Do you have those? If not, don't tell me.
There are many moments, lately, when I actually see myself as the protagonist in my own story, and when they happen I realize how much time I spent feeling like the side-kick in someone else's story. It was a role I think I relished, in fact, because that meant I wasn't the lead, didn't have to bear the responsibility of momentum or outcome.
There I was, freshly brewed coffee steaming in my travel mug, sliding into the leathery scent of my new car, and heading off to my first job outside the home in twelve years.
Why does this feel so monumental, so different, I thought. You used to be an executive, for crying out loud. You could present to boards of directors when you were barely in your 30s and not bat an eyelash. And now off you go to answer phones and type memos and you feel like an explorer discovering a new continent.
I have tackled a lot of challenges in my life, many just for the sake of tackling them. I always had to climb higher, do more, see what was just on the other side of first one peak, and then another. It was a mad scramble to give ordinary the slip, to side-step regular.
After tumbling around in the unpredictability and chaos of the past few years, regular feels like sticking the landing, like grabbing the brass ring.
And there is so much bravery in regular, in normal. Being the protagonist in my own story has required more courage of me than most anything I've done in quite some time. It was less scary to hide behind all those side-kick roles I played so well.
Being the other half of a relationship - and I did think of myself as the other half - stopped suiting me a while ago, although I was too scared to realize it on my own. The idea of being a Single Working Mom was nothing short of terrifying to me. I didn't have faith in my ability to be the protagonist in my own life.
The first afternoon at my new job, I created my email signature. Below my name, in bold print, I typed, Receptionist. I am a Receptionist. I am one who receives.
The definition of receive? The action or process of receiving something given, sent, or inflicted.
It is my choice, how I view my life as it is today. It can be inflicted on me, something that happens TO me. Or it can be a gift sent to me, given to me. The Universe cleared my path of all my self-placed obstacles to finding my place in my own story.
In her new book, Rising Strong, Brene Brown says this:
Men and women who rise strong are willing and able to rumble with their stories. By rumble, I mean the get honest about the stories they've made up about their struggles and they are willing to revisit, challenge and reality-check these narratives as they dig into topics such as boundaries, shame, blame, resentment, heartbreak, generosity and forgiveness."These words shook me to my core. Getting honest with how I feel about my own story is a long journey inward, an intrepid adventure full of jump-scares and trick mirrors. I used to read quotes like this and think: yes, but I'm always truthful when I tell my story, so this doesn't apply to me.
But, oh, it's so much more complex than that. The facts aren't the meat of our story. What I didn't have access to were the tough emotions - the ones that make us truly vulnerable - like grief, anger, fear and remorse.
So I dropped the script, the one I had so carefully crafted for myself. It's just words. It's just a story. The key to freedom is to own my story, but not to let my story own me.
So as the camera swings wide we see our protagonist - a middle aged woman sipping coffee and humming along with her car radio - on her way to first day of work. She wears a pensive smile, and we wonder what thoughts dance in her head. Is it a fond memory? The anticipation of plans later that evening?
No, it is none of those things. She is wallowing in the gift of normalcy; the ability to step into the spotlight of her life - hard feelings and all - and to receive.