Believe In Your Potential To Pop

I’ve spent part of my morning doing something I don’t do often enough, reading other blogs. I recognize that I am part of a community of writers on WordPress, but in my daily struggle to find enough headspace to write and publish one post of my own, I usually neglect to read others’ works. It’s not a great plan, honestly, because other writers can provide food for thought, inspiration, and unexpected wisdom. I recognize I need to employ the Ted Lasso way of being. I need to be more curious with regard to other people. I am already a curious person regarding most things, but I’ve never been very curious about others because my childhood taught me human beings are unreliable and not necessarily worth my time or trust. This year, however, I decided to take more risks and that includes taking more risks in my experiences with others.

I found this quote today while reading someone else’s blog, and I thought it was brilliant.

I wish I had seen this quote when our sons were young and I was trying to figure out why they couldn’t do what other children their ages were doing. Parents read the What To Expect series of books about childhood development and, if our children don’t measure up according to the charts and graphs, we immediately assume something is “wrong” with them. There is nothing wrong with our children. They are simply on their own path. Some will be on target with the milestones in those books and some will not. They are individuals, and individuals come to this life with their unique set of gifts and challenges.

Because my sons are mostly grown now, I am looking at this quote with a different perspective. I learned that lesson about my kids, that they would eventually find their stride on their separate and beautiful path. It never occurred to me when I was giving my children the grace to get where they were headed in their own time to do the same for myself. From the beginning, I’ve imposed unnecessary, stringent guidelines on myself with regard to what was appropriate in my life and when. I cried hard on my 25th birthday. Why? Because I was upset I reached that milestone without having my master’s degree. Shit. I’m still aiming for unnecessary and contrived goal posts. I wrote the other day about what a person my age “should” be wearing. I am an adult. It doesn’t matter what others think is age appropriate and acceptable for me to wear. It only matters what I feel comfortable in and what I feel makes sense for my life. I don’t even have a job with a dress code. I could wear a Disney Tigger costume every day if I felt like it and not get fired. (What would I fire myself for? Being too cute?)

We are all popcorn. Some of us don’t pop as children, however, so it’s unfair to put that expectation in place. We will pop in our own time or we won’t. There are those among us who will remain the same coming out of the pot as going into it. Maybe our goal should be not to worry about when the pop will happen but to believe instead we will reach that potential when we are ready. Some of us might just need a little extra time in the pot to get there. Patience is key here. Don’t count us out.

Sadness Is On Me, But I Am Not Sad

Senior year for our youngest has flown by. I know this is how it works. Senior year is heartbreaking, expensive, and fast as hell. I tried to keep it together while standing there watching the photographer take his senior photos. I struggled when I had to compose his senior page for the yearbook. He applied to five private colleges (University of Denver, St. Olaf, Reed, Whitman, and Skidmore), received acceptances to all of them, and then committed to attending Whitman in Washington with his brother, which gave me a measure of comfort while still making me sad. With that decision made, I designed his graduation announcements. And today I created a graduation collage for display at his high school in May. Jesus help me. It feels like the universe is trying to break me.

I would like to think all of this is preparation so I can cry myself out before the actual graduation ceremony, but I know that is a false hope. Graduation is rapidly approaching. So I went ahead and made a countdown clock to the ceremony because I need to prepare myself. As of today, we are 60 days out, which means I have 60 days to cry myself free of tears lest I end up an ugly-crying, embarrassing, Alice Cooper look-a-like at the ceremony. I don’t want to be that momma. Luke deserves better.

I have a distinct memory of a time when Luke was around six months old and woke up in the middle of the night. I remember sitting with him in a rocking chair in our living room, rocking and waiting for him to drift back off to sleep. When Joe woke up in the night, I would get so frustrated about the sleep interruption. As he was my first and I was not used to missing out on sleep, it was a struggle for me to be present when all I wanted was some damn sleep. With Luke, though, I knew it would be my last time to hold my sleeping child, so I tried to focus on the moments, to appreciate that this little person needed comfort and I was that comfort. It’s such a different feeling now as I focus on my present moments with Luke because I know he is almost finished needing me. I suppose this is what drives the sadness I am feeling. We have come full circle, Luke and I. My baby is ready to launch. And although I knew this day would come eventually and have been preparing for it since Joe’s graduation, the reality of it happening now is something I’m not sure I would ever be able to prepare for.

So, perhaps, I will go to graduation and cry like the soft, mushy person I am on the inside because this too is part of the experience. I don’t have to like it. I don’t have to stay dry-eyed for it. I have to be there in it because there are only two constants in life, growth and change. Wait. I forgot taxes. So I guess that makes three constants. Growth. Change. Taxes.

I found this on Facebook the other day and it offers a different perspective of sadness:

So I am recognizing now that sadness is upon me. It doesn’t have to live here. It’s just here now. It doesn’t define me. I am not a sad person. I am a happy person with sad moments. And it’s okay to be sad sometimes. We’re meant to be sad sometimes. It means we’re fully experiencing what life offers. Sometimes we want it to be offering lollipops, unicorns, and rainbows, and it instead presents us with pain, overwhelm, and darkness. That is when we need to remember that if the sadness can be upon us, so too can the rainbows. I have 60 days to figure out how to find those rainbow-covered unicorns that hand out lollipops. If I can’t find one, maybe I’ll just have to become one. I’m sure the other parents would appreciate a lollipop at graduation. I think they’ve earned at least that.

The Box Of The Me Who Was And Is Still

In this dusty box, my history lives

I was going through a plastic tub of memorabilia today. It’s full of things I collected while growing up. I dug the box out of the basement hoping to find some remaining buttons from bands I liked when I was in high school. I did find some, definitely not as many as I had at one point, but some.

The box contains some items my mom saved from my childhood and then other items I held onto for myself. There is an album someone else compiled with cards given to my parents both when I was born and on my first birthday. There is a local newspaper with a photo of me in 1976 when I was 8 and won a coloring contest sponsored by a bank. For that feat, I earned a $25 savings account and a liberty bell bank. The headpiece to the veil I wore at my first communion is in there, as is the memory card from my confirmation and photos from church trips. There is my Brownie uniform, my Girl Scouts membership card, and all the Girl Scout badges I earned but never sewed on my sash. There are report cards from elementary school, junior high, and high school. There are two random field day ribbons, both for the high jump, one fifth place and one third place. There are the literary magazines I contributed to and edited in high school, along with information about the band trip I took to Florida my junior year. There’s a letter from my orthodontist about how to care for my braces. There are wallet-size photos given to me by friends in junior high with their written dedications to me on the back, along with some notes that they passed to me in classes. My eighth grade yearbook is in there, which is odd because the rest of my yearbooks reside in a separate box. There is the corsage I wore to prom. There is a Junior Passport for Disneyworld from 1983, cost $9.50. There are envelopes containing my ACT, SAT, and GRE scores. There’s the letter I received when I was waitlisted at the only college I applied to. So many parts of my life that would be forgotten if I hadn’t saved the specifics to remind me when I hit 50 and discovered my childhood memories fading like the ink on the photographs from my youth.

Of all the items I unearthed, among the poems, paintings, and artifacts, I found one that stood out. It was a note I wrote to my mother when I was 7 years old. On a morning when presumably she didn’t wake up in time to help get me ready for school, in my second grade handwriting and with my second grade spelling, I wrote a note so she wouldn’t worry about me when she woke up and realized I was no longer home. It read:

“Dear Mommy, I got Kathy and Julie quiet. I left the house. I wost up and brust my teeth. I got my cloths on. Rigth now Im in scool.”

I wrote my name at the bottom in case when she found the note it wasn’t completely obvious it was written by her seven year old and not her five year old or two year old.

Everything you need to know about me is contained within this short note. 1) I started my writing career early. 2) I have always been quite responsible and self-sufficient. 3) I look out for people I care about. 4) I don’t want to be a bother. 5) There’s a reason why I didn’t go into art.

I’ve changed a lot over the years, but the person at my core remains the same. I’ve been writing for too long to stop now.

I Found An Age Older Than Dirt — Golden Girl Age

I guess this is what a Golden Girl would look like if the show started now instead of in 1985

I recently discovered I am as old as the characters in The Golden Girls were when that show started. I can’t begin to express how horrifying this is to me. When the show first aired, I was 17 years old. Now I am 53, inching towards 54, firmly in Golden Girl territory. It’s appalling. How the hell did this happen?

Now I guess the only question that remains is which Golden Girl am I? Obviously, because I’m not 79, it’s safe to say that I am not Sophia. Not yet, anyway. Clearly, I am not the charming, sexpot Blanche. And, I’m not nearly as doe-eyed and sweet as Rose. So that means I am, of course, Dorothy. Sarcastic, cynical, strong-willed, and, quite frankly, a little bitchy. She might have been teased for being a little manly, but at least Dorothy was arguably the smartest of the group. So that is a positive, I guess. One thing Dorothy and I do not share in common is the wherewithal to live with other women. I would not at this age live with my mother and two other women, or just my mother, or just two other women, or actually any women at all. Women are complicated. I prefer my husband, my sons, and our dogs. They take up less counter space in the bathroom.

Aging is a mixed bag. I am so grateful for the wisdom I have today that I did not have at 17 when The Golden Girls began. I like myself far more now than I have at any point in my younger past. I don’t want to go back in time to when I was younger. I simply want to be who I am now but in a 25-year-old body. Oh, the trouble I would get into being that young and understanding my power. It’s frightening to think what I would be capable of. Damn.

Unmoored

Photo by Joel Bengs on Unsplash

I’m having a sad day. I assume you know the kind of day I am referring to. It’s as if all the difficult and emotional things in my life that have been running in background mode for a while all decided to rise up and jump on me at the same time, leaving me at the bottom of a dog pile of sadness. I’m one of the most fortunate people I know, so I fight the urge to feel sorry for myself, even when there are legitimate life experiences that are troubling me. When you have everything, it feels shallow to whine about the few things that feel off in your life.

I allow myself to feel frustration, anger, shame, guilt, and a whole host of other emotions, but sadness is verboten. I think this goes back to my childhood. There are only so many times you can hear someone sing “Cry Me A River” or say “Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about” before you realize sadness is something to be avoided at all times. The past couple days, though, I let the sadness smother me. I have been throwing myself a pity party, and I’ve not been enjoying it one bit.

Tonight while walking with my youngest, I was talking to him about how I am struggling. In addition to all the truly shitty things happening in the world and the country right now, I’m facing growing older, having my kids go to college and move on with their lives, recognizing that the job I’ve devoted myself to 24/7 for the past 21 years is ending, accepting that the pandemic took a toll on my friendships and hobbies, and trying to figure out what I am supposed to do with the rest of my time on earth. If I had to put a term to what I am feeling, I would say I am unmoored. Luke, being the wise person he is, told me I need to find some anchors, regular routines or habits that will give my life some stability and meaning when I feel like I am adrift. He pointed out that he has reading and school to keep him busy and give him purpose. This makes sense, and I know he’s right.

I have spent the past two years the way many people have during the pandemic: in limbo. I’d like to start back to yoga, but I suspect the minute I do some new variant will come sweeping through, close studios, and set me back again. This fear that the other shoe is constantly about to drop and mess everything up is debilitating. I need to get to a place where I can shove my melancholy and fears aside and throw myself back into life. I need to start moving forward, but it’s hard to do that when all you want to do is lie around and binge watch shows in some sort of meaningless, feeling-less stupor. I am all over the place, stuck in a cycle of feeling superfluous one minute and lying to myself and acting as if everything is fine when I know damn well it is not the next. It’s no bueno.

I need to claw my way out of this hole. I am going to start with forcing myself to exercise and hope that sets me on a better path. It’s either going to improve my mood or kill me is what I figure. At least it will be a step in a direction, which will be better than staying buried under my demons, right?

Life is hard. Anyone who tells you it isn’t is selling you something. On a more positive note, though, I guess “unmoored” is another way of saying “free to explore new shores.” So, there’s that.

Sometimes It’s Best To Be The Last To The Party

On Friday, February 18th, my husband and I were searching our television haunts for something to watch. Truth be told, we subscribe to a lot of services. We have Hulu, Netflix, Prime, Disney+, and Apple TV+. Despite having all the services, we usually aren’t up on what’s coming out to view. We know about the new shows on Disney+ because of our sons. Other than that, we often are late to the party.

Anyway, while flipping through our choices that February night, I found Severance, a new show beginning that day on Apple TV+. The premise looked fascinating, so we figured we’d give it a go. At the end of the 57-minute premiere, we were hooked. We were feeling pretty smug about being early watchers of this brand new show. Maybe we could be the first ones out in front sharing the news? Each week since that night, we’ve looked forward to the next episode. With each episode, we became more engrossed and we told more people about it. Tonight we finished the latest episode, the seventh installment, and I found myself livid that I have to wait another week to see what happens next. And then I I remembered why we don’t get on board and watch shows in real time. It’s because we’re impatient.

After years of binge watching shows we missed out on while others were raving about them, I’m used to having ALL the episodes available to me and burning through them one episode after another in rapid fire succession, staying up until 2 am each night for a week, if necessary, to do it. Watching the entire show in a series of lengthy sessions keeps the story progression fresh in your mind. There’s no digging through your brain for the nuances of what happened the previous week. It’s simply a more efficient means of digesting a story plot. Of course, the streaming services producing the shows don’t care about that. They want to build intrigue and grow viewership. They want the public conversations at the water cooler to expand their audience without having to advertise their show. Greedy jerks don’t even care that binge watching is what we all want to do now. We have no patience. Why should we when so much television is on demand these days?

I am no longer capable of delayed gratification because delayed gratification takes too much time and dedication. And this revelation clued me into why my husband and I don’t hop on the bandwagon of a show immediately. It’s because watching television one week at a time is frustrating. So we miss out for a while. So what? We’re late to the party, but what an amazing party it is when we finally show up. It’s so good we sometimes stay up all night so we don’t miss anything. At 53, this is the closest I get to an all-night kegger and its accompanying next-morning hangover.

Binge watching is where old college students party. Now you know.

Our Nation’s Adults May Need Some Graham Crackers And A Good Nap

At an Avs game in 2011 with my little guys

We went to a Colorado Avalanche hockey game last night. My husband and I have been going to hockey games since we started dating in the mid 90s. At the time, he was working for the Denver Grizzlies IHL organization, a team which moved to Utah in 1995 when Colorado acquired the Quebec Nordiques and became the Colorado Avalanche. We have a long history with the Avs organization. I went into early labor with our oldest the morning after the Avalanche won the Stanley Cup in 2001, presumably from all the screaming and jumping up and down while quite pregnant. Our oldest is named after the then team captain, Joe Sakic. Like I said, we’re tied to this team.

As we were leaving the game last night, parking lot traffic was its usual nightmare. When we got to our car, we were penned in by cars already lined up to exit the lot. These are the times when you see both the best and the worst of our species. Sometimes you are lucky and a calm, rational person will let you into the line ahead of them. Other times, people are complete assholes. Once there was a clearing and we were able to back up, we joined the line and began our wait. My family and I are unfazed by these situations. We’re travelers, and the first rule of traveling anywhere is “hurry up and wait.” So, we are well practiced and wait patiently. I mean, what are you going to do? Everyone has the same goal of getting out of the lot. Sooner or later, you will get there.

Sadly, other drivers in that situation often aren’t as big-picture about it as we are. It’s something else to watch a lot filled with impatient people trying to jockey for a prime spot in the queue. The car in front of us was a Lexus sedan. To the right of us just ahead, in the row of parking spots from which we had just emerged, several other cars sat with their lights on, waiting for one driver to show some kindness and let them into the growing line. But the cars in line were unrelenting. Steve and I were remarking about how people can be so petty in parking lots, when a woman in a Lexus SUV on the right began to inch her way forward, hoping to hop in front of the sedan directly in front of us. The men in the sedan would have none of that. They pulled forward as she did, hoping to bully her out of the spot. Undeterred, she inched forward again. Both cars came to a stop as traffic stalled again. I watched the passenger in the sedan become more agitated. I saw him gesturing at her. He unrolled his window, shouted some obscenities, and flipped her off. He then did something I’ve not seen before. He exited the car, walked over to her window and yelled at her some more before walking around the front of her car and parking his grumpy butt right against her front bumper in an act of defiance. Steve and I looked at each other. Here’s a man in his mid 40s getting into a pissing contest over being one car length ahead of someone else, like he owned that spot in line and it was criminal that someone thought they could leave the lot one second ahead of him. The woman looked flabbergasted. Then the man started to direct the car he had been in around him (and her bumper) so the sedan had now inched far enough forward that it blocked her in completely. At that point, the big baby left the front bumper and reclaimed his seat in the sedan, triumphant. For the record, we let her out of her space, so she ended up directly behind him. Hope that one-second gain in travel time helped him out. Geesh!

What is with people? I know that assholes have existed for as long as humans have roamed this planet, but it sure seems like we are witnessing, in person, a lot more episodes like this one lately. The collective emotional IQ of our nation seems to hover right about toddler level these days. Maybe we all just need some graham crackers and a really good nap?

The One Where Fun With Flags Pays Off

On Wednesday nights, our neighborhood coffee shop/bar/gathering space hosts DJ Trivia. We have gone a couple times with some of our awesome neighbors. This week, none of our neighbors were available to join the festivities. We thought about skipping out too but, with Joe home from college and Luke without homework before spring break, we decided we had enough of a team with just the four of us. The boys were so not thrilled that we were dragging them along that Luke decided the only appropriate team name was Two Willing Participants since they didn’t want to be there.

We got through the first round with all the possible points, but it’s the easy round. We clinched the bonus question because of my gift with lyrics. Who knew that my brain would pull Def Leppard’s Pour Some Sugar On Me out of its cobwebby recesses? I haven’t willingly listened to that song since, well, ever. Anyhoo, we struggled the second round and ended with 20 out of 40 points and didn’t even dare take a stab at the bonus question. We were sitting in 6th place out of 7 teams, and our confidence was flagging. Somehow, though, we rallied in the third round, scoring 60 out of 80. Luke knew the bonus question about the alloy of copper and tin (it’s bronze), and we were right back in it. Suddenly, we were sitting in third, which meant we were in prize territory.

The final round is fill-in-the-blank questions rather than multiple choice. We got the first two fairly easily, but missed the next two. We were somehow still in third place as we waded into the final bonus round, called the Do Or Die Dare round. We strategized how to play it and decided it was go big or go home. If we got the question right, we would double our entire score and could finish in a higher place, or at least hold on to third and win a prize. And then, as if the gods were on our side, the title of the bonus round question hit the screen. The title was Fun With Flags. We all looked at Joe. This was our Slumdog Millionaire moment. Joe has long been a fan of geography and flags. He’s a regular vexillologist. In his senior year, he had to give a 45-minute presentation on a topic of his choice. The title of the presentation he shared with his classmates? Fun With Flags. I shit you not.

Yeah…I know that flag

Steve pushed himself back from the table with a “this is it” flourish of glee. A flag appeared on the trivia screens. Joe looked at it for a nanosecond, leaned forward, and said quietly with the utmost confidence, “Uzbekistan.” I grabbed the paper and wrote it down. We handed it to the DJ judge in five seconds flat while the rest of the tables sat hemming and hawing and conjecturing. It appeared no one wanted to risk all their points with an answer. Finally, a representative from the Vandalay Industries team stood up and walked to submit their answer. We all knew Joe had provided the right answer. Not because any of us had a clue about the flag of Uzbekistan but because Joe. The DJ did all the tabulating and then announced that only two answers had been submitted for the Do or Die Dare and only one of those was right. The correct answer was Uzbekistan.

Yeah, baby!

The DJ read off the name of the third place winner. We smiled. Second place went to the team that often wins each week, Hot Fuzz. The room was dead silent. Someone had pulled off an upset. The DJ put our team name on the screen, and we high-fived all around while Hot Fuzz looked over at us like we’d just kicked their puppy. Two Willing Participants won largely due to the efforts of its two unwilling team participants, and the coveted $25 brewery gift card and bragging rights for the week were ours. It was positively glorious.

A member of Team Hot Fuzz, still flabbergasted by their unexpected loss, shouted over to Joe to inquire how he knew the answer to the flag question so quickly. To which Joe replied, “I have the flags of the world memorized. It’s a good party trick.” This twenty year old kid just ruined their evening, and I couldn’t have been any prouder. It made all the hours I’ve spent quizzing Joe on flags and listening to him prattle on about the poorly designed ones totally worth it.

Joe with his personal Uzbekistan flag at home after our win

I guess there are a few lessons to be learned from our trivia evening. First, never, ever assume something you are asked to do (like attend a trivia night with your parents) will be a waste of time because you never know what you might learn about yourself or others. Second, if you encourage your child’s obsessions, they might pay off. Third, if you’re going to trivia night, take Joe and Luke with you. Their arcane knowledge about flags or every letter of the Greek alphabet or the names of Roman emperors might be just what you need to humble Hot Fuzz. And finally, if your kid wants to collect flags, let him.

Can I Get A Drum Roll, Please?

Well, it’s a done deal. After flying to three different states, touring five schools, revisiting two of the schools, and receiving four acceptance letters, Luke has chosen his college. It was a tough decision for him. He got a sizable merit scholarship from St. Olaf in Northfield, Minnesota, but ultimately decided he didn’t want to be Minnesota-level cold. He received a similar scholarship from the University of Denver, but decided he couldn’t go to college two miles from his high school because that wasn’t enough of a stretch. That left Reed College in Portland, Oregon, and Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington, pulling his attention.

Luke chose Reed College for himself his freshman year. He glommed onto it as a good fit for him right away. It’s a self-described college for eggheads, the kind of place kids go because they love to learn and not because they have a lovely campus, amazing dorms, or good football team. In fact, Reed has no sports and no Greek life. There is nothing to get in the way of learning for learning’s sake. It’s that kind of place. Reed is ranked sixth in the country for producing candidates who go on to doctorate degrees. The campus is amazing. Luke loves their adopted motto: “Communism, Atheism, and Free Love.” It is a funny motto, especially considering the school took it on as a tongue-in-cheek nod to the reputation they had earned as being a little bit more liberal than most places. I was a little nervous about the exceedingly rigorous educational practices at Reed, but once we toured it the second time (which was actually my third time as I also toured it with my oldest) I felt better. It’s impressive, and I definitely could see Luke there.

Luke’s brother chose Whitman College. Joe ended up at Whitman because his savvy mother found it for him and thought he should see it. Whitman, while being somewhat isolated in a small town in rural, southeastern Washington, is a great school with a solid reputation. It’s academically challenging but it values work/life balance, so there’s no busywork for the sake of looking impressive. Whitman aims to create well-rounded adults. There are tons of opportunities to get outdoors and to volunteer in the community, and charming downtown Walla Walla with its boutiques, wineries, and restaurants, is just a five-minute walk away. While Joe was a little apprehensive about going to school in such a small town, Whitman has been everything we expected it to be for him…challenging but fun. He is happy there. Having a brother going to Whitman could be a blessing or a curse for Luke. We wondered if that would enter into his decision.

In the end, Luke had two wonderful finalists and a tough decision. Did he want to push his academic limits at Reed, knowing its reputation for cranking out future post-grads? Did he want to attend the same college his brother chose? When he weighed his life goals against the pluses and minuses of each school, he felt he had a clear choice. He chose:

The two boys will both be at the same college next year, which works because it just does. This is the most Joe and Luke thing since Joe and Luke became brothers. The motto of Whitman College, which I loved so much for Joe, also is apt for Luke. Per ardua surgo roughly translates to “Through adversity, I rise,” which certainly fits both these kids who started their school careers struggling with their learning disabilities and yet worked hard and thus landed at a highly respected liberal arts college anyway.

Here’s hoping their next adventures together won’t involve Lego gunships broken into hundreds of pieces or empty deals made to persuade the other to do something they don’t want to do. If war breaks out between the two of them this time around, they won’t have their mother to appeal to for mediation.

The Genie In The Bottle Is Me

“Finding yourself is not really how it works. You aren’t a ten-dollar bill in last winter’s coat pocket. You are also not lost. Your true self is right there, buried under cultural conditioning, other people’s opinions, and inaccurate conclusions you drew as a kid that became your beliefs about who you are. Finding yourself is actually returning to yourself. An unlearning, an excavation, a remembering who you were before the world got its hands on you.” ~Anonymous

I bet she is a whole lot of awesome

I love this quote. It succinctly captures the problem with being human. We start out as infants, individuals (although we don’t know it yet) with likes, needs, and wants. We aren’t blank slates because we are unique and full of our own potential. As we grow, however, the second sentence above takes over our lives. We learn, through society, our parents, and others with whom we come into contact, to contort ourselves to fit in, please, and survive. With each subsequent outside belief we adopt and internalize as part of our reality, a piece of our individuality shrinks and folds further back inside our deepest depths. If we’re lucky we’re able, through the nurturing attention and love of important people, to remain somewhat true to who we are. If we’re told, however, that we are wrong or unworthy, those pieces we hid deep inside ourselves as a means of surviving stay hidden for a long time. Perhaps our entire lives. That is the real shame. Think of all the human potential that is tucked into our deepest recesses because we fear it is odd, off-putting, or unacceptable.

Reflect for a moment on the people you know. How many of them do you feel are living their unbridled individuality without hesitation or restraint? Certainly, some of us are doing a better job of it than others. I know several people who are 100% disconnected from who they are. They’ve robed themselves in the defenses of their politics, religion, biases, assumptions, and fears. I lived this way for a long time too. I had no choice. I was so influenced by the narratives I was sold. And, honestly, when you are bullied as a child to believe you are only worthy of love and attention if you behave a specific way and color within the lines, that becomes your standard method of operation. Stay within the prescribed track if you want to be acceptable.

So then, the trick to living an authentic life is found in the last sentence of the quote above. We have to stop long enough to question our beliefs. We have to sift through the stories, look at them objectively, and determine how they became ours. Was it part of our original makeup or was it something we put on because someone told us to? I have been doing some of these investigations in my own life, making lists of beliefs I hold about myself and dissecting them to find their origin. Once I can trace them back to someone (or something) else, I can then ask if that belief is serving me or if it is restraining me. This is the deconstruction before the reconstruction.

I spent most of my life working to be smaller than I am, to fit into the too-tight molds others constructed for me. Lately, though, I’ve been feeling rather cramped. My inner potential, the person I was before the world got its hands on me and dimmed my shine, is begging to stretch.

I have taken to thinking of my current situation as a bit of a genie-in-a-lamp narrative. There is something inside the lamp. I know it, although I haven’t seen the totality of its contents. I am using a soft polishing cloth to return the lamp to its former shine. The more I rub the surface, the more I realize how brilliant what lies beneath must be. Eventually, with my repeated effort, I will unleash the contents obscured within. Then and only then can I be my true self…at least most of the time.