Vulnerable Strength: An Open Invitation
Kind of blown away that it’s been ten days. After completing the series on The Storyteller in which I explored a few of the discussion questions that accompany the story, conflicted emotions swirl within. What drives me more than anything are the connections made with others. Relationships matters. All of them. The ones with family, the ones with colleagues, the ones with perfect strangers. Recently, I pulled into Taco Bell to get a quick lunch. As I pulled in, a second car also pulled up; I moved too quickly and went ahead of him. I felt bad for doing this so I paid for his lunch. I’m sorry for accidentally cutting line. As I pulled off from the window with my food, I heard a car honk. I looked in the rearview mirror and saw the man stick his arm out of his own window to wave at me. No harm done. Thank you. He’s probably forgotten me; he’s probably forgotten that his $7 dollar Taco Bell lunch was paid for by a crazy lady who obviously couldn’t drive that day. But I won’t forget him. Do you know how many people who’s lunches I’ve paid for in the last year? I like giving surprises and it’s kind of a tradition with the girls and I. Do you know how many have waved at us or honked a horn to get my attention afterwards? Zero, save the Taco Bell guy, and I certainly didn’t expect him to. My point: I’ll remember him because he reminded me that every one of our actions matter. I want to live cognizant of that and careful of what I do and say.
I may have already written about this experience with a reader but… Once, when I was going to be giving a speech, this reader came up to the table. I tried to engage her in conversation, but she was clearly nervous, and uncertain. I invited her to stay and listen to the speech that was about to take place. Ultimately, she so moved me that I gave her a copy of a book for free because she said she couldn’t buy one, yet it was clear as day she wanted to. Money does not matter to me. I distinctly remember growing up living in hotels (my sister and I ruled the ice machines and the pool area) and tents at KOA campgrounds and , sometimes, driving to an entirely different state overnight because we didn’t have anywhere to go. When I think about where we all are now… I’m amazed and humbled. What hasn’t changed, though, is that what I care about is people. What I care about is recognizing others and doing my part to pay forward the kindness others have shown me. What I care about are the stories of lives. I want to be a Joey. I want to be like the stranger who quite literally changed my life simply by opening a door for me, thus reminding me that kindness still existed. I want to be remembered as someone who made people feel like they matter because hearts are like elephants: they do not forget.
Now weighing on my heart, as it has for the past several days, is the paradox vulnerable strength. The blog posts I’ve posted over the last ten days have been emotional ones; they’ve shared my heart. They hold pieces of me. Only, if I’m honest, writing is a wonderful shield; if I write about something, I don’t have to talk about it. I then have the best of both worlds: I can share without really sharing. It helps me feel like I have control. The thing is: I don’t really want the control here. What I want is for others to know I understand the pain of abuse; I understand the pain of surviving, too. I don’t want to be strong; I want to be vulnerable (also paradoxical because being vulnerable is being strong, but that’s another post for another day), and I don’t want to control the narrative; I want to invite others to be part of the narrative. Because the biggest lie of pain is that we are alone. We are not alone.
Days of life are not known for being particularly easy. Those without abusive histories are not without pain: pain is universal and has literally been a part of the earth since Adam. Between COVID-19, working, families, marriages, divorces, new babies, significant deaths, job losses, medical illnesses, school, laundry and just the monotony of feeling unseen, it is easy to overlook or underestimate small acts of grace. The age old question comes to mind: which is stronger—kindness or evil? It is easy to hurt someone; it is hard to heal. Since I believe true healing has to include at least one person in our corner, fighting for us by bringing us coffee or texting randomly to see if we’re okay or giving us a hug when we haven’t been touched in years or reading a blog post written by a crazy and emotional woman, healing also requires love. To offer unconditional support and love to someone when there’s nothing for you to gain means you lay bare your heart fully aware that doing so leaves you vulnerable to be hurt. Offering our hearts and our histories and our prayers and our touch to someone takes real strength, but it changes, it saves, lives. Love, kindness, is definitely stronger than evil then.
Not because I think I’m special but because I genuinely want to exemplify for my daughters how to be open and to trust when there’s no reason to, and because I want this space to be one for everyone, a space where we can be broken out loud so we might watch beautiful colors shine in the cracks, I feel I need to make a standing invitation.
No matter who you are, no matter what you’re going through, your story matters to me.
Everyone is welcome to comment on the blog or on Facebook (Stories that Matter). But there are lots of people, myself included, who find writing public comments is difficult and responding where others can see is not preferred. So — if there’s ever anything you need to vent about or say, you may also e-mail me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. If, after reading a sample or an entire book or a blog post that strikes a nerve, you want to ask me a question, but you’d rather not have it on a public forum, you’re invited to use the same e-mail if that’s easier. I have people e-mail me fairly frequently and I respond to every, single one. I don’t “market” this blog, I don’t use ads, I don’t have 300,000 followers, although some of my work has been fairly successful, I am, in truth, a totally unknown writer–responding to an e-mail is not going to make a difference in my sales. I’m saying this because it’s important that you know that my responses are not motivated by anything but a sincere belief that you matter, and your story is just as valid, and matters, just as much as mine does. I just happen to write about mine.
Sharing is powerful. The readers who regularly read the blog, who have contacted me, who have come up to speak to me after events, who have left reviews—these people, these strangers, have taught me invaluable, life-changing things since 2009 that have tangibly helped elevate my emotional health, and facilitated healing by reminding me that I am not alone. Sharing, even in minute, small measures, takes the scary thing and bursts it open, so that it can’t hurt us as badly because pain shared is pain divided. I don’t care if you’ve never experienced trauma but you just had a bad day–that matters and, if you don’t have someone to whom you can take that bad day, bring it to me. If you had an amazing day and just want to shout about it because it feels like a victory and you want to celebrate, bring it to me (Lord knows, we can all ALWAYS use those days!)
Since I solidly believe God’s whisper put this post on my heart days ago and His whisper then became insistent enough that I’m following through with it at midnight when I’m exhausted, I have no doubt that, even though this is not a post about a book, and it’s not a post about trauma, it is still, just like everything we share, a story that matters.