I never talked about it. I tucked it all away, deep down inside where no one could see it. Not even me.
No, I never talked about it until one day when I was attending a young mother’s group. I was about 30 years old … with three darling daughters. The guest presenter was speaking about the challenges of parenting and invited us to recall the warm and wonderful times in our childhood when we felt safe and protected and happy and coddled. Huh? The naive assumption that we all came from that enviable place surprised me. I could not resonate with where she was trying to take us … at all. I looked around the room. People were smiling … nodding. Some were tearing up in fond recollection. I went numb for a moment.
And then it hit me … and … I swallowed hard to hide the tears that nearly escaped … right there … in front of all those lovely young mothers caught up in that heavenly melancholic moment. My story was not their story. I felt like I just didn’t fit in. I remember thinking, “I don’t belong here.”
I went home and cried. A hard cry. And … the lid came off. It all came pouring out of me … in streams that chafed my cheeks and welted up the tender corners of my eyes. And then I got mad … MAD. How dare this gracious ‘presenter’ with the Hallmark childhood so cavalierly ignite the pain I had tucked away so effectively for so long! How dare she obliviously obliterate my strong, capable, logical, ‘I can handle anything’ persona. I felt fragmented and fragile and I couldn’t seem to collect myself with any degree of predictability. I simply could not get the lid back on it. And I tried … believe me I tried.
I’m not sure when I conceded … when I decided that it was time to tell my story rather than continue hiding it and hiding from it. Somehow, between the sadness that surprised me and the struggle to ignore it, I realized that I would need to ‘feel it’ in order to ‘heal it’. And THAT was certainly not a straight path. Nor easy. I was flooded with painful memories and I didn’t have a clue where to put them or how to carry them out there in the real world.
I started talking about it. I guess I shared too much … too often … because then someone said, “Is that is all she ever talks about?” Perhaps that was true. Maybe the pendulum had swung the other direction … when the lid blew off the mess was hard to contain. What I heard her saying was: “No one really wants to hear about it”. Ouch.
And I almost silenced myself again. Out of shame. Far be it for me to take up space where my story was not wanted. I had no idea where it belonged …where I belonged. Fortunately for me, I found a place to put it. I found a place where my story was honored. And I felt heard. And I found some beautiful gifts that had been tucked into my story. And it felt good. And I learned that these things need to be spoken of … because all wounds need a compassionate witness if we are to finally make peace with them.
Ultimately, I found a safe place to lean in and embrace my own story. It scares me to think of where I would be had I not discovered the divine body of work founded by Debbie Ford. I got some good counseling too. Yes. I did. And … it transformed my life. So much so that I found my calling. I trained with Debbie Ford herself and also went back to school and earned my MSW. Now, I get to coach and/or counsel those who need a safe and compassionate place to own their stories and help them learn to thrive despite the pains of their past.
I could never have anticipated the miracle and magic of owning my story. I still talk about it … sometimes. And other times I blog about it. Mostly, though, I share it when I think it will be meaningful to others. I am learning that there are times when my prior lived experience really resonates with the people I am working with and fosters their own capacity to heal. And, in the communion of our stories, we are liberated. And we are understood. And we find a place where we belong.
And yes, there are still those times when I sense that my story is not welcome … places where it is not a good fit. But that doesn’t mean my story doesn’t matter. It does. And so does yours. I hope that you, too, will be brave enough to find a safe and compassionate place to share it! It matters … and you never know … you might just find some magic and/or a miracle or two wrapped into it.
Daring Greatly, Karen