I’ve been told that I am a very genuine person.  I am also a very private person.  So, as I write this introductory blog, my inclination is to tell you all about my background and my business.  However, one of my goals this year is to continue to push myself outside of my comfort zone.  And frankly, in order to be useful and of service here in this forum, that is what I will need to do.

The overriding message that we are all hearing these days is to be authentic in who you are and the brand you build.  I couldn’t agree with this more.  Hell, I get paid speak on the importance of this topic.

But the truth is I struggle with this.  Recently I have experienced several opportunities to reconsider the importance of sharing your authentic self.  Sharing your secrets.  The things you hide.  The things you are ashamed of.

There is a truth about me I that I don’t share publicly. I don’t actively hide it. It’s just not something lead with.  I will certainly talk about it if the conversation goes there but I don’t speak about it in my work, I don’t post about it on social media.

And the question I ask myself is this “In not openly discussing this part of my life am I being inauthentic?” I tell myself that I share it minimally because I am of the philosophy that there is a time and place for everything.  And also, out of respect to others involved, I hold these cards close to the vest. I also really believe in putting messages out there that are positive and uplifting and I shy away from sharing anything that will cause someone to worry or even worse, pity me.

The flip side of this struggle is this—can or would sharing this experience help someone else?  Would it help someone else feel like what they are going through as been experienced and navigated by others? Would telling my story touch someone in a way that gives them a boost of strength or feel some relief? I know the answer because I have been on the receiving end of those type of gifts recently.  The answer is yes, it may help.  Maybe a little, maybe to the right person, it may help a lot.

So here it goes.

I am divorced.  I understand, that may not exactly seem like a necessarily a big scary, traumatic secret.  People get divorced every day. Of course, it was difficult but here’s where it gets really tough to put into black and white.  My husband of 20 years left me.  He left me for someone else. For someone I knew and trusted. To be fair—that is not exactly the timeline he claims but I know—I know when I lost him and it was months before we separated and they are together still.  It has almost wrecked me.

Please don’t misunderstand, in observing other peoples’ (in similar circumstance) lives, it would never occur to me to judge another going through this in any type of negative way. But I judge myself. Hard.  I have spent months trying to comes to grips with what parts of my flawed humanity caused a man who loved and adored me for so many years to no longer want a life with me. I valued my marriage.  Not because I am attached to the social norm, but because it was something I was proud of. Something I felt I really got right.  After a childhood and young adulthood filled with instability and loss, it was something I counted on to be the foundation that supported me in being able to build everything else in my life. I realize now that operating that way was a mistake. But it’s too late to undo it so now I am trying hard to embrace the lessons this curve ball of an experience has brought me.

Starting over at 47.  Wow.  I am filling my time with fulfilling work, friends and adventures but it has been hard.  To say I have not handled it well would be an understatement.  I feel like 2018 was essentially a “lost year”.  I could go on and on telling you the embarrassing moments and describing the meltdowns brought on by the serious of blows this experience has dealt me.  The gory details are not as important as this message.  It does get better. You can get through it. Or so I am told and am working to believe. Even as I share this experience I find myself wanting to apologize for being overly dramatic.  After all I have close friends and family who have experienced far more difficult life altering events.  But whatever it is we are going through, I think it’s helps to hear that someone else—maybe someone we thought had it all together—  went through something incredibly difficult as well.  And maybe it is not about the scale of difficulty (big or small, common or uncommon) of the event but rather it is about what we gain from sharing how hard (or just how) it was to navigate for us personally—our own personal journey through the experience. 

And as I come to a close I think I have also come to terms with how I chose to handle it.  Publicly, I chose to take the high road and not bash my ex—not share the series of hurtful experiences.  My life professionally and personally is far from perfect.  I struggle.  A little bit less every day.  If what you see me post is a champagne brunch with friends it is because that is the authentic joy I am feeling in that moment and what I want to put out into the world.  But know even those of us who share through a lens of our own distinct set of “to post or not to post” criteria—know you are seeing the champagne flutes or an uplifting quote not because my life is perfect but because that is what I, personally want to offer the world.  Please know that this blog is meant to describe my individual struggle in regard to where to draw the line between privacy and authenticity.  I have no opinion on (and mostly likely admiration for) how anyone else chooses to approach this balance. Again, I think this is an area that I hope we can give each other some grace.  Some may be actively trying to craft an image—some may not— but isn’t grace just letting them be who they are and offer up what feels right to them?  

This experience (the d-word) I have described has offered me much to learn and grow from.  I hope it comes across that this is a description of my struggle understanding what feels right to me in the space between privacy and authenticity—not that I believe in any way that there is a right or wrong way to handle it. Know that also, in a forum like this—what I consider the time and place—no matter what our Instagram looks like, we all struggle from time to time and we are here to help each other through the struggle.  I hope going forward, that some of what I have learned will help someone else. And don’t be surprised, if sometimes I just prefer to talk shop. 🙂

Rene Johnston
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