Real good, content: Meet Shannon Wooten

Real good, content: Meet Shannon Wooten

The older I get, the more I start categorizing ‘favorite people’ as those whom I just really, totally, completely respect.

Shannon Wooten is one of my new favorite people. I have mad respect for her because she’s this powerful pixie who is 110% honest about her life journey. I got to know Shannon first via social media – Instagram, specifically.  I just couldn’t get over just how honest she was in her IG posts and videos about her struggle with infertility, and all the big, small, bold, tiny, younameit emotions she needed to confront with that struggle. In this world where we create these stories about how perfect our lives are and how we are pretty, pretty princesses in our own pretty, pretty kingdoms, Shannon emerged just totally honest. I just loved it. Making that choice with her content is powerful because it’s real.

She’s also a Pittsburgh girl just like me, so perhaps that inner fire comes from fighting the Giant Eagle at Village Square parking lot traffic. (It gets real, real-fast there.) Really though – I think it comes from just an inner fire in her. Few have that.

I want you to know her story and how/why she chooses to tell her story. Meet her in this exclusive interview.

what’s been your relationship with writing? have you always been a writer? did you read a lot or journal or write as a kid? or – did you fall in love with it the older you got? 

Ironically, my relationship to writing has NOT been a good one, mostly because I always felt like I sucked at it. Also, in there are some repressed feelings about a Professor in my Master’s program who may or may not have told me that I was a terrible writer, but blah, blah, blah, about that, and him. 

No. I have not always been a writer nor was I the kid who liked the idea of having a “Pen Pal”. It just seemed like an awful lot of commitment to someone I didn’t know, doing something I didn’t really like, asking things I didn’t really want to ask and a whole lot of “stranger danger”. However, I would say that I am the type of person who finds something they like and will read, read, read, and read, until I can’t possibly learn anything more. 

I’d have to agree that the older I got the more I developed a relationship to writing. There was a point where I took to journaling as means to understand my grief around infertility. I was in such a dark depression surrounding infertility for such a long time that I couldn’t take the pain anymore, and so I went on complete system overload and just shut down. I had read a book, watched a podcast, or talked to a Life Coach – I honestly can’t remember – who suggested I started to journal about what I was feeling and from there it was like releasing the flood gates. I would dare to say that journaling became a gateway drug to my writing addiction. The more I journaled, the more comfortable I felt with my “voice”; and the more at ease I became, the more I had to say. Journaling created an avenue for me to creatively expel my thoughts, make space for them, understand the connection between them and my feelings, and in some ways, give those feelings life – but give me back my power. So, I guess you could say that writing connects me to my creativity, creativity connects me to my feelings, and making space to acknowledge those feelings gives me life.

you are so beautifully honest and raw about your struggle with infertility – how did you (and do you) muster the courage to find the right words? 

WOWZA! Just reading that makes me tear up. Is this a crying writing assignment, because sheesh! No. In all seriousness, I would be willing to admit that I spent the majority of my life trying to be “perfect” and when infertility struck, let’s just say a meltdown occurred.

Infertility was a blinking, bright, unavoidable, and in our case unfixable, reminder of something about me that felt imperfect. I’ll never be the person who tells you, “OH – I’m so grateful infertility happened to us.” Yeah – definitely not going to happen. However, I will admit that infertility put me in contact with all the stories I was holding on to that made me feel like I needed to be perfect. Infertility allowed me to connect to how those ideas of perfection were making it hard to understand who I was, wanted to be, and how to love myself. Long story short, I spent so much of my life prior to and during infertility trying to be perfect that infertility gave me permission to stop, be raw, unedited, and learn to love myself.

I don’t know that I’ve every shared this with anyone other than my husband, but when I think about why I share about our journey with infertility, I think about my niece. She’s almost two years old, and she can’t even say infertility, let alone Aunt Shannon – it comes out something like “NEE-NEE”-  but I do it for her. I never knew what depression was until infertility. I never knew what self-hatred was until infertility. I never knew what questioning your self-worth, femininity, desirability, intelligence, or purpose on this planet was until this disease, and it all happened in a matter of seconds. It changed who I was, and it almost hurt my life. I talk out about infertility because growing up, I never thought having children was going to be a challenge. It always seemed to be something that was on the table. In my mind, it went something like, female + vagina + uterus = baby. Literally, I had zero thoughts about needing sperm at all. The sperm always seemed irrelevant until I found myself spending almost every day in the doctors’ office for four years praying to the Michael Phelps of sperm Gods for Olympic grade swimmers. I speak out on it because I don’t want her, any other female or male, to wake-up one day, go to the doctor, discover they’re “reproductively challenged” and feel like they are nothing. I speak out on the fact that Infertility Sucks, You Don’t, because it does suck. EVERYTHING ABOUT THIS DISEASE F*CKING BLOWS! I know how far down the rabbit hole I went, and I want people to know they’re not alone, they’re not defined by this, and they can make it out on the other side – whatever that looks like for them. Of course, I like to be honest. It’s going to be like shitting a hammer sideways, but it is possible. More importantly, there is someone out there who went through it that understands you, loves you, and doesn’t want to tell you “everything will be all right” – at least not until you’re ready to hear it.

do you edit your thoughts as they pour out of you or do you just lay it all out there, and just edit for grammar and small things? 

Mostly, I put my fingers to the keyboard and let it rip. I realize that probably makes me overly verbose a lot of the time, but I prefer not to be too edit heavy. Yes. I edit for grammar and foul language. I have no problem using the words love and F*ck in likeness, but for the sake of not communicating solely in expletives and realizing that I don’t need to use F*ck every other word, the “colorful language department” is where I make most of my edits. I guess you could say that sometimes I edit for “F*cks-sake”.

any content that’s hard to write or that you worry about what others think – what’s the final thought you think before you press publish on any of your content? 

YIKES! Almost everything that I post involves the “how will people receive this” song and dance. I often tell people that I am not everyone’s cup of whiskey, and it’s because I realize that sometimes I am a bit too much. However, I can say with 110% honesty that when I hit post it’s because I think to myself, “Would I have found this useful 1, 2, 3, or 4 years ago?” If the answer is yes, I post it, baby!

your videos are the JAM – what’s your process? do you have a calendar of topics and you’re working your way through them or do you create that content on the fly as it comes to you? 

Sooo – full disclosure – I used to spend my entire Saturday and Sunday trying to find “perfect” content. This goes back to all that “be perfect” shit that I struggle with – it’s a real pain in the butt. Anywho, I don’t do that anymore. I play like Tinkerbell and fly. Part of my process as a Life Coach is always to remember where I want to come from in my videos. My purpose is Love and Connection. It always has been and it always will be.

When I am ready to go LIVE I make sure I feel really connected to the topic, and, if I don’t, which happens sometimes, I don’t do it. Ultimately, I am inspired by the work that I do with people. Being with someone as a Coach and experiencing their growth is a really inspiring process. Whether it is professional or personal blocks we’re moving out of the way, a lot of the time it brings to mind thoughts and feelings I have about what has worked or not worked for me and so I consider it sharing. If it feels right, and brings me back to that question from the previous question, “Would I have found this useful 1, 2, 3, or 4 years ago?” If the answer is yes, I post it, baby! Ultimately, I am inspired by the work I do, but the content I create is to support the message I want to leave in this world and that is Love and Connection is EVERYTHING. Let’s share. Let’s Love. Let’s Get Connected.

when we lunched a couple of weeks ago, you shared the post-it note strategy with me to capture insights – do you use that process personally? how’s it work and why do you rely on it to capture insights? 

I do use this strategy. In fact, if you were to step foot into my office you would see post-its everywhere –  walls, computer, desk, etc. They’re like little reminders that something sparked an idea, or gave me pause, made me think, or caused me to feel passionate and it deserves attention. So often we’re moving from one thing, to the next thing, to the next thing, that that mindset becomes our way of life. I also believe that it is this way of being that leaves us unfulfilled. It’s the nature of life these days to always be the person who works the hardest and can fit the most into a day, and in doing that we never bother to pause and be with an idea, feeling, or suggestion that jazzes us.

I, myself, am very guilty of jumping from thing, to thing, to thing, to keep me going, but it doesn’t satisfy me. My creativity satisfies me. My heart lives in my creativity, so while I’m busy jumping from “thing to thing” I find that post-its are what allow me to circle-back to the part of me that makes me the happiest, my love and creativity.

what’s your go-to book, poem, article, passage to read? 

Oh, hells bells! This is like asking me what is my favorite food. I have no answer for you – I like to consume all the things! However, I will do my best and while doing it, feel certain that whatever I share with you will leave me wishing I had said or done something different. Ironically, similar to how I feel when walking away from a delicious meal with food left on my plate. 

To that end, I love dark humor, comedy, poetry, romance, and stories. I love them because while I think others find darkness and sadness, I see the light within them. I don’t believe we can ever truly appreciate the light in our lives if we don’t also appreciate the darkness. This is something I think I always knew, but understood and felt after surviving infertility. That said, one of my favorite poems/short stories is “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe. I actually just posted some content on this recently. This piece and the knocking darkness remind me of the solitude that can come from dwelling on helplessness, and how it can convince us there’s no hope. However, consider your story is just that, an interpretation and repetitive knocking of what (inside) you want to transform. Take the desperation in the “Nevermore”, consider it’s not all there is, and what you have is a spotlight on what you seek – possibility, power, or ever change.

Also, one of the best books I’ve read recently is “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck” by Mark Manson. You knew that was coming… for F*cks-sake. I think I’ve read it three times and now that I’m writing about it I think I need to read it again. Mark tells us that, “The key to a good life is not giving a F*ck about more; it’s giving a F*ck about less, giving a F*ck about only what is true and immediate and important.” During a time in my life where I was consumed by our struggle with infertility, Mark helped me to get my self-indulgent ass out of my own way, and see that I was missing my life, relationships, and valuing the wrong things; namely, not valuing myself. I know that I’m not everyone’s cup of whiskey, and the fact that my husband couldn’t get through one chapter of that book suggests that maybe Mark Manson and I should have whiskey together. But his truth, bluntness, and ability to say the words exactly how I needed to hear them is what makes me love this book. Yes. I, too, covet cuss words, but that is not what I love. I love the heart that exists with Mark’s profanity. He has the ability to couple dark wit with a truth that allows you to see that the best relationships we have are the ones where we’re not being co-dependent or a victim. He encourages us to take responsibility for all the relationships we have in our lives, but most importantly the one we create with ourselves. If you’re reading this thinking that Mark is too blunt for you, and he throws random cuss words in places that might be perceived as inappropriate, well, you might be right. However, I encourage you to give Mark and all his “F*cks” a chance, because while the title might be aggressive and off-putting, his content is amazing. And, although, the title sounds like he gives no F*cks, it’s actually the opposite and in the words of Mark, “That’s unconditional love, baby.”

why do you do what you do, shannon? and how does your content (whether it’s your blog, social media, storytelling with clients) support you in that journey?   

My life purpose is Love and Connection. Yes. A Life Coaching tool got me to this realization. No. I do not think I embody this all the time. However, it is my purpose and therefore, living it as often as possible, spreading it in the world, being authentic, raw, honest, and encouraging others to do it too, is the goal. I spent a large majority of my life trying to “fit in” and do things the “right way” which by the way I thought was the way everyone else was doing anything. Surviving infertility depression taught me that I needed to knock that shit off ASAP. I needed to stop obsessing over being perfect, give F*cks about only the things I truly give F*cks about and own who I am in this world. I do what I do for so many reasons, because I want to encourage people to love who they are – flaws and all, because I am tired of everyone being the same – Vanilla is boring; put toppings on that shit because self-love is what gives, spreads, and grows love – stop being so greedy with your ooey-gooey greatness, and because we as people need each other – stop acting like we don’t. 

My content supports my journey because it serves as a daily reminder of who I want to be. It encourages me to remember that I don’t need to be perfect and that trying to be that for so long was only keeping me further disconnected from myself and who I want to show up as in the world. I do what I do because I believe that life is hard enough without love and connection, and it is the time to step up, look ourselves in the face and say: “I don’t care who doesn’t like it or me. I choose to cheer for myself, show up as my truth, and come from my heart space because that is what I LOVE about me.” 

your next steps:

  • learn more about shannon.
  • uh, she’s a life coach, people. (YES.) learn from her here.
  • experience her ig content here.

special love: shannon’s photo was taken by Will Taylor; her clothing is by Cut From Same Cloth

In the meantime...

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