We all have a story.
In preparation for a book my husband and I are working on, “How to Stay Married,” I have been perusing old journals. I have a lot of them! I started keeping a journal many years ago when a woman I respected encouraged me to keep a chronicle of life lessons. Her reasoning was that someday, I would write. I so appreciate her nudging. She told me that when I was ready to write about my journey, my journals would give me accurate recall. To pass along truth is important to me, so I am deeply glad that I took her advice and now have written accounts of experiences and lessons that have brought me into my ThirdThird.
Last week, I spend some time in the 1980’s. The 80’s were full years for me. Our last 2 children, one miscarriage, a diagnosis of cervical cancer while I was pregnant with #5, our only daughter. After her birth and subsequent surgery, I spiraled into a puzzling physical weakening that was eventually (after 2.5 years of doctors and testing) diagnosed as myasthenia gravis. In spite of those difficulties, those years had some deeply positive results for me.
Those years brought me to several of my life mantras.
Refusing to be “controlled by others’ insecurities” came from these days. Other women close to me did not believe that I might actually be sick. I grew weary of hearing others’ complaints and the ensuing competition for who had it harder with their life as wife and mother. I determined not to talk about my difficulties and went on with my life. I learned to face my own insecurities and to seek health for myself.
Deciding “I would not be insecure” also grew from this time. I knew my body and my history and I had to be determined to get to the bottom of my weakness…even if my friends doubted me and doctors tended to scratch their heads and suggest another test or specialty. I learned to trust myself and my own experience.
I learned and grew through weakness. I remember, especially, learning to be thankful for my own experience of being weak because it helped me understand people who are not strong. Weak people had always annoyed me, rather than elicit sympathy. Until I experienced weakness myself. I learned to prioritize my responsibilities and to take “one step at a time” towards learning to live with the reality of the day.
Good things came, but it was a hard time.
Reading through those journals last week took me back to some very difficult and sad times as well as reminding me of all the good and positive.
In the 1980’s, I found myself not in conformity to the organization we were deeply involved with and that led to much angst on my part. I was (am) strong willed and opinionated and a challenger. While I was committed to the stated goals of the group, I often was at odds with leadership because I didn’t naturally or easily conform. I brought my own self and my own experience and my own opinions. But, I was misunderstood, not respected. My stories were not honored.
Interestingly, a few years ago, I stumbled onto a website for people who had similar experiences to mine in that same organization. It was mesmerizing. While I had been able to remove myself and find self-respect and health long before finding that website, it was a powerful experience to read that others had very, very similar situations to mine. I lurked…not joining in by posting. I was past needing to express my own painful remembrances. Yet, even with that being true, it was hugely validating to see that others knew my pain, honored my story, even if they didn’t know me.
I felt that my story had been honored.
Fortunately, my marriage survived those years and those people. Thankfully, I learned during those days to listen without becoming defensive, to look for the truth in spite of the messenger, and to forgive.
Unfortunately, I spent several strategic years in fear and dread. I lost joy and had physical repercussions. Our children were affected by the difficulty that their parents faced.
I have moved on.
Thankfully, with grit and determination over a long period of time, I rarely consider those days now. But recent remembering has made me acutely aware of the fact that there are people who have discounted my feelings and perspective then and now. There are relationships that I think I would enjoy having now, if those people could honor my story.
I would be interested in knowing some of their story now. I would honor them. Even if they were vastly different from my own. Reading my journal accounts of those interactions long ago, with time distancing my sight, I can honor the stories and understand some of today’s reality.
In the organization where my hurtful story exists, others have a different story. Some have left. Some have remained. Others have eased away through job relocations or other life changes. Some legitimately do not see harmful practices. Others choose to ignore them. Still others call them out and suffer the consequences. I believe that there are some who honestly do not see how their actions might be hurtful.
The one thing I would wish for is if we could all learn to honor each other’s story. Not in that organization, but on a daily, personal basis.
Wonderful stories of healing and acceptance.
Difficult stories of pain and struggle.
Happy stories of reconciliations and forgiveness.
Moving stories of abuse and distrust.
Redeeming stories of self-acceptance and solid understanding.
I heard Brene Brown say in an interview that she believes in the goodness of people…but that it is hard work to stay out of fear and to stay good.
Hearing and honoring another’s story is a way to do the good, hard work that will make us better. To face our own fears and to look for the good.
Let’s honor each other’s story.
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