartache or every shock, I run to the page or I run to the canvas, because I recognize that art is my therapy. Art heals all wounds.

But I had no idea that art could do that for everyone—that storytelling could do that for everyone. That you didn’t have to be an artist or a professional storyteller to find the healing you needed. That all you had to do was show up, be open to your life, and be ready to find the story just waiting inside you.

Until this course.

Until I witnessed the storytellers in the room releasing all that pain and being met with beauty on the other side. Until I witnessed the frame being placed around the artwork that is their life—their story—and felt the relief of acceptance, of who they are and who they are destined to become, wash over the room. Until I witnessed the honesty and support and love from everyone in the room as they held space for the healing to take place within each other.

The magic of art will always heal, restore, and resurrect what was lost. This course is no exception. When we started this work all those months ago, I did not think I would be contributing to a masterpiece, or to hundreds and hundreds of them—all individuals, all worthy of a portrait to be painted, a story to be shared.

I did not realize that it would not just be storytellers or artists who would benefit from this course, but that everyone on this planet could benefit from this course—that after these last two years, after the isolation and confusion and fear, we all needed healing. We all needed love and acceptance and kindness and the space to feel seen and heard. We all needed art.

Whatever it is you are experiencing right now, whether that’s loss or failure or pain or doubt, I want to encourage you to not hold back. To release your story, to paint your portrait, to fall in love with the person who is buried deep within. To find your purpose. To find your place in the world.

I want to encourage you to remember who you love—and to include yourself in that remembrance.

Story Heroes Faces