Taking Myself to the Chopping Block

August 18, 2021

One of my big practices with writing this next book is taking myself to the chopping block more than anyone else.

This is something I learned from Hannah Brencher.

Meaning I’m shining a light on my flaws, mistakes, and failures more than anyone else. All the places I got it wrong, how my ways of being and blocks were at play, and owning my role in co-creating each relationship’s issues or ultimate unraveling.

That said, I’m also a big advocate of this Anne Lamott quote:

“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”

The thing with this book is that, yes, it’s centered around my relationships.

Some people, in some moments, aren’t going to look the best because they weren’t so wonderful or kind. Some actions were downright wrong and inexcusable things I never deserved. That’s just the nature of the stories I have to tell for the book to support other people’s healing and growth journeys the way I want it to.

But this book isn’t about a string of bad (or not great) relationships; it’s about me finding my way back to myself after a series of relational and systemic traumas that caused me to contort and compromise my truth so often and so deeply. It’s about finding myself and my voice, learning to take up more space unapologetically, and rebuilding my self-worth so that I can create the life I’m here to live.

I can’t write this book without telling you certain stories from my relationships over the years—personally and professionally.

That means writing about a handful of people who are, for the most part, no longer in my life.

Being someone who has trauma and whose deepest wound centers around feeling misunderstood, unseen, and unheard, owning my storyline is incredibly important.

That means it was hard for me, for many years, to handle the reality that other people could (and would) tell their own stories about who I was and who I am.

Some of those stories would be true and accurate.

Some of them would be so far off base, damaging, and cruel.

It’s taken time and a lot of healing work, but I’m at peace with it now.

All my ex-friends, partners, and professional connections are entitled to the stories they tell about me, and I have no control over how they frame my role.

There are many reasons why people appear to distort the truth. Either they don’t see it for what it is, their story is their genuine experience, their past is coloring their present interpretation, or they need to tell an altered version to save face, position themselves a certain way, or keep from facing the hurt and discomfort of the truth. But truth is subjective, and no one has the right to invalidate someone else’s experience, no matter how off-base it may feel when it’s about us.

Regardless of the reason, other people’s stories about me are none of my business.

All we can ever do is commit to our best and hope it’s seen for what it is.

Because I’ve had so many experiences with trauma and in past relationships where I felt like people distorted my story in really hurtful ways, it’s important to me that I bring great care in telling my stories about others. 

Some people have done things there are simply no excuses for, and while I will undoubtedly give context, I won’t let them off the hook for what I experienced and how it impacted me and my life. And others did things that were cruel, unkind, or damaging from places of fear and wounding, and I will make sure it’s known that even though it wasn’t okay, it wasn’t malicious, and they aren’t bad people.

Telling our stories is challenging because we’re also telling other people’s stories.

But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t share our truth.

My experience is my experience, and regardless of intent, the actions of others left marks. They shaped me, to one degree or another. So I will tell those stories, but I’m working so diligently to do it from the perspective of “this is what I experienced, and this was the result in my life.” Not from a place of blame or playing the victim and making everyone else the bad guy, but to give context for how it influenced and shaped my decisions, beliefs, fears, and actions.

It’s about how I internalized those moments and relationships, for better or worse, and what I had to do to break free from everything old and limiting. What I had to do to find my way back to my truth and begin living life fully expressed.

Personal responsibility has been a passion of mine since I first began this arduous work of growth and healing in my early 20’s.

It has the power to change the world, and I truly believe the ultimate form of personal responsibility is full alignment and full expression of self.

This book is about me taking full ownership of my life and the outcomes I create. It’s about me doing the intense and painstaking work to heal and grow despite everything I’ve been through and experienced. It’s about unlearning the patterns and stories that caused me to internalize other people’s behaviors and actions the way that I did, influencing my own choices and actions in undesirable ways.

Which doesn’t mean excusing the inexcusable.

It doesn’t mean saying, “it’s okay that these people were unkind, mean, or abusive because of xyz.” It means saying, “these things happened, and this is what I chose to do in the aftermath to become the best version of myself.”

Taking ownership doesn’t mean making excuses for others, but it also doesn’t mean laying all the blame on them.

It’s hard, messy, and confusing work, which is why I’m writing this book.

We all have relationship trauma, whether it was caused maliciously and intentionally or was unconscious and innocent. And until we really, truly unpack that trauma and learn new ways of engaging with the world and people around us, we perpetuate the cycle of trauma with the ones we love and care for. With our colleagues, children, family, partners, and even strangers on the street.

I can’t wait to share this book.

I can’t wait to tell these stories, though I’m also absolutely terrified.

But that’s my work in this life, to live my lessons out loud. So, I keep on writing.

Stay tuned for more excerpts over the coming weeks and months!

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