Back in October, I offered my blog post entitled Scattering the Seeds of Change, where I shared how friends were making proactive, meaningful differences in their families and communities. Admittedly I was more “aware” of how my friends had transformed how they were “showing up” in a much more authentic way. My awareness of this collective shift was cultivated over several years of long conversations, being vulnerable and trusting each other, non-judgmental support and a healing dose of empathy.
One thing stands out as a true catalyst for those who are the change-makers, the seed sowers, the light carriers — their willingness to be vulnerable. Time and time again, I have been blessed to hear the stories my friends found the courage to share. My respect and compassion for them grows immeasurably when I absorb their heartbreaking life experiences and contrast them to the courageous, dynamic, wholehearted women I know and love. They are living proof that we are “broken open” often by life. These women radiate light, emit a magnetic energy that feels amazing, and reveal a deep vein of trust that will take your breath away.
My friends are captivating storytellers. It is through their stories that we discover parts of ourselves — and find the courage to bring our own vulnerabilites into broad daylight. The more we share with each other, the deeper our friendships grow. Trust is a rock solid foundation on which to build relationships and ironically enough, it is being vulnerable that opens us up to trust.
Oh yes, it is scary to take that first step, especially if your trust in others has been broken repeatedly in the past — and who has not experienced that? The first person we need to trust is ourselves. Trust that our life experiences do not define us. Trust that how we respond and learn from our experiences is the accurate reflection of our true selves.
What I have discovered about my friends is that when they have found firm footing in trusting themselves, that is when they lean into vulnerability and bring others hope, encouragement and a roadmap. They do this through storytelling.
This past week, I witnessed the power of storytelling in a collective setting. My friend, Diane Brandt, was the keynote speaker for an annual event in Lancaster, Pennsylvania – The Silent Samaritans Luncheon. The Silent Samaritans are a group of women focused on helping other women who seek counseling but are at a time and place in their lives where they cannot afford it. They were founded in 1996 and have raised over $1.4 million dollars for women in need in the Lancaster County community. This year’s event was entitled “Ripples of Hope & Healing: The Many Colors of Creativity.”
I have come to know Diane through my Beautiful Cheetahs Zoom Book Club which began right at the onset of the quarantine for the pandemic. She is a liturgical artists and spiritual director, with deep roots in the Lancaster Community. She is a talented artist who teaches how art and creativity can heal us in profound ways. I am sure that her students over the years have been transformed in ways they never thought possible. The overview of her keynote presentation shared that Diane would share how we can move beyond the limitations of our fear-based thinking and enter the spacious terrain of the heart.
Over the past 20 months, during twice a month book club meetings, Diane has often shared a personal story with us that moved us deeply. Her wisdom and insights that come on the other side of her healing experiences are profound. Naturally, I was eager to hear what she would impart to the Silent Samaritans in this more formal setting. There were several reasons for this — my lifelong best friend, Judy, would be in attendance along with some of her wholehearted trusted friends. Judy has heard many stories about Diane and my other friends in the book club. They would all be present together at this event and I so wanted them to meet. Another big reason for my eagerness was my excitement for Diane — she would be stepping into a role that much of her hard work had beautifully prepared her for — she would be fulfilling another component of her life’s purpose. Diane is a change agent — she helps others transform pain into creativity and healing.
A little sidenote — I was participating virtually for this event since I now live in scenic Idaho. I was surely wishing I could have transported myself to be there in person for this event, and I was grateful that the live streaming option was available.
When Diane stepped onto that stage, she radiated peace, joy and high energy. Within minutes, she had won over the audience with her easy going, relatable manner. While I should not have been surprised, Diane deftly took us on a journey through her life — and revealed tragic, vulnerable parts of her story that were new to me. I was in awe — here was my friend, being a complete open book to this group of caring women. She personified courage in that moment to me. She was standing firmly rooted in her own trust — trust that she evolved into the woman she wanted to be in spite of her life experiences, trust that she is living authentically and trust that she can help others in a meaningful way.
In conversations after the luncheon that I had with my friend Judy and a few of my book club friends, I learned firsthand just how Diane had created a safe place for vulnerability to have a sear at the table. Each table at this event had sheets of blank paper, crayons and markers. Diane used her gift of creativity and art to encourage each of us to draw something that depicted where we found HOPE through the pandemic. This child-like activity was a stroke of pure genius. Each woman could reflect privately on her own life, illuminated through Diane’s presentation, and then simply draw…..
When the exercise was completed, the women took turns sharing with others at their table their drawings and what it represented to them. These conversations were more vulnerable, more genuine, more open than Judy had ever experienced at prior luncheons. Guests lingered longer, connections were being made and as one guest commented — you could feel those connections!
Oddly enough, “connection” was the very word that came into my mind as I sat with my colored pencils and sheet of paper, 2000+ miles away in Idaho. It was connection that gave me hope all throughout the pandemic. I drew a loopy heart with flowing tentacles, a thick tree trunk and many deep roots. I jotted a few notes about what it meant to me in my journal. The big loopy heart is a symbol of my happiness when I am feeling both loved and loving. I lead with my heart in all my most cherished relationships. The tentacles represent my personal connections that deepened through the pandemic – including my bond with. my 8 year old granddaughter in Maryland, the growth and depth that Judy and I experienced in our lifelong friendship, the new friends I made through the Zoom Book Club who are now treasured trust buddies, a reconnection with my dear friend, AR, and the deeper bond I made with my daughter and her family while living with them through the quarantine, uncertainty and change. The brightly colored tentacles are loosely wrapped around me (represented by the tree with deep roots). They represent how relationships ebb and flow, with room for growth and space to be on our own. That smaller heart that anchors us all is the me I discovered through my personal growth work — still stretching down into the rich nourishing compost of vulnerability, honesty and acceptance.
What I find so fascinating is that many of these connections which gave me hope and anchored me through all the uncertainty — were done virtually! Zoom book club, long phone calls, twice a week Skype sessions with my granddaughter. It was the continuity and consistency of our outreach that created a framework. Honest conversations with deep dives into vulnerability and acceptance of reality made those connections stronger. Our relationships flourished — even though the Petri dish of life was not ideal.
What gives me hope is connection – the deep, solid, sustainable type of connection with others on whom we can depend, learn from and growth with through their wisdom. What I am committed to being braver about is my own vulnerability — which is the birthplace of both creativity and connection.
This conversation with Jake Wesley Rogers will touch your heart with its honesty, vulnerability, creativity, joy, acceptance and gratitude for those who “drop the keys” for us….to free us from our own cages and light the path to our greatest potential. There are “mic drop” moments in this conversation about the power of a song to change a heart and mind. Do yourself a favor and listen to his song Pluto on Spotify….
This dynamic conversation that Brene has with her long time friend and activist, Karen Walrond, will inspire you to look for joy even in the darkest of places, but especially in the everyday things we do — it is joy that reminds us of our purpose. It is joy that fuels needed change in positive ways.