Braver/Wiser: A Weekly Message of Courage and Compassion

Healing Through Story

By Erica Shadowsong

“The reward for attention is always healing.”
― Julia Cameron, The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity

As a storyteller, I favor myths and folktales. I’ve never been one to tell personal stories. Then a virtual contest opportunity arose that invited me to confront this aversion: the story I told would have to be true and personal. A funny story did come to mind...but to tell it, I’d have to examine a part of my life I never talk about.

On a rocky ledge overlooking the wilderness, a Black man wearing a backpack holds a map.

Thinking about my roots makes me feel lost; my various identities feel shallow, in flux, unformed. I was raised in a very small community that can best be described as a cult. It's not a word I like to use, but it's the one that will most help people understand what I’ve lost. Sometimes I think the things that might give me value are the very things that I was denied: answers not just about who I am, but also about to whom I belong. Who is my community? Who are my people?

For example, though I am of African and Latin descent, my exposure to my heritage was non-existent. Instead, we conformed to the group and its norms of whiteness. I am not who you come to when you want to understand the Black Church. I didn't know that some Black families celebrate Kwanzaa. I never learned how to wrestle my hair into the perfect, smooth styles my grandmothers, aunts, and cousins seem to effortlessly do. By the time I reached college, I would have a long road ahead to reclaim the fact that my experience, with all its weirdness, is still Black experience.

My struggle to find a solid identity is also true for other parts of me—as an artist, a pagan, and a person—as if everything that’s led me here are only interruptions and obstacles, instead of part of what makes me the more whole person I am today.

The shift, for me, occurred by telling my story instead of trying to pretend like it never happened. By the time I was done editing the funny story, I had crafted a piece of art mined from from a time in my life that I never thought I would be able—or willing—to share with others. In my weird, embarrassing upbringing, I found hope about exploring the telling of my own storied life with the love and respect it deserves.


Dear Creative Life Force, thank you for your endless power to heal through the practice of crafting stories from our lives. The infinite healing power of creativity is the best gift you've given to us. Please help us to grow more compassion for ourselves every day, so that we may have compassion for others.