Two weeks ago I talked about recognizing oracular messages in the world around me, for instance through storygaming. In that case I didn’t recognize the significance of the sign until after an unpleasant incident, though it was helpful in making sense of my travails. Diagnostic, but not preventative, if you will.
But it gets better—shortly thereafter came a time when I did read the signs in time to avoid causing pain in myself and others. A little background: with our lease up, debts soaring, and paychecks through the summer, Annie and I concocted a mad plan to gain breathing room both financial and spiritual: help renovate her parents’ RV and ditch the city for the summer, camping rent-free on our friends’ farm.
But as we struggled to realize that dream, obstacles kept arising. Creditors, the IRS, the DMV and more descended on us. Both our computers broke down. And we moved in with Annie’s folks while her dad put the finishing touches on the RV.
My In-laws were generous and helpful, welcoming us in and working hard to get us going on our way. But I chafed. I felt out of control of my own destiny, and forced to rein in my personality to keep peace. I felt an unspoken struggle for power and control with my Father-in-law in terms of who helps and provides for my family.
After a long week the motor home was finally fixed. On the morning we embarked, I discovered that my Father-in-law, not me, was driving the RV, while I followed in the car…and Annie and our daughter Niamh were riding with him! I was furious, shamed, and confused. I felt, not like a man, but a kid, a tagalong, hanging about uselessly while he solved our family’s problems. Seething, I grabbed my things and made ready to go, and then I laid my hand on…the sword.
The sword was a keepsake, a decorative piece that I wore at our wedding, which had been lost, then rediscovered when we moved out of our house. I realized then that the sword marks significant changes in my life—it’s a talisman of boldness, of strength, of adventure. As it had taken on that ritual significance, I felt it was fitting that it was the last object to leave the house of my In-laws.
And so I carried it out to my car in a rage. Before I stepped in, I pulled the sword just a few inches from its scabbard to look on the gleam of its blade…and I remembered.
In my abortive studies of Celtic magic and ritual, the first thing I learned about the Sword is that the power resides not in the blade, but the sheath. It is the sheathed sword that is mighty, for the wise learn NOT to use it–focusing their energy where it will truly do good, not laying about them in a swath of bloodshed. And so I remembered that I can choose. I can choose to seethe and sulk and rage and wind up miserable, ashamed, and defeated, or I can focus my energy where it will most do good.
On the drive down to our temporary home at an RV park, I had time to think. I realized, thinking back to conversations with Annie (who is caught in the middle of this terrible masculine struggle), that the true problem is lack of relationship with my Father-in-law. We don’t know how to be around each other, so the rift keeps growing. So when we arrived, rather than avoid him or quarrel with him, I sought out his company as he went through all the hookups for the RV, placing myself in a position to be tutored by him in an area of treasured knowledge, and making just the tiniest step toward relationship. Even the act of looking him in the eye thanking him for his help, and shaking his hand was a huge stride.
The next trial came when I learned from Annie that her Father wasn’t comfortable with anyone else driving the RV at ALL, ever. This shattered my plans…gone was the nomadic dream, the jaunts to the coast, the sojourns in the Olympic Peninsula. Our modern-day Gypsy wagon had become an immobile tin can, and I once again a helpless child. Once again I was furious. But the Way of the sheathed Sword allowed me to see my way to what must be done: I went to my Father-in-law, and politely and forthrightly asked him for what I wanted: to be trained in driving the RV so he could be comfortable and we could keep our summer plans.
This is what storyjamming has taught me: how to claim story as my own wherever I encounter it—in a game, in the words of loved ones, in life experiences…or in a subtle little omen, a “coincidence” with meaning to share if I will but listen.
* * *
I didn’t get what I asked for. He was still too uncomfortable with anyone else driving his baby. And our plans have changed and downgraded as civilization holds its icy tendrils fast. But I stood up for myself in a manner that did not cause pain and discord. And that’s a victory worth savoring.