I Want it All…and Other Bad Ideas

I caught myself –not once but twice—this week declaring: I want it all!

 

Most recently I announced it to my brilliant co-founder when he laid out a choice with a timeline. We could have a strategic, steady tech build this spring or the cool tech features I just requested.

 

We prioritized the strategic, steady plan…and I figured out a workaround for my fancy features. Yet I concluded our robust discussion with one last attempt: “You know I would prefer to have it all, please.”

 

Growing up I assumed I could be a war correspondent or host of Good Morning America by 25 and be married by 26 and a mother by 30. It wasn’t too much to ask, right? I’d be nice about it.

 

I want it all—please and thank you.

 

When 26 hit and I wasn’t a war correspondent or a wife I had an existential crisis. This was the late ‘90s, so I was quite the early adapter of the Quarter Life Crisis. Yet there I was—so far from where I thought I’d be.

 

Big dreams and cheeky ideas have often served me well. They’ve taken me to such fascinating places and launched me on gorgeous projects. Yet sometimes I’ve forgotten there are trade-offs.

 

There are choices with timelines. There are long-term strategies and short-term sprints. And sometimes you can’t have both.

 

“Every yes must be defended by a thousand no’s.” Jeff Walker

 

I’ll concede. For many people this is a straightforward reality. An exercise in stating the obvious. You can do this OR that. A OR B?

 

Yet for me—and perhaps for you—these choices can produce conflict. And my version of “having it all” doesn’t include conflict.

 

OTHER BAD IDEAS

 

A life without conflict takes us into my “Other Bad Ideas” section. Conflict is vital. I know this to my core when it comes to storytelling. There’s no story without conflict. And when used well it serves the hero in two powerful ways.

1) Conflict reveals how much the hero wants whatever she is chasing after. The greater the conflict the more the hero must confront desire.

2) Conflict cracks open the true character of the hero. It challenges the hero’s notions about who she really is—her ideal (false) self and her true self. I am a person who can have it all (assumption). CONFLICT. I am a person who can only do so much (truth).

 

So here I am. I’m confronted with my wiring to want it all and my ideal vision of myself that I can. And I’m left with I can only do so much.

 

“It is not a daily increase, but a daily decrease. Hack away at the inessentials.”
― Bruce Lee

 

This post isn’t theoretical or philosophical. It’s a confession.

 

I had hoped to do 40 days of Story for Lent…then 30 days (thinking I was right-sizing it)…all the while embarking on a big research and writing project with my startup StoryNow.

 

+ > –

 

I’ve always loved addition more than subtraction. This has played out in drink orders on planes: “I’ll take coffee and orange juice, please.” as I clutch my water bottle. And it includes holy seasons such as Lent. I’ll take up a practice rather than give something up.

 

So here I am in real time saying I need to give up adding things (such as 40 or 30 days of writing).

 

Yet there’s good news for me—and hopefully for you.

 

A great life demands a great deal of tradeoffs. It calls for choices and conflict. More Nos. More “I can only do so much…” declarations. And that’s ultimately a gift.

 

If I had it all, I would be stripped of desire. I would not be acquainted with reliance and awkwardly bump into the end of myself.

 

Where I find desire is where I find grace. Where I discover my need for another is where I find abundance. Where I stumble upon the end of myself is where I find greater Love and Life and the Hope that greets me Easter morning.

 

So…no 40 or 30 Days of Story. But I will post some really cool research I’m discovering on story and how it heals our bodies and brains.

 

As always I love hearing from you. I’m curious to hear your thoughts. How you’ve discovered you can’t have it all? Has that brought fear or freedom or a combination of the two? Do tell.

 

“ ‘No’ is a complete sentence.” Anne Lamott

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!

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