"Watch out, pretty soon you won't even know who I am anymore," I said as he passed my desk.
"I already feel that way," my husband responded. (In a tone that let me know he wasn't kidding).
Ouch. The truth, while at times painful, is nonetheless, still the truth.
And he's right, over the past few years...heck, maybe even more so over the last few months, I have made some fairly dramatic changes in my thinking about some key areas of my life.
This picture of the six of us is from several years ago, not long after we moved from Wisconsin to Texas. It was taken at a time when, for me, personal growth really began. I started to spend more time pondering what was important to me, what I really believed about marriage, motherhood, and the kind of imprint I wanted to make...coincidentally, it was also a time when I began to change the type of music I listened to, and the books I read.
Maybe taking a closer look at myself was because I'd recently been through a personal struggle with my son, or because moving across the country and settling our family in a new place was more of a challenge than I thought it would be, or even because I was new to my forties and felt confident, for the first time ever, to really explore how I felt about life and what I had to offer it, and it had to offer me.
Quite possibly the decision to have a growth spurt was a combination of all three of these things.
Either way, the most important things I have discovered about me, thanks to new music, book reading, and choosing to surround myself more and more with people who think as I do, are the following:
- Life is short, even if at times it feels unending. I am convinced each of us is alive for a reason, and if you can figure out what makes your heart sing, chances are what you're here for has something to do with sharing that. For me it's parenting...a passion to listen to others struggles, offer encouragement, and practice forgiving myself when I mess up with my own family. Because they will tell you I do that.
- Feeling alone at times in your own skin is preferable to being in a crowd having to pretend who you are. As I have come to know who I am, and what I believe in more concretely, I have also had to make a choice: be me at home, and who someone else wants or needs me to be out in public, or stay home more often and honor the fact that I'd rather have a few close friends than a bunch of acquaintances who never get past surface talk. I LOVE to connect with other people, but not about things that aren't important to my life...like having the latest stuff, or getting to go on a lot of fancy vacations.
- It doesn't matter if I don't believe there is a heaven or hell, my life will be lived and/or look the same either way. Will I find out someday I am wrong about what the end of life really brings...maybe...but, my day to day endeavors, and the role model I am for my family isn't going to look any different whether I'm right or wrong about what happens at death.
- People admire honesty and vulnerability. I have heard from many people over the past several years since I have published my thoughts, the majority of which have been positive, at least in terms of appreciating my candor and by helping them to look at a topic of interest in another light. Whether we agree, or agree to disagree on a blog post, I value those same qualities in everyone I come in contact with. There is strength in vulnerability, hiding your weaknesses only gives them strength.
- Life is about change and growth. How much fun could stagnant be? In a career, a relationship, a life path.
Some of the things about this picture of me are the same...my hairline is receding, I still own the same cotton shift dress from Kohls Department Store, and my smile still beams bright.
Some of the things on the inside are different. And I imagine the changes I have made, the voice I have gained, and the direction I intend to continue may not look at all like the woman my husband married...or even the one he renewed his vows with at the twenty year mark, but I can't unsee, or unhear, or undo what's been seen, heard, and done in and through my life over the past few years.
I can only hope he will continue to love and appreciate my evolving self.