I received an unexpected gift last weekend- I ran into a dear friend who I had not seen in years.
To give you some background, he and I used to consider each other as “sista from anotha mista” and “brotha from anotha motha”. Oddly, we have always lived very parallel lives hence our fitting names for one another.
When my boyfriend of seven years and I broke up, this friend and I became two peas in a pod. He helped me so much during this life changing transition. We spent lots of time together and talked non-stop daily. At the same time he began to date a girl who would end up breaking his heart with her lies and deceit. We became each other’s crutches at this time and would be that for one another for a long while. At some point, we both began to separate from one another for different reasons and we hadn’t spoken to each other since.
Fast forward about four years and we are standing a few feet away from one another at a local coffee shop. I had decided to get out of the house and make time to write my memoir and then in walked my friend. He didn’t see me at first, so it was up to me to make it known I was there. As soon as I saw him look my direction, I smiled and waved. Thankfully, he smiled, walked over and we hugged. Because things had changed suddenly and strangely, neither of us knew how the other might receive the other’s unexpected presence and fortunately, we were both so delighted to see one another.
I wanted to know how he had been, what he was up to and if he was happy. So naturally, I began to allow my inquisitive side to come out. I discovered that he had just become a father –a FATHER- for the second time two days prior and that he was here getting his wife- WIFE- some breakfast upon her request. He gleamed and beamed sharing with me about his family, how much he loved his daughter and newborn son, and his new life with an incredibly supportive wife. As he shared, I had anxiety building in my stomach, the typical indication that I had a question that needed to be asked. I often get this in session with clients and I have learned to NEVER ignore this, it is often the question they have always needed to be asked.
So I asked him, did you share with her your story early on? Did you tell her about where you were from and what your life had been? I asked because as I mentioned before, we lived parallel lives. We both grew up in very neglectful, shame-filled homes. I knew just how terrifying it was to share this part of ourselves yet I also knew the endless benefits of doing so. When he answered I could have cried. He said yes, that he had decided when he ended things for good with his ex, he knew he had to stop being ashamed, to stop trying to fit in rather than be himself. He stated that beside his wedding day and the birth of both children, this was the best day of his life- the day he unapologetically accepted himself.
As he continued on, I knew that even though we had not been in each other’s lives for years, we still experienced similar things. We had both taken time to be single, to get real honest and to find ourselves. We determined what we needed and what we deserved. We decided to go forward in the world authentically knowing that this would call upon the relationships we were looking for.
He eventually asked me about how I was doing and my life. He was just as happy to see me gleam and beam sharing where I am now and how I got here. I was able to explain what I do in my day to day and how my private practice was born from the work I had done with myself. In finding myself- the authentic, raw, and real Lily, I found what I was capable of, what I deserved, and then was able to go forth and get it. I continue to see daily how powerful we are when we can find our authentic selves; that when we shine from this place, we can achieve everything we want. He couldn’t agree more and he continued to validate my philosophy and new way of life through his story.
When we know ourselves, we can then make the choice to honor ourselves. I do believe a lot of what was holding me back from living the life I needed and desired was my unwillingness to accept myself wholeheartedly and value all parts of me. I carried such shame from the home and dysfunction I was raised in. So did he. We both wanted more. We both held deep shame. Yet, we both made intentional choices to let go of the shame, to refuse to hide, and to come out of our closets to be us 100%.
Every day that I choose to be myself, is another day that I am happy, healthy, and validated that I am enough. This gift of seeing him reminded me of the work I have done and why my intentional choices were the best things I could have ever done. It made my heart sing hearing that he too was in such a great place, seeing that we both had come full circle! It is my hope you receive a gift like this today.
If this story resonated with you; if you found a yearning in yourself to do the same, I would love to help you. Helping others explore and uncover their authentic selves is a passion of mine as I have seen just how powerful and rewarding it is.
Until next time,
Dr. Lily A. Zehner, MFT-C is a therapist who specializes in sex, intimacy, and relationships. Her private practice is located in Denver where she helps others reach their fullest relational and sexual potential. To learn more about her and her services, please feel free to take a look around her website.