As little girls, the books tell us the best tales have romance and princes and big, poofy dresses. But I disagree. I think the best stories are the ones with a simple heroine. A woman — young or old — finding her way through this life. Her story is her what makes her, well, her. Or maybe it’s not. Maybe her story is what hasn’t made her. Either way, her huge moments and her seemingly small ones all flow together to create this incredible read. It’s absolutely captivating.
It’s like the book I can’t put down. I am drawn to the Story of a Woman. Your story. I have sat across the table from you, coffee cup in hand, listening to your life adventure. I have whispered “I’m so sorrys” over the phone with you as your words spilled out between tears. I have laughed the big laugh as you shared your mortifying moments. I have danced and screamed the happy scream as you shared your victories.
Page after sweet page.
And still there are so many of your stories I’ve yet to hear. But somehow I know I will love them all. Maybe it’s because the Story of a Woman is really the story of all women. Yes, the plots and characters diverge, but the heart of the story is so much the same. Your story so echoes my own. And when I read about you on the edge of your cliff, I remember standing on the edge of mine. And the time you felt you were drowning? Yeah. I felt that way, too. And your great escape that happens in chapter 10? Did you know it gave me the courage to reach for mine?
The Story of a Woman.
Maybe it’s the story of wanting a baby. And still going to the baby shower. The third one this year. The one you wish were your own. But it’s more than just going. It’s the story of actually being there. Being present with your heart. It’s how you held the joy — the I’m-so-happy-for-you — hand in hand with the ache — the when-will-it-be-my-turn. It’s you. Hanging on to all of that and refusing to run.
Maybe it’s the story of you and your reflection. And everything too much or too little or too dark or too light or too big or too small. Being a woman is all of that. All you’ve been angry with for so long. Maybe your story is her on the magazine meets you in the mirror. And maybe, just maybe, making friends. Because that girl in glossy color print is only partly real, but you — you’re 100 percent real. And what is more beautiful than authenticity? Beautiful you. Hating her less and loving you more. That’s your story.
Perhaps your story is your strong. Your body strong. It’s your muscles working. Your heart pounding. Your 5:30 a.m. Your after work. It’s your run in the rain. Your run in spite of the rain. It’s your one more push-up. It’s your one more sit-up. It’s your kickboxing, yoga-ing, marathoning. It’s your karate, your soccer, your dance. It’s your I-can-do-this. Your I-am-doing-this. It’s you versus you. It’s the strength a woman. The strength of your story.
Or maybe your story is your age. And whatever that means. Your wrinkles. And whatever they mean. It’s your silver and gray and all that wasn’t there 10 years ago. It’s some day for all of us. But wait — your story is so much more. It’s you showing us how to do it. How to grow older with all the cadence and melody of a timeless song. You live life. You love life. You inspire our bucket lists. You teach us. You help make us brave. And we want to be just like you when we grow up. You have an amazing story.
Is your story your fear? Your anxious you? Your silent, screaming shadow? The one that has followed you for-almost-ever. The one you would bury when you put on your happy — your i’m-ok face and your everything’s-cool-why-do-you-ask smile. ‘Til that one day when you got really tired. And then it all came out. Right there on Facebook! You were so freaking gutsy. “This is me, and this is my struggle.” You wrote about the how, the when, the why and the where. Your seams were showing, and honestly, for the first time, you preferred it that way. it was raw, but at least it was real. “I need help, and I’m going to get it.” it was as terrifying as it was glorious. And 108 “likes” later, you knew you weren’t alone. Bravo. What a woman. What a story.
Maybe your story is about you. And only you. How you are mom to them. You are dad to them. And really, they are everything to you. You work for them. You do homework with them. You make rent for them. You trade shifts to go to their basketball games. You work extra shifts to pay for their prom dresses. And when they ask where he is, you measure your words and search for answers to things that really don’t make sense. Sometimes it all seems like too much. And sometimes when they’re not looking (or maybe even when they are), you cry. Because you’re so tired. Because you want a break. Because you want answers, too. But then there are these flashes of clarity, moments when you see your children — I mean really, truly see them. And you are amazed and humbled that you — and only you — get to raise such incredible human beings. They’re going to be ok. And so are you.
Maybe your story begins with the word cancer. Or the word rape. Or the word miscarriage. Or abuse. Or any other word handed to you without your permission. Maybe your story is colored with the intense anger, profound anguish and absolute exhaustion of being asked — no, told — to walk a path you never chose. It’s your tale of longing for the before while all at once embracing the now. It’s every moment you find joy. And then it’s every moment you just. can’t. do it. a second more. Yet somehow you do. You choose to keep breathing. And even if that’s all you do today, it’s heroic. It’s your story.
Your stories of being real, vulnerable, touchable. Your stories of your capacity to love and be broken. To see beauty in pain. To search out the good where it seems none can be found. To sing in the place where music has been lost. To hold the hurt while refusing the bitterness.
The Story of a Woman. It’s really very beautiful.
But that’s you. You are a beautiful woman. And your story, the one you see as tainted, is really very lovely. And your journey, the one you see as wandering, really needs to be embraced. And your voice, though trembling, really needs to be heard.
What’s your story? Speak it. Write it. Share it. Or just plain live it.
by Jai Wallace Tracy