“Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” – Melody Beattie
The Me-of-Five-Years-Ago is dead. And sometimes that makes me sad. You see, she was a badass. There was nothing that stopped her, nothing she couldn’t or wouldn’t do. She just knew how to make things work.
She didn’t shy away from problems. But everything was a problem.
Freshly out of a divorce, she shifted her career, consulted on the side, and raised a high-needs son with lots of love and constant vigilance every other minute of the day. Friends and family marveled at how she did it. She was brave and strong, they said.
The tension in her life started to build. It was hard. She started to hate her job because she had made herself so important there everyone acted as if she were on-call 24/7. She drank tequila out of a coffee mug in the evening while doing 200 piece cat puzzles on repeat while her little one said, “Look, Mama, look,” every 10 seconds. Pretending to play didn’t even let her off the hook for a few moments of quiet.
The only times her fatigue and frustration came out were when she would cry in the bathroom, so no one else could hear or see.
And then one day it hit her like a ton of bricks…
As she was rushing to leave work midday to take her son to an appointment in a city two hours away, her boss wanting to know why something completely unimportant wasn’t done yet, she felt absolutely crushed by the weight of everyone else’s expectations of her.
She realized she wasn’t living for herself. She was living a life of should’s based on what she thought made someone a good, valuable, lovable human being. In the process, she was dying a slow death of giving all of herself to others. And she was heartbroken and hopeless about that.
So she decided to start living. She began to ask herself what she wanted and how she felt.
The question “What do I want?” was so foreign to her that she often stared blankly when she asked herself, not even sure what the choices were, confounded that there wasn’t an obvious right choice.
Little by little, that muscled got stretched. She wanted to do more yoga, take more walks, be outside. She wanted to work less, she wanted to make her life bigger, more expansive. The more she asked, the more answers that came.
She hadn’t paid much attention to her feelings before, especially upon the surface where everyone else could see them. They had always been stuffed down pretty far, mostly because she didn’t have time for them or see them as that important.
In her transformation, she started giving attention to every single feeling. This took a long time and a lot of attention because there were so many layers, and each feeling just needed to run its course.
The 2 Most Important Questions For Reclaiming Your Life: What do I want? How do I feel?
It was through answering these two questions consistently that I got to know myself. That I got to live life on my terms. That I became “the me” I am now.
These are the questions I return to every moment, every day. They are the questions I turn to when life feels challenging, or when I’m not happy with where I am. They are the questions I ask when I want to blame someone or something for my circumstances.
They are the questions that have allowed me to see that I am truly on my own path and not one that society has prescribed for me.
I’m so glad she’s gone.
Now that I can look at her objectively from a distance, these are the things I can tell you about that woman, the Me-of-Five-Years-Ago:
- I was hiding. I was hiding that I was scared and had no clue what I was doing.
- I was clinging desperately to be right because it often felt like all I had.
- Control was my M.O. Life felt so out of control that the only way I felt safe in it was to control every possible thing that I could.
- I was lonely. I didn’t feel understood or loved, and I wasn’t sure if I ever would be. If I could be, even.
- I was tired. So, so tired. And I didn’t believe that anyone wanted to help me.
When I look at that list, I think, wow, I’m so glad that I’m not her anymore. So grateful that I found a way back to the true me.
But sometimes I miss her.
There are some parts of the Me-of-Five-Years-Ago that I still long for at times. The woman who could go through the motions and not worry about her feelings. The woman who thought to hold down a full-time job and taking care of her kid was a fine life. The woman who cared about a retirement plan and health benefits.
I only long for her when I get scared, or when I feel uncertain, or when I don’t have physical evidence to show me that it’s all going to work out.
I only long for her because of the sense of familiarly I have with how she navigated the world, not because I actually want what she had.
Honestly, compared to the me I am now, I wouldn’t trade her for the world…
The woman who squeezes every drop out of life.
The woman who knows that she can have everything she wants.
The woman who is playful and doesn’t take life (or herself) so seriously.
The woman who is strong and brave enough to feel all there is to feel and not run from any of it.
The true me doesn’t have it all figured out yet. I guess part of life’s plan is that we never really do, right? This is when I return to asking those simple questions, “What do I want? How do I feel?” Coming back to me is all I really have in this lifetime. And I’m so, so grateful that’s enough.