Another blogger today wrote the challenge: “Tell your story!”
And I sat for a moment, pondering what that would look like. How does one go about telling their story? Each one of us is so complex and multi-layered, that to even do justice to one week of our lives would result in a lengthy post more fitting to a book than blog site.
As a believer in God, I have had several opportunities to “share my testimony,” as we would say, and basically that’s a retelling of the events that led up to the point in my life where I met God and my life was changed. Or, it could perhaps be a later recapping of events that showed that God was actively working on my behalf, and is used for the purpose of uplifting another’s faith in the telling of my own story.
But the day-to-day living isn’t usually so dramatic as all of that. If I were to tell that story of myself, it would have a lot more mention of coffee breaks and household chores and books read for pleasure. I would have to insert monthly bills and sticky conversations with those who share my life and lots of time spent behind the wheel of my car, chauffeuring my daughters from one place to another. This story would include small moments with Permanent Roommate as we figured out how to live our days with intentionality and purpose, how to encourage and motivate each other, how to communicate well and love well and carry on doing the hard things in life.
To adequately tell my story, I would have to talk about the things that make me smile: the sudden rush of appreciation for a beautiful bird or flower or sunset. The spontaneous giggle of a baby in the store or the sight of two teenagers awkwardly enjoying each other’s presence on the sidewalk in town. A good line out of a movie, my daughters laughing together over shared humor, my dog’s silly under-bite. I would include things that make me feel peaceful: great music, breathing in and out through my whole being, feeling the muscles relax after a great work out, a glass of red wine. I would need to talk about the connections, how life is all interwoven and entwined with friends, family, lover, kids, and the random person that never fails to push my buttons in the most annoying manner. I would need to find a place to insert gratitude: for summer break, for fantastic role models in my daughters’ lives, for my man who works very hard to ensure we are taken care of, for a place to call my home where the family can laugh and learn. For the fact that I have a family who loves me, that we have a functioning unit weathering this life together in sync (most of the time).
In order to do my story justice, I would have to tell about the books that challenge me; that cause laughter to bubble up even when I’m in an empty room, or a crowded one; that prompt me to gaze off into nothing, with deep thoughts running through my head, sorting out what I’ve just read, wondering if I feel the same, would react the same, can relate to the author in any way… Books that make me sigh with contentment, just by knowing they are there and patiently waiting to be picked up and read.
In telling my story, I would need to talk about movie nights out with my girls, dinner dates with Permanent Roommate, and ongoing Facebook comments with friends. I would need to talk about my martial arts class, where I’m pushing and challenging myself mentally and physically and finding both new friends and mentors. I would write out my fears and concerns about parenting and about school and about our country and where we are all headed in the Big Picture and whether or not it’s enough to just love God and love my neighbor. I would need to mention the ache at the thought of so many others who aren’t living in the lap of as many blessings as I am and how I could possibly rectify that imbalance. Also included would be results of my personality test that explain why I love being home and love my own company and have rare but genuine bursts of desire to connect deeply with people who matter in my life.
This story of myself just keeps getting longer and longer, as I would want to talk about having two of the world’s most incredible human beings who call me “mom” and with whom I get to share space on a daily basis, watching them turn into beautiful young women, knowing I would move heaven and hell to get for them what they need and feeling almost overwhelmed at times with the scary enormity of how much I love them. I would tell how much their safety and security and fulfillment is so closely tied to my own and of how much it matters to me that they have friends, that they see their own worth, that I communicate to them in verbal and non-verbal methods the greatness I see in them.
This story would have to talk about the challenging aspects of committing to another person for life: in the silly irritations and the hilarious interactions and the knowledge that I have trusted one person to always and forever have my back. Part of that package is depending on him to love me, flaws and all; to listen when I need to talk, to talk when I need to hear, to bring out the best in each other; to be there, to be present, to engage; and to spend the rest of our days figuring out how to love each other better and marveling at how two so radically different people are so much better together.
This story of me would be one of triumph and defeat; one of learning and maturing and aging; one of intense sorrow and misunderstanding and regret offset by such immensity of awe and appreciation and happiness and gratitude. This story of me started in a different town, in a different life, and may end up yet in a place entirely different from where I sit in my kitchen and write. This story of me is unpredictable and wild. It is impossible to project an ending, and no matter how hard I try or how much I would like to write the script, life keeps changing it up and throwing out those plans and introducing something new and different and scary and beautiful and crazy and unrehearsed.
This story of me would have many parts and each installment would always have to end with “To be continued…” This story of me seems so commonplace and everyday and yet so bizarre and fiction-like that I wonder who would believe it if I could somehow accurately and adequately write it out? And I think this story of me is not so different from the story of you. That our stories overlap and converge and tint each other, until as we come closer and merge more efficiently and share with less fear, we begin telling the story of us.
That is a story I’m interested in hearing. For, while each one of us has a most amazing story to tell, the more I tell my story, the more I realize I am one small piece of a puzzle that gets grander and grander as the camera zooms out and the larger picture is revealed. We are all interdependent, all connected, all bouncing off one another and, if we’re lucky, finding our fit and plugging in and contributing to the whole. We nestle in and add our flavor and our colors and our gifts to those around us.
And that story is lovely. Like music and coffee and red wine and the synchronicity of a martial arts form done in unison. Like dance and silence and babies’ laughter and summer break. Like tears and sorrow and empathy and outreach and compassion. It all comes together, this story of me and this story of you and blends into this story of us.
I want to be more confident in telling my story, in letting down walls. I want to be better in the authenticity that allows others to see the real me.
Wikipedia introduces vulnerability like this: “Vulnerability refers to the inability to withstand the effects of a hostile environment.” And I had to smile. Because while I hesitate to think I know more than Wikipedia, I know better than this. Vulnerability is exactly the ability to withstand the effects of a hostile environment. We weren’t meant to go it alone; this hostile environment we are in becomes less and less hostile the more we welcome others into our story, the more we team up, the more we join hands and hearts and heads.
I want to better at vulnerability. I want to tell my story with gusto and with abandon and with dignity, and then hear your story told in the same way, but in your own voice. And I want to figure out a way to make your story and my story merge into our story, complimented by another’s story and joined to more stories still. And one story at a time, we’ll conquer this hostile environment, changing it up into something beautiful.