To live an epic life is to find ways to connect your seemingly small existence to some bigger truth, some deeper meaning. It’s to use your life as a door that opens onto the human condition; to understand that what plagues you, plagues others. What brings you joy, brings joy to others. – Justine Musk
Have you ever experienced reading the exact right thing at the exact right time? I experienced that this morning. I was checking out Justine Musk’s blog and was completely floored. I found her post, The Epic Feminine: Welcome To The Epic Story Of Your Life (+How To Make It A Good One)
In it, Musk discusses her response to a personal essay she had published in Marie Claire Magazine. She explains the essay was about, “very roughly speaking, the fall of my marriage and the rise of my sense of self.” She talks about being so scared the night she sent the essay to the editor that she almost emailed the editor to ask if she could take it back. She reports being so terrified before it was published that she dissolved into tears in the arms of her boyfriend.
Musk goes on to describe what she learned through publishing the essay. She states [prior to publishing the essay], “I thought my experience was mine alone. Through the act of putting it into a story, and then putting it out there, I tapped into something more more universal, and my eyes opened wider as a result.” She continues and defines the concept of an epic life saying, “To live an epic life is to find ways to connect your seemingly small existence to some bigger truth, some deeper meaning.” In synthesizing the importance of living epically, and relating it to the publication of her essay, she declares, [When we tell our stories] we see how the themes of our respective lives link up with each other and say something about the culture at large. My tiny individual consciousness merges with your individual consciousness; as a result, our consciousness expands. … Telling your story is a transformative act.”
The post resonates with me on many levels.
The publication of my personal essay The Unspeakable Gift will occur in the Washingtonian next week. It is the story of participating in a study of Turner syndrome at the National Institutes of Health. As the publication date has drawn near, I have found myself wondering if I really want to share the story. Do I really want to talk about the experience? I have cried. My hands have shaken. My stomach hurt as I proofed the galleys.
It is the first time this story will be shared with such a wide audience. The essay is included in my memoir, but the memoir has currently only enjoyed a small readership. I do not know what the larger response will be. In a writing class that read an early draft of the essay, a writer friend responded to the draft by saying she understood her daughter who had undergone open heart surgery at the age of nine better after reading the essay. She had tears in her eyes as she shared. That moment propels my strength through my heart-pounding fear.
I agree with Musk about the power of sharing our stories. I believe consciousness expands. Our capacity for compassion grows when we connect with one another. We are stronger when we reach out. Individual truths explode to include the nuanced beauty of our individual journeys when we put it out there. Ultimately, that is why I wrote the essay.
Musk asserts that to live out your story as an epic story is to live with intention. She explains, “Part of that intention includes opening up to the other people and bringing them into your story and mingling your story with theirs.” In extending Musk’s thought that epic living flies in the face of pain, isolation, and shame, I believe it takes courage to mingle stories. Just as mingling stories means to risk being hurt, misunderstood, silenced, and rejected, mingling stories also means connection to greater love. That is the essence of living the epic life for me – connecting to greater love.