It’s a pleasure for me to feature the unique and generous work of Elephant Cards creator Sharon Brennan. Sharon’s cards were designed to help people name the ‘elephant in the room’ – i.e. authentic emotions and thoughts that can come between people – or make a difficult situation worse – if left unexpressed. Elephant Cards help people break through silence to give voice to sincere – though challenging – feelings and beliefs that need to be communicated in order to keep relationships honest, real, healthy, intimate or alive. Elephant Cards can also help end relationships that have run their course. Sharon has created the perfect vehicle for sharing these important communications that can be so hard to put into words. Her Elephant Cards are available either as hard copies (for sale at a modest price), or as free ECards that can be downloaded by the sender. Elephant Cards can be found at Sharon’s website listed below. Sharon’s inspirational story of how the Elephant Cards came to be follows…
WHERE CAN I BEGIN TO TELL THE TALE OF THESE ELEPHANTS? Sharon Brennan
Let me take you back in time to a morning in a beautiful hotel. No wait, let’s go back to two days before that morning when I checked into a horrible hotel in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. I am normally pretty picky about where I stay but there were some huge conventions in Ottawa and all the good hotels were taken. It was cold. January, I think and the snow crunched like potato chips under my feet as I walked through the ByWard Market District. It was Canadian-Capital cold, and anyone who has visited in the winter knows what that means. The parliament buildings stood proudly, lit in the night with a soft glow about them and people were huddled in pubs and bistros warming their souls and tummies by large fireplaces.
I was on a book tour with my co-author Alan Frew and the lobby of our “suites” gave itself away with a dreary welcome. Once I saw my accommodation I knew I would be sleeping and probably showering with my socks on! It was pretty bad….noisy, smelly, you get the picture. In between interviews promoting our book, from the early dark hours of Breakfast Television to the late-night talk radio shows we started calling around to the downtown hotels to see if there were any better rooms available, but with no luck.
Two nights we coped with this place and then after completing an interview with the CBC one of the women working there (no doubt sick of hearing us complaining) poked her head over her cubicle and suggested The Brookstreet Hotel. “It’s a little out of town”, she said….ZOOM, what was that?! That was us renting a car and getting to Brookstreet, which now brings us back to that morning in the beautiful hotel. I was so grateful to have had a nutritious meal – salmon I think, a warm and comfy bed and a delicious hot bubble bath. I slept like a baby and woke up refreshed and ready to take on the world.
When I rose, the first thing I did was sit down at the desk in my room, and like magic over a cup of tea, I wrote all the words for “There’s an Elephant in the Room Cards”. I didn’t plan this and the night before when I went to bed I had no idea I would start a new journey when morning came. Over the next while I played with words like “Courage Cards”, manipulated images of water and fractured fairytales, chose paper and envelopes and then scrapped it all and started again, and then one day we settled on elephants, and I am so glad we did. We added, with permission, Thomas Wade’s fantastic song “Lyin’ Here with You”, and everything began falling into place.
Three life experiences that helped me create these cards:
ADDICTED WITHOUT A VOICE
A dear friend has a son who at one time was heavily addicted to drugs and alcohol. He had been to several rehabilitation centres at great expense to his family, but he had their love and support and seemed to be doing much better. Better until one day when my friend stopped by his son’s apartment unexpectedly and very quickly realized that the young man was in trouble once again. After confronting his son, my friend asked him, “Why wouldn’t you tell me you were in trouble? After all I have done for you, surely you knew that you could come to me and I would help you.” His son sat quietly for a moment and then looking up said “Dad, I have let you down so many times, I just couldn’t bear the thought of disappointing you again. I just couldn’t say the words out loud.”
This story hit me hard. To think that a person could have all of this love and support behind them and yet feel like they couldn’t say the necessary words out loud to ask for help, well it just broke my heart and in fact inspired these cards. I wanted to help people find their voice when it seemed to be gone.
MY DAUGHTER THE GENIUS
A few years ago our daughter was accepted to university and my husband and I were so proud. We told everyone who would listen what a genius she was. In fact, we were THOSE people who after a dinner party, the rest of the guests went home asking “do they really think they are the only people who have ever had a child accepted to a university?” But we didn’t care, we carried on. Privately we would chat brightly about her future and the kinds of things she could do. She might teach, (at a university level of course). She might write a book, (certainly it would be a best seller!)
As the summer days brought us closer to September we became more and more animated and more and more sentimental. The evening before she left there was dinner out, champagne and tears. She was ready! We knew it. Looking back now, I don’t remember our daughter having that much to say that summer. I’m sure at the time we put it all down to nervousness. Off she went though for this new chapter in her life and within a matter of days she had met a boy who was not going to university, and by Christmas she had dropped out of school, had moved in with the boy and shortly thereafter announced they were going to Australia.
We were heart-broken and as a reaction said all kinds of things like “You are ruining your life!” “Do you know how many people don’t have the opportunity to go to university?” and my personal favourite, “How could you do this to us?” It was a few years later while replaying these events in my mind that I realized that much of the frustration we felt was amplified by not saying what we were really feeling. What we should have said, what was in our hearts was, “We love you so much. Please be careful with your precious life. If it doesn’t work out, you can always come home”.
SHE LOST HER DADS…THEN LOST HER MUM
A friend of mine stood at the front of the church next to her mother’s casket. Beside her was her sister whose rounded belly told all that she was expecting her first baby. Their stepdad had died just a year before in a car accident. He had been the man who raised them after the death of their birth father when they were children. I sat and watched these two young women with their husbands and my friend’s two young sons and I wondered how they would cope.
Sniffles in the congregation showed us all that many were grieving the loss of this woman, yet the sisters stood tall with confidence, spoke strongly of loving memories and met the guests with kindness and care despite the fact that their mother had died suddenly too in a car accident just a few days prior. As we took out our hymnals, then listened to the minister’s calming words I looked around the room. Little children were fidgeting, young couples were pensively looking on and older people were no doubt thinking of friends who had also passed away. I looked back at my friend and her sister and realized that within a few days the worlds of most people in that church would wash back in and normal life would resume. I wondered as I watched my friend, “As the rest of us recover and move on what about you?”