Slap! The sound of the rock hitting the concrete reverberated through me in waves of disbelief, followed by an undercurrent of deep, deep sorrow. I found myself desperately hoping it was still intact after falling out of my pocket. But even before I bent down to carefully pick it up, I knew that it had cracked.
It was a small grayish, brownish rock, mostly flat and shaped like a heart. Kinda. And it had specks of gold scattered through it. It was one of my most prized possessions and I had been carrying it in my pocket for months. It had become my touchstone.
When my kids and I were packing up for the long drive home after a soul-saving trip to visit family in one of the most beautiful places in the country, I felt a little nudge to scoop it up and tuck it into our bags to take home with me, where that rock and I would come to an understanding. It would anchor me. I would cherish it.
Each morning, I picked it up and felt the comforting coolness against my palm, reminding me to choose who I wanted to be, every moment of the day so that my future self could look back and be at peace with the way I was navigating the storm.
Throughout the day, I slipped my hand in my pocket and felt it’s roughness and shape, giving me something beautifully imperfect to hold onto. Something strong that had been formed under tremendous pressure, and had endured far longer than my lifetime. But even under all that pressure, it still retained those specks of gold that could reflect the light.
Each night, I would let it’s warmth seep into my palm before placing it carefully on my dresser. It had absorbed its warmth from me, from my connection to it, from all the good and beautiful thoughts it was meant to help me remember. Strength. Determination. Hope. Empathy.
And so when it cracked, a piece of my heart cracked with it.
Two things happened after that.
1) I found myself on Pinterest researching the Japanese art of repairing broken things with gold. Because everyone needs to know about that. Seriously, go look it up…you’re welcome.
2) Something started spilling out of that crack in my heart….words…so many words. I started writing like I hadn’t written for years. And somewhere in all those words, I found my voice, I found clarity, I found my zone of genius, and I found hope.
The client stories I hear are sometimes full of things that no human should EVER have to endure. And I feel so humbled to be trusted enough to listen, to face the shadows with them. Sometimes those shadows are deep, dark, and they make my heartache and my blood boil. Sometimes, I can hear the hesitation, the apology in their voices as they talk to me. They are sorry to be telling me, they worry it will weigh me down, they are afraid that speaking their truth will diminish them in my eyes.
And I unfailingly reach through those shadows, through those fears until I can link arms with them and let them know that I see them. I SEE THEM. I see their strength, their determination, their more than enough-ness.
And I reflect all that light back to them.
Because do you know what is born from those heartbreaking circumstances?
Strength. Determination. Hope. Empathy….a deep, deep empathy that is the fiercest possible rebellion to the circumstances that they endured. Hope is born from the ashes of what their lives should have been. They decide that those circumstances do not define them, and they find the courage to walk the hard road to choose who THEY want to be.
They yell obscenities…or maybe just whisper tentative words of denial…to what the people, internal voices, or circumstances tell them they are. That they will always be.
Because when you’re faced with the realization that you will NEVER earn the approval, the love, of people who really ought to love and approve of you unconditionally, it frees you up to stop trying. And that’s when the strength you didn’t know you were carrying within you bubbles up to say, “Hey friend, let’s take the next fork in the road, shall we?”
This is what comes from story work, from accepting the things that were both inside and outside of your control as you walked through life. This is not work that could fit in my heart before it cracked. Because when it cracked, it expanded and allowed room for words to flow out, for the stories of other people’s journeys to pass through.
Where you came from does not define you. What has happened to you does not define you. The things people have said about you, or the things that you have said to yourself, THEY DO NOT DEFINE YOU.
There is nothing in your past that you can change. It is the road that has led you right here, right now. The thing that does define you? Who you choose to be, from today forward.
Let’s link arms and see what kind of light is waiting to be reflected back to you.