Remember kindergarten when you’d ask each other what you wanted to be when you grew up? A teacher! A fireman! The President! The possibilities felt limitless. Kindergarten was a long time ago and maybe you’re not so sure of what you want, or you don’t know how to get to where you want to be. I’ve been there.
When I was 33, we moved to a place where I knew no one. Then my husband got laid off and the combination of very little money, no friends and a high-stress level at home caused me to turn inward. My self-esteem plummeted. I started coming up with reasons not to leave the house. Car problems. I didn’t feel well. We didn’t have any money so what was the point of going anywhere? It got to the point where I wouldn’t even go outside if I saw the mailman coming around the corner, because the idea of talking with people made my heart hammer and my palms sweaty.
Finally, I said: Enough! I knew this wasn’t who I was, who I wanted to be or how I wanted to be. I found a motivational group that taught people how to reach their optimal potential. For the next three years, I worked on myself intensely. It was a terrifying and exhilarating journey. Touching on painful subjects, like having no one to sit with at lunch for six years in grade school, feeling fat in the locker room with my huge stomach while surrounded by swizzle sticks, being screamed at day after day by my second grade teacher, subconsciously choosing to give up my childhood to raise my mother as a means of having value in one part of my life, all of these choices and more caused me to reevaluate my entire life. I would drive the hour there, heart in my throat, because I didn’t know what emotional issue was going to surface next. A brief time of exhilaration would follow, as I got to the root of the cause of different issues. And then I would drive home with my heart in my throat again, because I felt so different. I was changing, and I didn’t know if my family would accept me. All I knew was, I couldn’t go back to being that accommodating Mom. My world no longer revolved around my finding value, acceptance, a sense of place, by pleasing others. I was ready to eat my lunch alone and still feel good about myself, but I was really hoping that my family would like to join me.
While shedding emotional baggage, I also shed forty pounds. I went from being an unemployed recluse to landing a job I was great at and making lasting friendships. I went from being completely out of shape to joining a Boxing gym and becoming an Amateur female boxer. I even joined a writer’s group and revived my memoir of my time in a traveling Carnival and falling in love with a Carnie, who later became my first husband.
It was a hard, painful, and amazing journey. And I came out happy, confident and transformed. Life is now an adventure. And while all the changes caused a lot of shifting to occur within my family, in the end we are all much happier, and I always have someone who would like to join me for lunch, or any other meal for that matter.
It being a brand New Year, I think a great recommendation to all, and certainly tips that I follow for myself, is to start carrying around a little pocket journal and whenever you find yourself having a negative reaction, stop and ask yourself, “Why is this pushing my buttons?” “Why don’t I like this person?” “Why do I care about this?” Now, remember it’s just you and your journal so be honest! You don’t need to hide from your own self. This may seem like a simple process, but you’ll find if you are truthful and sincere, this brings up a lot of stuff. And shockingly, none of it has anything to do with anyone else, any situation, or any external thing for that matter! It is all about you. Your reactions are your own. You are the only thing you can control. You can choose happiness. I know it sounds crazy, and I know it goes against all the media and what society preaches. But truth be told, you will not find internal fulfillment by buying a snazzy new dress. You will only find more emptiness to fill.
The amount I have learned about myself, and humanity in general, is tremendous. I have come to realize that my life’s purpose is to help people access and cultivate the tools they need to recognize that they can choose to be happy, independent of anyone or anything else.