A Terrifying Story Turns Funny

inquiry always leaves you with less of a story…or a funnier one

I was working with a woman who had a very troubling memory.

Raging in her household, frightened times, hiding in a closet.

These dramatic experiences are difficult to remember and recall. Isn’t this the stuff worth forgetting? Don’t I prefer to get away from it, not dredge it up, shaking the bottle of settled water with sediment sitting on the bottom?

Now, the bottle is full of cloudy water! I hate this! Why do I want to look at that old memory, what good could it possibly do?!

It’s naturally human to feel resistance to remembering something difficult. And no one says you have to go over it again.

But with The Work, what I noticed for me is…..

…..the profound relief of discovering my memories getting resolved and taking their natural place.

In the past.

And sometimes, they become kind of funny, instead of horrific.

A memory.

I am in the dining room with my entire family, everyone has just taken their seat (we always sit in the same seats) and the meal is beautiful and elegant. Silverware, place mats, traditional antique grand table.

One of my sisters and I have set up a tape recorder to “PLAY” on the side board with a one-hour recording tape running. The tape recorder went missing for awhile, under someone’s bed, but now we’ve found a new blank tape and are working as spies.

Dinner is served, the meal is underway. My sister and I keep looking at each other and giggling, knowing EVERYTHING is being recorded. We are doing a great secret job.

We’re giddy with excitement. My other sisters who don’t even know we’ve got the tape recorder running both chime in with the giggling, getting in the game, and someone laughs boisterously and everyone’s snorting at once.

There’s a commotion.

Suddenly dad slams both palms down on the table, stands up, yells “I want some goddamn quiet in here!!!!”

We’re frozen and silent.

He hits his hand on the wall and shouts again “goddamnit!” and storms out of the dining room.

We hear the door slam as he leaves.

My mom gets up silently and starts clearing the plates and tells us to help.

We all clear the table to the kitchen, put dishes in the dishwasher. My mom goes upstairs with the two younger sisters. There’s empty quiet in the kitchen.

My sister and I nod to each other, and meet at the tape recorder.

Silently, I push rewind and we stare at the humming wheels, speeding back to the beginning until clunk, it hits the beginning. I slowly reach to the PLAY button, and push it.  We stand, huddled over the recorder with the volume very low and we listen intently, not saying a word.

We hear the whole dinner table scene….and then….the terrible YELL from my dad.

With a panic my sister punches the STOP button and we both gasp and cover our mouths with horror. We have actually recorded a most terrible moment. Our hearts are beating.

Get that moment off the tape recorder, ASAP. I push erase and rewind.

Now, decades later, I marvel remembering that incident.

It was a “terrible” moment. My dad left the house for hours. He wasn’t even home yet when we went to bed.

And who am I now, in this moment, remembering that dinner table, and all my sisters, and the giggling and laughing and snorting, and my dad losing it?


The coincidence of actually TAPE RECORDING one of the few times my dad absolutely lost his temper and stormed out of the house.

Who could have planned it?

I see now how ingenious reality was.

Making it double-obvious and crystal clear that an angry explosion had just happened. And reminding me so well about my terror of my dad getting angry and the absurdity of catching it on tape, I get to remember that moment with fresh eyes.

The eyes of much greater wisdom, and the heart of someone who can see something that is not frightening, now that I think about it.

Maybe this loving heart and these wiser eyes were also there all the way back then, when I felt like the whole situation was my fault and I was the oldest and shouldn’t have shaken things up like that.

Without my beliefs about anger and my father, or anyone else’s anger, I feel so much lighter.

I even feel like chuckling at that scene.

Or belly laughing.

That was HILARIOUS the way that happened. Don’t you agree?

Maybe you can see your difficult memory with different eyes and heart as well?

Even if your memory really wasn’t that funny….maybe you notice that right now, here, you are completely safe and its over, and its OK to take a look at what was going on back in that memory, to see if you missed anything.

Maybe something you thought was true, actually isn’t?

“Inquiry always leaves you with less of a story. Who would you be without your story? You never know until you inquire. There is no story that is you or that leads to you. Every story leads away from you. You are what exists before all stories. You are what remains when the story is understood.” ~ Byron Katie

Love, Grace

P.S. We’re talking about Desire in a free webinar today at 10 am Pacific. Come on over! Visit yesterday’s Grace Note for link.

4 Replies to “A Terrifying Story Turns Funny”

  1. Some events like that I bet are how most comedians make their money! Reframing like at The School for The Work, I told the story of how my sister and I were hit by rocks from some wayward boys on a hill above where we were walking on a path by the river. I had to come up with a headline for the story. It was “Girl gets stoned down by the river”!

  2. You’re so welcome…yes, it’s very different to sit with a memory and not brace against it in the same way at all. Thanks for writing!–Much love, Grace

  3. Wow this triggered some memories for me this morning. I really do appreciate your Grace Notes – they show how inquiry can re frame a situation. Not take the memory away, but remember and put a blessing on it. Thank you

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