You had your life all planned out.
You know what it was going to look like. You knew the steps you needed to take. As long as you did the right things and stayed on course, your reward was going to be the life you wanted.
It fell apart.
Things happened. Obstacles sprang up. You had to make difficult choices between imperfect options.
You made a life, but it wasn’t anything like the life you had planned all those years ago.
What do you do now?
Do you mourn the loss of the life you wanted, wishing things had turned out differently?
Or do you find the small miracles in the life you have now, trusting that life has a bigger plan?
Shannon Milliman felt caught between the life she’d expected and the life she had. She thought she would be a stay-at-home wife and mother who supported her husband and raised her children. That isn’t how life turned out.
In this week’s YBTV interview, Shannon shares the improvisation techniques that taught her to embrace life as it is.
Learn the power of seeing everything as an offer, avoiding the sorry-worry trap, and finding the humor in it all.
As she explains, “There’s no wrong path in the lives that we end up taking.”
What You’ll Learn
On Shannon Milliman’s wedding day, she knew exactly what her future was going to be.
She was going to be a stay-at-home mom, baking bread, teaching her children to garden, creating art, and supporting her husband in his career.
That’s not the life she ended up with.
She had five wonderful children. She had a fulfilling relationship with a man she adored. But the one piece of the puzzle that wasn’t working was the practical piece: making a living.
Her husband wasn’t the type to be happy in a 9-5 corporate job. He was her best friend, he was a fantastic husband, but he wasn’t fitting into the box of breadwinner and provider.
“It’s the things that I love about him most that frustrate me the most,” she says. “It is his ability to think artistically and philosophically and outside of the box. But those are the things that don’t make life function.”
For a long time, she tried to force him to be the provider so that she could be the nurturer. She saw their roles in black-and-white terms. It caused conflict.
Then something happened that taught her that just because things don’t go as expected doesn’t mean they aren’t turning out in the best possible way.
Music equipment that her husband had been planning to use to launch a business got stolen. What were they going to do? They needed a steady income, and they needed it fast.
Shannon stepped up. She took an entry-level position in the corporate world, leaving her husband at home with the kids.
“It wasn’t what I planned,” she says. “It was very frustrating. I would take it out on my husband—be resentful and genuinely angry that my needs and desires weren’t respected. He felt probably genuinely frustrated that I couldn’t acknowledge and appreciate his talents and strengths.”
Everything Is An Offer
As Shannon climbed the corporate ladder, her perspective began to shift.
Although she thought her role in life was to be a supportive wife and stay-at-home mom, she says, “I have been able to learn that I have different angles and perspectives to contribute in different ways.”
She credits her resiliency to her improv training.
One technique she used “is to appreciate and acknowledge that everything is an offer.”
In those moments when the blows come, you think they’re an attack, not an offer. I began to shift and realize that, ‘Okay, this feels like a blow, but what could this also be? This could be giving me something that I have to use my creativity to make a new direction.'”
As she began to say yes and really believe the yes, she started to feel at peace with her unexpected life.
Today, she’s a training analyst by day with a side hustle in supporting organizations through keynote speeches and workshops.
She didn’t give up her art, either. She channeled her experiences into a one-woman plan, “Not So Supernova.”
Not So Supernova
“Not So Supernova” is a play about marriage, motherhood, and making peace with life’s unmet expectations. It’s based on Shannon’s real-life experiences, including diary entries from her teen years.
“I ended up making a play that was a creative expression of my life experience,” she says. “I didn’t anticipate it that it would turn out to be somewhat therapeutic; I wanted it to be a piece of art at. But it turned out to be both.”
She discovered that when she leaned into her power to create what she needed for herself, it resolved the conflict she was feeling in her roles as wife and mother.
The play helped her see that even though “my husband isn’t who I thought he was, my daughter isn’t who I thought she should be … maybe they are exactly who they are supposed to be, and they are exactly what I need.”
She adds, “It’s not something you like to say, but sometimes you don’t appreciate—and it’s almost like you don’t like—the people closest to you. They make you the most frustrated. But in that, isn’t there a possibility that … they have the most to give to you [and] you have the most to give to them?”
Claiming Power as a Woman
Since she stepped into the role of breadwinner, she’s found that she has unlocked a part of herself she didn’t have access to before.
No, she isn’t the stay-at-home mom she’d hoped to be. She’s so much more.
I feel more feminine. I feel more like a goddess, like I have such complex talents and abilities, like I could create worlds without number. I can create my home. I can amplify future generations…. There is greatness that is nurturing and growing within me. When I step into that, I am a stronger mother, a stronger wife, a stronger sovereign being.”
Her marriage isn’t magically perfect because Shannon and her husband have resolved their roles. They still have their good days and bad days. But Shannon has learned other ways to keep their union strong.
One technique she uses is letting go of sorry and worry. “I think of sorry and worry [as] pieces that we don’t need. They don’t do us any good,” she says.
“When I can let go of the sorry, I don’t paint him in some artificial way. When I let go of worry, I’m not worried about how this is going to turn out… It helps me be in the present and to remember the closest that we experience is now…. When we can just claim those moments, I think it helps us really get towards that closeness we all crave.”
Shannon’s Workshops and Presentations
She shares techniques like these in her workshops and keynote presentations.
“Whenever I’m trying to teach principles that are true and can make a difference in improving your life or efficiency at work, I think the most important thing is, ‘Am I weaving humor into that?’” she says.
What makes a presentation memorable is whether you laughed or felt uplifted.
We learn to laugh at ourselves, we accept our misgivings, and it’s okay. It gives us this power and permission to try something new that might make a better outcome.”
To find out more about Not So Supernova and Shannon’s workshops and keynotes, visit her website.
And always remember:
“There’s no wrong path in the lives that we end up taking.”
Jump to Topics of Interest
2:31 The life Shannon thought she would have
3:22 An unexpected turn
6:08 How Shannon created her one-woman play
7:19 Everything is an offer
10:11 Not So Supernova
12:43 Embracing the breadwinner role
14:36 Feeling closer than ever
16:39 Find the answers within
17:53 How humor helps us learn
19:17 The future of Not So Supernova
20:58 Resiliency, agility, change
Shannon Milliman, CPLP
Shannon gives keynotes and workshops applying improvisation principles to help organizations become more creative, agile and human. She is a writer, poet, and playwright who specializes in bringing art to live life more abundantly. She is the creator of the one-woman show “Not So Supernova.” Find out more about Shannon.