Dear Reader: I write to better understand my experiences of life; I share in the hopes that my words will touch something inside you, and together we will remember that we all walk through life with joy and sorrow, love and loss, hope and hopelessness, faith and uncertainty.
During those months as a park aide at Cape Disappointment I desperately wanted to belong, wanted to have found my new “tribe,” and became increasingly frustrated that I was not welcome with open arms. As my frustration rose, I had difficulty keeping it from showing. I continued to work hard and would lament, “Why can’t they just accept me as I am? Yes sometimes I’m cranky and impatient, but I’m an awesome employee, loyal and hard working.”
In the years since, that has continued to be my cry: “why can’t they accept me as I am?”
The problem, I believe, was not in that wish. The problem was that I wanted This Tribe to welcome me as I was. Wouldn’t life be so much easier, if people just felt the way I wanted them to feel?
I heard this fabulous program on This American Life, a weekly radio show that presents unique and intriguing stories. This particular story was about a woman named Giulietta Carrelli who suffers from schizoaffective disorder. This mental health disorder is very debilitating. At a certain point in her life Giulietta concluded, “This is me…. I just destroy relationships, I can’t hold an apartment, I can’t hold a job. I’m nice enough, I try my best, this is just who I am.”
The story describes how Giulietta came to open her own café in San Francisco, the Trouble Coffee and Coconut Club (which serves only coffee, coconuts, grapefruit juice and cinnamon toast). There are so many things that I love about her story, and I encourage you to listen to the 17 minute program. Perhaps my favorite thing is that this woman has some very specific needs because of her disorder, needs that most likely would prevent her from successfully using a typical business model. Instead, she created a business that fits her needs (for example one with a very limited menu); and in doing so she has created a life for herself that fits her needs. She has relentlessly been herself, and in doing so she has found her tribe.
Her story is powerful and beautiful, and stands as an inspiration to anyone feeling hopeless about fitting in, about finding their tribe. The Radio Show: http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/520/no-place-like-home?act=3#play. Trouble Coffee: http://www.troublecoffee.com/content.
When I first decided to start this blog, I made the decision in the space between two breaths. Without giving myself a few days or even overnight to think about it, I figured out the fastest way to put a blog online, and I started writing.
When I told my therapist about my blog, she asked if I was writing it under a pseudonym. When I told her no, she was not quite able to hide her uncertainty. I appreciated her uncertainty, even as I often worry about the doors this may close for me. But I knew that I needed to stop hiding my wounds, I knew that I needed to not only write, but share my story with others.
It is dawning on me, nearly a year after starting this blog, that this is a position of strength. I am claiming my wounds, those things I have kept secret. Instead of worrying about who might find out, or worrying about what people will think if they see me on those days I don’t quite seem normal, I am claiming all the wounds that life has given me. I do not always feel strong, I do not always feel confident, but I am stronger when I let the light in and expose my deepest worries and fears and pain. I am stronger when I speak out rather than hide in uncertainty. These traumas have shaped me, just as much as precious moments have shaped me.
“Never forget what you are, for surely the world will not. Make it your strength. Then it can never be your weakness. Armour yourself in it, and it will never be used to hurt you.”
― Tyrion, A Game of Thrones (George R.R. Martin)
In some indigenous tribes, such as the Ohlone in NW California, warriors would proudly display their battle scars. Today a mother celebrates her stretch marks, a cancer survivor his or her surgery scars; these scars tell a story of perseverance and bravery. Of course my scars aren’t visible; but then, so many scars from living in today’s society are invisible. Enduring abuse, being robbed, miscarrying, losing a child or a sibling, the scars from these battles cannot be seen. And yet they are real, and they are a testament to human strength and resilience.
These are my battle scars. I earned them by living fully and without regret.
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