By Joy Redstone
(Today was the day that the new low income mental health clinic started–Naropa Community Counseling–and I found myself reflecting on why I am here, and why I feel so passionately about bringing Naropa’s healing modalities to the community. My life’s work has been hearing the stories of many wounded people and now my calling is to help others tell their stories.)
I want to tell you this part of my story because it needs to be told. And I want you to tell your story as it also needs to be told. I want to tell my story because all those points of brilliance and of dark that I have touched demand to be told. The whispers of the stories of the echoes that I have heard want to be breathed into your ear as my soft lips graze the hair on your ears, and my warm breath moistly stirs your hair. I want us to tell our stories as this is both how we heal and how we soften the calloused hearts that surround us. Our stories are the only thing we have at the end of days and our stories are how we begin, living those narratives so defined and defining as those that love us yet wound us tell us the stories of who we are supposed to be.
I am a person whose heart can be stilled by the recollection of snow on a curved hill against the pewter sky, and still lifted by a flight of dragon flies against cotton candy eddies of cloud against the darkening slate skies. I want to tell my story so I can teach you, so that I can call you home, too, call you to return to the unbowed courageous version of your younger self, some freckle faced version of self, feckless and open, full of wonder.
I found my way, and I’ve called the widely scattered pieces of my soul back to me, and they’ve done as commanded, skittering and keening, rushing and leaping, to return my heart to me. With supplicant palms I greet each day and I stand before you unbroken.
I can only tell my story in fragments, as befits a person who fragmented before she knew what is was to be whole, and rushed into the world with her broken pieces in outstretched hands, seeking the puzzle pieces to fit with other damaged hearts’ pieces. This story is for all the people who know what it means to shiver with the intensity of the desire to die, who laughed at the darkness while paying homage to it as well, yet who find the will to stay and the courage to choose here, to choose now, to choose the sunrise, the moon set, the owls call, the laughter of coyotes, to peer through the warmly lit windows of a home knowing that they have never known home, to choose the warm and musky smell of their children’s hair.
When you go away as much as I did, you risk never coming back. And when you are finally here, each day is a blessing beyond measure. Even the hard parts, the tedious parts, even and perhaps especially the very sad parts are so vividly and poignantly real.
Welcome back, welcome home, welcome self! What I have found and I know you are finding here at Naropa is the doorway. I beckon you through this doorway of story. Tell your story and I will tell mine and we will tell our stories to this world that needs our stories.
About the Author:
Joy Redstone, LCSW, CAC III
Joy Redstone is a licensed clinical social worker and addiction counselor. She is the director of the Naropa Counseling Center, as well as adjunct faculty at Naropa and University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work. She is a writer and artist, and contributes regularly to the Daily Camera. She served as the executive director of Bridge House for seven years, during which Bridge House expanded its budget ten-fold, added many new services for clients, and won several awards for excellence in service delivery. An advocate for the homeless and board member of Boulder Outreach for Homeless Overflow, Joy lives in Boulder and has two children. Joy has years of experience with dually diagnosed and homeless clients, as well as extensive experience in working with mentally ill ex-prisoners.