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There are stories I’ve told myself all my life.  That I was unworthy.  That I was less than.  That this person or that person held me back.  That someone had to give me permission.  That my choices were not my own.  That someone else was to blame.  That certain people wouldn’t approve.  That I had to accomplish great things and yet I had to be an expert before I could even participate because I had to be right.

My excuses and rationalizations were honed, ready, and well-rehearsed.  Told over and over until, to me, they were unalterable truths.  One life-long pattern has been to look at imperfections, at holes, at something lacking – in myself, in others, in experiences.  To envy another, thinking they had more opportunity, or were smarter, more capable, more this, more that.

I have focused on my lack.  Blamed others.  Held on to old stories.  My cup runs over and I complain about water spills.  I have more than I need and complain about my clutter.

I could go on and tell my old stories once more, remind myself how this caused that and then made me what I am.  Maybe even try to convince you that I am who I am because of them.  But these stories are old, tired and limiting.  They are tenacious chains that keep me tethered to beliefs no longer useful.  Haven’t been useful for a long, long time.  Never were useful perhaps.  Never were the whole truth to begin with.  Accepted and owned, but not true.

The chains that kept me tethered were my own stories.  Link by link by link, they were my own.  My limiting beliefs were exactly what limited me.  Not you or him or them or what happened years ago or even last week.  I struggled with how to let go of beliefs that had been with me all my life.  They were so accepted, they felt a part of me, like the skin that held me together.  If the stories were not true, then what would hold me together?

Some story-beliefs could be shed easily once I looked them directly in the face.  But others were so invisible and accepted that I wasn’t even conscious of them until something happened to bring them to the surface.  Someone challenged me.  Someone asked just the right question.  Someone listened long enough that I could hear myself talking in circles.

All of this wondering about stories and truth and things believed was in the back of my head when I saw a pile of chains on a seaside dock in Alaska last week.  I shot the chains knowing immediately I wanted to create a mandala from the photograph.  The chains spoke to me, whispering of my own chains.  I didn’t know when I shot the picture that the mandala would speak to me even more profoundly.  I created the mandala, playing with texture, pattern, lighting.  Then I erased some of the darkness by selecting certain shadow areas with the Magic Wand tool in Photoshop and hitting the “cut” command.  There, in the pattern, obscured by the shadows, butterflies magically appeared, eager to be released.

All I needed to do was let go of the old, tired stories.