I don't often share the personal emails and letters I receive from my River Story™ tribe, but I think maybe it's time to start. Part of me has felt super protective over their words and thoughts, because I know, firsthand, how unforgiving the audience of on-lookers can be when you're all banged up, and vulnerable, in the arena.
But this Theodore Roosevelt quote keeps showing up in my days lately, and I feel like it's time I push some of these incredible words written by these brave and beautiful souls, out of the nest.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
Sure, there might be some chatter among the critics, but my pack is strong, brave, and beautiful, and this has never been about hiding.
Thank you, Melanie, for these words. Thank you for laughing and crying with me in the waters. Thank you for making all of this worth every crazy hurdle. I may never get rich from this work, but in a million ways, I am swimming in gold. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
I wanted to reach out to you. There is something I'd like to share.
A couple of days ago I received 25 prints from artifact of my river story.
I finally got to hold my river story photos in my hands.
Michelle I want to say thank you. For the first time since I lost my brother I could see from my river story how strong I really am.
I was proud for the first time of that girl in those photos- I felt a happiness course through my body. Everyone always says to me and my family how strong we are. And after holding these photos, I felt that about my own soul and I cried, I let so many tears pour. And it was this strange mixture of sadness for the amount of pain I know I went through and feel to this day but so so much more happiness for how far I've come, for who that girl in those pictures has become.
If Eddie were here he would scoop me up, squeeze me, he would smile laugh and tell me how wonderful I am.
The thing is, I always nod and accept people's kind words, and think that if they were in this position they would have to do it too, that choices don't come with this life and you are made to be strong, and that may be true. But those photos show me a wonderful light in my heart and I know my story is going to be okay. They proved to me what everyone always said but I never gave myself credit for which is that I am strong, I am beautiful, and I am making this life work for me regardless of the pain.
The moment I found your work you opened this part of my soul that seemed stuck. I read your words and follow your stories, I am inspired and I love myself more because of them. I see this sea of women with all this beauty- beauty that is real and not posed- raw and truthful, a string of souls with all their own unique experiences and journeys. It makes me proud to be touched by your journey Michelle, and to have you be interwoven in my own.
When I close my eyes and place myself back on that day, I can see my brother laughing and playing around the waters, scooping me up with love as I mentioned earlier, telling me how proud he is, and to keep going.
And you helped give me this. And for that I will forever be grateful. I have a long life to live without him, and I am going to live it with strength and love and I know I can, and you were a part of helping me realize this.
Thank you for this.