What’s Behind the Smile?

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This was a post that was written several months ago for a friend who launched the concept of leading a brave and beautiful life.  This endeavor has ebbed and flowed over the past couple of years and I can’t wait to catch up with her soon and see what is next on the horizon!  She is an amazing mom who has been through more in her life than most can say at the end of a lifetime.  A mom to three, one of whom she lost at the age of 14, brings amazing beauty to her life.  If you were to see her on the street, you would never know the tumultuous story behind her smile.  And that my friends is the lesson behind this whole post – Ask yourself what is behind the smile?

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When Brave Beauty asked a group of us to each write a post and choose one word amongst a list of core words that we believe in, the word that instantly stuck out to me was “STORY”.  We all have a story within us but very rarely do we share the complete story of our life.

As we get older, all we normally hear are small sentences, slight glimpses, and abbreviated versions of people’s story.  We rarely get the opportunity to hear the book of someone’s life.  Even our own families and closest of friends rarely know the story of our lives.  Why is that?  It always comes back to one simple concept of what it is we choose to SHARE.  When we do share, it’s often an abridged, censored version of just a few stories that we feel define us or seem to appeal to the masses.

We are so much more than one or two stories, aren’t we?  The sum of all of our parts makes up more than just a couple of chapters, right?  There is so much more to the one story that is shared and told.  But, how do we know someone’s whole story?  If you really think about it, what it probably comes down to is the lack of time and the lack of ever asking.  Who really has the time these days to sit back with earphones and listen to the audio book of someone else’s life?  We are all so caught up in our day-to-day lives, busy with careers, family schedules, that it seems next to impossible to even take time for a phone call, an email, a text message, let alone the time it takes to hear someone’s whole story.

Does anyone else remember a stretch of time back in your late teens and 20s when listening to other’s stories seemed effortless?  We had all the time in the world to kick back and share the good, the bad and the ugly for hours on end.  Fast forward twenty years later and you can forget about having the time to even sit down to chat with your own family, let alone others.  How sad of a statement and probably the reason why so many people these days feel disconnected in an overly connected social media world.

Imagine instead of perpetuating the craziness and business of our lives, we stopped, called up friends, invited them over and shared our stories with one other.  Sharing everything you can remember about yourself and your life and they, in turn, doing the same with no fear of shame or judgement.  Imagine how that would bond, strengthen and deepen your relationship.  You each begin to peel back the layers of your life and expose the core of who you are, all from a story; full well knowing that it could make the other person run for the hills after painting a picture of the “crazy” unshared side of your life.  A scary thought, we all know.  Hey that’s okay though, you trusted and you shared; you opened, you strengthened, if not with and for your friend, for yourself.  Not everyone is meant to be a part of our story, they are just a season in life, meant to only hear the story and maybe apply it to their own life or you, in turn, learn from it and apply it to yours.  Sharing is never wasted, even in the most uncomfortable and vulnerable of times.  There is always a lesson to be learned from it.

What happens if stories are never shared and they are kept in a treasure chest under lock and key, hidden out of sight from all those around us?  Locking it away, the story will never be heard, felt, considered or judged.  Often thought as the safest way to go and the path of least resistance, but is it?  The story is left to collect dust and then someday it will be so old that cobwebs will surround it and you will almost forget that it is there but because it is within you, over time it has grown in size until the heart is fully encased and what it is hiding begins to harden and petrify.

Go to any spiritual counselor and one of the first questions they will ask you is, “Is your heart hardened”?  They will then say, “For those with hardened hearts are the hardest to help.”  They will ask you to ponder that question and then, they will sit back and listen to you and listen and listen.  Meanwhile, surmising and understanding what really is in your heart just by the very story you tell.  For what they know may surprise you with this simple statement, “For what the mouth speaks, the heart is full of”.

Say this sentence out loud and let the gravity of the statement sink in:  “For what the mouth speaks, the heart is full of”.  Imagine what would happen if every time we heard someone’s story portrayed with the words of their choosing, we didn’t judge them but instead we took a moment to understand that they are openly sharing and revealing what is held within the depths of their heart.  What an intimate rite of passage they are granting to us.  Imagine the understanding it would bring by their very word choice and help you understand the why of the words they have chosen.  The words they have chosen are the very words that are kept down in the reservoir of their heart and what they are tapping and passing out and sharing with you at that given moment.  For it is not every word stored in their heart, it is just the ones they are pulling up out of the reservoir at that particular MOMENT.  What has to be stressed is that those given words used are not every MOMENT or the whole picture of what is in their heart, just a glimpse of which words are being tapped from the heart at that time.  Wouldn’t we soften and not be so critical?  Wouldn’t we better understand the gravity of them sharing with us through both the kind words and the angry words?  Wouldn’t we be a more connected society if we all shared our “story” more with others and understood the ebb and flow of each other’s life – that it can’t be always good and it certainly won’t be always bad.   What if we really listened at that moment of the sharing and understood the true privilege it is to have someone share themselves with you.  Wouldn’t you see it as a blessing?

In today’s world, the most common avenue for sharing is social media.  The truth about social media is that it is sharing in solidarity knowing it’s in full view for everyone to see.  Social media allows people to portray an often picturesque, illusioned, glimpse of their “story” with so much of the story unseen and heard.  It certainly doesn’t often show the early morning, getting out of bed shots, the exhausted, can’t do another thing, disheveled moments, the sad, angry, out-of-your-mind, crazy times.  Social media is a portrayal, a short-scene setting that is highly controlled and filtered and a truly wonderful part of the sharing process but never the whole truth of the story.

Sitting in front of your friend, belly laughing out loud recounting times from yesteryear or painfully crying your heart out with tears strolling down your face is part of the “real story”.  Something that is rarely, if ever, captured via social media in other than a screenshot.  Understandably, who wants a life sentence footprint of the ugly or crazy times on social media for others to fodder over – I don’t see many standing in line to sign up for that one.    What if, instead, we all took more time to have more real life “in-person” moments with all those around us and dug deeper and asked more questions about the behind-the-scene portrayal of what is shown online.  I bet we would find deeper meaning to each and every story.

If you have ever felt suffocated by your own words or story, try sharing.  When stories are shared, we each bloom in sorts.  Words dance and flow freely in and out of our hearts instead of getting trapped and put under lock and key to be guarded, where we are tight lipped and careful with each and every word we use.  A change in spirit happens when we speak from our unfiltered heart.  We feel lighter and freer since the words no longer weigh us down or hold us hostage.  Share and bare it all with someone, someone you feel a connection with, someone you trust, just someone, someone who is real, not virtual, and is right in front of your very eyes.  Someone who can grab your hand, if necessary, reach across the table and hug you, laugh with you or even cry with you.  No Facebook post or tweet will ever replace that need for human connection.  This process of “in-person” sharing will instantly make room for new words to come dancing up out of your heart for the next chapter in your story.  Think about sharing your story and asking someone to share theirs with you.  You will be surprised at how much you learn about a person and about what’s in their heart that was never told or shared in their online presence.

Sharing your story with others and others with you is the very meaning and catalyst behind this post.  It is and stands for BRAVE BEAUTY.  Brave is the courage to say what is true and Beauty is the revealing of your story freely to others through the process of sharing.  It takes brave beauty from all of us to go out into the world tackling the mission of sharing.  So, go be brave, go be beautiful and don’t forget to share your story along the way!  It will bond and connect you in unimaginable ways.

For more about Sharing Life, Love and Food, visit us at www.sharingourlifeloveandfood.com.

One thought on “What’s Behind the Smile?

  1. I really liked what you had to say. It does take time and effort to know someone’s story. I believe if it’s truly important to people they will make the time for one another. Those times are how solid friendships are built. It’s a good reminder that things people share are not always the entire story, it can just be a sampling. We need to be willing to go deeper and not judge. Thanks for the enlightening post! Reminds me….we need to catch up. :o)

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