Don’t lead with your pain. Simple enough as thoughts go. A complex algorithm as far as implementation goes. No matter where I begin my life story, death has a starring role… or at least a pivotal one. I’ve always thought so anyway. Recently, I’ve been trying to figure out how to tell my story differently. Not quite start from scratch but start from a different point of reference. What do I begin with? What do I leave out? How do I punctuate or embellish? How do I include others in my current narrative?

Last year, my company relocated its corporate office. I had been sitting in the same office space with the same people for over five years, so I was truly eager for the change. During the move, we were all shuffled like musical chairs. In many cases, folks where had been clustered together for years were separated completely. The one thing I was truly looking forward to was getting to know new people. It was an opportunity to present myself differently; to highlight the life I have now. The people in the new office wouldn’t know of the many losses I’ve had in recent years that kept my heart in a sinking pit. During the first month in the new office, I made rounds to introduce myself and reconnect with colleagues I hadn’t shared space with in a while. We chatted, dined, walked and cycled. We hung out in the collaboration pantry discussing coffee and life. It was exhilarating getting to know people from now. From today. There was no need to add in my history of sorrows and pains. My mantra became: Don’t lead with your pain. Don’t mention Mom (dead). Don’t mention siblings (dead, dead, in prison, drug addict). Don’t mention dad (dead). Don’t mention singleness (lonely). Don’t mention friends (deserters). Don’t mention hopes (disappointment). Don’t mention dreams (deferred). Don’t mention ambition (dust). Don’t mention life (pointless).

It didn’t seem as if I was left with much to discuss, but I give thanks as often as I remember for the measure of joy and faith I have been blessed with. They keep me going. They propel me forward. They add purpose to my days, my years, my life.

I love conversation. There’s no pleasure like eating a good meal with good company and good company is revealed through good conversation. Walking in the fresh air brings peace and serenity even if for only for the duration of the walk. Cycling has become the joy of my life. Riding anyway brings balance to my soul. In sharing these activities – conversation, food, walking, cycling – I have learned to lead with my joy. I have learned to start from now. Today we are connected. Whatever comes tomorrow will come, but today I will enjoy the company and interactions I’ve been blessed with. These are the simple everyday joy-filled moments that nurture us back to life and light. I have opened myself to begin new narratives with each new person I engage with. In doing so, my changing story has changed me.

I have come to embrace the idea that my story doesn’t have to be about me, ergo my pain. Perhaps my story is the prologue to our story. What have we, as individuals, accumulated in life – physically, mentally, spiritually – to bring us to this point where we see kinship in each other? Our individual stories flow into the multiplicity of us. How do we begin? Where to do we start? What are we leading with as we share in our togetherness?

Just a thought, but everything begins with death, darkness, or a void. One tiny spark can cause a void to explode with life. Find a spark. Nurture it and begin there. 


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