An excerpt from Big Love: The Power of Living with a Wide-Open Heart. Author and Facebook sensation Scott Stabile’s parents were murdered when he was fourteen. Nine years later, his brother died of a heroin overdose. Soon after that, Scott joined a cult that dominated his life for thirteen years. Through it all, he became evermore committed to living his life from love. In each chapter of his new book Big Love: The Power of Living with a Wide-Open Heart, Scott shares a personal experience that pulled him from his center and the ways in which he brought himself back to peace, and to love. While some of his experiences are extraordinary, like extricating himself from a cult after 13 years, most of the stories reflect on everyday challenges we can all relate to, like the weight of shame, the search for happiness, and the struggle to be authentic.
We hope you’ll enjoy this short excerpt from the book.
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I was fourteen when my parents were shot and killed in their Detroit fruit market. Mary’s Market. That’s what the sign said when they bought the store many years before, so they stuck with the name. All their customers called my mom Mary, even though her name was Camille. She never corrected them. My dad, James, was Jimmy to all. Jimmy and Camille Stabile. Fifty-eight and fifty-six years old. Married for thirty-seven years. Parents to seven children. Murdered on a Monday morning in September.
I was interviewed for the Home podcast recently, and one of the hosts asked me if it was still difficult to talk about what happened to my parents, all these years later. I told her, “Usually no, but sometimes, yes.” It depends on the context of the conversation and how I’m feeling right then. Even today, at times, more than thirty years later, I’m heavy with grief over the fact that they’re gone and the way they died. I mourn for the brutality of their deaths and the fear they must have felt in those final moments. I mourn for the relationship I never got to have with them as a teenager and adult, and for everything they never got to experience with me. I mourn being an orphan. I mourn the unfairness of it all.
What’s so much different now that I’m older is that I allow the grief to enter, and stay as long as it needs, even when it’s darkening my mind and ripping at my heart. Even when the pain of it scares me. I don’t pretend I’m not feeling it, and usually (but not always) don’t distract myself to keep from taking in its fullness. Eventually, it moves through me. That’s how emotions are designed. They let go of us when we stop holding on to them. And I don’t live my life anymore as though I’m keeping a big secret or running from a deeper truth. I’m no longer ashamed of my past. That freedom alone makes feeling the pain worth it.
We’re all living with emotional pain — often deep pain — and whether or not we do it consciously, many of us bury much of it inside. Where it feeds freely on our potential for happiness. Where it keeps us from opening up to the breadth of our truth. Where it prevents us from living within the beauty of our freedom. Buried but present. Always present.
Maybe it’s time to dig some of it up?
We all have our reasons for burying our pain, but at the core it comes down to fear. Fear of facing the truth of what we’ve done or endured, the truth of just how dark our darkness is, and the fear that we can’t survive it. That it will destroy us. But it won’t. Whatever it is, we can survive it; we’ve already survived it.
But what if now is the time to do more than simply survive? What if now is the time to live in a more conscious, deliberate way? What if now is the time to let the healing begin, for real?
Healing isn’t possible within denial and fear. It’s only possible within openness and honesty, within our willingness to look at the truth of our reality, past and present, and to accept it for what it is without letting it define who we are right now. We are not our struggles, or our heartbreak. We are not the actions we’ve taken, or the assaults we’ve endured. Yes, our experiences influence how we grow and who we grow into. But ultimately, who we are is who we decide to be, because of and despite everything we’ve been through. Our power lives in choice. We can choose to face our pain without judgment, without letting it shut us down to our growth. If we decide to. And we can commit to loving ourselves through it all. As much as possible, no matter what. Love — self-love — transforms. This is how we create a safe place inside ourselves, to heal.
When I started to allow for the pain of losing my parents, I didn’t just awaken to profound levels of grief that needed to be felt so that it could be released. I was also able to see how their death — by far the most tragic and transformative event in my life — has helped me grow into a more independent, compassionate, and loving man than I might have been otherwise. I’m not at all thankful they died, and I could never view their murders as a blessing, but I am grateful to have grown stronger because of their death. And I hope that my resilience helps others to see that growth and healing are possible, regardless of circumstance. There are gifts in even our greatest sorrows, if we’re willing to acknowledge them. If we’re willing to work at seeing them.
As a guy who posts lots of pretty pictures with quotes about being yourself and seeking happiness and love, love, love, I need to be clear about something: it’s easy to say just be or just love, and my experience with those realities — though still more limited than I would like — is powerful beyond measure, but getting there is difficult. One of the hardest things we’re likely to attempt in our lifetime. Staying there is even harder. It takes more than just wanting to be blissed out on peace and love, or we’d all be gurus. It takes work. Hard, important, necessary work.
Much of that work begins and ends with our pain. It begins and ends in those painful truths we try to ignore, the ones so many of us have masterfully buried. The sooner we take out our shovels and start to dig, the sooner we invite into our lives a new kind of hope, a new taste of freedom. It’s not easy. It hurts, but it’s worth it. It’s so worth it.
What does that work look like? It looks like whatever it takes to get us to feel, reflect on, and accept whatever we’ve seen, done, or experienced, as well as the reality of our lives in the present. For some, meditation works, or therapy, or yoga, or self-help books, or art. For others, it’s support groups, or ayahuasca journeys, or music, or a combination of several or all these things, and so much more. It comes down to figuring out what works for us and giving our intention and energy
I use writing as a tool to process my pain. The act of spilling my thoughts and feelings onto a page, whether or not that page is to be seen by others, offers me a powerful and important outlet for my darkness. I read books, listen to podcasts, and watch talks that inspire me to open up a little more, to dig a little deeper. I dance my ass off all the time in my apartment to release energy. I engage in difficult conversations with my partner and family and friends to work through issues and to grow both personally and interpersonally. I connect with my social media communities, especially on Facebook, to share my experiences in an honest way with others who want to share their stories and work at creating the possibility of healing themselves. Others who want to dig rather than keep things buried.
I don’t do all these things all the time. Who wants to have difficult conversations every day? Not me. Sometimes I just melt into the sofa, lose myself in TV, and shovel chips and ice cream into my mouth. Sometimes I hide, or escape, or numb myself for a bit. But I always resurface and get back to work, because I’m dedicated to my spiritual growth, and to my happiness. I’m dedicated to myself.
Beyond everything else, growth requires dedication. Healing demands commitment. No number of books or podcasts or workshops will make a difference if we’re not committed to healing ourselves. And when we open ourselves to look at our pain for real, our pain will present itself. For real. It’s usually not a very pretty picture. I continue to learn things about myself that I wish weren’t true. I see new depths to my anger, and envy, and sadness. New proof all the time that I can be much less kind and generous than I desire and a much bigger asshole than I’d ever want to be. The work of awareness and consciousness is a process, and it’s endless.
I’m certain I still haven’t unburied all the pain around my parents’ death, or the pain I carry regarding my relationship with them while they were alive. I never liked my dad, and though I loved my mom, I resented both my parents for their lack of interest in my life. I wanted them to care more about me. I wanted them to see me. I may never expose all the wounds I’ve got around them, and that’s okay. I’m making progress. I’m opening. I’m growing. This book is another exercise in digging, in sharing my story so that it might support deeper healing for myself, and maybe, if I’m lucky, inspire it in others. That’s one of the many beautiful benefits of facing your pain: whether or not you intend to, you’re likely to inspire others to look at their own pain more openly and courageously. Along with digging yourself into a more fully realized life, you end up passing out shovels to others, too.
I’ve been digging for a while now, and I’ll continue to dig, because I want to invite any opportunity for deeper healing. I want to face the full expression of myself, past to present, with acceptance and love. Always more love. I need only to look at how far I’ve come to know it’s possible. I need only to consider my life right now to understand the transformational power of this kind of work. I will continue to explore all the possibilities of my growth, and to live as truthfully as possible. Because I want, more than anything, to be free.
Scott Stabile is the author of Big Love. His inspirational posts and videos have attracted a huge and devoted social media following, including nearly 360K Facebook fans and counting. A regular contributor to the Huffington Post, he lives in Michigan and conducts personal empowerment workshops around the world. Visit him online at: www.scottstabile.com.
Excerpted from the book Big Love: The Power of Living with a Wide-Open Heart. Copyright ©2017 by Scott Stabile. Printed with permission from New World Library — www.newworldlibrary.com.