… And now let me share mine!

The bridge between us

Last week Kirk challenged us all to take up the art of storytelling. We have been thinking a lot about how fundamentally respectful it is to listen deeply to another person’s story. And now I wonder; what about sharing my own story? Is there power there too? After all, we aren’t trying to be counsellors. We are fellow citizens, neighbours, and friends seeking a way to connect. If I listen well to you, you may feel nurtured, valued, heard. But if I hear your story and then tell you my own, then I hope you feel all those things PLUS. Plus trusted. Plus needed. Plus connected.

I met a dear friend of mine, Jo, just when I was trying to pull together a conference about the power of storytelling to create social change. She is a poet, and open-heartedly shares her story every time she writes or reads aloud her work. I asked to meet with her so that we could discuss what sort of input she might like to make to the conference. As we sat, she started talking about some of the most painful experiences of her past. I suddenly felt compelled to tell her about my own experience of depression, sensing this was a ‘sacred space’ where it was safe to share. We looked at each other across the table in the coffee shop and said (with our words or eyes, I can’t remember now), “I am so sorry you had to go through that. You are so brave.” We said out loud that we felt deeply connected by having shared our stories so openly with one another and observed how appropriate that was, given the purpose of our meeting. In terms of the conference, ‘Storytelling for Social Change’, talking about our experiences of mental ill-health challenges stigma and raises awareness. In terms of forming a connection, this conversation about our vulnerabilitywas the catalyst.

Think of your deepest, truest friendships. Have those friends been there when you cried? Do they know your dreams? Do you know all about their most painful childhood memory? Brene Brown did a wonderful TED talk a few years ago, talking about ‘The Power of Vulnerability’. She discovered that the people she met who had the strongest sense of love and belonging were the people who were willing to “tell the story of who they are with their whole heart”. They allow themselves to be vulnerable by opening up, and are rewarded with real relationships.

So what does this mean? That we should share our life story with people the instant we clap eyes on them? I for one am not willing to do that – it was unusual that Jo and I almost did. But if I am open to the possibility of being vulnerable with you, then I am truly present and available at each of our conversations. I will perhaps find occasion to share a little with you; and you to share a little with me. We can build this together. I don’t plan to try to turn everyone into my best friend. But if I show you that I want to hear your story and to share my own with you, we at least have the beginnings of trust…and for me that’s a powerful place to start.

http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/brene_brown_on_vulnerability.html

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “… And now let me share mine!

  1. beck

    …. thank you for sharing all of this, Linda. i appreciate it in so many ways. wish we would have had more time together this summer.

    – beck

  2. Joy

    I personally think it is easy to feel isolated in this society. As a human, and especially as a female. We are in a constant bubble of advertising and agenda, and sometimes one can get lost in the expectations of others, and the demand of production can be draining/ depressing. I think it is a challenge to live authentically, with the constant opportunity for exploitation from others. However, I have found that when someone shares a moment of vulnerability with me, I am momentarily freed from those restrictions. When I can share something meaningful about myself and my history and it is affirmed by someone else, I feel a great sense of relief.
    There is a scripture in the bible that reads “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (Proverbs 4:23). I am not religious (and mean no disrespect) but I always thought that would better be phrased as “above all else, OPEN your heart…” It is only when we allow ourselves to be open to receiving someone for who they are in their darkest hour, that we can fully embrace them. And vise versa.

    • Sheldon

      An Open Heart and an Open Mind. Two of the hardest things to do, as we are vulnerable in so many ways when we do this. But honestly, for me, it is the only way to live. While the threat of hurt and harm are real, it is the opportunity for deeper connect that gets lost if we constantly try to protect ourselves from this threat. Those who know me, know that I am open, quite possibly too open. But I have also connected with many amazing people as a result. Have I been hurt? Yes. And I have grown and learned from those hurts, too. It is this connection that is important. There is much to be learned from it and so much more to be gained, than can ever be lost.

  3. Sheldon! “An Open Heart and an Open Mind”… Thank you.

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