What I have learned this week: stories about dramatic events from my past (drunkenness, divorce, and the like) glean far more attention than any self-help, plant-based musings I share here. Not at all shocking – the juicy stuff always wins.
When did I stop worrying about this byproduct of sharing?
Gone are the days of clicking “Publish” and waiting for the imminent panic and anxiety to set in as I worried how my stories would be perceived or judged. Worrying that no one would read, or that too many people would read. Sometimes it felt like dropping a ball of yarn off of a cliff, rendering it impossible to reel back in.
But how did that fear fade, exactly?
Perhaps it’s because of my acquired position as a cancer patient and the subsequent side effect of no longer giving a f*ck, which happens when death gives you a wink from afar. But perhaps it’s also because I feel a calm sense of resolution beyond my stories, and am living my life unencumbered by their formerly looming presence.
On a recent episode of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Magic Lessons Podcast, guest Brene Brown spoke on creativity, sharing, and pursuing both with a sense of clarity.
The points that stuck out most to me:
“I’ve shared my story before I healed, before I was ready. And when you do that, it’s not giving and generous for the people hearing and receiving it and it’s really abusive to yourself. You’re not ready and your healing has not been done… ”
“I think you share a story when your healing is not dependent on the response. I don’t think it’s in service of the reader and I don’t think it’s in service of my own heart.”
Hearing those words made everything “click” for me. My confidence in sharing stories is a direct result of having done the healing work to prevent those memories from haunting me, whether they stay in my head or are released into the internet ether.
And no offense to my readers (I am so glad you’re here), but whether anyone is reading, reacting, or not, my seat remains unchanged. The positioning has already happened. I own my stories and my past, and I am willing to share them because no response, or lack thereof, is going to shake the firm ground I’ve struggled to climb towards and stand upon.
One more excerpt:
“Owning our stories. The only options are owning them or orphaning them. And I believe our self-worth lives inside the story, our own story and so we can walk into that story and own it. Or we can stand outside of our truth and outside of our narrative and hustle, pretend and perform and perfect for our worthiness. So I do believe in owning the story.
Having said that, I also believe we share those stories with people who have earned the right to hear them. The only stories I share with the public, in my writing or in my speaking… are stories that I have really processed and my healing is not contingent on your opinion of those stories.”
It is nice to be told I am brave when I share personal, difficult stories, but the truth is that I was merely ready – no bravery required.
I am often reminded of a quote (which I cannot remember precisely, nor find the source) from my yoga teacher training. It went something like this:
“Whether praise or shame, remain steady as a candle flame.”
The point: You should be unaffected by outside attention, whether negative or positive, because you are the one in charge of how you see yourself. Too much complimentary language can inflate the ego, while too much criticism can deflate it. The goal is to remain unchanged by either because you know who you are, and no one else can shape that in a different direction.
But does achieving that goal mean that life is perfect? Hardly.
The broad strokes I paint here may make it seem like my life was formerly a disaster zone which has now been traded in for sunshine and rainbows.
Like I used to screw everything up and now I’ve got it all figured out. It can easily appear that way, with each post requiring a neat buttoning up of a comprehensive “life lesson.” And I suppose in a general sense that assessment works, as life is pretty damn good these days. I really can’t complain, given the circumstances.
The truth, though, is that I live my life in “the moments in between,” where normalcy abounds and there is no quantifiable metric of knowing it all or having all of the happiness.
It has felt amazingly cathartic to regularly flex my creativity muscles within this space. I have been contacted by people who connect with my stories and in turn have shared their own. From the outset, that was the only goal I had here – to share, bare my soul, and open the door for people to reach out to me if they wanted to.
But my day-to-day life happens outside of this space, which furthers my ability to detach from the statistics, and the “fear,” or the dreaded analysis paralysis.
I view Cured Life as a quarantined world where I can neatly organize thoughts and ideas, then shut down and go back to living. The moments in between are where my reality exists.
Surrounding each click to the Publish button I am doing any of the following:
- working on a grocery list
- swapping out a load of laundry
- tweezing my eyebrows
- drying off my dog’s muddy paws
- watching the Real Housewives
- procrastinating an important obligation
- struggling to get a good night’s sleep
- struggling to always be kind and compassionate
- working to let things go
- deleting unflattering pictures of myself that will never see the light of Instagram
- trying to follow my own advice, still falling victim to excuses from time to time
The moments in between are spent being utterly human – silly, sad, angry, serious…
the full spectrum is here, I promise.
And occasionally, though very rarely at this point, I worry. Not about the fallout of anything I may publish, but about how I may not achieve everything I want to, or articulate all of my stories and ideas, because another scan is right around the corner, which could change everything.
But I try to remember that cancer was the catalyst for all of this healing. It held a mirror up to my life and declared: You can turn this ship around. As with many negative experiences in my life, it was a gift, and I try to remember all the good it has brought me.
Here’s to owning our stories, putting them out there when we’re ready, and continuing to challenge ourselves creativity. All while maintaining the normalcy of the in betweens, of course.
Speaking of, I better go grab the laundry that’s been sitting in the dryer all night.