The Stories We Shrink from and the Breaths That Count.
A few weeks ago, I told myself a story. I told myself that I am not accepted here in America. I told myself that I am not liked here. That I am an outsider.
That they don’t get me. That I can’t make it. And after adding some lavish detail to that story, I cried myself to sleep. Two days later, I thought, “Whoa! Where did that come from?” But I didn’t dismiss it. Instead, I looked to see what was underneath. What was the story beyond the story. Because this wasn’t something that had just arrived in my body.
It had been born from somewhere, it had been sparked from something.
Let me give you the truth of it.
I am often afraid. Afraid that I won’t shift gears. That it will always be this hard. I’m afraid to feel this truth, I’m afraid to name it. Because naming it makes it real. Naming it takes it from a vague, abstract thing and makes it mine. And I do not want this truth to be mine. I want to be removed from it. I don’t want to be in the same room as this named truth. I want to be at least three cities away.
But I know it will find me there too.
I also know that naming my fears is not the same as claiming them. Naming them is identifying them, acknowledging that they exist. Claiming them is something else entirely. Claiming them is expressing a desire to keep them. And I have no interest in doing that.
So, here I am in middle earth. The land in between. I will not suppress, nor will I pretend. And where exactly does that leave me?
Vulnerable? Honest? Human?
Which of those is so terrible? Which of those is so shocking? Why are we still so intent on hiding our humanness? When will we learn that we are allowed to feel all the feelings? And yes, sometimes we want privacy, and we don’t want to announce to the whole world that we are having a hard time. But sometimes we do. Sometimes we want to say, I’m not okay today. And it doesn’t have to be made into A Big Deal.
And it doesn’t have to be analyzed or agonized over, or God forbid, fixed. Do I look like a car engine to you?
It just needs to be said. And heard. And most of the time, that is enough.
Sometimes I strut. And sometimes I crawl. And on the days that I’m crawling, I don’t stand over myself, wagging a finger, screaming at myself that I need to run a marathon today. I am kind to myself. And patient. It goes a long way.
The world can be beautiful and cruel and amazing and challenging. And we can be confident and scared and fierce and uncertain. Life is not a smooth story running in a straight line. That’s flatlining. That’s what happens when the breath leaves your body and all of your living comes to an end.
I don’t have all the answers. I’m not like Wikipedia or wine. I only have my experience, and that’s the well from which I pour.
There are people in my line of work — writing, guiding, mentoring — who will refer to any challenges in a past tense only. Not necessarily because their challenges are all firmly in the past, but because they are petrified of being seen to struggle. “Don’t admit to anything. For the love of God, don’t let them know you’re feeling down. Think of the brand. Think of the ‘brand’.”
It’s true. And it’s bullshit. I cannot do that. I refuse. People who build their brand around perfection are actually just suffocating themselves with their own taglines. They are terrified of their own humanness because they don’t know where to place it within their pristine wall of wonder.
Those people will admit that they once had difficulty in their lives because they need to be relatable, but they will put at least five years between then and now because to be tainted with that kind of truth is not good for business, darling.
So they pretend. They fake it. They add another filter. They hide a little more. Fake it until you make it should be called Lie until you die. Because that’s what it really is. Lying about your reality and dying a little more inside every hour. Not my motto. Not my mantra. I am here to live this life. All of it.
Every day is a decision. A chance to make a statement. An opportunity to choose words, to determine actions. Adults take an average of 16 breaths per minute. That’s 960 breaths an hour. That’s 23,040 breaths a day. What if we made just one of those breaths count?
Could you do that? Just one breath of beautiful, sacred truth. One breath of glorious, loving defiance. One breath to say No to all the falsehoods that do not fit the fabric of you. One breath to say Yes to all the creative beauty that wants to be born from you. One breath to witness the sheer wonder that is you.
Every day, I try to witness what is. All the truths. Yours and mine. Some days I turn away from the truths. Yours and mine. Because of fear or denial or lethargy or some sense of overwhelm.
Every day I take one true breath. An inhale that reaches that depths of me. An exhale that honors the ache of me. Tomorrow’s world has a list of names on it. I do not know if one of those names is mine. So, today I will take one of my 23,040 breaths and make it count.
There will be days when the stories I tell myself are painful. That I am unloved or unwanted. Within the pain, there is an opportunity. To seek the deeper truth, to notice what is buried beyond. To take a breath that matters. To feel alive.
The capacity of us is the greatness of us. That we are able to hold all the things. And then, sometimes, let them spill out so that they can make such stains and not apologize for their indelibility.
I offer a reminder, for me and for you, that some days will feel generous with love and some nights will feel stretched with pain.
There will be moments that hold beautiful clarity. There will be hours that offer nothing but aching loss.
I offer a reminder, for me and for you, that they will come and they will go. They will stay and they will leave.
There will be ease and difficulty and beauty and challenge.
I offer a reminder, for me and for you, that there is an ebb and flow to everything. The fall of today, the rise of tomorrow.
Everything will weave and intersect and reflect and transform. Don’t shrink from your stories, for they are the sparks that ignite you.
Skylar Liberty Rose is a writer and mentor who helps women find their courage through creativity. She is the creator of online series The Great Remembering: Tracing a Map Back to You and The Empowerment Experience: The Beginning of You Saying Yes to Yourself. Skylar was chosen as one of the ‘Best 50 Women’s Empowerment Blogs’ by the Institute for the Psychology of Eating and ‘Top 101 Most Inspiring Blogs’ by Guided Mind. She was a speaker at the Global Social Change Summit 2017 as organized by the Global Institute for Extraordinary Women. You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or via her website.