Three Things I’ve Learned from Telling my Story

“It does not have to be a story of drama or heroism.  It only has to be real and honest.”              Rev. Linda Middelberg

Lots of people have a goal to one day write a book; I certainly did. I had been in the process of writing a book for more than two years. It began as simple journaling to unleash the myriad of thoughts and feelings from my head and heart onto paper during a very painful time in my life.  I didn’t know it would ever become a book or “my story,” I just knew that writing it down gave me some clarity in my life during a pretty dark and cloudy time.  You see, my story begins at the end of my first marriage and documents all the lessons learned along my journey to finding love and wholeness in my life.  It documents how I learned to forgive and love myself, what I learned from all the teachers that were brought into my life and how to live in my own skin – authentically, honestly and peacefully.

Now that the book is published and available for anyone, anywhere to read, I realized there are some things I’ve learned from sharing my story:

One: It feels both vulnerable and freeing at the same time.

I shared a great deal about myself in that book – pieces of which won’t exactly make my mother proud.  And because there’s so much of me personally in that book, it feels a bit like you’re standing on a table naked waiting for people to come by and point out your flaws.  Telling your story – when it’s not all pretty – makes you feel exposed, unprotected and yes, vulnerable.

At the same time, it’s also very empowering and freeing.

Remember when you were a kid? Wasn’t the only thing better than being able to be in your pajamas was to be able to run naked around the house?  You’d get out of the bathtub and your mom would try to wrap you up in a towel and you’d take off running, wouldn’t you?  Giggling and running while your mom chased you with that towel…that was pure joy. You were exposed, but you didn’t care because you felt so free.

Every time I thought about changing the story in order to feel less exposed, the words never quite came together.  I would attempt to sugar-coat the story, but then the lesson that was to be shared wasn’t evident.  Early on, I tried to tell the story from the perspective of the victim that was mistreated by various people, but as with all life lessons, the story and therefore, the growth, was always from within me.  I also attempted to keep God out of the book for a long time – but not surprisingly, that also was a futile effort.

It required a healthy dose of truth from me to get to the heart of my story.  And now that truth carries with it the delicate and beautiful feeling of allowing myself to be vulnerable, while providing the unapologetic joy of pure freedom (no towel required).

Two: Someone needs to hear it.

The story of my journey isn’t just my story; it’s also yours.  Not all of it, of course, but pieces of it.  We all have wounds to heal.  We all have people we need to forgive – ourselves included.  We all are strong in some places and weak in others.  We all are connected.  We’re here to help each other and learn from one another.  So, we share our stories.

I have come across far too many women that have walked similar paths to my own to somehow think that I am alone.  Once I shared my own truth, I realized I wasn’t alone. I wasn’t the only one struggling to find more meaning and fulfillment in my life.  I wasn’t the first to ever want a life filled with passion and purpose and joy.  I also wasn’t the only one crazy enough to actually believe that I could attain it.

Along the way it became clear to me that I didn’t walk through that storm for my own benefit; I went through it so that I could somehow provide warmth to others as they go through their own storm.  Everyone has a story to tell and each one is worth telling……because there’s someone out there that needs to hear it.

Three: This has never been about selling a book.

Really?  Yes, really.  Of course, I would love for the book to sell a million copies and reach women around the world – but that’s not necessary for me to feel strong, successful and enough.

I’ve heard authors say that to be a writer you have to have pretty thick skin because there are a lot of critics out there that will tell you you’re not good enough.  In fact, writers attempting to get their book published expect to be told “no” more than a door-to-door vacuum salesman. So, you publish the book yourself and you wait to see if anyone buys it.  You can easily see the thought-bubble going on above the author’s head, “I hope they like it,” which really means, “I hope they like ME.”  Writing is a very personal craft, so to not like my writing or to not like my story means you somehow don’t like me, right? Wrong.

If I looked to the sales of my book to tell me the degree of my worthiness, then I’m just continuing to look outside of myself for validation.  The confirmation that we are enough – just as we are – always comes from within.  I am not loved more if I sell 22,000 books than if I sell 22.  I am loved and worthy and enough as I am today – book or no book.

This was a personal goal I set for myself. I hope that it finds its way into the hands of women who need it. The experience now opens me to what’s next in my life.

Find your voice.  Tell your story. Be truthful and forgiving. Live in freedom.