Have you ever watched a movie or read a book and felt that it was created just for you? Last night I watched the movie “Love Happens” with Aaron Eckhart and Jennifer Aniston and I felt like the director and actors created this movie specifically to show me a possible vision of my own future. And it really was made just for me – it seems that most everyone else hated it! It got an abysmal rating of 18% on Rotten Tomatoes.
It follows a man who has experienced a great personal tragedy and writes a book that turns him into a massive self-help guru. But while he is helping thousands of other people deal with their grief, he hasn’t resolved his own trauma and guilt. He puts on a happy face for the worshipful audience, but he is an emotional basket case and his life is a mess.
I recognize this. When I started my first Live. Write. Share. workshop in 2004 with a group of breast cancer survivors, the women told me that it was life changing. They told stories to the press about how it was helping them to find more joy in their lives. But I was in the midst of my own personal hell – I was deeply depressed and often had trouble getting out of bed in the morning. I would paste a smile on my face when I walked in the door to that meeting room and at the end of the evening I would get into the car and burst into tears again.
Leading workshops over the next couple of years, I felt like a fraud and I was constantly worried about being “found out”. As I poked and prodded these workshop participants to share intimate details that would help them heal, I had secrets that I had never spoken aloud to anyone – secrets that were destroying my self-esteem, my mental health, and my ability to function in the world.
With the grace of all good things in this Universe, I began my own healing journey in 2006 and I haven’t looked back since. There has been so much work to do and it has been worth it on two fronts – I am now a person that I can live with, and I no longer feel like a fraud when I stand in front of a room. I’m doing my own work, so I can feel confident in supporting others while they do theirs.
I fear that there are many teachers and “gurus” in the healing and self-help field these days who are like the man in this movie – leading others through work that they haven’t done for themselves. It makes me sad to think of these people because I know what a painful space that is to be in – one that requires constant suppression and is fraught with fear of being exposed.
I continue to do my own healing work every day. I work to stay present and aware in my relationships and experiences. And here I sit with my little Miracle Journal, allowing myself one more step in my healing process – in my workshops I lead people to write and share their experiences from a vulnerable, exposed place. Now I am giving myself the space to do that each day in this journal. After years of knowing that I’m a good writer and wishing that I had more opportunities to write, I’m finally creating my own opportunity to write and thinking of myself as a writer.
I am so grateful to have stumbled across this little-known, widely-panned movie because it opened up a window for me into what can happen if I don’t stay present – it’s a path of success accompanied by heartache and fear.
I choose to follow a different path. In order to do that, I must stay present, aware, and engaged in my own life and working through my own issues. It is the only way that I can be present, aware, and engaged with others as they work through theirs.