Everyone has a story. I’m writing this post as a reminder for myself, as much as encouragement for others, to speak up. When there is something going on in your life or your heart that is relatable, honest, and true, sometimes throwing it out into the universe makes other people feel encouraged, inspired, or less alone. I have found that with writing this blog. Sometimes in order to share about myself or my past, I have to include the stories of other people in my life, like my husband, family, or friends. I choose these stories carefully because as much as I’d like to verbally spew every emotion out onto the page, I realize that some are more beneficial than others.
Basically, I’m an open book in the effort to be as genuine as possible with everyone I meet. This is tricky because my authentic self really likes to swear. I love a well placed four letter word. I hate the idea of treating certain groups of people differently because we’re all humans, whether we’re at church, work, around a dinner table or campfire, the gym, school, daycare, a peaceful protest, a concert…whatever space you’re in, you’re still yourself, right? Sometimes people adopt different personalities around various social groups in their life. While I understand this, it’s also a task that requires a massive amount of mental effort I just don’t have at the end of the day. So to keep it real, I make sure to drop the F bomb around family, friends, coworkers, and fellow Christians alike…not to offend, but just to be who I am because wearing a mask around people is seriously exhausting. If you don’t have a problem with swearing like I do, substitute whatever it is that makes you uniquely you: singing loudly in your car while at a stoplight, cooking for others, reading and snuggling with a pet, screaming at the TV while watching sports, whistling in elevators, conversing with strangers, giving water to homeless people on street corners…whatever it is, do it proudly and be consistent about it.
I also really love sharing what’s happening in life, the challenges, joys, vacations, struggles, and downright sad stuff (like losing a pet) because what I’m finding through all this sharing is that people can relate. While the idea of splaying myself open and being vulnerable in this way is always a little scary, it’s better than remaining closed off to the goodness of friendship and the reciprocal stories I’ve heard from others. Think about all the books you love, the stories that shaped who you are. Imagine if the authors of those stories had never written them because they were too scared of what other people would think…
My generation is not the same as our parents. Not to make a sweeping generalization here, but most of us think differently about things that once held some kind of weird stigma. We have embraced therapy. The mark of disgrace that once came with using medicine for mental health no longer exists (outside the church…there is still work to do inside those walls). We have thrown off the notion that seeking counseling means we are weak or have little faith. This has led to a generation of healthier individuals, some of whom have conquered past demons by addressing issues from childhood so they could lead stronger lives filled with a deeper sense of well-being. We have also learned how to leave jobs that we hate to find fulfillment. We parent differently. We are more accepting of different cultures and lifestyles. We are doers and seekers. Each generation finds its way by learning from the one before.
So back to why it’s so important to share your story. There have been blogs I’ve posted where someone has tried to shame me for saying what I did, whether it be about myself or another. I make no apologies. The reason I feel this way is because friends related. They responded with stories of their own, how they were feeling the same way too. It made me realize that being our authentic selves and opening up about what is going on in our lives can sometimes open a door to new conversations. And in today’s environment of hostile division politically and otherwise, we need to cling tightly to the things we can all relate to, whether or not we hold the same beliefs on other issues.
The stories I’ve seen on social media have encouraged the hell out of me and are threads in the vast web that forms our humanity. We can choose to focus on the division, or we can choose to look harder at what is truly going on in people’s lives. Sometimes this is tricky to see from a Facebook post, but cutting off the rich knowledge our neighbors can offer us by sharing would be a detriment to ourselves. It takes courage to reveal oneself to friends and family who might not always understand, but please, BE BRAVE AND TELL YOUR STORY….
- Women I know have shared stories about their miscarriages and the pain they felt during that time.
- A couple of friends are going through divorce and they have shared how broken they are in the midst of such a heartrending process.
- Friends in the LGBTQ community have shared relationship photos and stories about coming out to friends and family.
- Pastors have shared stories about transitioning times and beliefs, and the heavy questions held within that space.
- Families have talked about their adoption stories and posted their own blogs to encourage others going through that same process.
- Friends shared blogs about leaving jobs or switching careers and how rewarding and scary that decision was.
- Women (and a few men) have shared stories about sexual harassment and how it affected their lives.
- Friends have lost loved ones and pets and talked about the pain of grief and the hope of seeing them again someday.
- Parents talk about successes and epic fails, and all the humor and angst that goes along with those!
- People have moved to different parts of the country to start new lives and that can be a really lonely place.
We are not islands. We are not snowflakes. Our experiences as humans on this planet make us the SAME. I am so grateful for every post that is real and true in the muck and mire of life. I am working each day on being a little less censored and a little more free. This is a daily practice because it’s so easy to hide in our own shells, staying beneath the bubble of our own denial or fear. Please keep telling the stories. They encourage me. They encourage others you may never know about. Speak truth and life into the mess of the world.
Be you, be real, be free…