“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you.” –Maya Angelou
Learning to own my story was no small task. It meant not just describing myself as a daughter, mother, wife, and friend, but coming to know what makes my heart sing and what makes me cringe with fear. What beliefs are driving my decisions? How did I get to where I am?
When I started sharing the story of me (with people who had earned the right to hear it), a friend quickly noted that all of my sentences started with the pronoun “he” or “they.” I was convinced this was my story. These things happened to me! I worked with a therapist and others on the same journey and slowly but surely my perspective started to shift from “life is happening to me” to “I am co-creating this story.” Yes, I lived with some pretty crazy stuff, and yes there was a lot to tell, but owning my story meant I had to go inside and feel all of the feelings around my experiences.
“He did this and that” became “I was overwhelmed and exhausted each and everyday trying to fix and control the chaos so I didn’t have to feel this pain.” I had a lot of shame around his behavior, and I didn’t want anyone to know I was a failure. His behavior had nothing to do with me, and I really wasn’t a failure, but that’s what I told myself, so I got really good at performing. When I finally had enough courage to take off the mask, I felt exposed and vulnerable. Some stuff was hard to acknowledge, and I perfected the hokey-pokey. You know, “put your whole self in then take your whole self out,” but little by little as I continued to turn towards myself and listen to that part of me I was trying to avoid, I started to get better. I started to be a better version of myself, and that me had a deep knowing that I was no longer willing to settle for just good enough. I was going to write a better story.
Each time I trust the process and take a bite of my own reality, I get to witness my own courage. Not only did no one reject me, they love and trust me more, because I am approachable, authentic and real. My crap is no different than your crap.
“Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.” ―Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit
What is holding you back from putting your whole self in?
Do you have a safe place to get real?
Rachel Naomi Remen’s books, Kitchen Table Wisdom and My Grandfather’s Blessings are both on my bookshelf
12 step recovery groups, such as Al-Anon Family Groups and Adult Children of Alcoholics, are a beautiful way to connect with others traveling a journey to wholeness.
Deborah Denson is a Mediator and Conflict Coach in Nashville, TN. She shares her personal journey learning to manage conflict and life in general on her blog, where she combines original art and wit into a daily dose of insight and humor for readers.