Friday, January 12, 2018

Telling Your Story

We all have a story.  Maybe it's your love story.  Or your coming of age story.  It may be a how you got your job story.  Or how you found your Man's Best Friend story.  Maybe it's not a happy story; you may have lost a parent at an early age.  Or a child or spouse.  Maybe you're a victim of divorce, or rape, or you've struggled with depression.  Maybe your story starts with what someone said to you, positive or negative, from an influential family member or mentor, a parent or friend.  It could be anything, really.  But we all have a story.

I'm a part of a group of managers at work that basically calls the shots for our organization.  Our previous director referred to us as The Board.  We have to make a lot of high-level decisions on a daily basis, and we've found that leaning on each other is an important part of this process.  But it isn't something that just happened.  We had to build a level of trust with each other in order to know that we can and will support each other when needed.

We began this process of building trust through a series of multi-day meetings.  Several years ago, we gathered together in a small conference room with a facilitator and proceeded to share our deepest stories, the things that made us who we are.  Some stories were really sad.  Some were inspiring.  Some involved a traumatic event of some kind.  By sharing these stories with each other, by baring our souls, we had to trust that our colleagues would be not just supportive, but that they would understand why these events are so important to each of us, and how they make us think and act the way we do.  And this trust that we built made us a stronger team.

My own story is difficult for me to talk about.  I've written about it many times.  Several times right here in this blog.  But writing it is different from verbalizing it.  By telling my story, the raw emotions come out and that frequently results in tears and pain.  My story is not a completely happy one.  But I tell it because it has defined who I am.

My story involves the death of my grandparents in a tragic car accident when I was 18 years old.  They perished in a car I was driving, and the accident, involving being rear-ended by a tractor-trailer, left me with a concussion, an over-night hospital stay, a permanent scar above my left eye, and no real memory of the accident, but the experience deeply affected the dynamics of my family for many years after.

My story also involves the death and home-going of my wife and best friend, Teresa, after fewer than five years of an almost story-book-like marriage and life together, including the birth of our only child.  Teresa died after a massive heart-attack while we were out walking with our then-five-month old daughter, Melody, and left me as a grief-stricken widowed parent of a young child, just as my career as a manager was beginning.  I’m still battling depression after almost 14 years.

I have good memories in my story, too.  While a student at the University of Maryland, I discovered that I could major in Geography, a life-long interest, and that led to a very successful career in the Federal Government, with both the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

My marriage, itself, was the happiest time of my life.  We lived life fully during our time together, and the love we shared for each other is as close on an earthly-level as what we will experience when we find ourselves face-to-face with our Lord and Savior, where Teresa is now.  My marriage also brought me our wonderful daughter, Melody, who has all of the great qualities that my wonderful wife had, magnified by a smattering of any good that she inherited from me.  And our life together, me and Melody, is awesome.

I also became a follower of Christ in my teens, and this had a profound affect on my life, changing me forever, and securing my salvation with a loving God.

The story of your life is so important in defining how you live your life.  Each event plays a role in making you who you are.  Embrace them, and share them when appropriate.  Martin Luther King, JR, said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”  Live life fully, and share your story.

Have a great evening, everyone.

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