One day I was sitting with Willy in a coffee shop, and he was telling me about how he was feeling immobilized about something; making decisions was really hard for him. Then he said something (rhetorically to himself) that I will never forget, "What are you waiting for, MARS?" That phrase stuck with me for a number of reasons, but especially because it's quirky, like Willy was. He was the king of witty, slightly odd one-liners, and he really brought a sense of joy with him when he walked into a room.
The phrase was also haunting. I didn't realize until much later that it also reflected the shadowy state he was in at the time.
I haven't met anyone else like him in my life, and I have had the opportunity to meet a lot of amazing people. He was able to look at anyone and give them an unwavering sense of love, respect and value without even saying a word. He genuinely cared for everyone he came in contact with, without judgement. Truly.
My husband Dave and I always talk about how we felt so comfortable being fully ourselves when we were hanging out with him. This was during my tumultuous 20s when I generally didn't feel super secure in my own skin.
At his memorial service everyone talked about how we all felt like he was our best friend. It wasn't until he was gone that everyone was able to come together and make the realization that he had impacted all of us in the same way. It didn't lessen the value of his support, it actually made it even more extraordinary.
I can only imagine how bright and shiny he is now. It gives me comfort to think of him this way.
I'll come back to Willy in a bit.
At the risk of sounding cheesy, my heart always feels so full, like it could burst, when I head home after day three of the WRAP facilitator training. I have had the opportunity and great honour to train hundreds of WRAP facilitators through my work. WRAP is an amazing wellness program that supports people to deal with life challenges and get in the driver's seat of their lives.
On day three of each facilitator training, everyone has the opportunity to share their personal story. The focus is on hope despite struggle. Joy and sorrow woven sublimely together to create the fabric of life. It's amazing what happens within the group. Sharing creates such a deep connection in the group. Vulnerability is powerful and transformative. I believe strongly in a world built on real, pure authenticity.
Authenticity is magic.
As facilitators, we focus on creating a paradigm built on strengths, while honouring the fact that struggle, triumph, and joy are all universal, and integral parts of the human experience. As Brene Brown says "we are hard-wired for struggle." .
Every time I have the opportunity to hear these stories, I am struck by the strength of the human spirit.
We really are made of stars.
It has been a gift for me to be surrounded by stories of hope. It has profoundly changed my worldview. To be exposed to so many amazing stories about strength and resilience is something a lot of us don't get to experience.
Back to Willy. He tragically left this world just over 5 years ago. His last few years on this earth were very difficult for him, as he fought with the darkness in his own head. Sometimes I get really sad, angry almost, that there's no possibility for me to hear his story of triumph at a future WRAP facilitator training. I know that it could've been possible for him to find hope amongst the darkness. I've heard stories reflecting that message over and over again. The last time I saw him, I was a brand new mom, not dealing very well with the new life I was catapulted into. I wish I could've done more.
However, I have to remind myself that I'm human too. There's no judgement, resentment, anger or regret. Those feelings keep us trapped in the muck and mire of despondancy. I understand the complexity of mental illness. I also understand what it feels like to have a lack of hope.
I think of Willy often, and to be honest, he's a big part of the reason I have chosen to do the work that I do.
I believe there is hope. I believe in the strength of the human spirit. I believe that people essentially want to live. Even more than just live-we are built to radiate.
Sometimes people just fall through the cracks. They lose hope, perhaps they don't have strong supports, or a tribe they feel they can trust with their deepest darkest thoughts. Maybe they haven't found comforting ways of coping with their struggles. Perhaps they haven't found purpose and meaning. Maybe the effects of past trauma are too much to bear. Sometimes they're just plain tired of fighting the fight, and want some relief from the desperation. It's heartbreaking.
I am committed to share the message of hope to people. I have been thinking about this work and applying it to my own life for years. I know that good things are possible. I know that transformation can happen. I believe in my heart of hearts that people can change and see life differently. I have heard hundreds of accounts that say just that.
When I read The Desire Map, I started thinking about how I want to feel. Beyond just coping with struggles, I began to believe that I could actually do things to very radically control how I feel on a daily basis. I could take risks, and make things happen. I felt like the colours in my world got brighter. Like I could actually taste the colour red, or blue.
I really value Simon Sinek's approach to business: "Start with Why". My WHY is that I want to shine a light on people's inner expert. I also want to share what I have learned over the years with others, so that they can see and "taste" those brighter colours.
I also want to do my little part to seal up some of those cracks.
I believe that we are figuratively and literally made of stars.
This work is for you Willy. (I think you would be very interested to know that recently there has been talk about colonizing Mars. For real.)
“The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of starstuff.”
- Carl Sagan
Let's choose to SHINE.