Reframing the Shadowed Life: On Being Abled, by Larkin Oates, MFA, MA

A few years ago I happened across a radio interview, “Losses and the Laughter We Grow Into;” with author, storyteller, funny and wise man Kevin Kling and Krista Tippet (On Being).

At that time, I thought about the way in which Kling conveys his experience of being ‘dis-abled’. He said that in Dante‘s epic journeys, ‘Dis’ is “the underworld of shadow and reflection.” Kling therefore translates his experience as, “being abled through the world of shadow and reflection.” I embrace his reframe, because I too am abled, in my own way. In fact, many can relate, especially as we age and experience changes to our own abilities.

As a student in Kabbalah, I see “the land of shadow and reflection” as our distortions in the emotional realm of Yetserah. The divine comedy is that we must travel through that emotional universe to reach God (in Briah), and again as we bring the spiritual back into the linear world where we live (in Assiyah).

Recently, I reread this radio show’s transcript and see another side of Kling’s reframing ability. As a writer, he says he re-authors his story, so his physical realities do not control him. Although he says he is not ‘cured,’ by writing he enables personal healing. As such, he finds grace and humor beyond his shadowed experiences.

Kling looks further at the difference between being cured and healed. Whereas we may never be cured or have certain losses reversed, we can possibly morph how we deal with and maybe feel about loss, and consequently find some emotional healing.

Kling says therefore, “You can survive anything with humor and a sense of self.” Indeed, people cope with life’s complexities in numerous ways. And, when we cannot find humor or strength amidst crisis and hurt, sometimes we seek help to reawaken our personal power and wisdom. Many tools help us reframe our past and present; from our spiritual practices to narrative therapy, and from EMDR to hypnosis. Through storytelling, Kling shares his version of narrative therapy, and that helps him shape his life with what the reader experiences as marvelous spiritual wisdom.