I could not look at my dad for longer than a moment. He sat in the 3rd row, between my mom and a friend of theirs who accompanied them to the Minneapolis Jewish Community Center this past Wednesday evening to hear me speak at the Twin Cites Jewish Book Series.
I could not hold his gaze because a mere 30 seconds after I began to speak, I noticed his that his gentle hazel eyes looking were damp with tears.
I didn’t know if the tears were tears of pride, or joy, or residual pain from the devastating disease that threatened to take me from him during my teen years. Maybe they were tears of gratitude that I made it. Not made it in terms of achieving success. But made it in terms of survived.
My voice shook. I felt afraid. The people gathered were not scary. They were amazing. They were friends and family members and friends of friends, and members of my wonderful community. No, I was not scared of them. I was scared of myself. I was afraid of the vulnerability that I felt in sharing my story out loud and in person.
The spoken word is very different than the written word. Writers can hide behind their written words. When readers read my book, they do not see me or hear me. They interpret my words through their own lens in the privacy of their own living room or bedroom. But in listening to me speak in person, they can hear the emotion in my voice, and see it in my body language, in my eyes, and on my face. It is intimate. There is no hiding. It is live and it is real. And it is scary.
But I did it anyway.
Because it is part of what I need and want to do. Because I am lucky that I am able to speak about self-care and the way it has transformed every single aspect of my life, from my writing, to my marriage, to my motherhood.
So I let my voice shake for a little while, and then I look around. And I see that I don’t have to be scared. Because I share my story with high hopes. Hopes of helping a mom assert herself more in her relationship with her partner or encourage her to say "no" to more of the “shoulds” in her life, and yes to more of the “”hell, yeahs”!
So I resist the urge to fall into the shakiness within me and the emotion I see in my dad's eyes. I hold back my own tears, ever so close to the surface, and take a deep breath.
And in that breath, I feel the pain. Some of which I have written and spoken about, and some of which I hope I can find to strength to do so in the future. And then I look around take in the humanity of everyone in the room. Understanding that each one of us carries our stories with us. Our stories are what make us unique and we share our stories as a way to connect to one another. And each one of us gets to decide what stories we want to share.
Sharing our funny, entertaining, enjoyable stories of our lives is amazing! We need these stories to bring joy and levity to our lives every day. But sharing the more painful stories—the ones that involve struggle, shame, and confusion—are harder to share. But these stories are often where deep connection lives.
Brene’ Brown gives us some direction here:
“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.”
― Brené Brown
There have been many times throughout my life when I tried to run. Times when I have not stayed true to myself because it felt too hard. But I paid a price. And time and time again, no matter how far I would try to run from my truth, I came back to the same place every time. I came back to myself.
Standing at the podium and managing the jumbled emotions within, I am filled with an overwhelming sense of gratitude and appreciation for everything and everyone in my life that led me to this place. Each aspect of this self-care journey pushes me further and further out of my comfort zone but further into what I need to be doing.
Am I scared?
But I am pretty sure that this is the good kind of scared.
And I would encourage you to try something that you are afraid of or that you are running from that you know deep down would be good for you. Deal with a conflict/person/situation that you have been avoiding; assert yourself when you feel small; or even sign up for that dance class/writing class/meditation workshop you've wanted to take! Just go for it!
I am giving away a copy of Brene’ Brown’s book, The Gifts of Imperfection. To enter, please subscribe to my blog and leave a comment below and tell me about a time when you stepped out of your comfort zone and did something that scared you. Winner announced Friday, Sept. 16th!
Have a fabulous weekend and remember to take care of you!