Tell Your Story

A wise woman once told me, “When you tell your story, you give someone a gift.” I did not really understand what she meant at the time. How can my story be a gift to you? How can your story be a gift to me? Do they matter that much?

Yes, they do. Stories are gifts. Stories are bridges. Stories are our history and the history of those who came before us. Stories connect us. Stories teach understanding. Stories make us laugh and make us cry. They make us feel deeply. They pull us in to someone else’s life. And we start making the connections with ours.

Stories are all around us. They are the songs we listen to. They are the family histories told at gatherings. They are the friends reminding us of our shared adventures. They are the podcast that you listened to or the Ted Talk that you heard and cannot stop thinking about. They are our children’s retelling of their day and our grandparent’s retelling of their youth. They are in the memoir we just read and the wikipedia bio we just checked out. They are in the documentary we watched and can’t shake. They are in the whispered confidence of a dear friend.

Sharing our stories helps us to remember and also to move on. Stories make us feel less alone. They make us pause and think. They remind us of the past and give hope to the future. They give rise to sharing and give rise to growth.

My favorite stories? The underdog stories. So many variations, but the same message. It’s possible.


Connection, not Distraction

Connection provides hope; distraction provides a pause. We need connection in our lives to thrive. We seek distraction in our lives for temporary escape. Both have validity. The problem is when we get out of whack between connection and distraction. It is not a 50/50 relationship. Connection way outweighs distraction. Or it should. Because connection builds us up, whereas distraction offers no such hope. Connection helps us grow; distraction keeps us where we are. And too much distraction kills connection, making it stunt our growth. We need to be aware of why and how we direct our time and energy.

Connections are emotional. Connections make relationship. Usually, the relationship is with an ally, friend, family member or colleague. But we can also make temporary connections with people under certain circumstances when we are drawn together. (Same boat syndrome connections are brief but powerful.) When we connect with someone else, we are joined, linked, united. It buoys us. We are seen.

“I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”  – Brene Brown

Relationship is a connection. Distraction is a void. Definitions of distraction include “extreme agitation of the mind” (Oxford Dictionary),”inability to concentrate or give attention to something,” and “having one’s thoughts or attention drawn away.” (Meriam-Webster Dictionary). And having one’s thoughts and attentions drawn away makes you less of yourself.

In this fast paced world, distraction is often a drug of choice. The problem is that distraction is so easily accessible and marketed, that we don’t even know how much time we are spending in the void. And the void is not a place where we think or feel or grow. Visit there, but don’t stay.

We must let nothing distract us from our purpose – which is to grow and thrive – to become our best selves. We all are a unique contribution to this world, and connections and relationships grow us and grow those around us.

“It is an absolute certainty that no one can know his own beauty or perceive a sense of his own worth until it has been reflected back to him in the mirror of another loving, caring human being .”-John Joseph Powell

The Best Presents Are Experiences, Not Things

I love presents as much as the next person. But the BEST gifts are experiences, not things. Think about it.

In your whole life, how many presents can your recall? Now how many of them do you recall because they were wonderful or meaningful in some way? (Not because they were ugly, weird, etc.?) I’ll bet less than 20. Maybe 12.  In your whole life.

Now think about some meaningful experiences that you have had with others. Experiences that were someone else’s original plan, not yours. Experiences that were offered to you to participate in. As gifts. I would bet that you could remember over 75% of them, which would take you well over 12.

The gift of shared experience offers us so much more. This gift is by nature more giving. It is by nature more thoughtful. And it is by nature more enduring. Who doesn’t want to give and receive a gift that is thoughtful and enduring?

And don’t forget fun. Usually these gifts are pretty fun. Instead of the gift opening with the one second exclamation of “wow, thank so much,” you’re going on a ride together. Buckle up.

Still unsure about what I’m talking about? Here are some real life examples. Your friend invites you to pick out your own pet for your birthday. Friend will purchase whatever pet you want. S/he will take you to as many places as you want and help you get your choice including supplies. Example two – you have a very demanding life, but you love it. Once a year, however, you and your sibling go away for a few days together to unwind. You pick the place together, your sibling plans the itinerary. The whole thing. You are thrilled to go without having to be the organizer. Example three – your spouse invites you out to lunch and a walk in the country just because it’s Saturday, and the sun is shining, and s/he wants to hold your hand for a while.

Be open to giving and accepting the precious gift of shared experience. The more open we are, the more we will have, and the richer our lives will be.



The Gift of Time

The best present is presence. Giving of ourselves is the greatest gift we can give someone.                Here’s a top ten list for gifting presence:

10. Give a kind word.

9. Give a phone call.

8. Give laughter.

7. Give hugs.

6. Give encouragement.

5. Give listening to their story.

4. Give sharing your story.

3. Give a shared experience.

2. Give prayers.

1. Give gratitude.

The best present is not a thing. It’s a you. When you give your time to someone, it shows them that they matter. So give of yourself this holiday season. You will feel the warmth of your gift mirrored back, and that in itself is your gift in return. What better feeling for an empath?

You’re One of My Kind

When we come across someone we have an instant connection with, we recognize us in them and them in us. We stop in our tracks and take notice. Uh -huh. You’re one of my kind. Kismet. Destiny. Fate that we are meeting at this time on this path. Confirmation and reassurance that we are okay or that we will be okay.

It’s the understanding without having to explain. It’s the I get who you are, and you get who I am. It’s the we don’t know each other, but oh, we know each other. It’s the handshake that shifts into a warm embrace. It’s the saying much with very few words. It’s the you too a-ha moment for reasons of tragedy or for reasons of joy.

Empaths and highly sensitive people have this experience with more frequency. Because we are wired to be open to it. We see you and feel you. It makes our connection faster and more intense. It makes emotional connection under the right circumstances possible with a near stranger.

It’s like being a chameleon. In a good way. Some chameleons have the ability to change color as a form of social signaling or a reaction to their environment. They are Old World Lizards with the ability to see differently from most other animals. Empaths and highly sensitive people are also highly aware of their environments and often see things in a different way. Our form of blending is connecting to those near us. If we could change color as a badge of empathy, we would.

We are who we are. A chameleon can’t change that fact that it’s a chameleon. Same with us. Again, we are who we are. In a shared environment, we may share our true colors and our true stories. And like a chameleon, our connection with another may be brief but will transform us brilliantly.



“You are the best hugger.” Hear that many times? Empaths and highly sensitive people do. Our hugs stand out to those on the receiving end. We hug with gusto. We hug with sincerity. We hug with intimacy. We hug with deliberation. We can’t half hug. We hug you all the way (or not at all). Because we know the healing power of a warm embrace by instinct, and we are all in.

Hug means to embrace someone closely in your arms as a sign of affection and caring. Hug also means to accept and support someone. When you hug someone, it is not by accident. It is by design. You are stopping everything to reach out to someone and pull them close. You are singling each other out for support and connection.

When we embrace, there is an exchange of energy. We are literally heart to heart (a very intimate position). Because of this, empaths are a little careful about who they hug. The exchange of energy is palpable, so we want to be careful about what energies are infiltrating our hearts. We will absorb the energy we lay our hearts next to, so we will sidestep and avoid disingenuous and hurtful hugs and huggers.

We hug for healing. Hugs help us to release emotions and relax into the moment. They are reassurances that we will be all right. Embraces reduce stress and promote calm. Hugs reduce anxiety and promote happiness.

“So, how many hugs should you have a day for optimal health? According to the best science, we should have as many as possible if we want to reap the greatest positive effects. Family therapist Virginia Satir once said, ‘We need four hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.’ While that may sound like a lot of hugs, it seems that many hugs are better than not enough.” -Erica Cirino  @

So hug with intention knowing that every embrace is a connection and a gift.




I Want Something Just Like This

End of the year work party. Outside, late afternoon slips into June’s dusky twilight. We congregate in small groups in lawn chairs. Sharing and caring before we drift off into summer activities. And I am thinking of the lyrics “I want something just like this….”

I’ve spent the evening listening to stories. And in so doing, work friends have become just friends. I am amazed how it’s possible to see someone every day but still know so little about them. People gravitate towards empaths with their war stories and with their heartaches. And we listen. We listen hard. We listen open. We see the wounds that will turn into scars. I hear the story of the woman who had 3 miscarriages before her child was born. I hear the story of the woman with the alcoholic father who she rarely sees and how she nurtures her children with food from their garden, and they bake in the kitchen together. I talk with the woman whose old dog is dying, and she worries about his pain. I talk to the man who is very ill, and we both know that this will be his last work party. And all of these heartaches get released into the cool evening air as I listen and we connect. And I keep thinking, “I want something just like this….”

When people tell you their stories, they give you a gift. A very personal gift of trusting you with something personal and important. The key for an empath is to let them be them and let you be you. You will feel their feelings, but don’t own them. They are not yours to take on. You can share in the moment and forge a deep connection. Take it in, but don’t take it away. Honor the telling. Honor the told. Part of healing is telling your story. It leads to resiliency. Empaths aid healing and resiliency. What better calling is there than that? So “I want something just like this….”

I’ve been reading books of old
The legends and the myths
Achilles and his gold
Hercules and his gifts
Spiderman’s control
And Batman with his fists
And clearly I don’t see myself upon that list
But she said, where’d you wanna go?
How much you wanna risk?
I’m not looking for somebody
With some superhuman gifts
Some superhero
Some fairytale bliss
Just something I can turn to
Somebody I can kiss
I want something just like this
                     ~ Coldplay, The Chainsmokers



When You Tell Your Story

We are all walking histories with stories to tell. Memorable stories. Meaningful stories. Heartfelt stories. Funny stories. Stories of family, of friends, of pets. Stories of missteps and misadventures. Stories of how our hearts broke and how they got repaired. Stories of lessons learned the hard way. Milestone stories that remain markers on our timelines.

Stories tell a history and let us make an instant connection. Stories dissolve walls. We can let down our guard when we tell our story (because we control the flow of information – how much, how little). And stories breed more stories. The listener may become the storyteller, and the roles may switch back and forth as we recognize, the oh, you too? connection with someone else. For we like to be unique but not singular. We are one of kind but have had many of the same experiences.

When you tell someone a story, you give them a gift, but you also get something in return. You get empathy and understanding. You get that someone gets it. And you may get some relief or peace just by the telling of it.

To illustrate, I will tell you my story of Mia Sophia, my first dog.  I got my first dog well into adulthood. My son was not talking by age 3, and we were very worried. The suggestion arose that a dog might help him with communication and talking – a therapy dog of sorts. So we researched breeds and bought an adorable Cairn terrier and named her Mia Sophia. Cairn terriers are small friendly dogs that will hold their ground. Well, to make a long story short, our son ignored the dog completely. And Mia Sophia ended up having epilepsy. So our “therapy dog” herself was quite sick. Are you laughing and crying at the same time? (We were.) If you’re a parent, you will connect with the worried part. If you were a late talker, you will connect with the speech part. If you’re the owner of an epileptic dog, you will connect with the seizures part. Etc. This story transitions to a deeper discussion, and a connection will be forged between two strangers having shared it.

The most poignant story I have ever read is also the shortest. In a contest to write a six word story, here’s the winner. (Sorry, don’t recall author’s name.) Baby shoes for sale, never worn. Ooh. Instant empathy.



Empath On Board

Same boat syndrome. When you are (often unexpectedly) in the same situation as someone else. A synchronicity of sorts. You are stuck with a stranger in a situation and temporarily bond. And I can tell you, it’s good to have an empath in the boat. And often you are the empath in the boat.

Being “in the same boat” means “sharing a particular experience or circumstance with someone else.” ( It’s a metaphor for a shared experience. When we are stuck in the same boat, it creates instant connection due to circumstance. We are experiencing the same event and likely the same emotions attached to the event. Our roles at the time may be different, but our understanding of the situation will be similar.

Being in the same boat forces instant connection, and empaths are good at connection. Really good. We can make the necessary instant emotional connection in our boat to help navigate through the unknown waters. We can read a situation quickly and feel the emotional state of our new companion(s). When we can emotionally connect with the other(s) in the boat, it makes us stronger. And the only way out of the situation is through it. So we listen, we talk, we support, we plan, and most importantly, we HOPE – together.

In the same boat connections are often born in hospitals, offices, schools, classes, foreign countries, you add your own. Same boat connections are born when we are in an unfamiliar situation and so is someone else. It’s when we meet someone in a hospital, and we share the same worry. It’s when we get lost in a foreign country, and we meet another traveler. It’s when we go to a new class, and we meet another newbie to share our perceptions. It’s when our family is falling apart, and we talk with someone who is also experiencing the same personal tragedy. The connections are real, often urgent, and necessary for coping. It’s a time when we cut through the crap, and go straight to the heart of the matter because there isn’t time not to.

In the same boat connections let us bond quickly and strongly with another. And though the situation is temporary, the experience and shared words will help to sustain us long after we’re out of the boat.