Every year on New Year’s Eve, I sit down and I set some goals for myself. I refuse to make what everyone else calls resolutions. I have had too many years where I have failed at those rotten things and then felt horrible about myself because of it. This year, I set a pretty lofty goal for myself. I said that I was going to make 2013 my bitch. I was going to have my way with her and not vice versa. I was going to spend the year finding me and taking care of me. The real me! And believe it or not, that is exactly what I have been doing.
If I was going to be finding me, I had to realize that I had been playing hide and seek with myself for a very long time. I have been hiding behind my titles for a long time. I love being a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a friend, a teacher, etc, etc, etc. But, I put every one of those titles ahead of the one title that I should love the most~~~just being me, Nancy.
I came on the tails of a generation that always put the woman of the family last. Not that she wasn’t loved, but she was always putting everyone elses needs ahead of her own. When I got married at the ripe old age of 18, I thought that was the way it was supposed to be and I just followed right along in the pattern.
I married a man that I had known for two years. We started dating when I was a sophomore in high school. After I graduated, we married that fall and have been together ever since. We will celebrate our 40th anniversary in September. I love this man more than I did then. I can’t imagine my life without him. He is my biggest supporter in all things I do now, but it wasn’t always like that. You see, he came from a family who had also bought into the whole woman last pattern.
At 18, I was a stay at home wife. My husband didn’t want his wife to work and I was okay with that. I cleaned house, shopped, did the laundry and all the other wifely duties that wives perform. At 20, I became a stay at home mom. I loved it! With the exception of doing some in home daycare, that was what I stayed until the age of 37 when my youngest child started school.
With an empty nest of children all in school, there was only so much I could clean and I was bored silly. I started doing lunch duty at the kids school. I told the principal that if there was anything she needed help with, I was her girl. Two days later, she said she needed help in the new preschool. The girl that was doing mornings, couldn’t do afternoons and they were starting afternoon classes two days a week. Preschool is the one place that doesn’t require you to have a college degree. Woo hoo, I had a paying job where I worked five hours a week. By spring of that year, the other girl quit and I’ve been there full time ever since. I start my 21st year next month.
As I look back now, I think getting that job was the first tiny step in finding me. I had to start thinking about me in the littlest ways. Things like what was I going to where to work? But, I still worried about everyone else needs first. It was just what I did. Of course now, I also had added the needs of the people at school to my list. One step forward, two steps back.
As my girls got older, there was less need for me to be around all the time. I began to get involved in other things. I was elected to parish council at our church, I joined a bunco group (which I am still in today), I went to some out of town conferences for school, started going out with girlfriends for dinners and shopping. Just another step in the finding me process, but I didn’t know that’s what I was doing.
Fast forward to January 13, 2009. I entered the world of blogging. If finding me was the goal, blogging would be the means or at least the springboard. Blogging made me question things I had thought were right. It made me question things I thought were wrong. It brought me the means to make amazing friends that I may never meet in person, but I still love them as if I had known them my entire life. I have even been lucky enough to meet some of them in person. Who knew that some of them lived so close. Blogging is what brought me right here to the Sisterhood of the Shrinking Jeans.
2009 was also the first time I saw Wicked. I’ve seen it three times now. I so identified with Elphaba when she sang Defying Gravity. As I listened to those words, it was just how I felt. This verse especially spoke to me.
Something has changed within me
Something is not the same
I’m through with playing by the rules
Of someone else’s game
Too late for second-guessing
Too late to go back to sleep
It’s time to trust my instincts
Close my eyes and leap!
And leap was what I did. It was time to think about me. I had the time. I was a grandma now. My daughters were totally self sufficient. Finding me was more important now than it had ever been. If I as going to be an example to my daughters as well as my granddaughters, I needed to get busy. And busy was what I was.
Health and fitness were at the top of my list. I found the Sisterhood of the Shrinking Jeans. Amazing women of support and inspiration. Apparently they loved me as much as I loved them because they gave me the pleasure of writing for them. I hooked up with My Fitness Pal and a local studio for classes. I was working on my body and happily seeing progress
Next, I had to work on my mind. I had to start putting myself out there and taking some chances. I needed to spend some time out of my box, so to speak. If you knew the size of my box, you would know that this wasn’t going to be easy. Some of the hardest things I did were associated with Shrinking Jeans. I went to Chicago to cover the Self Magazine Workout in the Park and interviewed an editor from the magazine and met and talked to Alison Sweeney from Days of our Lives and Biggest Loser. It went so well, I went back the next year and did it again. I actually joined the Exposed Movement back in October of 2010. That was a tough one, but I did it.
I’ve taken my photography more seriously. I’ve entered some contests and gotten some honorable mentions. Just last week, I got a second place ribbon at the county fair. They are just little things, but they are little things that are for just me.
If you look at the picture of me below, you’ll see a sunburned, no make up, messy haired 58 year old lady. But, do you see that I am in the water. I am in a lake on vacation last week. I am on the sandbar and not in the boat. This might not seem like much to most of you, but for me, it was epic! One of my biggest fears in life is water and especially deep water. I don’t know how to swim. Just getting in the boat is a biggie for me. Getting out of the boat anywhere but the dock was unheard of till last week. This was such a big moment for me, my daughter felt the need to capture it with my camera. I’m glad she did.
Do you see the calm, the peace, the sheer happiness in my face? I love this picture and I very rarely like a picture of myself, let alone love it. This is what finding me has done for me. I’m finding courage to try things I never tried before. Sure, some are stupid things to most people, but they are awesome to me. I have a long way to go. I need to keep searching and that search may never be done. What I need to remember is just like Elphaba, sometimes I just need to close my eyes and leap. Look where it has gotten me so far.
This is possibly the wordiest post I have ever written. I hope that what you take away from it is a longing for finding you. Maybe you already have, but if you haven’t, let me promise you this. It is so worth the effort. The only people I am playing hide and seek with now are my grandkids!