“Tears streamed down my cheeks, but the sun had set and my fellow workshop attendees were caught up in their own social circles as our break commenced on the sidewalk outside the Columbus Convention Center. I was completely unconcerned about my show of emotion because the whole group had been through so many emotional experiences that someone crying was hardly new or interesting. The dark of the evening closing in around us cooled the hot sidewalk, and the warm summer air was downright delicious after the rampant AC in the conference hall. The hot brick of the building, heated by the sun during the long day, warmed by back as I sat, knees up, head back, against the wall.
“What’s up?” a voice said, and I looked up to see my workshop “buddy” looking down at me. Since the past days had been filled with tears and vulnerability as everyone worked to uncover buried pains that had too long lodged in our psyches, I simply looked up at him and said, “I don’t know how to not be a victim.” I didn’t spend a lot of time explaining how I don’t spend time thinking about past grievances and injustices. I’m not the type of person who goes around complaining about how unfair life is, in fact I felt I was pretty well adjusted to the things that had happened in my life, but at the same time there is no doubt that my failed relationships, disloyal friends, deaths and cruel people I had crossed paths with had been key in forming who I was and how I saw my life. “I didn’t ask for any of this,” I said to him, “so how am I not supposed to feel victimized when crappy painful things happen to me due to other people’s choices?”
He spent no time placating me either and simply said, “Let’s reframe it.”
“How would you reframe it?” I challenged, my voice tired. “What other way is there to see it? I’ve spent the last 20 years or more with rampant heartbreak over things other people brought into my life. How do you make that look good?”
“Here’s what I see,” he said. “Everyone who cheated on you, misbehaved, lied, broke your trust, abandoned you, abused you and stabbed you in the back has been extracted from your life. This is their loss–they don’t get to be a part of your life anymore. On top of that, all your experiences have allowed you to become the strong woman that you are now. They have given you an understanding that you did not have, empathy that doesn’t come without experience, and understanding that gives you a depth and beauty that only the trees who weather the storm can claim. On top of that, they have provided you the fodder—the emotion and experience—so that you are able to write from a place that can touch other people. And now the past is over and you can close the door on it and get out of your own way as you move into the future you’re supposed to have, using your past life experiences to inform and inspire, but otherwise letting them stay in the past. You are done with them.”
Or something like that. I’m paraphrasing. But that’s what I got out of it. During that 20 minute break, and that five-minute exchange I finally saw this pile of pain, embarrassment, loss, abuse, abandonment, and all the other crappy painful words that described my past to me, in a way that would allow me to move forward. It wasn’t that it would be easy and that all my problems were solved and my issues of trust were gone, but it gave me a space, a reframe that was honest and real and hopeful, and I could work with that.”
This exerpt from Love Your Story podcast episode 001 shows that I needed help reframing my story. Often I still do. Especially the messy ones. One thing I’ve learned is that our stories are so entrenched with emotion and labels from our own lenses that we usually only see one reality. It’s a messy business sometimes when you need to get down and wrestle with pre-conceived notions, made-up projections, and pain. So, I’m asking a simple question of you the reader. Would you find value in another set of eyes and ears on your story? A hand to hold and guide you through the emotional content swishing around in your brain and keeping you stuck?
If you are a person whose life didn’t turn out as you expected, or as your family, religion or culture expected, and deep down you have unsettled feelings of shame, embarrassment, guilt or self-loathing, you’ve come to the right place. Once you discover the fluidity and acceptability of all our life stories, and see your own personal brilliance amplified, you’ll see yourself, your path and your future in a whole new light.
As I develop this class, this set of skills and tools, and offer up another set of eyes to help you reframe your story, I’d like your input on interest level, on what you need, what you want, what you would personally find most helpful. Let me know if you want or need help reframing your story, because that’s what I’m about – making our stories work for us. Living big.