How many of us listen to others’ stories in awe of what you can learn or what they have experienced and thought, “I wish I had something that was worth telling, or had something to say that would make someone else connect the way I do with them.” Has this phrase ever ran through your mind: “nothing that I have experienced can help or compare with what they have gone through.”
This is Me!!! To be honest, Julie has been suggesting I write a story for our blog for over a year. Yep, a year to get up the nerve to put something in writing. I continued with the hustle of “this person’s story is much more relatable and I know people really can learn from her experience.” While these are all true…I was scared. How could I put something in writing that was anywhere near the other stories women have shared?
Then I thought:
- What if it wasn’t a competition of who’s story connected the most?
- What if it was just as much freeing to get the words on paper as someone else reading the words?
- What if each and every one of our stories mattered?
Awhile back I went to a workshop that was filled with psychologists, care providers, active mindfulness teachers… and then there was me. Talk about feeling like you don’t belong. I pushed forward through the hustle in my head with the mental pep talk of – I am doing this for me, I belong here just as much as they do, on repeat as I signed in and found my seat. The morning started pretty “safe” with lectures, self reflection work and meditation. Before lunch we just had a simple breakout activity. I gave myself another pep talk – I can do this, we all have value.
The requirements were:
- Groups of 3 people
- Each person had 7 minutes to share their story
- The story had to be something you had experienced over 2 years ago, be something painful you went through, and something you have worked through.
- There would be a round robin story sharing and you could only listen to others’ stories. No talking.
- Story sharing started with the person at the end of the 3 person group.
Of course I was at the end of the group and was setup to start the sharing. The hustle in my head suddenly started to work in overdrive:
- My “stuff is all small”
- What do I know about “real pain”
- I don’t have anything that “adds value”
- I am “uneducated” and “uncultured” compared to these ladies, how can I even relate
As I only had a few minutes to prepare I decided to tell the story of when we didn’t see or talk to my stepdaughter for 18 months. It was over 5 years ago, we have reconnected, and are good now. I told myself this will be fine and I can go through it quickly and move on to the next person… easy peasy right? WRONG!!!
- The shame I felt of feeling like a horrible parent
- Feeling like I was the reason she didn’t want to see us
- The pain I inflicted on my husband Mike because I blamed myself
- How hard it was on our family
It all came pouring out to these two amazing women. They listened without judgement and just cried with me. It was the first time I talked about this and didn’t feel like I shouldn’t feel this way. The round robin continued and I was gifted with the opportunity to cry with these strong women as they told their stories.
“Janice” shared her story of losing her job because she was unwilling to put test scores above her student’s need to really learn the information. She explained the shame of being fired and thinking she didn’t matter anymore.
“Polly’s” story of divorce and the difficult impacts it had on her kids and how they defined family came pouring out. She shared the struggles of a duel household, events that tore the two households further apart, and how she never thought they would be “that family”.
In the moments that the three of us were crying, listening, and sharing we had SHARED HUMANITY!!!!
I connected on a deep level with these amazing humans because we realized we all have pain and story and it is a beautiful thing when we can connect with others through it.
After this very emotional activity we were released to go to lunch and needed to report back in an hour. “Polly”, the woman who had gone through divorce, asked if I minded if she join me for lunch. With a little apprehension I said sure. As we talked she told me the impacts that my story had on her. She used to be friends with her ex-husband’s wife, but discontinued contact with her altogether based on the friction over the last year. She thanked me and said after hearing me talk about my shame that she was going to reach out to her kid’s stepmom to have coffee and talk.
We never really know how our stories will hit others. We often think of our lives and stories as not big or good enough. We are afraid to share our failures, vulnerabilities or where we are not “picture perfect”. It is a rare case where we hear how our story makes someone think differently. Our stories matter, if not just for the other person, but for ourselves.
What if each and every one of our stories matter? Would you tell yours?