A Brief Thought: Own Your Story
Don’t just witness it, live it.
I can’t help but repeat this like a mantra.
This whole creative and exploratory space is about stories. They are such a gift because they are a new lens through which we can view the world. So much of my story is formed from witnessing other’s perspectives, finding truths in their story that resonate with mine; I glean insight from them. The ever unique but never isolated words that make up a person’s life create bridges of resonance to those familiar and unfamiliar.
I often miss how interconnected we are, how the chance to connect is so viable and yet so often missed because it can be sincerely frightening. Our impulse to connect welcomes small talk, but when it intends to step further, to claim vulnerability, we choose instead to censor.
A bared soul feels quite freeing though…
Which is why I am not so sure I want to censor anymore. It is not always easy to initiate, but in the moments where I could create a barrier, I want to instead reciprocate the generosity of another’s vulnerability by offering my own. I won’t shy from the opportunity to speak their language, to ask questions, to remain present, so their story can be shared a little longer.
Glean every minute
What does that mean, to glean?
It is to extract information, to collect gradually, bit by bit. I see its purpose as an intentional act of engagement. It is not to search for details in someone’s story to satisfy a sense of personal prowess or comparison, but to open your inhibitions and dismiss your assumptions long enough to hear their words. And by simply being willing to receive, to give them your honest attention, you may find something powerful to walk away with. I know I almost always have.
It is, too, where I see God. In the moments of connection, when I could give the shallowest of answers and put as many nonverbal cues to end this conversation, I instead return the inquiry, the compliment, offer an observation. I share a little of my story even if this connection never gets formed again.
Blessings abound when we allow ourselves to be seen and heard unashamedly .
The abundance could be found in the simplest of places. Personal example: a 10 minute conversation while on the bus. On my way home one evening, I met a woman who told me, with no pretense, that my health is worth valuing and that the loss of loved ones is a sad, but beautiful means of finding the strength to value yourself. It was bold statement that could have been regarded as intrusive, except with her sincerity, I felt only gratitude to be seen for what I was hesitant to show. I felt the gratitude so strongly because of the powerful element, which she had no knowledge of, which was my experience with death in my family.
At the time of this conversation, it had been about 3 years since my mom died from breast cancer. It was strange, her advice was so eerily accurate and a constant on my mind for weeks prior to this encounter. I was moved by her openness and by the timing of this intimate conversation — one that I could have so easily dismissed.
Instead I shared my loss and the pressing desire to live as healthy a life as possible. She answered with condolences that were as sincere as her advice and in thanking her I knew I was blessed by her unassuming wisdom. Though so small, I blessed her by acknowledging and reciprocating her vulnerability.
I have not seen her since that evening over a year ago, but the memory of our interaction has stayed with me and, with it, an immense gratitude to her.
Be and Do
After repeating, don’t just witness it, live it, these are the next words I speak like a mantra:
Be brave enough to trip through it and laugh through it and love through it and grow through it.
The growth includes tears and anger, self-pity and doubt, confusion and stubborn decisiveness, turbulent hatred, and paltry forgiveness. It is all the emotions that exist within you and it is yours. To own it means you can decide what you value enough to keep and relinquish what you find no longer serves you.
This ownership creates the empathy and compassion to hear, help and celebrate others. To be that which you desire, is first a matter of decision. With that decision, opens up the empathy and compassion for yourself, to hear, help, and celebrate you. That includes the parts of your history that hurt too much to acknowledge, parts so important to listen to. As you expose them slowly you liberate yourself to stand boldly in every part of you.
“when we deny the story, it defines us. When we own the story, we can write a brave new ending.” -Brene Brown
What else is life for, but to create and connect?
So, you own your story, a beautiful undertaking. But it does not end there.
If life’s great purpose is to create and connect then it means you have to engage. The impact of your decision to live with such transparency is only at its greatest when you converse with the stranger or spend an extra 10 minutes listening to someone. This does ask a bit of you. There may be times when it is hard to open up. There may be times when there are no words or there is a disconnect that seems irreparable. It takes energy, a certain resolve to know that your words may not be reciprocated, or perhaps, that you can’t reciprocate the other person’s story.
I realize I push vulnerability as the answer to a full life, but I would be remiss if I didn’t recognize that not everyone is meant to enter into your story or hear the deep parts of it. Or, in acting upon that vulnerability, that there is the very real possibility you will get hurt. It is therefore understandable to hold reservations, but the beauty is in the effort. The beauty is in the honesty to say I am growing into my story and I am willing to hear yours. It’s OK to take the time to gauge whether you feel safe to let someone into your history or to respect the reservations someone might place with you. But consider the engagement still, because though it is a very exposing act, it is also a relieving one.
A bared soul feels quite freeing though.
When I take the time to be an ear to listen, fully present despite feeling uncomfortable at the topic or inconvenienced at the circumstance, I know I am in the midst of my life unfolding and this experience is another layer that I can cherish and learn from. The pauses, the willingness to appreciate this time, is powerful because it says to you and to the other, your words are worth being spoken.
When you feel the intuitive nudge, act on it. Be aware of the moments when inconvenience seems to guide you toward comfort, and instead choose to accept the invitation.
Know your story.
Tell your story.
And learn someone’s story today.
Just a thought.