The Space In-Between: The Silver Lining of a Toothless Smile

There are countless ways, every day, we have an opportunity to do something we feel called to do, having no clue of how far that act will carry on into the life of someone else. This story begins with the blog I wrote in May 2014, “Top 5 Lessons Learned from Losing my Two Front Teeth” written with hopes to shine some light (and laughter) on the loss of my two front teeth. Since I referenced Brene Brown and her book, “The Gift of Imperfection” in my story, I tweeted it to Brene, fingers crossed she would read it. Not only did she praise me for my strength but she graciously re-tweeted to it all her followers! As a result, a number of people around the world found my story and reached out to thank me for my vulnerability. Talk about a “Gift” coming from my “Imperfection”. As I always say, people tend to show up as Silver Linings in our life. The story below was written by Kim Haller, (@xperiencelife22), a 43 year old Denver Resident who is one of Brene’s twitter followers that connected with my toothless smile.

“Just a over two months ago I was scrolling through my Twitter feed and came across a post from well-known speaker and author Brene Brown with a link to a blog entitled “Lessons Learned From Losing My Two Front Teeth.” I was immediately intrigued as I myself lost my two front teeth to a softball injury in the late 1990’s. I clicked the link expecting mostly an interesting read – it turned into something much more meaningful. After reading the story twice, I was struck at how Carlyn turned a traumatic injury and healing process into something positive and fun! Since my injury, I’ve felt embarrassed- like I was abnormal and have tried to hide the fact that I wear a partial. Carlyn’s story touched something deep in my heart…perhaps it was time for me to have a change in attitude as well. After all, my missing teeth are a part of me, part of who I am. Just for kicks, I opened Carlyn’s Twitter profile and was amazed to see she lives in Denver! I mean, really – what are the odds?!? I sent her a message and shared that I was also missing my teeth. She immediately suggested we meet and take a picture of our toothless smiles. In a total out of character response I said, “I’m game!” We made plans to meet the night before she got her permanent bridge, the last night she would eat with her teeth out.

I’ve been wearing a partial for 17 years. The dental work is very expensive and I’ve lacked motivation to make it a priority. Only now I realize that I held a deep belief that I wasn’t beautiful before I lost my teeth, so why bother to get them fixed. On the day before we met, I took a toothless selfie and sent it to Carlyn. Her response – “OMG UR AMAZING – & Beautiful!” and that part blew my mind. I’ve been journeying towards accepting that I am beautiful – her response was like the final flip of the switch, I actually began to believe it and to accept it in my own heart.

Not a risk taker by nature, meeting Carlyn in person was very much out of my comfort zone. However, my anxieties were put to rest as she greeted me with her big smile and hug. After just a few minutes she no longer felt like a stranger. Her vivacious spirit and love for life are contagious! She suggested grabbing $1 tacos around the corner, which gave us time to get to know each other and eat good food, her’s with her teeth out. As we were getting ready to leave, I did something I’d never done on purpose in public – I removed my partial (my temporary two front teeth)! We took a beautiful picture both toothless and with teeth in!

I left that evening feeling inspired, accepted, encouraged and filled in my spirit.
Anais Nin said: “Each friend represents a world in us, a world not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.”
Carlyn is no longer a stranger, but a friend. A friend brought into my life by the space in between my two eye teeth 🙂 Her arrival in my life has indeed helped open a new part of my world. We’ve only known one another a couple months, but I know we will continue to be less stranger and more friend…
Thank you, Carlyn for the courage to share your story. It has inspired in me the courage to share mine.

There is a lot to learn from this story. First, I learned that by gifting the world with my story, I received the gift of amazing friendship (s) in return. What if I had allowed FEAR to hold me back from writing my blog? Would we have met? Another beautiful reminder is that we connect with people for a purpose & it is always on time. I had no idea the transformation process Kim had begun only months before our meeting and I’m honored to be a part of her journey. Finally, just like the act of living true to myself pushed me into the lives of those that were meant to read my story, the same can be said for the small act of encouraging another and how it can (gently) push them outside their perceived limitations to take on challenges they never thought possible. I thank Kim for surprising me with this beautiful- and vulnerable story. However, I am even more proud that through this experience, she is realizing that only her mind holds her back her from being the version of herself she wishes to be. Telling ourselves we “can’t” is a sure way to feel unworthy and keep us from accomplishing a goal. So… I was amazed when Kim, someone who is a tad shy and working hard to shed some weight, decided to sign up for my HIKE MS event, a hike up Keystone Mountain (over 10K ft in elevation) to raise money for Multiple Sclerosis, a cause close to my heart due to a personal diagnosis 16 years ago. There were a couple hikes to choose from and Kim chose to do the 2 miler route believing this was all she could handle. But through the encouragement of me and my awesome team mates, not only did she conquer the 6 mile route, she did it all by herself, never giving up on what she knew, deep down, she could achieve, no matter how long it took her, no matter how hard it seemed!

Cheers to the Silver Lining of a Toothless Smile!

Has Social Media Changed the Art of Conversation — PART 2

The other day I wrote a story about bumping into a friend I hadn’t seen in a year – and how being Facebook Friends influenced our initial conversation. My intention was not to cast a shadow over our ability to constantly keep our friends and family up to date on our latest endeavors but rather get you thinking about what ISN’T being said due to the amount of information we post to our people on a daily basis – check it out:  Has Social Media Changed the Art of Conversation

BUT– my attempt to “challenge” the Art of Conversation wouldn’t be fair if I didn’t highlight the flip side of Facebook and how it actually creates topics of conversation, rather than assumptions. You see, the VERY SAME DAY I had the AH HA moment questioning what to ask my friend knowing what she’d shared on FB, I also had another AH HA moment, and that is, sometimes social media opens the flood gates, inviting in facts on friends we would never know, or think to ask, in an initial conversation. Hence, Social Media enhances the Art of Conversation. My story goes like this…

While soaking up the sunshine and bouncing around to the beats at music festival in Denver, CO, I met a girl named Emery.  She was friends with the same girl I wrote about in the first blog. With feathers in her ear and smile on her face, I instantly felt drawn to start chatting with her. Having an organic conversation with a “stranger” is one of my favorite things to do. Literally. I love asking questions, learning people’s stories, exploring a new connection.  She happily told me the story of her recent move from Tampa, FL to Boulder, CO to live closer to her sisters. Ah- Tampa! This opened up room for me to share with her that I have a very dear friend that lived there for years and loved it! I never mentioned the name of my friend that lived in Tampa but me mentioning this opened the conversation for Emery to tell me even more about her experience while living there.  As the songs continued to play, we continued to dance. And then… out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a guy wearing a tie dyed t shirt that said “Ned Fest”….

Side note: I have a cat named Ned. When I moved to Denver I learned of a music festival called Ned Fest. I jokingly said that if they sell tshirts at this festival I need to go just to get one. This was my first “Ned Fest T Shirt Sighting”!   Being the Stranger to Friend Girl, of course I pushed my way through the crowd just to capture his tshirt in a kodak moment, introduced myself and exchanged a laugh. The guy loved it.  Once I made my way back to Emory, I obviously had to explain why I split to take  a picture of a random guy. Feeling giddy, I told her about my cat, Ned–and, that ironically, I adopted him from the very same girlfriend I’d previously spoken about, the one that loved living in Tampa! It was funny, the way the conversation continued to flow. I know this isn’t making much sense yet, but by the end of this story, it will 🙂

At the end of the festival, I was invited to hang out with Emery and our mutual friends. As we walked to their place, I realized we were headed in the same direction as my car. Since I’d gone out solo that day, it was super serendipitous that my car was parked around the corner from their condo. So, when it was time to leave, Emery offered me a ride back so I didn’t have to walk by myself. This gave us the chance to chat, listen to some good tunes and reflection the fun day! When we said goodbye, I knew somehow I would see this girl again because I wanted to be her friend. I gave her my Stranger to Friend card and told her I’d find her on FB. The next day, I friend-ed her.

Within minutes of me friending her, I received a message: “How do you know Ellen?”   Wait, what?? This goes back to my side note 🙂 You see, the girlfriend that lived in Tampa, the one I adopted Ned from,  was in fact a friend of mine for over 10 years, named Ellen. When initially story swapping, I never thought to mention her name during our conversation! Tampa is a big city so I didn’t think to assume she would know my friend,  who actually now lives in North Carolina.  The whole point of my last article was NOT to assume, but rather to ASK. And here I’d done exactly what I was preaching not to do, assume, but on a completely different level. But now, becoming friends on Facebook, Emery was quick to notice Ellen as a mutual friend. What are the odds, right? In learning this, we instantly had a new common connection AND this opened up even more conversation! Plus, both knowing the same person gave more insight into each other because when you share a friend, you usually share a reason to be friends 🙂

Me, Emory's Sister, Dana & Emory

Me, Emory’s Sister, Dana & Emory

Reality is, this Social Media connection wouldn’t have happened had I not taken the opportunity to get to know Emery. This involved ASKING questions, LISTENING to her responses, LEARNING commonalities and SHARING my own thoughts to continue the conversation. Once again, this is a great example of not only Good People Finding Good People…. but that we truly are, all connected.

How many of you have a similar story of a Small World connection as a result of Social Media? I challenge you, the next time you see someone you’d like to meet, whether their smile or their tshirt grabs your attention, take the opportunity to introduce yourself, to ask them about themselves, to share a story or two. You never know where this conversation will lead.

 

Has Social Media Changed the Art of Conversation?

To ask or not to ask? To assume or not to assume?

social-media-conversation

The other day I had this crazy AH HA moment. I was at a music festival in downtown Denver, CO, flowing through the crowd of colorful people when all of a sudden… I bumped into a girl friend I didn’t know would be there that I hadn’t seen in over a year! We both smiled with excitement and totally hugged it out.  Stepping back, I admired how great she looked and then asked the standard question that two friends ask that haven’t hung out in ages:

“How have you been?”

Only in that moment… without her saying a word, a flash flood of facts began to circle my mind.

Not only was I aware of her move 8 months ago , when she followed her heart across the country to be with her love, but I also felt a tad sad for her with the news that the relationship ended, which is why she was back in town . I was in the know about the super fun week-long cruise she went on with a bunch of her closest friends and the concert she recently rocked out at with her local besties. I knew she became a first time home owner last month.  I could even tell her where she ate donuts last week.

How did I know this? Am I psychic?

No. We are friends on Facebook.

And then I began to go deeper. I wondered what she thought when she saw me? Thinking back to what I had given myself the green light to share over the past 12 months. However, only I, as well as the people involved with me on a more personal level, shared my secret in that I did not update my status with every major life event I’d overcome in the past 12 months. Perhaps people thought I did? But really, who shares everything. I only chose to share, based on my personal standards, what I believed was appropriate. SO, who was I to assume I knew what was going on in her life? Most likely, she only posted what personal information she also felt needed no filter.

Reality was, our conversation kick started with an outline of our lives, bullet points of socially shared information.

How many times have you crossed paths with an old co worker or classmate and didn’t ask as many probing questions about their lives because you assumed the answers due to their status updates?   Or you casually ran into an old friend but tip toed around the big, pink elephant in the room, the life-changing event they posted yet you didn’t know how to bring it up without being inappropriate. Or, maybe you are one of those Facebook Friends that rarely tags a picture of family or checks into a restaurant but instead you scroll the feed keeping up to date on what’s going on with your circle of cyberspace buddies. Now what, do you tell them you visit (face stalked) their page even though your page has the same Profile Picture from last Fall, meaning the face to face friend is oblivious to your own life. These scenarios are new realities we deal with as a result of the influence of Social Media. The art of the conversation has a new normal.

About an hour after my friend and I initially started chatting in the beer line, I decided to share with her all these questions that filled my mind as we walked towards the stage to get our groove on. Did it feel a bit awkward? Yes. BUT, I opened our conversation to discuss all the “status update” details we’d skipped over, lifting the veil of assumption. It also pushed the big, pink elephant out of the way, giving us more room to dance in the sunshine and sing to the live tunes that brought us together in the first place.

So I’m curious, do you allow what you read about your friends to be the backbone of conversation? Do you feel a sense of responsibility to address information you know about someone when you see them? Does it embarrass you to acknowledge all that you know of them from their Facebook feed even though they shared knowing all had the ability to read?

Please scroll down to comment below, I’d love to start a Social Media Conversation 🙂