TGIF: How I’m Learning to Rise to a Better Story

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On Valentine’s Day, the B-word and finding my true self.

You’ve seen the blogs.

You know, the ones with the Anthropologie dishware, matching His and Her J. Crew outfits and a 3-tier cake on a vintage cake stand.

If you’re anything like me (a Bitter Betty or a Cynical Cynthia), you’ve probably thought:

a. Who are these people?
b. What do they do for a living?
c. Why do they have so much time and money on their hands?
d. Are my partner and I the only couple who eats dinner in our ratty pajamas, eyes affixed to Netflix?
e. Can someone hold me back, lest I hit ‘em with a frying pan?

First off, if I ever subject my beau to matching ‘His and Her’ outfits, smother me with a pillow. Second, (and this is the harder part) … I think sometimes people think Kupa and I are those people.

You know? The people with the perfect words + perfect pictures + perfect love offerings for each other.

Take Valentine’s Day for example.

Kupa bejeweled our dinner table with enough tea-light candles to trigger a fire alarm. A jazzy French playlist set the mood.

The wine was a flowin’…

The steak was a sizzlin’…

The roses were … a rose-in’…

(Drat! That almost worked.)

The goat cheese to spinach ratio on our salad was off. Way off. Just the way I like it.

#MonsterCheeseChunks = #HappyTina

I even had a chocolate surprise nestled in my napkin.

He wore a collared shirt and …

I shaved my legs. #winwin

We ate our glorious plates of food in smitten silence with Coltrane’s ‘In A Sentimental Mood’ playing in the background.

Hate me yet?

Before you reach for the nearest blunt object, let me tell you the whole story. At the very least, let me tell you about this last month.

<insert sound of camera zooming back>

Three days after I wrote my last post, I was laid off from my day job.

Like most mortals, I spent a couple of days horizontal on the couch, paralyzed in fear, blowing nose gunk into the front of my t-shirt and eating my body weight in white bread. When Kupa left for work in the morning, I’d give myself spirited Jillian Michaels-esque pep talks in the shower until I was ready to take on the world. Then I’d slip into my comfiest hoodie … lay on the couch, blow nose gunk into the front of my t-shirt and eat my body weight in popcorn. You get the picture.

Fear had a hold of me.

But for once this wasn’t the “What if I never create something awe-inspiring, profound or useful?” kind of Fear.

This was the “What if I leap and actually make the world a better place?” kind of Fear.

I’d spent too many years living a double life. My life was the suburban version of ‘Fight Club’. I worked for The Man during the day, and  manufactured soap in the basement at night. Just kidding: I’m no Ed Norton — even on my craziest days. But at night, when I wasn’t working for The Man, I was clicking away on my computer, working on my photography and writing.

I had a system. I worked hard during the week and collapsed into a vegetative state over the weekend to recuperate. This actually worked for a couple years.

Then, I got married.

Suddenly, I had three lives. The life I was living when I was awake, the life I was living when I was supposed to be asleep, and the life I’d committed to love, honour and cherish.

There wasn’t enough space for all three.

In our first month of marriage, Kupa was always waiting for me. Waiting for me to tear my eyes away from the computer to eat dinner, to come to bed, to go grocery shopping, etc. The truth? There simply weren’t enough hours in the day for this “system” to be sustainable.

Juggling three lives left me feeling haggard, unhappy and vacant. I’d lost my vitality and sense of purpose. I knew if things continued this way, it would have a negative impact on our marriage.

I had to make a decision. I had to decide between the security of a corporate job and my calling to be a writer and photographer. To fulfill my dreams and be present in my marriage, I’d have to risk giving up an assured income. I’d have to risk being the “dependent” partner for a while: the one unable to add to the grocery budget or help save up for that dream house. I’d have to now spend “Kupa’s” money for everything. Books, makeup, birthday presents. Everything.

Despite how much this scared me, I knew it was time to stop living a lie; to leap into the world as my “true” self; to take writing and photography to the next level. It was time to go “Pro” as a storyteller: to build a website, start a Facebook page, make business cards, start blogging, the whole shebang.

It hit me like a sack of potatoes. Unless I embraced my “true” self, I’d never be fully present in my marriage.

I’d never be fully present in my life.

Rise to a Better Story

When Kupa and I got married we promised each other we would “Rise to a better story.” We even made a giant foam sign and got married under it in front of friends and family.

Biggest. Mistake. Ever.

We didn’t anticipate how everyone would constantly remind us of our promise.

What about rising to a better story, guys?”

“Isn’t this what you meant by rising to a better story? Remember when you promised to rise to a better story? Just sayin’.”

The nerve!

That’s the thing about being vulnerable and sharing your dreams. People hold you accountable to them. They talk you off ledges, encourage you to take the leap and tease you with hashtags (e.g. #risetoabetterstoryguys).

The day before I lost my job, Kupa and I sat on our couch looked deep into each other’s eyes and decided what we would do when it happened. We would be brave; we would take the leap.

Our hearts were filled with fear. But not the usual bullying kind. This was the good kind. The kind of fear that straightens out all the feathers on your wings before you make the jump. The kind of fear you feel before you rise to a better story.

The B-word

I called Kupa my “best friend” for the first time a couple of days ago. It kinda spilled out of my mouth right in the middle of an argument — like the L-word does when you’re dating and you both know you can’t take it back.

In her book Daring Greatly, Brene Brown says, “True belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.”

My word for 2012 was “enough.” In the last couple of weeks, I’ve seen my word come full circle. I have started to accept my true self.

I’ve presented this authentic, imperfect, hungry, dreamer-self to Kupa.

We really belong to each other now.

Rising to a better story with my best friend is even better than monster cheese chunks, hidden chocolate and John Coltrane.

______________________________________________________

So, my tasty Tuna Tatakis, I’d love to hear:

  1. Do you hide your authentic, imperfect, hungry, dreamer-self from the world?
  2. What would change if you embraced your true self?
  3. Are you being called to rise to a better story in an area of your life in this season?

Love you more than Spinach and Cheddar Muffins,

xoxo,
Teen

To read more TGIFs from Tina: Click here.

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Tina Francis
My name is Tina. Loved ones call me: Teen. Words are my chocolate. Music, my caramel. Photography, my bread. Girlfriends, my butter. Confession: Some girls dream about Manolo Blahniks or their next Hermes bag. Not me. I dream of freshly baked bread, perfectly barbecued meat & steaming bowls of Pho. My dream lover *cue Mariah Carey song* is someone who would read out a menu to me in Barry White’s baritone voice. I celebrate food, ask for help, interrupt conversations, laugh and cry hard, acknowledge the elephant in most rooms, fight for the underdog and believe in the power of storytelling. I was born and raised in Dubai and currently live in the beautiful city of Vancouver, known for some of the best sushi in the world.
Tina Francis
Tina Francis
  • Sana

    Ahhhh teen this has hit home more than you would ever know….. i have been since December last year holding myself accountable to what i have been hiding behind…. to take that leap, to be my true self, to immerse myself in my dreams, to have faith in me, to learn to love me by being my true self….. before i can rise to help others around me….

    here’s a toast to you as you are rising and encouraging others around u to rise to a better story…. love u teenbug ummaaa

  • Miti

    1. I do end up hiding … but learning to let go and love 🙂

    2. What changed the most is I have become a happier person

    3. No one has asked me, but friends are being supportive and helping me get there. (Specially my bestie for life – our story is ‘for a better now’. Look up Earthwitness if you like)

  • Anne-Marie

    Lovely. You’ve blessed and created much. It will be wonderful to see what comes of this time! And being the person who needed to give up the impressive job has been hard but good. When there’s no title, the questions are all about substance,

  • I guest posted for JR Goudeau this week (how great is she) about this story that is burning inside of me the real authentic self dream, and it succeeded beyond either of our expectations…and it is AWESOME and scary because, this real self, I am supposed to write it out and hand it to someone and hope it matters…..wow. I needed your post today.

  • Lindsay

    I always look forward to Fridays here when you are writing, Tina. I love this post…got me all excited! I needed to read this today. Can’t wait to hear what God does with this new opportunity of yours!!

  • Holy crap, girl. This is so my story right now, too! I just took the leap and allowed my husband to support me while I work on my Big Dream. That fear you’re talking about? Filled with it. Doing it anyway. Thanks so much for telling your story and reminding all us 4th-wave feminists that it’s all about choices, happiness, and being your real self. <3

  • Claire

    Yum – love that spinach and cheddar muffin recipe!!!!

    But seriously, I think this is my life too right now.

    I love this: “Unless I embraced my “true” self, I’d never be fully present in my marriage. I’d never be fully present in my life.”

    Need to fully expose true self and stop caring about what true self looks like to anyone else, or if true self is “enough”.

    Thanks for the nudge Teenbeen!!! 🙂

    • Chervelle Richards

      Totally agree with every word you say, Claire!!

      I’m holding onto this, Teen! Xx 🙂

  • Alright… so where is the facebook page, and what are your cards gonna look like? I’m looking forward to seeing all of it! Get goin’ girl! 🙂 <3

  • Nicole Joshua

    Thank you Tina. I hope you see my heart in those three words, because right now, your blog is stirring something inside of me, and I’m not sure where it’s going to lead. Thank you for being brave, authentic, funny – in short, amazing!
    Love you! So grateful to know you.

  • Thank you for being real. My husband and I are definitely the ratty-pajama’s-and-Netflix people (and laughing-like-a-hyena-to-Portlandia). But you know what? I love it. I love that I married my best friend. I love that I can be myself with him–and that includes the scary, giant-zit-on-my-chin, farting-in-bed stuff. (Look, we all do it. Don’t lie.) Our love is a better story. And together? We are better than we ever could be apart. Isn’t that what marriage is for? Thanks again. I’m seriously in love with this post.

  • Rose Eh

    Living the dream is not always as ‘dreamy’ as it seems. There is no EASY button – it is painful, actually. I just KNOW about the job –> career —> calling process and you will be so delighted as you have now sprung off the board and taken a leap into the unknown (unknown by you and already prepared by God).

    And you know I am praying for you — cause I am in your corner, always. Rose

  • Sue

    Powerful, Tina. Strangely, I’ve never liked the four letter “fear” word, I’ve always preferred to replace it with another f-word, f a i t h “faith that this is the right leap”. But today, I think I’ll embrace it just for a minute. You’re right, it definitely straightens out the feathers. The answer is always in authenticity. The challenge, however, is when my authenticity is mingled with another’s authenticity. When one has the courage to be vulnerable, and there is such mighty strength in vulnerability, some of us like to share it with the world (at least I do, because I always feel I’ve learned a lesson). Sometimes the other’s authenticity is simply too vulnerable to share, and then where does that leave me and my authenticity?

    Oh for heaven’s sakes, this is sounding very confusing. I’m excited about the changes you’re making in your life. Well done for choosing to rise to the better story. Thank you for being so real, thank you for being so raw. Whatever your journey, it will be magnificent.

  • Gah!

    Really? Really, this was posted today? Today, when two other things this morning have reduced me to tears that I can’t even put a name to (the closest would be longingfeardesirereluctanceoverwhelmedgrievinghope)?

    When the words “return to courage” have been ringing in my ash-filled ears this first full week of Lent?

    1. Do I hide my dreamer self? Yeah. ALL. THE. TIME. I’m hiding her right now, but she’s been effectively beating me up for at least a month and I think I’m supposed to let her out.

    2. I’d leap. Your three lives? Those? I lead them. Right now. A part-time job (which I love). A part-time spiritual direction practice (which I love). A book contract/writing project (which I love). A husband, a family and a rescue dog (don’t get my started on how much I love them). (And let’s not talk about the blogs, shall we, hmm? Those alone my make it five.)

    (Let’s try to ignore the fact that I’m hiding so hard that I’m shushing myself in between parentheses. Re-GAH!)

    If I was really embracing my true self, I’d take the time to really listen to what needs to be let go of, and where the leaping has to happen. What I need to say no to, what the real, full-throated, singin’ it naked and proud passions are.

    3. Well, yeah. Duh. You just called it. *sigh* Yes. Yes, I am.

    Any idea how I do it?

    That was only a half-facetious question.

    And… as much as I’m GAH-ing… thank you, from the bottom of my terrified heart.

    • Tara, I just want to hug you right now.

      • Thank you, friend. I’ll take the hug. Especially since, just a few hours after posting this, I spilled an entire cup of tea on my computer. Hoping for resurrection of the hard drive (documents, pictures, MY BOOK), but won’t know til Tuesday. Interesting timing….

        • Oh my goodness. My heart is in my mouth. Hugs new friend! Praying for total restoration of your hard drive! And your BOOk + PICTURES. Lord.

          oxo

  • Our lives look different, Tina, but I swear we’re often wrestling with the same things. I’m living this out right now: “That’s the thing about being vulnerable and sharing your dreams. People hold you accountable to them. They talk you off ledges, encourage you to take the leap.”

    My friends are holding me accountable to the dreams I’ve shared. They’re telling me to own my authority and to march. Total lightbulb moment yesterday along these lines and reading your post is just one more confirmation. It’s time.

  • I feel like stomping my feet, cheering, and whistling, the same way we did at that gorgeous wedding. Eshet chayil, Tina! Woman of valour!

  • Thank you. And yes. My word for the year is “releas” and part of that, I’m understanding, is releasing who I really am from who I think I need to be.

  • Jane

    Do you hide your authentic, imperfect, hungry, dreamer-self from the world? I used to hide but not anymore. Each day I demonstrate this by saying something I’m not accustomed to but necessary, I eat foods not to satisfy my tummy but to nourish what my blood type-sensitive-finicky body needs, I listen to my type of music…I peel off a layer of whatever it is that’s preventing me from being my core self.
    What would change if you embraced your true self? My disability would not define who I am.
    Are you being called to rise to a better story in an area of your life in this season? I feel like I’ve been called to rise throughout my life. This time, and in all seasons, only I will call upon myself to rise as God sees fit.

    I love these Q&As.I learn much more from others. Thank you Tina for asking and to those who answer.

  • foodess

    When I’m terrified and on the cusp of something big, I always mutter “leap and the net shall appear” under my breath over and over as if it were scripture. Even though this leap was more of a swift shove, I know with full certainty that your net is there!

  • Kupa

    #winwin are my thoughts exactly! that’s all 🙂

    I love you. Now let’s go kill some orcs!

  • Sarah Silvester

    This is awesome Tina. I can’t wait to see more of your amazing photos and read more of your beautiful words as you continue to leap into your new season.
    For me? Yes I’ve been through places of hiding, of feeling inadequate. Right now I’m just tired and confused, to be honest, and need to do some sleeping before I do any leaping. (new baby etc).
    Love your heart! xo

  • fiona lynne

    Gosh, I am so very excited for you! Looking the fear right in the face and jumping in. It’s a beautiful thing to witness!
    I loved this line: “That’s the thing about being vulnerable and sharing your dreams. People hold you accountable to them.”
    I experienced this last week. I went for coffee with a friend and she gently but firmly told me I’d made the wrong decision. And this week? I’m buying plane tickets to Uganda. And it feels like a dream coming true. Thank God for those friends, those loved ones who help us take the leap.

  • Cat

    ‘Are you being called to rise to a better story in an area of your life in this season?’ – just reading this made me breathless. God is whispering and nudging and it is time to act. Thank you for being one who is ahead on the journey and for being brave enough to tell us about it.

  • well you have a lot of love happening here, and i am going to add a bucketload to it! my dear, i am so excited/proud/fist pumping on the couch for you! this is a leap that’s been building for some time and i know the guts it takes. but the reward will be so worth it. i too struggle with showing my authentic self – that’s why my word for the year is ‘own’. so looking forward to learning from your journey 🙂 much love my dear

  • Kim Bruce

    As I read this, I’m sitting in a hotel bar in San Diego on the night before Storyline thinking to myself, “Will the same fear that kept me from actually rewriting my story after the last Storyline keep me from it again?” I definitely hide my dreamer-self from the world. My dreams are still just dreams…and not very well defined ones at that. I think I’m afraid to fully define them, because what if I still don’t follow them, or what if I follow them and find out they weren’t really all that dreamy after all? Ugh…I’m scared, Teen. Always have been…and I’m really tired of it. Thank you for once again sharing your heart in such a vulnerable, poetic and glorious way!!

  • “Suddenly, I had three lives. The life I was living when I was awake, the life I was living when I was supposed to be asleep, and the life I’d committed to love, honour and cherish.” This sums up my life perfectly! Loved reading this piece so much. This new season of your life is great! XO.

  • edith

    After years of having friends try to shove me into a blog, i totally understand what you mean about accountability… and that fear, that is closer to excitement than terror 🙂

    • Glad we are both in similar seasons! 🙂 EEEK.

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  • Erin Wilson

    This!

    • YOU! 🙂

      • Erin Wilson

        You’ve totally got this, girl! 🙂

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  • Ashlee

    I love this post. I quit my full-time cubicle job in 2011 to pursue a made-up career of writing and photography. It has been hard, but wonderful, and I have not regretted the decision once. I feel like I am finally using the gifts God has blessed me with, and although I’m hardly making any money doing it, I am much, much happier, and because I am happier, I believe I am a better wife, and now, mom. I wish you the same as you take a risk and chase your dream. Bravo!

  • Just stumbled across ur blog and absolutely love it! Def folowing! 🙂

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