What are you most proud of?
When I first read the writing prompt, I shrunk inside. My chest felt like someone reached in there and squeezed my heart a bit. (Is that what shame and regret feel like? feel familiar?)
My immediate thought was: There is nothing I am proud of, not really. (Not if you discount the obvious and true statement that I am proud of my children, but they are people not accomplishments).
The negative squirrel chatter (Larry) in my head told me there were no major life works to point to, no career of merit, no awards to hold up high. There has been no reaching upward toward some pinnacle, no single thing or passion that I sought after and attained. Instead, there has been lots of starting and stopping and changing and moving and returning. Restless seeking.
My first childhood dream was to live an exotic life as inspired by National Geographic. When asked, “What do you want to do when you grow up?” my vague answer included doing noteworthy humanitarian and brave acts in far away places. Deeds worthy of a glossy photo essay.
Instead, all my travels have ultimately led me right back around to the small, rural town of Orange, where I started.
So, what do I do?
I work part-time taking care of a few small rental properties once belonging to my father. I am married. I am a hands-on, stay-at-home-mother. I spend most of my time with my family, my widowed mother, and my few friends. We walk, we hike, we cook, we play, we knit, we sew, we read, we work in the yard, we watch movies.
Should I feel shame at not being a missionary or explorer half way around the world? or an ambassador in a foreign country? or a scientist discovering new and exciting things?
?!!What am I most proud of???!
Nothing in my life stood out as special enough to write about and post publicly to the world, (and Larry the squirrel nemesis threatened to take over and chitter on and on about dreams abandoned and a life wasted…).
I knew in my heart this negative self-shaming was not my truth. I have been blessed to have so many wonderful opportunities and experiences to be proud of and have chosen where I am now. So I told Larry to shut it, and began making a list.
My first list: a list of where I have been and what I have done.
I figured, maybe the little things that I’ve done happily with pride along the way could help point me in the right direction. I created a plot line of every place I’ve lived and all volunteer and paid work I have done.
I highly recommend doing this exercise as it gave me a view of my life from an objective distance. I cut it out of this blog post and made it private for my own reference. It made this post very long (Read: longer) and boring (Read: more unbearably so). Looking at this list I asked myself WHY I moved somewhere and WHY I chose certain work and activities.
My second list: a list of truths distilled from the first.
- I can now admit that for many years I let myself make excuses for not pursuing my dreams. I have recently pointed to my father’s death, my family responsibilities, and living in Orange as excuses for not using my talents to pursue the things I love in a way that mattered, even though these choices were mine and freely made.
- I can now see the pattern of things that have brought me immense joy: experiencing new cultures, outdoor adventure, travel, art and theater; volunteering with the elderly, children and youth; studying the martial arts; making meaningful connections with others through helping.
- I feel most alive when challenging my comfort zones, emotionally, physically, and spiritually while pursuing these activities.
- I am an experienced teacher and community organizer and property manager. I am good at designing and making things. I am good at generating ideas and starting big picture projects that are creative, open-minded, inspiring, useful, and that bring people together.
- What I am currently most proud of is starting back on my journey of discovering my purpose after years of excuses.
My third list: a list is of the actions I have taken to begin again.
- I have renewed my study and practice of Tai Chi and began a weekly morning practice session with friends.
- I began and facilitate a weekly, evening knitting and stitching group.
- I volunteer and assist with an after school TaeKwonDo class at my daughter’s elementary school.
- I volunteer in the position as president of the board of the St. Thomas Community Preschool.
- I have flipped a commercial property on Main Street into a community of studios and offices for artists and small business entrepreneurs.
What brought me back from living a life of excuses was that I took the one small step of enrolling in a Tai Chi class here in my little town. Slowly I have begun to re-energize my life by doing work that I care about.
These little things are all part of my path and I know they add up to something greater and I am excited to be more intentional and figure out what that greater purpose is.
Thank you Live My Legend Blog Challenge for being part of my journey towards making and living a life that matters.
“We must not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we began and to know the place for the first time.” ~~~T.S.Elliot