Books, Grace, Midlife, Roots and Wings, Women, Writing

Why we need to own our stories

There is power in owning our stories. Not just the happy and joy-filled ones, but also those which chronicle our fall.I’m writing this 72 hours before the beginning of a brand-new year, and I’ve been thinking a lot about the stories that shaped my 2015—an eventful year that went by so very quickly.

Hurt happens, and it happens to everyone, with no exception.

Best-selling author Brene Brown, in her latest book “Rising Strong,” writes, “The only decision we get to make is what role we’ll play in our own lives: Do we want to write the story or do we want to hand that power over to someone else? Choosing to write our story means getting uncomfortable; it’s choosing courage over comfort.”

Today, I spent a good four hours over brunch hanging out with my very good friend Carissa, whom I’ve known since childhood. It had been a while since we had seen each other, so we sat down in her dining room and traded stories and reflections about the year just past.

Authentic, enriching

Stories are always a wonderful way of opening up hearts, and the more vulnerable you allow yourself to be in front of the other, the more authentic and enriching the exchange becomes. Of course, it is a given that the space in which you share your stories is a safe one where honesty and no judgment prevails, and kindness reigns.

We both agreed that pretending was no longer part of our vocabulary. Entering the fifth decade of our lives has taught us that, and having experienced various losses and life-changing experiences has imbued us with wisdom and the courage we did not possess a decade ago.

Being able to finally speak our truth felt really wonderful and true.

Looking back on the many moments we “fell” and rose again gave us some degree of comfort. Believing that nothing in life is ever wasted in God’s economy gave us the courage to embrace even what people would refer to as the ugly parts of our lives.

Brown continues: “The irony is that we attempt to disown our difficult stories to appear more whole or more acceptable, but our wholeness—even our wholeheartedness—actually depends on the integration of all our experiences, including the falls.”

It takes a great deal of courage to face the dark emotions, or “to reckon with them,” as Brown says.

Rising strong after a fall is a process that requires three important tasks. First is “The Reckoning,” which Brown describes as the act of recognizing or accepting that you are feeling something.

The second step in The Reckoning process is becoming curious about those emotions and connecting the dots to the subsequent thought and behavior. “Men and women who rise strong are willing and able to reckon with their emotions,” she stresses. Engaging in this step in the process is how one walks into one’s story.

Deeper understanding

Next is “The Rumble.” Rumbling with one’s stories gives us a deeper understanding of our thoughts, feelings and behaviors, which then gives birth to key learnings about who we are and how we engage with others. The Rumble is the middle space, a place which can be emotionally charged and messy, but a necessary step that will catapult us to change.

Finally, there is “The Revolution,” the stage that fundamentally transforms our thoughts and beliefs. “Rumbling with our story and owning our truth in order to write a new, more courageous ending transforms who we are and how we engage with the world,” says Brown.

Rising strong after a fall and owning one’s stories is easier said than done, but is essential to growth and living with one’s truth. Sometimes, all it takes is a single brave and curious person who is willing to face their emotions head-on to effect change.

“It often takes just a single brave person to change the trajectory of a family, or of any system, for that matter,” Brown states.

I now encourage you to find the courage to engage your emotions, and to be patient and curious about them. Don’t be afraid to grapple with sadness, anger, fear, heartbreak, resentment, forgiveness or disappointment. Do not deny them. These guys have a lot to teach you, so listen closely to the stories they tell, and own them.

When you are able to do so, you’ll find yourself at the beginning of a brand-new year, filled with much more positivity, hope and courage than you ever did before.

Dying slowly

I wish to share this beautiful poem I recently found, written by Martha Medeiros, but often attributed wrongly to Pablo Neruda.

“He or she who does not turn things topsy-turvy,

who is unhappy at work,

who does not risk certainty for uncertainty,

to thus follow a dream,

those who do not forego sound advice at least once in their lives,

die slowly.

He who does not travel,

who does not read,

who cannot hear music,

who does not find grace in himself,

dies slowly.

He who slowly destroys his self-love,

who does not allow himself to be helped,

who spends days on end complaining about his own bad luck,

about the rain that never stops,

dies slowly.

He or she who abandons a project before starting it,

who fails to ask questions on subjects he doesn’t know,

he or she who don’t reply when they are asked something they do know,

die slowly.

Let’s avoid death in small doses,

reminding oneself that being alive requires an effort far greater than the simple fact of breathing.

Only a burning patience will lead

to the attainment of a splendid happiness.”

Here’s to a brighter, braver and kinder new year ahead!

Published in “Roots & Wings” in the Lifestyle section of the Philippine Daily Inquirer. 

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