One of my favorite pastimes is reading fiction. I love reading stories, especially ones with struggles that resemble my own. Very rarely do I learn a lesson from them as I read those stories for entertainment and reality escape purposes only. However, when I do learn a lesson, it’s because I’m struggling with that very same struggle at the time. It brings me to tears when I read it because it seems as if the story was written for me. When I think about the stories I read, I wonder how the story would be if there was no struggle. Would it be just as good? Would I enjoy it as much as I do in its original form? Would I remember it? Would I invite others to read it?
I thought about the most famous stories, the Disney princess stories, and even they all have struggles. Cinderella struggled with keeping her hope, joy and peace in a household of women who treated her worse than the dirt she cleaned daily. Belle struggled with loving an enraged beast who held her father hostage. Snow White struggled with staying alive against a woman who doomed her life from its very beginning. Pocahontas struggled with loving a man outside of her race at a time of war. Jasmine struggled with loving a man who was not her economic or royal equal. There are many more princesses who endured struggles just to have their version of a happy ending but who would they be to us if their conflict was never a part of the story.
When I look at my very own story, it’s not the struggles that stand out to me it’s the results. However, to others, how I made it over to reach the success may be what draws everyone in to me. How I fought the same battles and failed may be more of a reason for someone to continue to read my story than the successes I had in life. Ladies with polycystic ovarian syndrome that know me commonly ask how did I lose enough weight to get pregnant. They see the result which is my four-year old kid. Those fellow military spouses who would like to get a job but have been away from the job scene often ask me how did I land a job after such a lengthy hiatus. They see the result of me not only being in my current position but having been in another position prior to that. Not too long ago, I was asked about how I lost over fifty pounds in about six months last year. They approached me because of my result but their focus was on the how.
Basically put, people applaud the result but they want to know how you accomplished what you did. They want to know how you succeed and that may include all the ways you failed. All the ways that made you feel as if you were not good enough. All the ways that made you realize this obstacle is bigger and more difficult to overcome than first believed. People need to hear that. Why? Because people don’t want to feel alone in their feelings as they try to accomplish their struggles. Knowing someone else is fighting or has overcome the same struggle they are currently having brings about relief of not being alone which is the biggest fear.
It’s hard to recount stories that are filled with pain just for someone to know what you did to overcome the struggle. While we lived in Italy, I co-created a Faces of Loss, Faces of Hope team with a friend of mine. Faces of Loss, Faces of Hope is an organization dedicated to comforting women who have lost pregnancies and infants with other women who have been through the same thing. During our sessions, we would (albeit unfortunately) welcome the newcomers and then take time to re-tell our stories. I can’t tell you how much tissue we used or how many hugs we gave but what I can tell you is that every woman who came has asked the question: how did you get through it? They realized that we were further along in our healing to where we didn’t always cry while telling our stories or we were able to laugh about something that occurred in the pregnancies we wound up losing. All I can say is that our season changed. The storm will always be remembered but being five years removed now allowed for other seasons to come through to re-direct us and to help us think of other things than the pain.
If you ever get an opportunity to tell someone your story, be bold enough to tell it all. Leave nothing out simply because of shame. Others will learn from your story and that should include the things you’re not proud of as well. It should include all of your failures, your struggles and the parts you feel wouldn’t help anyone to know. It may be the very part they need in their journey to overcoming their situation.
Until next time, may you feel comfort and power in telling your story. May you feel inspired by your own strength when you share your story with others. May you encourage the listener through your words and may you feel empowered every time you say them. Most of all, may you learn to trust your struggle for in learning to trust your struggle, you learn that trouble don’t last always and there will be an end to the storm. But you don’t need me to tell you that. The fact that you can tell your story is proof enough.