“…and above all, I wish for you peace, purpose, and happiness.”
— Faith Salie
And then I was crying. One of those “Where-the-hell-did-that-come-from?” cries.
The line — not particularly a tearjerker — came at the end of Faith Salie’s one-woman play turned Audible podcast, Approval Junkie, wrapping up a passage that punched me in the gut in that ‘I feel seen’ sort of way.
I was sitting down to write to you. (Yes, you.) Scratch that. I was procrastinating en route to sitting down to write to you. I figured I’d brush my teeth, do my end of the night routine, and maybe finish up Faith’s podcast. So I popped in my earbuds and finally arrived at my desk just as it was wrapping up.
My bold story… my bold story… hmmm… grrr… ugh.
The very notion felt uncomfortable when Katherine was first kind enough to invite me to be part of her new series. It felt uncomfortable when I asked to delay mine a few months. It felt uncomfortable sitting down in front of a blank page. Maybe you can relate to my resistance?
I just don’t feel like I have some “bold story” to run up the flagpole and wave proudly — my great success and shining achievement. So the blank page and I stared at each other, and Faith’s final passage began…
“…don’t change yourself for someone else. Change yourself for you as often as needed. It’s how you discover who you are….”
Yes. Now THAT I understand.
I was going to be a priest. My Grampa told me so. It’s right there over and again, a thread running through my earliest memories. And the thread is unambiguous: Life is about having a vocation. A vocation is about discernment. And discernment is all about discovering who you are, who you’re uniquely called to be.
Which, as it turns out, is not a priest in my case.
But that’s irrelevant. The damage had been done, the gift had been given.
Never would I be driven by the trappings of typical. Life would be purpose-driven or not at all. Relentlessly. Unapologetically. Sometimes tragically. It’s like I internalized the vocational dubbing Grampa bestowed upon me as a vow, akin to Private Ryan on the bridge being charged to earn my life.
To me it was clear: That means to somehow live my life uniquely, to serve, to be on purpose. Now every single day of my life — every moment — positively crackles with that imperative. Its appetite is insatiable. Its urgency drives my everything. Its incompleteness haunts and taunts me.
And yet, it’s my favorite part of me.
For all its disregard for the practical necessities of adulting, it keeps me constantly, enthusiastically willing to change, willing to reach for more of me. Ceaselessly reminding me tomorrow is not promised. It’s Mary Oliver hardwired in my head, on repeat, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
Change as often as needed but discover who you are, indeed.
“…don’t miss out on the kinds of heartbreaks and disappointments that propel you. The things you think you’ve lost…either come back around or leave a fertile wake…”
See, here’s the thing. I’m unbreakable.
Guess how I know? Because of all the times precisely the thing I thought would kill me happened. And did not kill me. But did make me more of me.
Crippling depression; divorce: bankruptcy; job loss; the downs and ups and downs of a career trying to “make it” as a singer/songwriter, speaker, author; losing my voice; finding a new one; Hurricane Katrina. And more.
Such heartbreaks blow through me like identity theft leaving me lost and hollowed out for a time. And yet each also chips away parts that no longer serve me. And — poetically — in the aggregate, they’ve left me relatively immune to the fear of trying and “failing.”
The journey has made it crystal clear that the joys and the pains are gifts. Each is a feature, not a glitch. If you’re listening and willing.
Life is constantly presenting you with information about things you want more of (joys) and things you want less of (pains). Then you get to choose your own adventure armed with that new information.
Because that’s how it’s done.
Plus, those “chipping away” moments seem to come along right around the time I’ve attached myself to a particular “thing” outside of me as being me. In the wake of a loss, I’m given the opportunity to dig deeper and ask, A) Was it ever really about that person or thing? Or, B) Was it really about the expression of me I allowed myself to be?
Spoiler: It was B.
“..and I hope you will care a lot about winning your own approval, enough to stretch yourself, appreciate yourself, and occasionally embarrass yourself…”
Um. Hell yes.
There’s a special kind of “otherness” that hangs over you when you’re a teenager who’s the nice guy, the good listener, who’s going to be a priest. It’s a kind of otherness that simultaneously attracts and repels; it gathers people close, and leaves you isolated.
But there’s a perk to being “other.” A perk to the parts of me so committed to a vocation, so unable to commit to a “typical” life. Yes, it’s made adulting not always my best skill set. And it’s also brought out a bit of a punk rock side.
Who I am does not have to work for you. Who I am only has to work for me.
At the end of the day (and this is true), I just don’t really care what other people think of me. Zero f**ks given.
I do, however, care very deeply about what people think of themselves.
That “otherness” that wrapped itself around teenage-almost-priest-Brian is evidently the most vivid of all of my tattoos. Because it’s with me still. Everywhere. No collar or church, but otherwise a priest.
I’m learning (slowly) to embrace it. Offering wounds of my own. Offering permission to be all of perfectly flawed — perfectly flawed — you. Loving with everything I’ve got. Imperfectly. But willingly. Endeavoring to help people feel safer and seen.
“…and above all, I wish for you peace, purpose, and happiness.”
And then I was crying. And the blank page was blackened with words humbly offered from my heart to yours.
I don’t have a bold story to share. I AM my bold story. In process. Ever becoming. Shattered and unbreakable. Stories stacked upon stories. Each more colorful than the last.
But enough about me. Let’s talk about you. And heaven. (Like I said, priest not priest.)
While there are many definitions and dimensions of heaven, here’s one thing I know for sure:
Heaven is when you feel like you.
Do you feel like you? What’s the bold story you’re living? Not one defining moment, but all the moments combining like threads into the rich, beautiful, dark, and radiant tapestry that is YOU.
Because, dear reader, we’re each living a story we’re writing. Our pen is our thoughts, words, and deeds. And we get to write the story we live and live the story we write. Unavoidably.
May yours be all that Faith offers up. But — most of all — may it be YOUR story.
Tune-In Thursday, March 17 at 1:30 pm, for our 3rd episode of “Authentic Conversations with Entrepreneurs” with Story Mentor, Brian Perry. In each episode, we’ll explore the authentic stories of entrepreneurs and share how alignment with yourself is the key to igniting YOU and your business!
Photo credit: Brian Perry