Know your life story, but don’t let it own you

I have a dear friend who I think is amazing. When I was learning what it means to be a purpose-focused entrepreneur, it was my friend that inspired me.  They had started and grown successful ventures, pushed the boundaries of what others considered possible, supported others to experience life’s richness. They are the poster-child for aligning  personal passions with what one does in the world. They positively impacted the lives of many.

And then something changed.  That phase of their life’s work ended – for a range of reasons, including that it was just time for those ventures and adventures to draw to a close. But the passion to make a difference to others still remains. Their calling still yearns, and burns.

And for now, the weather of their inner landscape has changed. They are experiencing stormy seas.

Depression, that’s what my awe-inspiring friend is in the midst of now.  They are OK, knowing that it is only through experiencing this inner Hero’s Journey that they arrive cleanly and more connected to the next phase of their life’s journey.  But, in the here-and-now it is difficult journey in the living none the less.

I feel saddened by knowing this about my friend. Not just in a compassionate way of wanting to help – I am not the most appropriate person to step into this role at this time – but the kind of sorrow that comes from knowing how the wonder of our life’s story can be both a blessing and a curse.

My friend has lived and continues to live a magical and blessed life.  Sure, there have been challenges along the way, but each of those challenges has formed who they are. And, it informs what they believe their purpose is for the world. There are many gifts woven into the rich tapestry of their life story, but without the right threads being sown together in the present, they are held captive by … what has been. Perhaps their story is owning them?

This perspective seems simple in the writing, but my own personal experience tells me that letting go some of those foundational life stories that have come to define ‘who I am’ is much easier to say than do.  And perhaps it is not letting go of those stories at all. Rather, it could be telling these foundational stories in new and inspiring ways. In ways that open up feelings of lightness and hope. Maybe, telling these same stories in new ways allows us to bring others aspects of who we already are into the world.

Last night I sat and watched a television program,  called Pictures Of You. The basic premise of Pictures For You is that the host, Brian Nankervis, presents back to his guest personal photographs collected during his or her formative years. Brian then invites his guest to tell stories of how that image signifies a turning point in their life – those pivotal moments that came to define who they are now. One of the guests on the program last night was the comedian, Anh Do. Anh arrived in Australia as a refugee as a young child after experiencing, shall we say, some of the fullness that life has to offer! Wow, an amazing story of survival being transformed into thriving.

In watching, I was captivated by the stories Anh told about each photograph. I was even more connected to the lightness in which he held some of his own life’s most emotionally challenging experiences. The stories he shared are his – sure they own him, but he owns them more. I sat riveted as he shared some of those pivotal times in his early years – he told his story in ways that released his magic. His story helps others feel more.

Towards the conclusion of the interview, Anh shared with Brian how proud he was of his younger brother, Khoa Do, who was named Young Australian Of The Year in 2005. He was very humble, saying that unlike his younger brother he had yet to make a valuable contribution to society. I beg to differ. What is the value in making another person laugh, to pause, to take stock of what is truly important along life’s journey? Valuable beyond measure.

It is my sense that simply telling his life’s story to the live audience and the broader viewing public, in all its fullness and frankness, Anh was offering us all a beautiful gift that only he could offer – and an implicit invitation to us all to remember our own life turning points. I am sure I was not the only witness to Anh’s story last night that looked in the mirror before heading to bed and pondered how authentically and lightly I am living my own life story. I remember thinking to myself just before I switched off the bathroom light, “Rich, it is important to be your life’s story, in all its colour. It is also important to remember to hold your story ‘lightly’. Be present. Stay open. Remain connected to your purpose. Don’t become weighed down with unhelpful ‘self expectations‘. Laugh. Gather with friends. Do good work. Be there for others. Be you.” A timely reminder.

And to my friend, you truly are an inspiration to me and to the many people your life has already touched. Travel with lightness. Thank you for being you because you allow me to be me.