A week ago I was in New York City having lunch at a fussy private club in a lovely Upper Eastside building with the ladies who lunch (in this case, lunch is a verb because, in my mind, for lunch to be a noun it has to larger than an appetizer, and this lunch was a side salad at best!). I was the guest of my dear friend, Beverly Tobin, author, teacher, world traveler, opera lover, mother, grandmother, wife. Beverly was invited by her friend, author Andrea Buchanan, to read her piece from Andrea's book, Note to Self: 30 Women on Hardship, Humiliation, Heartbreak, and Overcoming It All, to an audience of women as part of Andrea's whirlwind book tour.
The book is a collection of 30 short stories provided by women, well-known and unknown, about their personal experiences overcoming hardship, humiliation, and heartbreak. Andrea has taken each story and compiled them into a book that is inspiring, illuminating, and one that transforms the ordinary into the extraordinary. Each woman's story is quite personal, human, and powerfully relatable. After reading the collection I was more aware of each woman's heroic individual story and triumph, reminded of the transformational nature of storytelling, and awed by the power of sisterhood.
The clever device Andrea uses throughout the book has to do with sticky notes and the simple reminders they seem to capture in our lives. Each lengthy and meaningful tale told by these women is summed up by a useful reminder of the lesson to be learned, the note to self.
After reading the book, attending the luncheon, listening to Beverly and Andrea share personal stories, and mulling over the impact of the story-telling moment on me, I offer my personal notes to self:
Note to Self: An individual's story of personal transformation is powerful. When this story is held in a larger context of community, awesome!
Note to Self: Overcoming something is a matter of scale. What may be easy to one person could be extraordinarily challenging for another.
Note to Self: Reporting events of the day is easy. Telling our individual and collective stories is hard work. To go deeper than the simple details, to the essence of the learning and the growth and the transformation--and be public about it--is the hard work.
Note to Self: There is something incredibly unifying about sharing our common human experience with one another.
Note to Self: We often forget how extraordinary the ordinary is. And we often are unaware of how ordinary the extraordinary is.
Note to Self: Men have a lot to learn about brotherhood by observing, honoring, and modeling sisterhood.
Note to Self: We are not given the choice of being victimized. We are given the choice of overcoming having been victimized.
Note to Self: Sometimes our circumstances invite us to be something we did not intend to be. Write an inspiring book, become a spokesperson for inspiration. Be a secret teller, become a beacon for truth. Overcome illness, become a healer.
Note to Self: We love a "play really big" story! People who play big, win, overcome, step up, challenge, defy odds, push, get busy, create, incubate, transform...pretty attractive, I must say!
Note to Self: Lunch has to be more than a salad.
What is your personal Note to Self? What do you know about overcoming hardship, humiliation, or heartbreak? What transformation is trying to happen for you if you were willing to tell your story? What will it take to do so?
Get out a sticky note and give it a try.
P.S. Note to You: Purchase Andrea's transformative book Note to Self: 30 Women on Hardship, Humiliation, Heartbreak, and Overcoming It All