Jenelle started me thinking about stories with her post last week. Awhile back I wrote a post that I was too embarrassed to publish, due to the vulnerability involved in sharing my lack of confidence at the time.  In light of the confidence I’ve gained in recent months, I’d like to share it here now, with some new insights.

I can see her.

Confident. Calm. Kind. Self-assured. Unassuming. Strong. Inviting. Gracious. Intelligent. Witty. Playful. Peaceful. Attractive. Insightful. Carefree.

She’s standing on the corner, cane in hand, waiting to cross, and she looks like she knows where she’s going. She’s approachable and aware. She accepts people the way she has accepted herself, fully. There is a lightness in her footsteps because she doesn’t take herself too seriously. She sees life as an adventure and not an emergency.

I can see her.

She’s the woman I want to be, and it seems she’s just out of reach. I see her in my friends and family, in their confidence and authenticity and wisdom, and I admire them from afar.

This woman. She’s more than an image. She’s on my radar, but she has yet to surface.

Recently, I glanced back at one of my first posts I wrote 4 years ago, “Normal” and I realized I can hardly relate to it anymore.  That desire to be “normal” has passed away. It has been replaced by a desire to be a better picture of abnormal. To somehow be extraordinary, like the heroines in movies and protagonists in novels.

I know these characters aren’t perfect, but they are people I want to be around. People like my friend Louise, who happens to be blind, who I’ve mentioned before.  She’s intelligent, compassionate, kind, has a sense of humor, is adorable and has this incredible Australian accent. I know she uses her cane everywhere — even in her house — and I picture her with her 2 little girls, confident at the park and around town.  Confident with her cane.  Confident in her own skin.

I know that confidence is somewhere in me too.  But I usually don’t feel it when I walk down the street. I sometimes stumble or jab myself in the ribs with my cane, and in those moments I feel awkward and about as far from graceful as a bobblehead trying to maneuver swiftly off the CEO’s desk.

And maybe that’s where my blockage lies. In the picturing. When I envision Louise’s life, I don’t account for the times she has appeared anything less than completely competent. I never picture those times she appeared lost. Or felt it.

I like the endings of books and movies, when the character has developed into someone of substance, and I am quick to forget the cringe-worthy moments where they screwed up and made fools of themselves.

 I think, to a certain extent, we all want to be the courageous protagonist. That inner-city school teacher who, defying all odds, presses forward and changes the lives of kids, and ultimately the whole school system.

But we don’t necessarily want to deal with all the inner city kids who cuss at us and slash our tires at the beginning of the movie. Or the middle. Or sometimes still near the end.

I never wrote an ending to that post because it didn’t feel like it had an ending.  I still don’t feel like I’ve “arrived”; maybe that’s just the myth of movies and stories and no one ever really feels like they’ve developed into the triumphant protagonist.  But at least now I feel like I’ve put substantial effort into the middle of the movie. Or as Brene Brown calls it, “day two,” in her new book, “Rising Strong,”which empowers readers to own our stories, and in turn, write our own endings.

I took a huge step. I flew to California, worked my butt off in training, and am continuing to work hard with Roja at home.


Joy and Roja standing in the middle of a redwood tree at Muir Woods.

I’m learning that inner confidence doesn’t just form out of thin air. And it doesn’t even come from a guide dog. It takes some kind of sacrifice and letting go.  Letting go of the past, of the future, of images you’ve clung tightly to for many years.  It’s the middle of the movie — the part where the inner city teacher shows up to spend extra time with his students even though they’re a pain in the ass.  The teacher continues to show up every day because he has confidence in the process, and its ability to make a difference over time.

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10 thoughts on “The Middle of Our Stories

  1. Poignant. Your honest writing soared, Joy. There is always so much more of the middle than the start or finish, iit reminds me of a quip. At cemetaries, you’re reading the headstones and you see the birth and death dates, but the most important thing about the person is the life in the dash. You’re putting much life in your dash!

    Great photo at Muir Woods. I want to go back there so bad.

  2. Joy, I’ve truly enjoyed reading your posts. I loved reading of your first meeting with Roja. How you felt maybe she doesn’t like you because she was the personality you requested in a guide dog. How vulnerable you are and are willing to share that side with the rest of us. And now you are coming to realize that you are still in production. The masterpiece you are becoming, like all of us, takes time to develop. And you’re learning to appreciate the journey. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Joy, it was so nice meeting you and Roja today at the grocery store. I loved reading the blog about you and Roja. Many blessings to you.


    • Thanks Laura! You’re my first grocery store reader! 🙂 (I think I’ve given Roja’s card out a handful of times and I always wonder if anyone will actually look it up! Glad you enjoyed the read!

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