April 13, 2021
One of my favorite entrepreneurs and host of MarieTV, Marie Forleo, says it this way: “The world needs that special gift that only you have.” You can read more about who Marie is and what she offers here: https://www.marieforleo.com/.
I remember the first time I heard her say this on MarieTV. I was like, “Really, Marie? That’s a little lofty, don’t you think?” It was a couple of years after my mom died, and I felt an internal nudge to share my grief story. I’d always enjoyed expressing my thoughts on paper, journaling since I was in elementary school. At the same time, I didn’t appreciate how my story was different than other’s stories. Grief was grief, right?
So for nearly 9 months, I continued to follow Marie and listen to her say, “The world needs that special gift that only you have,” all the while working to convince myself that no one cared enough about my words. Let alone words about grief!
But after letting Marie’s saying marinate, along with talking to God about that not-so-little nudge, I embraced the sentiment.
Roughly 3 1/2 years after my mom’s death, I self-published a memoir, “Relaxing Into the Pain: My Journey Into Grief & Beyond.” You can read more about the book and purchase it here: https://www.amazon.com/Relaxing-Into-Pain-Journey-Beyond/dp/1512747084. Even today, it still seems surreal that I wrote and published a book.
Of course, friend, writing a book isn’t the only way to share one’s story.
It may be a brief sharing of experiences at the grocery store while waiting in line. Or connecting with folks who’ve walked a similar path to simply exchange thoughts and feelings. Maybe it’s a social media share of some sort — a poem, quote, short video, or statement about how your day is going.
You might be wondering what it is about storytelling that matters most.
After years of exploring my own stories, as well as what others have shared about how my story has impacted them, I’ve learned a few things. First, none of us wants to feel alone. When my mom died, I remember feeling as if no one could possibly understand the depths of my heartache. I walked through life in a daze for quite some time, as waves of grief crashed on the inside. This invisible pain lingered every day, all day. And in my mind, I wrestled to believe that anyone appreciated this … until someone did.
I’ll never forget the Sunday afternoon I drove from church to the Huntington Library, my weekly ritual. I found a quiet space to sit on the lawn and read, strategically positioned away from others. Just as I tucked myself into solitude, a wave of emotions overcame me and tears streamed down my face. Little did I know an older woman was nearby and heard my cries. She must’ve felt a nudge because just as I was wiping my tears away, she came and asked if it was OK to sit down next to me. I reluctantly said ‘yes.’
That ‘yes’ resulted in her sharing a story of her mother’s death from the same devastating diagnosis as my mom’s, stage IV pancreatic cancer.
Awestruck, I listened intently to every word that poured from the woman’s lips. Every syllable mattered. Her outpouring was a gift to my soul. Her story was healing balm.
For the first time since my mom’s death, I didn’t feel alone.
Second, storytelling binds us together as human beings. It reminds us that while we all heal differently, we bleed the same. We hurt. We crave connection. Most of us wrestle with internal battles.
Friend, this underscores the power of the phrase, “Me too.” When we recognize that others face similar hardships and joys, we’re instantly bonded to one another.
I’ve had the privilege of traveling to over 28 countries at this point, interacting with people who speak different languages and live different lives than I do. No matter where I’ve traveled, however, I witness the same thing — people telling stories. Sharing pain points. Expressing their needs. Connecting through words.
It’s truly one of the most mysterious and profound joys of travel … leaving home only to discover that thousands of miles away, I’m inextricably bound to my sisters and brothers from other mothers. Wow!
I’ll share a third reason why. Telling your story opens up possibilities, not only for others, but also for you.
Think about it. When we tell ourselves negative stories in our minds — about our circumstances, ourselves, and others — guess what? We believe the negative. And in doing so, we limit possibilities in our lives.
Can you imagine how much more amazing our lives and other’s lives might be if we freely told our stories? Oh, my goodness! I’m a Pisces (aka, total dreamer), so bear with me.
My story transformed someone’s thinking about the possibilities inherent in grief. No bragging here, just truth.
As we tell our stories, we unlock vision. We inspire others (and ourselves) to shift in new directions and imagine or re-imagine life.
Hearing the woman’s story of how she navigated her way through grief following her mom’s death provided me with a glimpse into my potential future. It was a future where I smiled again. Her story opened me up to the possibility of living life without my mom physically by my side, something I didn’t think I could do at the time.
Nearly 9 years later, here I am. Still standing. Thriving. Smiling with joy in my heart. Why? Because a woman had the courage to share her story.
Or as Marie would say, I needed that special gift that only she had in that moment.
Don’t complicate it or convince yourself that you don’t have one. That’s simply not the case!
Here are a few questions to ask yourself to help discover where your story may reside.
I challenge you to take some time to answer the questions and be still. You may be surprised by what comes up for you.
I’d love to hear your thoughts.
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If you’re interested in learning more about managing your lifestyle, love, leadership, and loyalties to God, self, and others, click here: https://mekelharrisphd.com/.