I just got my mind blown. An awakening, actually. As I wrote an application for a TedX event, the secret to our superpowers smacked me between the eyes. As much as I see the multi-layers of story, and see every single person has a superpower, I was stunned with this simple truth:
Our Superpowers = sum of our stories.
I’m talking stories about our lived experiences, from the messages we receive (family, friends, media, name it). And, most importantly, stories we tell ourselves in response to those messages and experiences, including the meaning we make of them all.
Let’s face it, things come at us starting when we’re tiny and don’t have a clue how to make sense of much. What happens can color our lives for years. We go on, and stuff happens that holds shame, or makes us shy of judgement. We may push them in the background, or fluff over the layers when we tell it. (Ask me how I know) For me, it was a huge story in my life that lasted 8 years.
Now I’m giving it to you, full on without writing a book. And telling why this gal who sees webs & connections in everything she hears, sees, and reads missed it.
Note, I am not a confessional writer. I write in response to my current experience. And this is a confession. I’ll start at the beginning so you know I was always a bit ‘different.’
I arrived on earth with a sixth sense and desire for connection. Sensitive, observant, curious, full of questions & wonder with the world. Intensely present, artistic, and smart. A tiny mystic who internalized everything. Including messages of my difference.
My earliest memory is sitting in the stairwell at my Grandma’s home. It’s dark where I sit. I can see the kitchen across the dark hallway below me thru the railings. The window at the foot of the stairs a blurred blaze of light. I’m alone. My Grandma wasn’t a warm cuddly one for little girls
I was 42 before my father shed light on this memory. My mother sent me away at 18 mos. old, he said. My sister’s birth was difficult, and she felt I was ‘too much.’ He came for me after 8 weeks (a lifetime for a tiny girl) because he ‘didn’t know when she would.’
Now I can understand, in a way, with compassion for my mother. She was born to Armenian immigrants who lived thru unspeakable horrors & fled the first holocaust of the 20th century. They’d worked hard, made good in America. And she was raised the old world way, caught between two cultures. I was ‘too much’ for her. As she told my husband late in her life, she never understood me.
My gosh, tho, that message ‘too much’ echoed through my growing-up, said in a dozen ways. I accepted the story, and decided early I had to do things myself, because help wasn’t something to ask for.
It bled on for years. I played small. 70% of full Me. And tried to change to what others wanted so not be seen as different, weird, intense.
At 17, I left home. At 19, I grabbed the dream of marriage to the man I loved. And this is the story I’ve hidden for decades. Because tho I hold a no shame-no judgement zone for others, know all the good things from this period of my life, processed it all and know the layers of reasons why, I felt shamed by this story of mine. And didn’t want to be labeled. I access the wisdom & compassion garnered from it, and kept quiet on the source . . .that for 8 years I accepted the rejection my then-husband beat into me with his fists.
Until I realized my life wouldn’t change unless I changed myself for myself. Not anyone else. And took the first step to make it happen, despite no assistance. Because domestic violence wasn’t talked about then. Psychologists blinked, said little, when I sought help. My best friends made it clear, too. In hindsight, what I did was courageous. Navigating my head & emotions alone, making provisions & leaving, then enduring the fear each night alone that left me feeling I couldn’t breathe.
Leaving didn’t magically shed the stories in my head. That picture above. . .that’s Me at 33, six years later. She didn’t have a clue she was pretty. Rejection and trauma were still in her cells. Everything she did was to prove what he said about her wasn’t true.
Six years after that picture, in University for the fifth time to get my bachelor’s degree, I heard two young women say date rape was an accepted risk. My heart began to pound. My ears buzzed as blood rushed to my head. I knew violence to the body. Knew how they’d finch when blindsided. Breathe free when it didn’t happen. Perhaps even hide it inside themselves, too.
A passion like fire ignited inside me. My goal, a Women’s Center on that huge university campus. A place women could gather, tell their stories, find allies & support, and be safe.
I used my Voice as a fierce advocate to connect with students, faculty, & administration. I discovered I knew how to listen so people felt heard, and how to speak to where we connect. The Women’s Center, something everyone said was impossible, opened on the eve of my graduation 18 months later. It’s since served tens of thousands of women.
And here’s the weird part. Telling this story now about those eight years, I see clearly the buried gold.
Because IF I hadn’t repeatedly gotten the message I’m too much, or told myself the story I have to do things myself, and hadn’t internalized both,
I probably wouldn’t have lived eight years being battered. OR realized I had to change for myself to have a different life. Which took me to believing I could create what I needed to put it in place.
And IF I hadn’t tried so hard to prove what my former husband said about me wasn’t true,
I probably wouldn’t have been so determined to get my bachelor’s degree & play 100%. Because by then I was living comfortably with a good job and a kind husband.
And IF I hadn’t been battered,
I wouldn’t have understood what it meant when I heard those two young women, nor felt the passion & determination to establish the ‘impossible.’
And IF I hadn’t decided to own this story now, let my secret out,
I wouldn’t have seen how every single story here links like a chain to that legacy I left.
Here’s the kicker, that story about the Woman’s Center has been a mere few words on resumes and random sidebar in telling my life. Dear peeps, it was HUGE.
The sum of our stories is the secret to our Superpowers. Not experiences or messages, or anything else we’re told. Own your stories. Don’t just tell them. Feel them. See the chain. It’s what you do with them that counts. Every one is in your cells.
It can be hard, and hurt. Can take a while. It’s taken decades for me. And what we do with those stories. . .why, it’s Gold. Can even take you to owning and creating your BIG dreams.
Another small journey getting to wise.
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