Owning Our Stories

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December 31, 2012 · 9 comments

in Writing Life

Recently, I came across the following quote by Brené Brown from her book The Gifts of Imperfection(Check out her TED talk on The Power of Vulnerability.)

“Owning our story and loving ourselves through the process is the bravest thing that we will ever do.”

I barely slept during the last week of May in 2012. June 1, the official launch day Two Hearts: An Adoptee’s Journey Through Grief to Gratitudeloomed large in front of me.

I had spent four years crafting the book, buried in memories, reading journals, poring over photographs and documents, deciphering the events of my life, writing, cutting, adding, revising, and writing some more. Ernest Hemmingway said  “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” And bleed I did.

In early 2012 I transitioned from “writer” to “publisher” and entered the realm of ISBNs, cover design, and proofs. It was exciting, it was exhilarating, and I finally felt justified in thinking of myself as an author, but something happened during that last week of May when reality smacked me in the face.

As the launch date drew near I began to feel as if I was about to discard my clothes and stand naked in front of the world. Publishing my book meant allowing myself to be vulnerable–a terrifying concept for someone who had lived under a shroud of shame and secrecy for much of her life.

I toyed with the idea of scrapping the whole thing. Self-publishing meant I was in the driver’s seat and I could have put the brakes on the publishing process at any time. I could have had a few copies of the book printed for family members, still called myself “writer”, and carried on with the rest of my life.

I had learned from experience that sometimes if we step head-on into our fears we often find a dimension to our life we might never have otherwise discovered. I knew that if I could muster the courage to spit in the face of my self-doubt and sense of unworthiness I would be empowered and strengthened. So I took a risk, threw open the shutters, let the light shine on all that fear and shame, and became willing to own my story.

Embracing the truth that is ours and claiming that which is less than perfect, just as much as those things of beauty in our lives, allows us to understand and appreciate ourselves at a deeper level. Through writing our stories we find healing from past hurts, see situations and people through a new filter, and learn to accept ourselves for who we are.

In addition, we have the potential to touch another person who may read our story and find a nugget to help them along their own journey. The circumstances of our lives may differ but when we get past the superficial and explore deep truth we find a universality. Since Two Hearts was published I’ve been honored to have opportunities to bear witness to the stories of many other women who identified with some aspect of my book.

Author and teacher Sharon Lippincott says in her book The Heart and Craft of Lifestory Writing that:

“It takes courage to bare your soul for the examination of future generations, and making the effort to share yourself with them is an act of great love.”

As we look ahead to a new year bursting with new possibilities, consider giving yourself the gift of owning and writing your own story.  Whether you write only for yourself, or ultimately choose to pursue publication, I guarantee that the writing process will reveal hidden treasures that will change the way you experience the rest of your life.

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