“The Danger of the Single Story”

SO INSPIRED today.  It was my first day back to school.  My second year of acupuncture school!  And now, onward to bigger and better things, like MORE CLINIC SHIFTS!  Days like today, after I saw my patient this morning and she seemed so much more comfortable and at ease after our treatment, that I am reminded why I am doing what I am doing.  That everything in my life has led up to this and if I can put someone just an inch more at ease than they were when they walked into the room, I feel like I have done something right.  I feel so grateful.

Today one of my teachers showed us a Ted Talk called, “The Danger of the Single Story”.  The whole time I’m thinking WOW, this woman is on fire!  She so eloquently states this idea of how we lessen our possibilities of greater happiness and understanding of the world because our thinking can be so narrow.  I often hear from family, friends, clients something that resembles this ‘single story’ idea – we get caught up in our stories of what we believe is Truth, sometimes they are about physical or emotional pain, maybe stereotypes we have of others, or insecurities we have about ourselves.  For example, if you struggle with feelings of sadness or unworthiness and you keep telling yourself, “I cannot overcome this.  This is who I am; what I am.”  The truth is, this is only a piece of you, not ALL of you.

Another example could be a physical ailment that is very consuming in your life.  Your doctor has prescribed you with “X” and so you get prescription “Y” to cure it.  Everything you do revolves around this disease – how you relate to people and how you function in the world.  How you eat and sleep.  But this doesn’t have to be all to it.

The danger of this “single story” idea is that we tell ourselves that this idea is the way that it is, nothing will change, we will not move forward or heal.  But what if you expanded your way of thinking?  Chimamanda says that these single stories are just part of the story, and that there is often so much more that we are refusing to see.  When this single story becomes your ONLY story, then you are missing out on the greatness that can be.

Please watch and I give you permission to stand up and applaud afterward.  I pretty much did.

My Story (in short)

When I was younger, I used to read a lot, like anything I could get my hands on.  My dad was (still is) a rock ‘n roll musician, and he would take me on the road with him to his out of town gigs.  My backpack always had a journal and a pile of books, usually about vampires and witches, far-off places, adventures, and fantasy.  I would dream about being a rock star while traveling the world, speaking multiple languages, boiling up my witches brew at home and then becoming an infamous writer for my crazy life stories.  It’s funny that my real story isn’t too far off from that!

How I ended up studying medicine/acupuncture/herbs and all of that has multiple layers, as how anyone’s story goes.  I lived in China for a few years and was a Chinese-English translator (among other things) and was lucky enough to find a few other expatriates to play music with on the side.  Ok, seriously lucky.  I basically got paid to play music, and it was amazing.  At many of my band’s gigs, we would sit around in between sets and have long hours to chat with other performers.  During one of these gigs, I met a salsa dancer from Israel, and found out she was an acupuncturist and yoga teacher.  We got on the topic of meditating, and the importance of finding stillness and listening to ourselves.  She challenged me to meditate for 5 minutes a day.  Not sure why then, but I began to flood with emotion – tears welled up in my eyes; I felt sadness, anger and confusion from this.  I went home and tried to sit and close my eyes – a minute later I looked at the clock and (obviously) only a minute had gone by.  Why was this so hard??  Why couldn’t I sit with myself?  I was already living my dream and stubbornly didn’t want to change.  But now I know, looking back, the universe was presenting me with an opportunity to take a new path, and I intuitively knew that and was terrified (still am!).

After that, everything changed.  I left China less than a year later, moved back to Seattle and began to study yoga and herbal medicine.  It sounds cheesy, but the earth was calling me home – I began to heal by going out into nature more and connecting with these things that I had detached myself from for so long.  I began fighting a resistance I had fought most of my life – the voice in the back of your head that tells you to hit the snooze button one more time because it won’t make a difference if you get up on time.  Or the voice that tells you if you go for that run it won’t matter because it might just be one day.  But one day does make a difference.  Baby steps!  (Ok, back on track…)

The longer story of my interest in medicine and studying acupuncture and herbs involves me growing up with a brother who died from Cerebral Palsy and severe scoliosis and who suffered a lifetime under a medical system which tells you there is no hope.  I’ve watched my family and friends continue to suffer under this medical system being told that they have a disease, and that disease defines them – I do not believe this to be true.  You don’t have to be your disease (this is another story which I will talk about later).

I suffered many injuries as well, from my arches collapsing while I was serving in the military, to injuring my back after jumping off a cliff, along with digestive issues & depression and I can tell you this that I have learned from it: CHANGE IS POSSIBLE.  With right effort, you mind, body & spirit will mend.  I have changed and here I am.

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Photo credit: Corinne Thrash