I believe we are all here to live our life story, but so many of us, fall prey to living the life that we think others want us to live, or a life far from the “truth” that lies inside of us. This was beautifully articulated by American theologian Howard Thurman when he said: “There is something in every one of you that waits and listens for the sound of the genuine in yourself. It is the only true guide you will ever have. And if you cannot hear it, you will all of your life spend your days on the end of strings that somebody else pulls.”
None of us pops out of the womb with the idea, I want to grow up to be rich, famous, and beautiful; oh yah, and by the way, I’m going to lie, cheat, and steal my way to that place. If that’s true, why are so many of us not happy about where we are in life; or why do we feel so uncomfortable in our skin? I think deep inside, we are fortified with a resiliency that we rarely tap into. It’s also pretty clear that we tend to suppress that voice in us that is the real us because we are governed by the need to please, fit in, and get along. Don’t believe me? Have you ever been in your car singing away, flying your freak-flag, when another driver pulls up beside you at a light? I know…. cringe moment.
We write our story, not with our actions, but with our thoughts. The first time in elementary school someone makes fun of us, or bullies us, we begin to put down the pen on writing our life story, and we start to live the story that someone else writes for us. If you’re one of the lucky ones who has a strong well of “resiliency of self”, then you eventually pick that pen back up and continue to write your authentic life story. Just think about all the memorable people in history who have inspired, created, and revolutionized by their imprint on humanity. What they all have in common is that they are freaks, outliers, forecasters, and world shakers; they are not living someone else’s life story. One of my favorite anecdotes about Bill Gates took place when he was an awkward computer geek in high school. One summer his school contracted Gates to write and implement a scheduling program for the students’ timetables and class assignments for September. Bill secretly preregistered himself in an English class with the most beautiful girls in his year and assigned no other boys to the class. If that’s not writing your own life story, I don’t know what is!
I now realize that significant trauma I experienced in my childhood meant closing the book on writing my life story. Instead of being comfortable in my own skin, I started to filter everything through fear. Shame told me “my story” should be buried, and from that point forward, I went through my life numbing every feeling inside me. Emotions were a land-mine field I couldn’t risk traversing, so I dulled every feeling from the highest highs to the lowest lows. Five months ago when I disclosed that I had been sexually abused as a child, I began to regain that “voice” in me that is now allowing me to start writing my life story again. So….What does that look like?
For one, it’s scary as hell and exciting all at the same time! I have no idea how all the pieces in my life are going to fit back together, but as Joseph Campbell said: “When we quit thinking primarily about ourselves and our own self-preservation, we undergo a truly heroic transformation of consciousness.” I feel liberated to explore parts of me that I was terrified to entertain before. Through the healing and self-forgiving process, I am able to shift my energies from encasing myself in layer upon layer of emotional protection to a new place of opening myself to connection with others based on authenticity and vulnerability. I can’t overstate the significant reverberations this is having in my life. After 26 years of marriage, my wife and I are discovering passion and growth we never knew possible. I’m actively filling my mind with books, films, and podcasts that nourish positivity in my life, while avoiding reading newspapers, watching television news and programs that feed on negativity and anxiety. I also am aware that choosing to write my authentic life story, for me, involves literally sitting at my computer and writing. I have no idea where the next few months, or years will take me, but I do know that for the first time in 35 years, no one else is “pulling my strings”. I guess that’s why people say, “If you find yourself falling, dive.”