The Story Behind the Curtain
As a child who grew up in the 1980’s, one of the movies I loved to watch was the Wizard of Oz. Singing along with Dorothy as she goes on the Yellow Brick Road or hiding under the covers when the Wicked Witch tries to take ToTo, or better yet, *not* ignoring the man behind the green curtain. The Wizard with his loud voice and green smoke was nothing more than a simple man trying to be something he wasn’t. A simple story with a powerful message.
I wish, as an adult, I could learn those lessons from childhood because they seem to be repeated in multiple ways. Such as a story like my own.
Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light. Bréne Brown
These past months have been some of the hardest of my life. No, no one has died, been divorced, or developed a life-threatening illness, but a choice had to be made in my family’s life. To another person, it may seem comically easy. Or, yet, to another, it would be impossible. The minute details of my decision are not necessary; surviving the process has been monumental.
You see, in the above quote, this author has become a champion to me. Her struggles. Her pain. Her face-down moments of shame, embarrassment, grief, and ultimate survival have been a beacon of hope for me. Why? Because I too have had to own my story.
My story of a writer is unusual in the sense that I came to it “by chance.” I never thought myself of one who liked to write. Oh sure, I love to talk in small circles or big events, but I’m not a huge people person with dozens of friends. I can “fake-it-till-I-make-it” if I have to, but truth be told I enjoy the quietness of my home 80% of the time. I turned to writing to tell others my story of healing through the pain. I tried to help people. I wanted to make a difference in people’s marriages — to encourage them, cheer them on, and help them over the bumps.
But just how Bréne Brown talks about a face-down moment in the arena (you know, where it’s almost a total-knockout. And the crowd is cheering for the opponent?) Yeah, that one. That has been me for months.
I wrote an article, and the response from it was like a punch in the gut. I was a newbie writer, and my 3rd article just about killed me. I couldn’t breathe. I didn’t know what to do. And I hardly knew how to keep writing some days. The closer the day came for the big decision, the harder it was to write. The joy was gone. The pain was just too much.
The grief was unbearable.
There were so many days I could feel the opponent’s hand (figuratively) choking me. Wanting me to quit. The crowd booing in my ears. My readership dropping. Questions of “should I keep writing” ringing in my ears. The good days I felt a pull to write, but sometimes words would fail me.
Exploring the Darkness of the Story
For those who know me, know that I’m a positive and upbeat person. I love exclamation points, emojis, and hearts (purple preferred). Grief is not handled with emojis. Let me tell you. The exclamation points aren’t usually doled out with excitement, but rather harsh and angry words. And those purple hearts? I’m glad my family didn’t get purple heart medals from the mood swings I have had.
If I were to give you a peek behind the curtain, what would you find?
No. No. Before you get all crazy; this isn’t a paid advertisement or anything like this. It’s one of my ways of survival.
“Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky.” (Brown) But to embrace my vulnerability, I had to learn what they were. Kindness and cheerfulness is a strength to me, but what happens when there is nothing to be kind or cheerful about? When a close friend betrays you? When you have to uproot your children to new locations? This is what I have had to learn. My strengths can be my weaknesses if I’m not careful.
Kindness can turn to anger. Cheerfulness to snark, unkind words. Purple hearts into poop emojis.
Through learning how to stop the ever-racing chatter in my head, I have found ways to be quiet. I have been able to work through the anger and betrayal, and found love and forgiveness. I have been able to remove the virtual hand that chokes my breath away and find in myself a calming breath. Painful decisions have been made, and my family has survived them.
Is the grief over? Are the ache and the pain gone? No. It’s still there, but the sharpness (the sting of the knife) is turning to dullness.
Healing: Making your own happy ending to your story
1. Asking for help
We all want that perfect website, but DIY’ing can be difficult. It is ok for you to ask for help from professionals and friends as you learn the ins and outs of blogging. Call in a favor, pay a professional, or purchase an all-inclusive web design tech team. When you realize that help is out there, it can take a huge load off of your mind as your work your business.
2. Finding what works
As I learned that mediation and quietness are important to me to readjust in life, you too will have to find out what will work for you in business. Just because a marketing style works for someone else, does not mean that it will work for you. Sure, there may be elements that you can learn from other people, but make sure what you choose to represent and sell your business is something that you approve of and like. In the beginning, this is difficult because you may not know what you like. So pick and choose, try different options, and be open to multiple ways of trying things before you put down a lot of money.
Also, be very careful of get-rich-quick scenarios. As the old adage goes, “If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.” Before you purchase a program or training from someone, really look at what they are doing. Talk to their followers. Ask hard questions. The more you can make sure you can have a return on your investment (ROI), the better off you will be in the future.
3. Never quitting
Quitting is easy, fighting and keeping going can be very difficult. So make sure that you keep going even if it is difficult. Even if there isn’t a paycheck. If this is what you are supposed to do, then keep going!
If you live long enough, you’ll make mistakes. But if you learn from them, you’ll be a better person. It’s how you handle adversity, not how it affects you. The main thing is never quit, never quit, never quit. Bill Clinton
4. Accepting the present
To me, this is one the best lessons I have learned through meditation. It is all about accepting what is happening RIGHT NOW. My mind starts racing towards to the future and playing out hundreds of different scenarios. “What if” this doesn’t work, “what if” I could make a thousand dollars. Or, my mind goes backwards and remembers the failures and things that didn’t work.
But when I focus on what is happening right now, my breath, the floor beneath my feet, the smell of honeysuckle in the air (I live in the country!), the chatter of my kids – that is actual reality. Not the scenarios of the future or replays of the past. It has to be what is happening right now. As I do this, I am able to calm down and refocus on what I should be doing and making plans for the future. Yes, that’s right. Plans – not fake dreams, hopeful scenarios, but real step-by-step plans of what I should be doing to reach my goals.
5. Embracing my vulnerability
My vulnerabilities make me who I am today. They are the nuts & bolts of my personalities. They describe me. I am my vulnerabilities.
To deny them. To hide them. To try and change them…means I am attempting to change who I am at my very core. (*hint* it doesn’t work). Just as we encourage our children to be who they are, as adults, we have to remember those lessons as well.
Please don’t confuse this as avoiding social norms, living without electricity, and never showering. That is not who I am. But when others force their so-called “societal norms” onto my writing style, then I have to step back and reevaluate what I’m trying to say. If they disapprove of my cheerfulness, my encouragement and positive message with marriage, and my love of positivity…then I have to turn a deaf ear to their criticism. I must ignore them. They are not my target audience.
And even if it is so-called friends, to change who I am to please them is not embracing who I am. When I start changing myself to become like them, I lose my voice and myself.
I spent a lot of years trying to outrun or outsmart vulnerability by making things certain and definite, black and white, good and bad. My inability to lean into the discomfort of vulnerability limited the fullness of those important experiences that are wrought with uncertainty: Love, belonging, trust, joy, and creativity to name a few. Bréne Brown
Close the Story: Finishing the painful chapter
I wish life were like a book; you could quickly skim over the scary parts and get to the fun ones. Life, however, is not like that. As I continue to finish the painful chapter of my life, I can look back at times and see the positive lessons that I have learned from it. And yes, the negative experiences too. But maybe, categorizing them as positive and negative is wrong of me. They are simply lessons. The so-called negative ones have taught me so much about myself and forced me to grow into the person that I am today.
The more that I “lean into the discomfort of [my] vulnerability” (Brown), the more I too am discovering belonging where I am to be. I am finding the love of new friends; friends that help and encourage me versus painful betrayal. I have found new creativity in writing and enjoy this new side of me. But most of all, I have discovered who I am.
No. It hasn’t been easy. My story is fraught with painful twists and turns. But I’m thankful that it’s mine, and I hope one that you will share your story with me.
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