When Nora Ephron, the famed director/writer of notable works such as ‘When Harry met Sally’ and one of my favorite of her books ‘I Feel Bad About My Neck; and Other Thoughts on Being a Woman’, died from complications from cancer in 2012, it was a complete shock to most of her friends and colleagues that she had even been sick! Ephron had decided to die the way she lived – on her own terms. She controlled the narrative. By doing so, she wrote her own story, maintaining the authority of her life.
In being the author of our own lives, we choose to pen our narrative. Our ‘story’ is the life we live. The plot is our day to day actions and interactions, the setting is where we are rooted and where we journey, the cast of characters are those we choose to have around us. Our narrative told in our own unique voice!
Being our own authority takes on richer meaning. Now that we recognize we are the authors of our own lives, are we holding tight to its authority? We should be! For me, being the authority of my life means that I am the best one to tell my story. I try not to give this power away. In defining my voice I have realized that when I give someone else authority over my story, it is seldom to my advantage. There is no benefit to giving energy or time, to those who belittle, insult or undermine. Instead, I put my energy to action – taking on projects that ring true to me and my story; having people in my life who honor; and building strong intentions to continue to create a narrative of which I can be proud. This is when I am in full authority of my story.
As the author and the author-ity, we are fully accountable. This place of ownership is where fruitful partnerships can blossom. It is learning to keep your own power by creating respectful boundaries for yourself. From here, you can be mindful of others boundaries too.
Nora Ephron created some of the most seminal works for women at a time when we were just finding our collective voice. It’s good to be reminded that when we take author-ity of our lives, we define how the world perceives us and also, a clearer picture of our story is created. Nora’s personal mantra remains true for me – ‘above all, be the heroine of your own life.’
I was recently engaged by a private client who we’ll call ‘Jan’. (Jana is the Goddess of Perception. Jana’s totem is the peacock, and it is said that the eyes on the peacock’s tail are Jana’s, which are like mirrors that intuit to you the right path to take…) Any-who… Jan wants assistance with ‘finding her voice’ specifically when she ‘talks about the elements of her work that are the most precious, creative, closest to her heart’. Her concern is that when she gives a flustered, halting, small-voiced answer to questions put to her about her work, she does herself, the work and her company a disservice. “When I talk about myself and my work, I practically lose my voice!” she lamented. Jan wants some breathing techniques, vocal exercises, posture work and how to best deliver her message. I find this client work extremely rewarding – streamlining the message, voice work, a pinch of performance…But here’s the thing. I know this woman through reputation, being in the room as she works, watching how others respond to her presentations , and I am surprised by her perception of herself. I see a well respected, beloved, strong person whose performances are articulate, gracious and humble. Regardless of what I perceive Jan feels that when making public addresses her connection to her life’s work misses the vital communication link between her heart and her voice. And since what we perceive, is, – and this is so true when we turn that gaze to ourselves – then indeed there is a bump in her creative highway. This is going to be an amazing journey!
Is it only a matter of verbal cues and sculpted gestures that will give Jan the elusive connection between message and heart? I’ve not found it’s that easy. Our work began with ‘what is playing in my mind when I am on the stage presenting my work?’ In Jan’s case it was a voice sending old destructive messages: ‘who do you think you are? why would anyone be interested in your work? what do you have to say that is more important than anyone else?’ A compilation of criticisms from her years of forging her own unique path – messages that she intellectually could reason were spiteful and ultimately insignificant. Yet when she was in that vulnerable place on the stage ready to share her life’s work, those voices not only came back they consumed her performance moment with a vengeance. A disconcerting rift between her inward struggle and external stage presence exists.
What do we do if our perception of ourselves prevents us from living the life we want, from achieving our goals, from living to our utmost potential? In many ways we have written our story before its begun. Whether an old insecurity, negative voice from our past or perhaps a less than stellar moment that we just can’t let go of, it is time to be much kinder to ourselves. We need to rattle the cage holding that stale opinion so that fresh air can swirl renewed energy around us. Take a look at what we perceive to be truth, entertain the idea that perhaps the negative perception is indeed false and then dare to challenge these subjective thoughts. A talented, perceptive and creative person like Jan deserves to be fully present in her performances. Miss Piggy, yes Miss Piggy!, says if “(it) is in the eye of the beholder it may be necessary from time to time to give a stupid or misinformed beholder a black eye.” Especially if that ‘beholder’ is ourselves!