“The influence of a mother in the lives of her children is beyond calculation.” — James E. Faust
If I asked you right now to tell me a story about your mom, I’m going to guess that you could give me at least five minutes of content. At least.
Whether your mother is your favorite person or the hardest relationship you’ve ever had. Whether you’ve never known her or she has passed away. No matter if she is your adopted mom or step mom or bonus mom or extra mom. Whether she remembers the day you were born or she can’t remember your name anymore. There is a human woman in your life who has been a mother to you – and you could tell me about her.
You might smile when you start. Your face may go dark and you might shift in your chair. Or you might laugh out loud and launch into a memory.
If I asked you for ANY story about her – whichever mom you choose, where would you start?
Maybe with the conversation you had the other day, or the blow-out fight you had when you were 15, or maybe even that time she taught you how to shave your armpits (awkward!). Maybe your memories of her perfume on Sundays or how she made you feel on that one special birthday. Maybe you have tears in your eyes as you share about her final days.
We all have a story about our mom – and most of those are everyday stories. They would make us laugh or cry – but we’d all be able to relate in some way.
If you shared a story about your mom, it would make me think of a story about mine. And vice versa.
I was recently on the About Your Mother podcast. Jennifer Griffith, the host of the show, chose me to share my mother with her listeners is because I shared about my mom in a blog post that made everyone want to hear our story. When we started chatting, I figured we’d just talk about my relationship with her – but the more we talked, the more she asked about the woman I had become, where I got my confidence, and how I live my life now. We talked about the everyday stuff of being a woman.
The story I share about my relationship with my mom is also my story. It’s my story to tell because it’s from my perspective. Yet I’m also thinking about the gratitude I have for who I have become when I share it – not in spite of her, but because of her and our relationship. The good, the bad, and the ugly.
I am the woman I am today because of my mom.
When Jennifer closed up the podcast, I thanked her for having me on – and then didn’t think of it again – until I got the graphics. Until I read the show notes.
I don’t think of myself as a very quotable person. I’ve borrowed other people’s quotes for years – and even made stickers of them. I’ve reworked some phrases into my own, but they always start out as someone else’s. I seem witty, but I’m mostly just good at picking up the things other people say and twisting them into something witty. It’s something I learned from my mom.
When I saw the graphics & show notes for the podcast episode, I noticed that Jennifer picked up some quotes from our conversation – MY words.
“Confidence comes from choosing to be confident.”
“It’s the everyday stories that are most important.”
“Life isn’t about balance, it’s about integration.”
“The constant reminder to not apologize unless you’re actually sorry for something. If you did something terrible, please say you’re sorry. Otherwise, don’t apologize.”
I said those things – not because they’re witty or epic or mind-blowing. Because they are my everyday stuff. Because they’re things we all need to hear. They’re reminders that we’re all walking a path and growing.
Same goes for sharing our stories. They don’t have to be epic or earth-shattering – they can be everyday. Those can be the ones we need to hear. The ones that connect.
When I was sharing about my relationship with my mom, I wasn’t doing it to get back at her. I wasn’t doing it to make her look bad. And I definitely wasn’t doing it to blame her. I was sharing because I know our story isn’t the only one like it. Our story is an everyday story about an independent mother and her strong-willed daughter.
I share it because someone reading this post has a mother like mine or a daughter like me. I share it because we’re not the only ones with this story.
No matter how many times I share our story – about how we didn’t get along most of my life (there were some seriously epic fights), then ended up not talking for a few years in my early 30’s, only to reconcile and do the work to build a strong relationship – I always hear: “so, there’s hope for me & my daughter?” or “there’s hope for me & my mother?”
YES! She even finally quit coloring her hair and we look like sisters now.
And it doesn’t take an epic story or all the gory details to give others hope. It takes being real – and being willing to share the story of your mother to connect with others. It’s proving to others that they’re not alone in their relationship with their mom or their daughter.
Your everyday stories matter.
Your everyday words matter.
Your everyday quotes matter.
So, what’s the story of your mom?
Choose one & share a little part of your story. Try it right now before you go off and do something else. You can share it here in the comments below, in a blog post on your own site, or on social media. (And if you do put it out there, tag me in it! I want to read it.)
The everyday story of your relationship with your mom will spark something in someone else. And it could give them what they’ve been searching for.
Are you willing to give someone else hope? It’s not about you anyway. What do you have to lose?
On Sharing Your Everyday Story
“Life is a concept, like the “universe”, that expands as soon as we reach what we think is its edge.” – Kamand Kojouri
Have you ever played the game, Two Truths & A Lie? It’s a game where you share three things about yourself – two are true and one is a lie. Those listening have to guess which one is the lie.
Two Truths & A Lie is a get-to-know-you game that allows people to learn more about your fun side. You’re supposed to share things that don’t seem like you – or things that seem off-the-wall. When you share, you’re supposed to make it hard for people to guess your lie.
I was chatting with my mom recently about this game and she laughed. She told me that I would be a hard person to guess about because I’d done so many epic things.
I looked at her sideways, not being able to think of one, and asked, “like what?”
That’s when she gave me the list:
- I’m scared of heights, yet I still jumped out of an airplane
- I have given keynotes on three continents
- I went on a tour of the West Wing of the White House
- I drove 7000 miles in three weeks around the US by myself
- I have a picture of me with my arm around President Obama (yes, in real life)
- I’ve been caught by a trapeze artist while swinging from a flying trapeze (while still being afraid of heights)
- I’ve given a talk in Times Square
- I lived in my office & showered at the gym by choice for 18 months
- The ballgown I wore at Ball On The Mall is now owned & worn by a bearded drag queen
- I’ve moved more than 40 times in my lifetime (16 before I was 8)
- I started my business because my boss asked me what I would do if he couldn’t pay me anymore
- I’m afraid of the water, yet I’ve surfed in Bali & Costa Rica
- I was the receptionist for West Marine HQ in Watsonville, CA (it was a temp job)
- I bought a house so my dog could have a back yard
- I got the first entrepreneurial scholarship at my college
- I eloped at Lake Tahoe the first time I got married
- I ran the real estate section of a newspaper in Santa Cruz
- I ran a race up a volcano in Hawaii (Ragnar!)
- I traveled solo for three weeks through Scandinavia with no itinerary
- I quit my successful business to do what I loved instead
- I’ve gotten tattoos in 4 different countries
- …and a whole bunch of other things I’ve since forgotten.
Every one of those is true. (I guess I’ll have to come up with a lie that I can then turn into another truth.)
After hearing that list, I have to say that it’s fascinating to see my life through other people’s eyes. Sure, many people have done more, bigger, crazier things – but even my mom thinks I’ve had a pretty amazing life. And I have! Especially since I know how much I’ve had to move through fear to do most of these things. I’ve had to find my new edge over and over.
You’re probably thinking that this is just how I’m built. But it’s REALLY not.
I’m built of everyday stories. The epic stuff I’ve done actually comes out of the everyday stuff I’m afraid of.
You may not know this about me, but I’ve been afraid or uninterested in most things my whole life for various reasons. Here are some other things that are also true about me:
- I hated getting dirty as a kid, so I just kept myself clean (my mom loved that)
- I (still) hate touching creepy things, so I don’t fish, touch worms or frogs, and hate seeing pictures of snakes
- I never wanted kids, so when I got divorced the first time, I stayed unmarried for more than 15 years
- I didn’t like working for other people, so I started my own business
- I had asthmatic bronchitis my whole childhood, so I was afraid to work out in any way until I was 26
- I’m terrified of heights, the water, and getting into car accidents
- I imagine dying at least once a day (no, I’m not being morbid, I just have a wild imagination)
- I didn’t really like people, so I learned how to enjoy time with myself
- I didn’t like the outdoors most of my life, so I stayed in my room as much as possible
- I am my dog’s comfort animal as much as he is mine
- I was very much an introvert my whole life, so I always had a side hustle to keep me busy after work
- I don’t like learning public transportation routes, so I tend to walk every city I’ve ever visited
- I’ve tripped & fallen so many times running that I finally stopped running altogether
- I judge myself hard when I’m in a workout class or doing yoga next to other people so I don’t do classes
- I hate moving, despite having moved more than 40 times
It takes a LOT for me to want to push my edge. But when I finally do push it, I go all the way. No holds barred.
Knowing what I don’t like or what scares me or even what makes me uncomfortable is typically where I find my edge. It helps me understand myself better – and gives me the room to go bigger. And then I’m always amazed at what my new edge looks like.
The same edge goes for our stories.
During every interview, podcast, and conversation I have about story, I’m inevitably asked,
“What’s one thing someone can do to get over the fear of sharing their story?”
My answer: Share one story – one tiny little story – with one person.
When you share one story, you open yourself up to sharing another story. That first story can be a simple, non-vulnerable story. And it can be told to a total stranger sitting next to you (ok, 6′ away from you) at a coffee shop. Here are some ideas of things to share:
- your favorite coffee order
- why you enjoy that coffee shop
- your most recent trip
- the contents of the book you’re reading
- a project you’re working on
- the last conversation you had
- the last decision you made
- why you bought your car
- why you started your business
And then ask them to share in return: “What about you/yours?” – and listen intently to their answer without trying to come up with another story. (It’s amazing how much we can learn about our own stories from truly listening to others.)
The biggest reason it’s hard for people to share their own stories is the same reason it’s hard for people to come up with two truths and a lie. We think we have to come up with epic stuff in order for people to get something from our stories – when in reality, the everyday stuff is the most compelling AND engaging.
With two truths and a lie, if I told three everyday things about me, it would be hard to guess. Try it.
– I think toilet paper should be pulled from the top.
– I don’t like garlic.
– I can’t wear flip flops.
Answer: I love garlic, so that’s the lie.
That’s tougher than if I told you two epic things from the list above with another epic thing as a lie.
Now think about your story – your everyday story.
When you share an everyday story that relates to someone else’s story, you connect yourself to them. They feel like they know you better – because they don’t need to be impressed by your story to learn about you. And your story will make them think of their own story to share in return.
Everyday stories are most important because every one of us has everyday stories. It’s not a competition about who has the most epic stories. Your everyday story will inevitably open the door for their story to come out.
It took me a long time to share everyday stories AND epic stories. It took one step at a time for me to get to the point that I could write a bulleted list of things I am afraid of or uninterested in. The epic stuff I’ve done is easy – almost forgettable. The everyday stories – the relatable ones – are the ones we remember the most.
Start with one simple story that allows you to take the leap into sharing.
Then share another.
Get more and more comfortable sharing your stories until you find your new edge.
Then keep going.
It takes time to get super vulnerable with our stories. And there’s no limit to how deep and vulnerable you can go, although there are boundaries (but that’s for another time.)
Take ONE step. Out of fear, out of the airplane, into the water, or off the platform of a flying trapeze.
Take ONE step. With one everyday story. One little teeny tiny story that connects you to another human being.
Try it here. Take that first step and tell me a little everyday story in the comments below!
Or go more public on my social media post: Instagram | Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn
“But what if they get mad at me for telling that story?”
When you were a kid, you had parents and siblings who were involved in your story – good and bad.
When you were in school, things happened with lots of other people around.
When you got divorced, there was a significant other and maybe even kids involved.
When you lost your job, other people were involved in that process.
When you started a business, you didn’t do it alone.
And when you went to therapy to figure out how to handle all of it, you didn’t just talk about yourself.
So, why do we feel like we can’t share stories that involve other people?
A few years ago, I started sharing the story of my relationship with my mom. It wasn’t a pretty story. It wasn’t an easy story. It was a story of a hurting woman who raised a little girl into a very independent woman – and how we didn’t get along for 35 years. We stopped talking altogether in my early 30’s because of how painful our story had become – and it got even more painful before it got better.
When I got on stage to share that story for the first time, it was in front of 500 women in tech. I shared the very emotional story of where we had been and then how we both decided to be grown-up women and leave the past in the past. To leave the past where it needed to be left and move forward together as adults. And how much that has changed us both for the better.
I didn’t ask my mom for permission to share that story – yet she was sitting in the front row of that audience. Listening to me tell it for the first time. In front of 500 other women.
When I finished our story and shared that she was in the front row, they wouldn’t stop clapping. The women in that audience walked up to meet her, hug her, shake her hand, and tell her how inspirational the story was. They told both of us that our story gave them hope – for their mothers, their daughters, their granddaughters – and the healing that could happen.
It was a story that involved my mom – but it was my story to tell.
Melanie Spring’s Opening Keynote at Women Of The Channel 2017
I get asked for permission a LOT. People want permission to share stories about the things that have happened in their own lives. They want permission to dig deep and FEEL their own stories. They want permission to cry when they tell their stories. They want permission to not care what others think about their stories. They want permission to share a story without a “happily ever after.”
And the biggest permission of all? To tell the stories that changed them the most.
When I read this Anne Lamott quote, I laughed out loud. Not because it was funny, but because it was true. THEY SHOULD HAVE BEHAVED BETTER.
That person who hurt you so badly – the one who wrecked you to the point that you made a decision to be nothing like them? They don’t need to give you permission to share how they hurt you. It’s YOUR story.
That person who said horrible things to you in school and made you decide you weren’t ever going to be like them? They don’t need to give you permission to share how they changed your life. It’s YOUR story.
That person who left you with scars – physical and emotional? They don’t need to give you permission to share how you got them. It’s YOUR story.
That person who broke your spirit and told you that would never make anything of yourself? They don’t need to give you permission to share how you finally squashed their voice. It’s YOUR story.
That person who was such an inspiration to you and gave you hope for the future? They don’t need to give you permission to share how you became a better person because of them. It’s YOUR story.
Some people wait until the person dies before they’re willing to share the real story. Someone reading this right now knows that they won’t include “that story” in their talk or their book until the people who hurt them are no longer on this earth.
Why? Are you afraid to hurt them?
Let me ask that another way.
WHY ARE YOU AFRAID TO HURT THEM?
Storytelling isn’t about vindication, it’s about truth.
Storytelling isn’t about hurting other people, it’s about healing other people.
Storytelling isn’t about getting back at someone, it’s allowing someone to see that you’ve been there, too.
Storytelling isn’t about telling on other people, it’s about telling other people that you understand.
Your story is your story. Period.
Sure, use some tact when telling a story about someone who hurt you. Maybe change some names or dates or places so that you don’t destroy another person’s life (I mean, unless they deserve it, then all bets are off.)
Get therapy before sharing your painful story on a stage so you don’t end up a blubbering mess (crying has its place on stage, but doing your therapy session live isn’t one of them.) Maybe even forgive them before you share the story that involves them (to their face or just to yourself.)
Just remember – it’s YOUR story.
I shared the story of my journey through life with my mom and how it changed us both for the better. That story has healed more people than I will ever know. It’s changed relationships between mothers & daughters. And it’s even made my relationship with my mom stronger. It wasn’t easy to share at first, but goodness, I’m so grateful I finally did. I’d have done a huge disservice to the two of us and the world if I hadn’t.
Everything that happened to you AND for you is shareable. It happened so you can share it and allow another beautiful human to learn from it, heal from it, or just move forward because of it. Don’t do yourself or the world a disservice by keeping it to yourself.
IN CASE YOU NEED IT: You have FULL permission to share your story.
Now, it’s up to you to share it.
Drop a comment below & tell me what story YOU will share now that you have full permission:
It All Starts With One Step
Let’s pretend for a moment that you’ve been promising yourself you’ll write “that story.”
The story that shows up in your brain space at 3am – waking you to tell you it’s time to write it.
The story that gives you a twinge of jealousy when you watch someone else sharing their own story and crushing it.
The story that gives you all of the anxiety because sharing it would mean you were vulnerable.
The story that gives you imposter syndrome and you’re worried you might cry when you share it.
The story that makes you feel like you could be judged because no one else has ever been through something like it.
The story that will help others finally heal/learn/grow/be better – and yet… it’s stuck inside you.
What if I told you that writing “that story” doesn’t have to be that hard? That 90 days from today, it would be written and shared with the world?
Well, it doesn’t – it doesn’t have to be that hard – AND it will be ready. IF you take the first step.
Hi! In case you don’t know me – I am Melanie Spring. I’m an international keynote speaker and speaker trainer – and it’s my job to amplify YOUR voice. As much as I love speaking from stage, my real purpose is to help humans tell their own stories.
I have this fancy gift of seeing through the bullshit into someone who has an itch to tell their story. To see when they’re ready to write their own story down and share it with others. To see when something is stopping them from sharing it.
The biggest problem with that itch? It can come with a twitch. A twitch that says things like:
“But what if no one cares?”
“What if no one likes it?”
“What if it doesn’t matter?”
“What if my story is boring?”
“What if my story doesn’t resonate?”
“What if I cry when I share it?”
“What if people laugh at me?”
Let me make something really clear – YOUR STORY MATTERS. Period.
Now that I’ve said that – I also want to say: Maybe you don’t think you have “a talk” inside of you. That’s ok! Or maybe you have NO idea which stories of yours really matter. That’s ok, too. You DO have a story. And that’s the most important part.
OK, WHAT’S THE FIRST STEP!?
Make friends with your story.
WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN?
That means you have to stop being so damn judgmental about your story.
I’M NOT JUDGMENTAL!
Maybe – maybe not. But most people are – which is why they don’t share their story.
Let me explain it this way: When you make friends with another human being, you don’t start with “I don’t like you” or “I don’t trust you”, you are start with “ooh, you’re cool!” or “You’re a lot like me.” You don’t begin a friendship with judgment or frustration or even anger – you start with a conversation. You start from a simple place of love – or, at the very least, LIKE. You want them to like you, you want to like them. You want the best for them right away.
What if you were that way with your story? What if you started from a place of love – or, at the very least, LIKE for your story? WHAT IF you made friends with your story and asked it questions and really listened to the answers?
When I first launched the SPEAK With Confidence 90-Day Challenge, I told everyone they could write a talk in 90 days. And a lot of them did. But there is always this group of “others” who sit in Chapter 1. The chapter that helps them find all of their stories.
They sit in Chapter 1, complain about it, cry about it, learn from it, go deeper with it, get frustrated with it, and eventually come back for another round of the Challenge to get into Chapters 2-7. And for that group of others, Chapter 1 is exactly what they needed. They NEEDED to make friends with their story. They NEEDED to learn how to stop judging their story. They NEEDED to fall in love with their story. They NEEDED time with their story.
What would happen if you dug a little bit – and found out that your story really truly mattered? And then you wrote a talk about it? And then you gave that talk about it? And other people’s lives changed because you finally shared it? Well, THAT would prove that making friends with your story could make a difference in the world.
And then you’d prove me right.
Or you could try to prove me wrong – by making friends with your story and it not working out after all.
Either way – at least you tried. Right?
So… are you in?
Our next live 90-Day Challenge starts Wednesday, January 6: CLICK HERE to learn more about it
Since I was a kid, I hated the smell of coffee.
My dad would wake up way before the sun and make a pot of coffee. The burnt aroma wafting through the house. “The Best Part Of Waking Up” to him WAS the Folgers in his cup. The metal can popped open. The scooped out dried powder into the white filter.
He would sit in the light of the kitchen and read his Bible at 5am before he’d head out to the garage to work or to a neighbors to build a porch or to plow snow for extra cash so the local college professors and staff could get to work.
A little coffee mug sat on the counter next to a coffee pot that would be waiting for him when he got back.
He’d make it at 5pm sometimes after a nap. He worked hard and needed that coffee.
My mom would always make a face when she came downstairs in the morning and smelled the coffee. She was a late night person while my dad was an early morning person. She’d stay up to watch the weather at 11pm and my dad would be asleep by 8. He’d be up before the sun and she liked to sleep until 8am if she could.
It wasn’t until I was well out of the house that my mom started drinking coffee. I’m not even sure why she started. 20+ years of smelling my dad’s and somehow she decided it was time. He’d make a pot of Folgers and leave a little in the bottom for her. When she woke up, it was just enough to mix some sugar in and drink before she went to work. When they had a microwave (which was short-lived), she’d warm it up and make another face as she drank it.
If you were to ask me as a kid, coffee was gross. It smelled bad. It tasted bad. It did nothing good for you. I had no idea why anyone would drink coffee.
When I was a kid, I didn’t have a good relationship with sleep.
I was an insomniac from a young age and would stay up late making up stories, dreaming up big ideas, and reading. When I had my own room, I’d press my little metal desk lamp into a pillow so it would give me a sliver of light and not show under the door. (I burned the cover of more than one embroidered pillows reading at night.) When I did actually sleep, I’d have panic-inducing nightmares called night-terrors – so I kept myself from sleeping by keeping myself entertained.
I didn’t need caffeine – and I didn’t sleep. It’s like my brain was wired on. I never took naps and I didn’t get tired.
It wasn’t until I became a full-time entrepreneur that I was really introduced to coffee. About two years into my branding agency, one of my coworkers got me a caramel latte. The sugar, the frothy milk – it was so delicious. Starbucks sugar coffee was my gateway drug to real coffee.
The caffeine did nothing for me, but the coffee habit was in full motion. I loved getting a latte and sipping it while I worked.
Over time – just like my palate for wine – my coffee palate changed and became more refined.
When I was in Bali, I learned from a local roaster about roasting beans, about organic growing, and about the grinding your own beans. I learned how to love coffee. I learned the health benefits of coffee. I fell in love with local coffee shops – you would never find me anywhere near a Starbucks.
That was the same year three different healing professionals told me separately and without provocation that something happened to me when I was three to cause me not to sleep. I dismissed the first two because I truly believed I had been born an insomniac based on the stories my mom would tell me about never napping as a baby or toddler.
When the third healer asked me to ask my mom if something traumatic happened when I was three, I finally did.
At first, she pondered and said, “not that I can think of.” And then – “Well, you were in a car accident when you were three, but nothing happened to you.”
In 1983, we were in my dad’s 1950’s GMC pickup truck without seatbelts. A woman in a small yellow car turned in front of my dad and we T-boned her car. Our truck was fine – she and her car were not. I was in my mom’s arms when we hit the car – and although there wasn’t any physical evidence of trauma, my developing brain shifted.
It wasn’t until 35 years later that I would find out I’d been suffering from mid-brain trauma almost my whole life. It meant that my fight-or-flight response was turned on 80% of the time – which is the polar opposite of what it should be.
I was awake for the better part of 35 years. Of course I didn’t need coffee to wake up or stay awake. My brain was keeping me awake – letting me know to be on high alert all the time.
It wasn’t until I found the root cause and started working on my own healing that I was able to start sleeping. And along the way, my night terrors ended.
My husband is a professional sleeper. He can fall asleep in two minutes flat and stay asleep for 12 hours. He can sleep through an entire international flight if he puts his mind to it. We have very different sleeping schedules, but he caters to my sleeping needs since he can sleep anywhere.
After my husband and I got together, we became coffee snobs. He needs his coffee and I just love it. We got a coffee maker that grinds our beans fresh and makes espresso-based drinks. It’s a ritual now.
I am still working on healing my brain – and probably will be for the rest of my life – but I am also very aware of the stories we make up.
The stories about why we do and don’t like certain things. The stories about why we are the way we are. The stories of our traumas and our joy. We all have them, yet most of us have no idea where they come from – or even take the time to see how they fit into our lives. Or even if they do anymore.
I still don’t need coffee – I just really like it. I like to wake up before the sun, make my perfect cup of coffee, and turn on a lamp in the living room to write while my husband sleeps.
And we take our own coffee over to my dad’s house now. Yes, he still drinks Folgers from a can in a coffee maker that sounds like a really loud dishwasher. And yes, my mom still drinks the last of his coffee.
Think about your little everyday stories. The ones that make you who you are – and then ask yourself why those stories matter. Or why they don’t. Ask your family for stories – or even ask them what happened – or why things happened the way they did.
“Finding, acknowledging, and giving a voice to my stories has felt overwhelming, even suffocating at times. Two months later and I find myself s t i l l in chapter 1. I hope there’s no exact formula to this process because this particular formula seems a little crazy but here I am- processing and grateful.” – Londa Sherwood-Austin, Rockstar in SPEAK With Confidence
If you don’t ask, you won’t find out. And your story matters.
STORY PROMPT: What are your first memories of coffee?
(Share in the comments or tag me wherever you share your story.)
“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” – Maya Angelou
A few years ago, I was visiting my now-late paternal Grandmother. She was 93 and had lived a very full life. We were chatting about her travels and I asked her one question: “Where would revisit if she could only choose one place from all your travels?”
She didn’t even hesitate. My Grandmother stood up, wandered off in her 90-something way. When she returned, she handed me a travel book from the 70’s, and said “there.” I flipped through this little book fascinated by the photos of beaches and mountains. It was a little island off the coast of Portugal near Morocco.
As I looked at the photos, she told me stories of how she and my Grandpa had loved this little island. The restaurants, beaches, hikes, and people. It was 50 years ago, but she remembered it as if it was yesterday. She even told me that it was probably not nearly as great now that others knew about it. AND that it was magical for her.
It was around that same time that I learned that she had been a speaker – which is why she traveled the world the second half of her life. She was the #1 distributor of Watkins products (now found in Target) in the nation many times over and won trips around the world to share her experience with selling in a rural area. She had a community, people who trusted her, and it was during a time before supermarkets and big box stores. She was the person to go to for cleaning supplies, the best vanilla, and soup bases – which took her all over the world.
I had been speaking for 10 years before I realized that I had descended from a professional speaker. If I hadn’t taken some time to ask her about her life, I doubt I would have ever learned this. She loved traveling the world as much as I do. She was married to an Attica night-shift prison guard and farmer in the rural countryside of Western New York, yet she was one of the most traveled people I’ve ever met.
That was also the same day she asked me how tall I was. When I told her, she told me I was too big. That it would be to hard to find a man who was bigger than me. But then she said: “Well, I guess if a man gets out of line, you could put him back in line very quickly.” She was not one to mince words.
I never got to know my grandmother very well. She was a matriarch who told my mom that she had raised her 7 children and didn’t plan to raise any more (she meant us). That meant that we didn’t spend a lot of time around her and my grandpa. Most of their stories I know from my dad. And all of them are precious.
When my husband and I moved up here to a little lake community in Western New York this summer, I got a chance to hang out with my dad and ask more questions, which led to more stories. More stories of his life as a teenager – even here at this little lake.
Java (pronounced Jay-vuh) Lake is close to the huge farm he grew up on in Orangeville, NY – the one my grandparents lived for most of their lives after meeting at Sing Sing Prison in New York City. My grandmother was the late night phone operator while my grandpa was a prison guard. They married and moved to build a life.
My dad told me about how one of his brothers wanted to go see a girl he liked at Java Lake, but my uncle didn’t have his license yet. My dad drove him – and as they were heading back to the farm, they saw a newly dead skunk in Java Lake Road (literally down the street from where our little lake cottage stands.)
My uncle was the kind of guy who hunted and skinned animals to sell their furs to the fur-trader when he came through town (as you do in the country) and had always wanted to sell a skunk hide.
This was NOT something my dad wanted anything to do with – especially not in his car – but my uncle begged and pleaded, so they stopped.
The skunk was freshly killed and hadn’t released its offensive smell yet. My dad popped the trunk and my uncle got ready to move it in – which was the exact moment he was sprayed. Thoroughly.
Needless to say, the car AND my uncle took a lot of cleaning – and my grandmother was anything but happy with the whole idea.
My favorite thing about all of this – I wouldn’t know this story if I hadn’t been here the last 6 months. I wouldn’t have been able to picture it with such clarity – the old car, my dad & his brother as teens, the late night escapade, my grandmother being mad about all of it.
My family is one for telling stories.
I’ve heard the story of my parents’ first date more times than I can count – her white shorts, the dirty pond & a dare. I’ve heard about my breech, backwards birth and the fact that my mom doesn’t absorb novocaine (despite the doctor not believing her.) I know the stories of my aunts and uncles, my many grandparents, and even some about my great-grandparents (the one about my German great-grandma who made beer in her basement because American beer is terrible is one of my faves.)
I’m sad I don’t know more of my grandparents’ stories, but as I get older, I learn new ones from my parents. I hear about their childhoods, new stories about my own childhood, and even how they felt at my age with a 20-something in college.
Storytelling is a lost art.
I’m always amazed that people don’t know how their parents met. Or how their family ended up here in America. Or even how many times they have moved (16 before I turned 11 – including cross-country moves twice.)
Everyone WANTS to share their stories, but few of us are good listeners anymore. There’s always a new TV show or a new app to learn instead of taking the time to look at old photos and hear the memories of those who have gone before us.
Find out THEIR untold stories.
YOUR CHALLENGE: This holiday season, take the time to ask questions – especially if you have to do it via Zoom. Stop asking about what happened yesterday or what’s going on at work – start asking what happened 20, 35, 50, 70 years ago. Find out where you came from, why you are who you are, and what makes you YOU. Share your own stories – especially the ones no one knows. Give them a chance to get to know you better.
If you noticed in my stories above, I didn’t tell any EPIC stories. I told EVERYDAY stories. The ones that could have happened to anyone, anywhere. You don’t have to ONLY tell the crazy, horrible, scary, insane, all-the-things kinds of stories. You can share the little ones – because those mean the most.
What’s YOUR untold story?
DOUBLE DARE CHALLENGE: Grab a spot in our next SPEAK With Confidence 90-Day Challenge and start writing your stories down. WARNING: If you go deep enough, you WILL cry. You WILL hate me. And I will be SO proud of you.
Some Rockstars sign up and end up spending 90 days on Chapter 1 (shoutout to Londa, Kim, Judy & so many more) – the one that pulls out all your stories. And that’s ok.
We have a lot of Rockstars who come back a second time to work on Chapters 2-7 because they dove so deeply into their stories the first round.
The rest of the Rockstars end up writing one talk and then take it again to write a second.
You don’t have to want to become a keynote speaker or give workshops to join us for the 90-Day Challenge. Maybe you just want to be better at telling your grandkids the stories of your youth so you can live on even after you’re gone. Or so you can share the stories that illustrate why you deserve that promotion with more confidence.
Whether you join us or not, I ask you – PLEAD WITH YOU – to share your story. Challenge yourself to share more of yourself with others – and know that you’re not being selfish by doing so. You’re being selfish by NOT sharing your stories with those who so desperately need to hear them.
Your story matters. Period.