Frederick Buechner once said, “my story is important, not because it’s mine, God knows, but because if I tell it right, chances are you will recognize that in many ways it’s your story also.”
When I began working as a solopreneur, I could talk about SEO, Branding, Marketing, and Sales, but I couldn’t talk about who I was. I couldn’t tell you about my journey in a way that would be interesting or compelling. When I would write, my writing sounded like marketing speak.
Why was it so easy to make a presentation about a product but impossible to present “me”?
Why was my voice so clearly expressed in my journaling but stifled when I tried to share my thoughts and ideas in public?
I felt like my story had nothing to offer. I couldn’t put the pieces together in a way that created a story arch. Instead, I had disjointed narratives. I lived a lot of lives in this one life.
But before we go there, can we pause and consider the implications?
If my story has nothing to offer, I must be telling myself a story that makes me a victim or a martyr. Or both! How did that story construct itself and how do I deconstruct it?
I had to start at the beginning, of course where better to start a story than at the beginning.
As far back as I can remember I felt that I didn’t have much to offer. I wasn’t particularly talented, smart, or gifted. I was extremely ordinary, and in a way, it created safety. I came from a family that “fit in” quite nicely and didn’t do anything to challenge status quo. We were an average family of four keeping up with the Joneses. At the time, it wasn’t perceived that way. I didn’t sense an overt competitive streak in my family as much as a desire for progress. My father was entrepreneurial, and my mother was an introverted homemaker with few friends, hobbies, or interests. We went to church three times a week and had dinner together almost every night. I felt protected.
That was the story playing out on the surface. But what was happening behind the scenes that led to this feeling of having nothing to offer?
That is what I want to tell you about. So grab a cup of coffee or pour a glass of wine because this goes deep.
That’s me with my brother. I was born in Seattle and lived in a suburban area. My memories of my first five years are a mix. I used to love to sit by the fire and watch it dance and listen to the crackling and occasional big pops. I also remember feeling alone. We had a shed in the back of the house that had an old electric washer and ringer. I was three years old when I plugged it in, turned it on and put my arm in the ringer. It pulled me to my shoulder and continued to grind until someone found me. I don’t remember it explicitly but the imprint is there.
The pattern of me wandering off and getting hurt continued.
I’m skipping the formative years because I haven’t been able to figure it out yet myself.
We moved five times in three years and I was always the new kid in school.
The memories are still fragmented and disjointed.
This is me, a teen in the early 80’s with my dad.
What you see in this picture is how much I was like my father. People would say that I had my father’s eyes and at the time I didn’t take it as a compliment. But I do have his eyes. He was sensitive and an empath. We were both born under a Cancer sun and held all our emotions away from the ridicule.
Act Two: I moved away from the small town and went to college in Missoula, Montana. Even that felt too small. I had wings and I wanted to fly. I dropped out of school and moved to D.C. to begin working as a nanny. The boys were school age so I was able to work part-time as a graphic designer and I found a calling. I wanted to be where the action was and to work in advertising or design. The seeds were being planted but there was a plot twist. I fell in love. I was about to repeat a pattern.
That’s me in a dance performance in the early 90’s.
I was married for five years to an alcoholic. I became a mom, and I hadn’t even birthed myself yet. In hindsight, I can see how hard I was trying to do the right thing and stay within the tradition I knew. At the same time, another part of me was trying to break away from unhealthy dependency and self-compromise. After a long separation and loss of hope for the marriage, I filed for a divorce and became a single mom.
I was determined to “make something of myself” and to not let the circumstances define me. I had this drive to do something in the world even though I didn’t know what it was. I needed to prove myself, and my value.
I had a feeling of excitement and anticipation because I was standing on my own two feet. My talents and skills in professional sales were starting to blossom, and I was hopeful. And I met the guy; the one that shared my ambition, desire for a good life, and ability to juggle work and family. We had an exquisite little wedding, and a new chapter began.
I wanted to succeed as a respectable person. I was willing to do whatever it took.
We bought the dream home, and two beautiful babies were born within two years. We were part of an exciting startup and life was looking good. We hosted the family holiday parties; we had great friends, we were becoming the perfect couple. Of course, it was going to come crashing down. What good is a story without a struggle?
After twelve years it ended. We tried to remain friends, and co-parent, but I can’t say we succeeded.
This is the part of my story I didn’t want to share.
Through all those years of achieving and trying to make everyone happy I had moments where I felt accomplished and good. But under the facade, I was deeply unhappy and didn’t know why.
I felt my life explained in Hermann Hesse’s Novel Demian; “They all, however, even the most banal, struck a gentle but continuous hammer-blow on the same spot inside me; they helped to shape me, to peel off my layers of skin, break the egg-shells, and as I emerged from each stage I raised my head a little higher with a greater feeling of freedom until my yellow bird pushed his handsome predatory head out of the shattered shell of the terrestrial globe.”
In the early years, the pattern in my story was one of wandering off and getting hurt.
Clearly, I wasn’t just wandering away. There was no one watching me or protecting me.
In the second act, the pattern in my life story was trying to do the right thing and failing.
I would fail over and over until I turned to see what was true.
I wasn’t failing everyone else. I was failing myself. I became the mother who I could never satisfy.
I was failing to see my own accomplishments. I made very difficult choices and faced a lot of obstacles with determination. I couldn’t give myself credit. I couldn’t own my value because I was living out my mother wound … “never good enough.” It felt better being neglected because it was the normal I grew up with. As all wounding stories go, I had to maintain the wounding pattern.
Now I understand the hurt I carried into my life as a solopreneur. The pain of having so much to give but having to hide those gifts. It was a subtle but distinct pattern of being able to perform and accomplish as long as it was about the product, the company, the team. In other words, getting the approval of the parent. The pat on the back and the assurance that I was valued. I was more comfortable being the moon and reflecting their light rather than shining my own.
To know someone well is to know their story.
It took four years of daily journaling to get to know my story, to get to the root of this self-sabotage. It was a process. It is a continuous process. But through it, I’ve learned how to use tools like Human Design, Astrology, and Narrative Inquiry to root out the core wound and bring it into the light of revelation. The light of knowing.
Telling our story is redemptive.
I’m finally able to say that I’m grateful for all my experiences. It was the unresolved pain which led me to the place of surrender. Life was asking me to soften. I had a hard time admitting that I could be hurt. Being able to look back and see the arch of the story, the turning points, and the way I was led home to myself is so powerfully humbling.
“When setting out on a journey, do not seek advice from those who have never left home.” ~ Rumi
If you feel like you can’t connect and that something is blocking you from sharing your story, I can assure you that you are not alone. Sooner or later we all hit a limit in life known as the dark night of the soul. Positive thinking, wishful thinking, charisma, and hustle will not be enough in the dark night because while those things have a place and time, they don’t work here. This is a time of transformation. It is at this point, your dawning point, the world as you knew it ends, and a new one begins.