One of the common criticisms that I have received as a so-called blogger is that I share too much of my personal life, that I tell all my business. I must admit the first few times I heard this, it stung, it especially stung when I heard it from one of my oldest friends of 20+ years.
Yet as someone who is fond of the art of storytelling and whose writing idol is the late Studs Terkel, I am a big believer that sharing our personal stories is empowering both to the storyteller and the audience. So many times when we are facing truly hard circumstances, it is hard to sit down and admit just how rough things are with people who are close to us. I found that out last year when I finally broke down over lunch and shared with a friend things that were going on in my personal life, I will never forget the look and then the judgment, of course said friend tried to adjust her face but it was too late. Yet in four years of sharing the stories of my life, I have found a community of folks that also struggle and I am completely okay with talking about my struggles. Hell, last year I spoke to a packed room about my issues with anxiety. I admit I thought people were initially just being polite when I received a standing ovation at the end of my talk, but I later heard from so many in attendance, that they could relate to my story. I think that’s when the power of stories really clicked for me.
One of the hardest stories anyone can share is the admission that they are struggling financially. In a world where sometimes it seems like everyone has a shiny new igadget and can afford a vacation, when you are simply struggling to keep some food on the table and the lights on, it’s real easy to imagine that you are the only one struggling to hold it together.
In the US, talking money has always been considered impolite. It’s one the reasons no one can really know how many people are suffering from the continuing fallout from the great Recession. Yet as someone who works in social services, I know not all the folks suffering are the old poor people, many are what I call the new poor. See, the new poor in many cases used to be middle class, on the surface they still look middle class but they are hoping and praying they can keep the house which is headed towards foreclosure. They hide their unemployment status under the cloak of being “consultants” but for those of us in social services, we see them even when you don’t.
That’s why it’s so important for stories to be shared. I was reminded of this last night when one of absolute favorite bloggers (if I had a little sister, Liz would be it) admitted that she is struggling and struggling hard. I admit I was blown away, hell Liz to me is like a rising superstar in this blog game, hell she was one of the BlogHer12 Voices of the Year…how is it that she is struggling? Well she is struggling the same way one of my best friends is, who in recent months has come out publicly about her struggles. The thing is these women are not anomalies, this is real life. Just that for most of us if we are struggling, we still live in the struggle closet. I mean to open up and admit that you barely can afford to buy food is hard and then there is always that fear of judgment.
Most of us like to believe that if someone is unable to pay their own way, well clearly they did something wrong. Nothing could be further from the truth. I know so many college educated, formerly employed (full-time with benefits, type employment) folks who are probably 2 checks from the homeless shelter that it’s almost starting to feel like a norm. Hell, even with filing bankruptcy, it recently dawned on me that if the Spousal Unit were to lose his gig we would be fucked. Thanks to the generosity of my father in law, we won’t ever be homeless but in this old house, if we couldn’t pay the $1000+ oil bill in winter months we would freeze to death.
There is no shame in telling your story, fuck, it’s brave, it’s brave to say fuck it! I can’t live in the closet anymore and trust me when you are living with the bone crushing struggle to survive and you are not talking about it, you are in the closet and closets hurt, hell they can kill.
In these hard times, sometimes the only thing that can keep us sane is knowing we aren’t alone therefore your story and your business do matter.
PS: Sometimes people ask well what about future employers knowing your business, look it will take a company less time than it takes you to have a morning dump to know everything about you including your finances. Especially as more and more companies check your credit before deciding if they will hire you, so Big Brother will know if you don’t pay the light bill.