Why Share the Ugly?
A couple years into my teaching career my grade level partner and I thought it would be such a great idea to collect all our funny stories about our students and compile them into a Chicken Soup for the Soul-like book. That idea stuck with me throughout the years, until a few years ago when I decided to add it to my list of things I must do during my lifetime.
At that time I actively committed to collecting stories from my colleagues, usually just having them tell the story into my voice recorder on my cell phone. I’d collect them from teachers at my school site, or others in my district at trainings, or when I’d go to other school districts to teach educators, I’d ask them to share. I got a lot funny ones… But then people were talking about the sad, uncomfortable ones, too. Then I realized I too had a bunch of sad stories from my own students as well. I began to put them down on paper (computer, actually) and every time we were on break (school wasn’t in session) I added to my list, trying to put these stories into some sort of format that made sense. I soon had this boring list of funny stories and sad stories, in which I quickly reached that infamous writer’s block.
Then at the beginning of the summer of 2016 I found a free webinar online on how to write your book in 28 days or less, hosted by Mastin Kipp, an author, entrepreneur and inspirational speaker. He founded TheDailyLove.com, an inspirational website. And he inspired me! I finally wrote my book during that summer!
But what a crazy ride that whole book writing took me on! My idea went from, Hey I’m gonna write a book about my students’ funny stories, to Hey, how ‘bout I put all the ugly truth about my life’s experiences and my students’ so that everybody can judge me and see all my insides?? That isn’t typically my personality. But seriously, as I sat down to write this book it just spewed out of me, the challenges I was going through with my marriage, my mother’s cancer journey, along with the terrible unjust dysfunction and adversity that was going on in my students’ lives. And to top it off, I began to see this big, beautiful connection between the two, and how I’ve been living this parallel life alongside my students’ and they’ve actually been my greatest teachers. I saw the purpose in it all and my growth in it all.
I cried a lot, reliving all that “stuff” in my personal life. I thought I had put it all behind me, but it obviously needed further healing. Sometimes as I wrote — and I’d write, and write, and write! — I’d go back to it and think, Wow, that came out of my head? What an extremely therapeutic experience it all was for me. And it was super hard going back there to those awful times in my life.
I had a colleague, Ashley Trzcinski (awesome woman!) who at the beginning of writing all this had introduced me to an author, Glennon Doyle. Her style of writing and unapologetic blunt truth really inspired me. She’d talk about how having the courage to share our ugly and difficult stories gives others the courage to heal their own. That helped give me the go-ahead to let it all out and put it out there to be exposed. And at this point it was just one therapy session after another for me as I wrote. It never really went any further than that in my head. Until my two boys caught on to what I was doing. Mom was writing a book and they thought that was cool. Now that they were in on it I had to see the whole thing to fruition. They had to see their mom finish this book and publish this book because I wanted to set the example of finishing what you start.
The downside of letting out all the “junk” and “ugly”? Oh let me count the ways…Offending people, fear of judgement, fear of exposure, fear of people lashing out at me, worry that I might offend my colleagues, my family, my students’ families…did I mention fear? It was all fine with just me reading the words I had put on the page, but when my editor, Bonnie Honeycutt fell onto my path (another awesome woman!) I had this terrible fear of people reading this stuff! This was embarrassing, this was raw, this was political, this was offensive to some, this was ugly.
And then Bonnie asked me why I was going through with publishing my book. Other than following through for my boys, it was ultimately to help people and to shed light on adversity. It was to tell people who were going through the same or something similar that they weren’t alone. It was to shed light on what adversity so many children were going through on a daily basis. I had no one to connect with when I was going through it myself. It could’ve been a lot easier for me if I knew other people went through this stuff, too.
It became then about taking risks, having faith, standing in the face of others who may possibly lash out at me, and ultimately being true to my calling and my higher good. I had to pay attention to our higher purpose and to remember that spark that comes from connection and communication with others. Everything’s better when you share it. Deepak Chopra talked about this. He said that our destinies are richer when we’re in connection to others. It’s through our willingness to connect, share our stories and communicate with others that we grow more comfortable being in and speaking our truth. Then we begin to let our guard down and ask for what we want and need, recognizing that we’re all interconnected in consciousness. I began to see that as we courageously share we receive support, inspire others, discover unexpected connections and we live in community.
So I’m ready to see what happens since I’ve published this book. Will anyone even read it? If they do, will they be inspired? Touched? Encouraged? Not sure. I just feel like I’m standing on the edge of the high dive right now with my eyes closed tight, ready to jump off.