Telling the total, utter darkness of one’s life story with humour speaks not only about story telling finesse, but how an author successfully finds lightness and purpose – a through line – when you might expect otherwise.
Rosie Waterland is one such hero. Listening to Rosie (author of her memoir Anti-Cool Girl, recently published by Harper Collins) at the Sydney Writers Festival on the weekend was an absolute standout.
Amidst an impressive array of leading international authors, this humble, soon to turn 30 Australian debut author really captured my attention, and ultimately my heart.
I felt she has a strong message to teach all of us.
My laughter mixed with tears as she recounted the bleakest of human experience – how she accidently witnessed her mother’s failed suicide attempt and more – with crackling candour.
Tragedy made all the more poignant because it was recounted with humour.
Narratives Powered By Courage
I started to consider the potency of narratives. And the impact of courage. How we tell ourselves our stories about the key events of our lives and what’s happened to us.
How these stories inform the voices in our heads (and the fears in our hearts) and cause us to act in subtle and overt ways.
Whilst I acknowledge the whole field of trauma study and therapy – and the excellent practitioners in the field that assist many to find their way in the world – I’d like to focus here on how courage in telling personal stories openly activates the palpable sense of “if she can do it, so can I.” (In her talk Rosie openly mentioned her PTSD and the long-term support of her psychiatrist as pivotal to her healing journey).
Rosie Waterland’s ability to create a framework of humour and meet humiliation head on is outstanding.
I Listened and Pondered the ‘What If’?
What if she took another route and lost herself, getting stuck in an unraveling spiral of bleak stories? What if she allowed her open, self-described shame to inform her world-view model? Where innocence was violated and justice denied. Where the birthright protection of simply being a child was absent and proper care was missing.
What if she simply repeated the path laid open to her by her highly dysfunctional parents?
I started considering the processes by which individuals, such as Rosie, make remarkable turnarounds in their framework of meaning and worldview model.
Where Rosie (and people like her) have survived unmentionable suffering, abuse and neglect and are able to rise above and lead others with such rawness and vulnerability.
Become truly inspirational.
Becoming the Hero of Your Own Story
Their personal narrative then becomes compost for their hero’s journey. They bring to the world an expression of themselves where their dark recesses are not denied, but rather allowed to be front and centre in their lives. They truly become the hero of their own story.
This takes such courage.
I am sure that the scars from earlier experience probably always live on. And who can ever know the inner life of another? Certainly from Rosie’s litany of events, she could be easily justified for having many.
Many people know of Rosie from her Rosie Recaps on mamamia and her Writers Festival session was packed with fans. Being new to Rosie’s work, I’m keen to read more.
How do people like Rosie make such dramatic turnarounds?
How do you turn your personal narrative around and make your story compost for something much richer?
One of the Greatest Lessons of My Life
About five years ago a very wise man taught me one of the greatest lessons of my life.
He told me that no experience is ever wasted – if you look for the gain and see what you’ve learnt. Things certainly don’t always turn out in the ways we want them, but if we miss the ‘gain’, we miss the what’s most important about the experience. We then unproductively tend to beat ourselves up – and the experience cycles downwards.
It’s a simple reframing, but one of the most powerful.
And what I unexpectedly discovered is that looking for the gain in every experience has given me more appreciation for what I have, more gratitude, a greater feeling of accomplishment. And, surprisingly, a great feeling of true wealth.
This doesn’t mean that life is peachy and without challenge, but creating a new framework and world view model has allowed what I previously considered impossible to materialise.
What is the gain in your life?