For as long as I have known Shannon Hogan Cohen, she has been a collector of stories. Never have our conversations been small talk or shallow pleasantries. She’s always been intensely interested in deeper connections. We mutually appreciate that the world we live in requires underwhelming interactions on a daily basis if we are to remain sane. But at least when she and I are together, we delight in the fact we can hop right over those conventional social norms.
Shannon has always had an unbeatable curiosity. She sincerely, genuinely, wants to understand a person’s personal history. So when she approached me a few years ago with her book project, collecting and sharing stories from brave women who are willing to vulnerable and open, I was eager to support her in her goals, and cheer her on as she brought her vision to life. That was all well and good until, she later mentioned she wanted to include me in the book. What?!? I was baffled. Me? Any story from my life seemed trite compared to women who have suffered tremendously, challenged educational, religious and social mores, survived traumas, and lived decades longer than I have. Yet perhaps I didn’t truly understand the relevance of my story until she sat down to interview me.
Shannon arrived at my office with sweet treats and tea. She knows my love language. She helped me feel at ease and relaxed, even as I kept nervously glancing at her tape recorder. This woman had her list of stimulating questions, which generated insights, laughter, cuss words and tears. I was surprised that she was able to extract personal details about my life that I had glossed over. I was nervous to reveal details about my more private pains: my parents, my ex, my childhood. I was acutely aware that did not want to hurt, offend or inaccurately describe anything. And that’s when it hit me – these were MY wounds, MY perceptions, MY story to share. That revelation helped me to see that I was coming full circle as a woman.
Near the end of the interview, Shannon asked me, “Any regrets?” I was so quick to answer, “Not even one!” What was amazing to me is that I discovered in our conversation that every choice I made in my life led to the next choice. Each part of my personality actually prepared me for the next stage in my development. Talking too much in class resulted in getting detentions in school, yet also helped me determine I wanted a career where I could talk as much as I want. Years of working in nonprofit settings urged me to pursue graduate school. My desire to study psychology led to me to create a holistic wellness center. Tolerating the painful parts of my life allowed me to access tremendous love and healing in adulthood. Because of my first unhealthy marriage, I now deeply appreciate my healthy marriage. I partner with my husband with my heart wide open. I truly know how lucky I am to have found him for our powerful connection and the beautiful family we created together.
I am a fiercely loyal person. I prefer deep connections and friendships that last a lifetime. I am also private and a really good listener. Sometimes that combination puts me in a position of not sharing as much as I could. It isn’t intentional, but I see the pattern. My takeaway from this experience is that being open can’t help but inspire others, but it also inspired me in the process. Guided by Shannon’s insight and inquisitiveness, I was able to explore my resolve and resilience in a way I had never considered before our interview.
This is what Shannon does best. She helped me share my story without judging the details or outcome. She helped me to see that the healing starts with myself. That in turn inspired me to encourage others to share their story. Recently I had a number of female clients experience the terror and trauma of various levels of sexual assault. Many of them are adolescents, still determining who they are as evolving young women. I encouraged them to share their stories (at the level appropriate to their age and healing) in a way that was empowering and would challenge our cultural norms. I thank Shannon for helping me see that even something private can be shared in a thoughtful way that promotes healing.
S.H.E. has truly been a labor of love. I have observed my dear confidant, Shannon ricochet from eager to angered, ambitious to emptied, sometimes in a matter of minutes. I’ve watched her cry like a baby, full of frustration because things were not going exactly as she determined they would/should. I’ve answered panicked phone calls, emails and texts, at all hours of the day and night – reassuring her it would all be worth it in the end.
I’ve seen her squeal with delight, cheer herself on, and make the impossible, possible. I have watched her expand her perfect little project to include more women and artists, and tech people, and publicity helpers (get ready for book two, fans!). I am grateful for the small part my chapter may have in empowering someone else, even if it’s only the book’s fearless author! She and I are in this journey together. All of us are, really! Cheers to my dear friend, Shannon and her quest for promoting empowerment and healing.