30 Days of Story: Heal. Grow. Help others do the same.

As reports of the Coronavirus accelerate, Syrian refugees face more hellish conditions, and the Dow shrinks, I so easily forget healing and growth are also powerfully at work in the world. And if I let them, they can do their magic in me too.

 

Healing and growth. Don’t you want that? Don’t we need that more than ever? Yet if you’re like me when I’m inundated with all the hard headlines the hope of wholeness can feel elusive—so light and fluffy, like pixie-dust.

 

For 30 days I invite you to join me on a quest. Let’s fact-check our notions about this hope. What if we gained a greater sense of our own story and were more present to others’ stories? Could we actually become more whole in the process, and help others do the same?

 

I dare you to explore this with me.

 

While I’m desperate for a reminder and desirous to go deeper with this quest, I will tell you this: I’ve seen story’s power to heal and transform people before. Hundreds of times.

 

I’ve had the privilege of interviewing incredible people around the world. I directed TV series, documentaries and short films featuring innovative leaders, brilliant fashion-designers and brave refugees. I first started to pay attention to story’s healing and growth powers when I spent a year-and-a-half interviewing sex-trafficking survivors in the US and S.E. Asia.

 

I started to notice something I couldn’t shake. Often when I’d begin an interview, the woman would be thin voiced, slightly hunched over and stiff. Yet as she shared more and more and recognized her own courage her voice would grow stronger, her posture would straighten and her demeanor would soften.  As she became increasingly aware of how resilient she’d been in the face of horror and that her story of pain could help others something got shored-up in her.

 

Shored-up. That was the only language I had for it. It was both mysterious to me…and clear.  Something was being made solid in woman after woman. And I felt so honored to bear witness to it.

 

I observed this again and again in the many years of interviewing that has followed. It became especially striking while interviewing Iraqi, Syrian and Afghani refugees. Then I happened upon a snatch of neuroscience that told me, Yes! What I observed and simply named as a lay-person as “shored-up” represented true transformation in people’s bodies and brains.

Here’s how Dr. Lissa Rankin describes what happens: “Every time you tell your story and someone else who cares bears witness to it, you turn off the body’s stress responses, flipping off toxic stress hormones like cortisol and epinephrine and flipping on relaxation responses that release healing hormones like oxytocin, dopamine, nitric oxide, and endorphins. Not only does this turn on the body’s innate self-repair mechanisms and function as preventative medicine—or treatment if you’re sick. It also relaxes your nervous system and helps heal your mind of depression, anxiety , fear , anger , and feelings of disconnection[1].”

Healing and growth.

 

Amazing, right? And transformation isn’t simply contained to the sharer. The listener is also affected.

 

In the midst of producing the TV series on trafficking—with the intense darkness of the topic and the horrific research I’d take in–it was the stories of the survivors that buoyed me. I witnessed that transformation was possible. And I needed that…during that time I was lamenting that my life looked a lot differently than I had hoped and planned. My longing to be married and mother pierced me on a daily basis. Yet, hearing these survivors’ stories stirred healing and hope in me. They offered me an invitation to not lose heart. I was growing stronger too.

 

Now there were key factors that encouraged this healing and growth. There were certain courageous ways the survivors showed up to the interviews that enabled them to grow as they shared their stories. And there were specific things I did that made them feel safe, seen and celebrated.

 

During the course of these 30 days we’ll uncover the conditions and components that help us best experience story’s power to heal and grow and help others do the same.

 

So that’s our quest. And here’s how we’ll approach it:

10 days of discovering our story.

10 days of owning and sharing our story.

10 days of listening to other’s stories.

 

So who’s in?

I’d love for you to be in…

START HERE: How have you experienced healing and/or growth by hearing another person’s story? I’d love to hear your response.

 

 

[1] https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/owning-pink/201211/the-healing-power-telling-your-story

 

How about joining me for 30 Days of Story to Heal + Grow?

Hi friends!

As I’ve been putting this series together I realized it will be more sustainable–and joyous– if we made it a 5-day a week adventure through Lent. We’ll do 30 days of exploring our story–and better understanding others–to heal and grow. It will run from March 2 to Easter–during the week days.

So, we’ll officially begin Monday!

I’d be thrilled for you to join us. I pray it will be a deeply encouraging time for you.

Can’t wait to have you along!

Tamara

You’re Invited + Bonus Confession

Hi friends!

Who’s in for a 40-day adventure with me? Don’t hesitate too long—because it starts tomorrow! You know you want to…

Oh yes, where are we going? What are we doing?

We’re on a chase…running after this question:

How can we better understand our own story–and others’–to encourage healing and growth?

Admittedly I’ve become increasingly obsessed with this question. From interviewing hundreds around the world–from survivors of trafficking, to Syrian refugees, to other entrepreneurs from Havana to Charlotte–I’ve seen how something shores-up in us when we discover more of our story–our struggle, courage and hope–and share it with others. Healing and growth gets ignited, solidarity gets sparked. And who doesn’t want more of that!

I do. I know I need it. So, I invite you to join me in chasing down more of it. Tomorrow I’ll layout the 40 day plan in more detail (teaser: designed for a daily 5 min read or video + 5 min reflection). There will likely be a combination of neuroscience and New Girl Gifs and beautiful questions and [more than] a few confessions.

Speaking of confessions, last year I set out on a 40-day adventure on the Power of Story…and I stalled out around Day 26 or Day 27. Smack in the middle of this Lenten Journey–this Story Adventure–my heart got broken. I found myself in a desert, parched without words. I wish I could have written through it…finished my forty in forty. But I didn’t. So this feel risky–inviting you on a journey I pray to God I’ll make myself.

And yet..there was–is, always–grace. That is really what this adventure is about. We are all invited into an epic adventure where we get to heal and grow. We get to experience it for ourselves, encourage it in others and be reminded–by the grace of God–we don’t journey alone.

So…who’s in? (You know you want to…)

Parting shots:

“For last years words belong to last years language, and next years words await another voice. And to make an end is to make a beginning.”
-T.S. Elliot

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.” Nelson Mandela

Cheers to that!

Cheers to having a box! Day 2 of 12 Days of Story [for the Unexpected Life]

Happy Boxing Day, friends!

 

“Put me in box, please.” Words never spoken by me…until today.

 

I am not a fan of limitations…or the word No…or the concept of wait. And don’t you dare try to box me in.

 

Yet…something is shifting in this Unexpected Life.

 

I have all the labels to say a box is not my natural habitat. In Myers Brigg’s terms, I’m a P (aka, keep my options open, please). On the Enneagram I’m a 7 (Enthusiast), a glutton for all life has to offer. With Strength Finders I am a Futurist teamed with Positivity. And the future tells me out of the box is good.

 

Yet…

 

Today I got the keys to my flat in Charlotte. Next week I will meet movers in Colorado and officially begin the process of reuniting with my belongings. My furniture and art and half used toiletries have patiently waited in storage for 4 ½ years…waited until my life had a bit more limits again.

 

As I think about this new box of Home—with its word Stay and its concept of Here and Now, I am energized.

 

In the past 4 ½ I have worked on 5 continents and over 20 countries…and I’m a bit tired. There is a great deal of research regarding the power constraints have on creativity. It’s curiously liberating. I’ve witnessed this in Cuba, being an island of artists creating in the midst of the challenges from a Communist Party and a US embargo. I’ve seen this in the Middle East and Europe–how refugees personalized touches of home in their UN issued tents with only a few possessions they had carried across mountains and seas.

 

I believe roots can make for a strong launching pad. Boxes can keep you in order or carry you safely from one place to another. And as the Hebrew Scriptures’ most famous poet and songwriter wrote, “I run free within the limits of the law.” (Psalm 119:32). Limits can offer any free-spirit a haven, if they’re the right limits.

 

So my question for you is: What box in your life is serving you well? Or how could you benefit from having one?

 

Cheers to good boxes…may the ones we find ourselves in ultimately free our creativity and give us energy!

 

 

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