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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