Day 19: Live Your Story.
Happy Monday everyone!
I'm feeling a little nostalgic this morning - my little sister is getting married this weekend!! I'm leaving tomorrow to head down to Virginia to spend the rest of the week helping her get ready for her big day. Maria is seven years younger than me, and I can still remember holding her as a baby. Crazy how time flies by! It's so special, though, to watch her grow up into a beautiful, smart, kind-hearted woman, and to meet the man of her dreams. She was the maid-of-honor in my wedding three years ago and now I'm going to be the matron-of-honor in hers. I'm so thrilled to get a chance to share these next few days with her. (In honor of the occasion, I'm sharing a few pictures of my own wedding day, taken by the brilliant Eric Ryan Anderson.)
What I really want to talk about today, though, is your story. And my story. You know that Jay Z song "New York"? I've always loved the words of the chorus:
In New York, concrete jungle where dreams are made, There's nothing you can't do, now you're in New York, These streets will make you feel brand new, Big lights will inspire you, let's hear it for New York.
Moving to NYC, there's this sense that you can be anything or do anything that you want. That might sound freeing, but with it comes an incredible pressure to create your own destiny. You look around at all of the success, at the money, at the power, at the people achieving and their dreams and you ask: What about me? Where do I fit in? Should I be doing more? Could I climb higher?
Last night at church, our pastor Jon Tyson said something that struck me like a bolt of lightening. He said, "You can't be anything and be anyone. You can only be you. It's an illusion that you can live somebody else's story: You have your own story to live."
WOW. At first, I prickled at the line, "You can't be anything and anyone." But then when he followed it by "You can only be you," it was like a massive weight was lifted from my shoulders. Of course!! I can only be me - and I don't HAVE to waste time comparing myself to other people, wishing I had their lives or trying to achieve what they've done. I have my own story to live – and that's the story that the world most needs to hear from me. Same with you - you can only be you, and what the world most needs to hear from you is your story! How freeing!!!
To be honest, last week was tough as I had some of my agent and editor meetings. I wasted a lot of time beating myself up over the fact that I haven't achieved what other bloggers have achieved - the large audiences, the cookbooks, etc. Last night was such an important reminder that I can only be me. And I have a unique path that only I can pursue. Nobody else can be a better Anna Watson Carl than me. And I'll never be a better you than you!
What I'm trying to say is this: if we all stopped trying to live each others stories and lived our own, we'd make a lot more of an impact on this world AND we'd be a whole lot freer to actually celebrate each others' victories and shoulder each others burdens. Living my own story doesn't make me selfish, it makes me authentic. But it requires me to be rooted in the present, to risk vulnerability, and to take joy in my life's idiosyncrasies.
Case in point: around 11 p.m. last night I was baking some gingerbread for today's photo shoot and I realized - midway through the recipe - that I was out of ginger. I groaned, threw on my coat, grabbed all the cash in the apartment which came to $4 (our nearest bodega doesn't take credit cards), and ran down our five flights of stairs and around the corner. I found the ginger, went up to pay and realized I was a dollar short. Seriously?! I couldn't face running up and down five flights of stairs, so I called Brandon and asked if he could find some quarters, wrap them up in something, and throw them out the window to me on the street.
I stood outside our apartment building and shortly thereafter, a napkin-and-rubber-banded ball of quarters fell at my feet. Brilliant!! I ran back to the store, bought my ginger, and walked home laughing. If I had the "smooth" life I sometimes envy - you know, where I lived in a huge apartment with an elevator, a doorman, a large kitchen with an island and a pantry, and where I NEVER forgot ingredients at the last minute - I wouldn't have hilarious moments where my husband was throwing quarters out the window at nearly midnight so I could pay for my forgotten ginger. I'll take my own story, thank you very much!!
My dear Maria - if you're reading this - my words to you on your wedding week are this: Live your story. Because it's powerful and beautiful and unique. You and Peter are such an amazing match and I'm so excited to watch your lives together unfold. Don't succumb to the pressure of perfection this week - 5, 10, 50 years down the road, you're not going to remember if the bows were tied correctly on the pews or if the bridemaids had matching shoes. You're going to remember looking into Peter's eyes, committing your lives to each other. You're going to remember seeing your dearest friends and family around you, cheering you on, loving you well. You're going to remember dancing at your reception and being aware of nobody but each other in that moment. This week, you're going to experience moments of your story that you'll only get to live once. You're going to be tempted to be stressed, but instead, be present. Soak it all in. You don't want to miss one moment. I love you!! Excited to celebrate your story, and your life.
(All photos by Eric Ryan Anderson.)