It was that tear, that one tear. You know the one. The one that builds up in the corner of your eye, the one you try so hard to keep from setting free for fear that an entire ocean of tears might soon follow. That tear was my battle as I stared at my computer screen with my mouse gently hovering over the “publish” icon of my blog.
That one tear.
My son was just shy of his second birthday, and my daughter was just a couple of months old. As an only child, I was filled with so much doubt and insecurity when I found out that I was pregnant with our little girl. I was afraid that I wouldn’t have enough patience or energy or knowledge to raise two babies. Most of all, I was afraid that I wouldn’t have enough love. Sure enough, when our daughter was born, our son—who was only twenty months at the time—processed the immense change in his life the only way he knew how: through acting out, through defiance, and, for a period of time, through rejecting me. For my delicate mama heart, this was my worst nightmare. I had failed my son. Furthermore, I hid in isolation with my pain. I hid behind my Facebook posts and my playdates and my thriving career. I hid because I thought I was the only one.
Until one day, my pain came pouring out onto the page.
Until one day, I broke the chains of isolation.
Until one day, I discovered that my story . . . was actually our story.
As a photographer, my job was to tell stories. It was my job to share the glorious moments that I was able to see and to share the delicate memories that you can’t see. And I did this well, because I told stories well. But I seldom ever told my own stories. Julia Cameron, creator of The Artist’s Way, once wrote, “Artists love other artists. Shadow artists are gravitating to their rightful tribe but cannot yet claim their birthright.” As a photographer, I was very much an artist. With my camera pointed at someone else’s big day, I was fearless, meticulous, and I pursued the story, big and small. But the camera—the light—wasn’t turned towards me. I wasn’t yet the artist of my own stories. Because my life took place in the everyday, in the stillness, in the details, I didn’t believe it was worth sharing. And I was scared that my stories would reveal a side of myself that no one really wanted to see: my insecure side, my fearful side, my deeply vulnerable side.
But on this particular day, my need to reach out overcame my fear of being seen, and, with one giant breath and a screaming toddler in the background, I released my own story into the world. I wrote about the endless doubts I was facing as a new mother, the struggles I was having getting from one day to the next, and the sadness that started to settle into my bones each time I would walk down the hall in the middle of the night to my crying son, just to have him say he wanted Daddy instead. And it was also the story that set me free. Because, in that moment, I stopped being alone.
For days after I posted these words, I received messages from friends, family, and strangers, sharing words of encouragement, sighs of familiarity, and, most of all, their own stories. Stories that sounded so much like my own. All this time, I thought it was my pain that was holding me captive, when, really, it was my isolation. It was sitting alone in a room, trying to live it out all by myself. And the moment I opened the floodgates on this part of my story, all the chains went with it. Now, I walked amongst others. Now, I stood in more familiar territory. Now, the very darkness I was afraid of showing was actually the light that was leading the way.
And that’s the thing about our stories: they are, in fact, ours. They are the ties that bind. The arms linked in unity. The thread woven through us all.
Anytime we find the courage to share a part of our own story, we are finding the courage to share a part of someone’s else story as well. Anytime we choose to set a part of ourselves free, we set someone else free along the way. Anytime we step out from behind the brick wall, we lead the way for someone else to do the same.
Our stories matter.
Be it the big stories of reaching for triumph, soaring in adventure, and falling in love, or the everyday stories of simply putting one foot in front of the other. They matter. Because somewhere in there, beneath all of the glorious moments that we can see, within all the delicate memories that we can’t see, we will find the beautiful light that we all want to see . . .