Recently I wrote a guest blog post, Thriving Requires Letting Go of the Lies, for Sue’s Over Fifty and Thriving series. The idea for that post was inspired by the book, Girl, Wash Your Face, by Rachel Hollis (my review here). I have since decided to turn the subject into a new blog series: The Lies I’ve Believed.
In the original guest post, I introduced Delilah, my harsh inner critic who constantly reminds me I am not good enough, brave enough or smart enough. Her loud, commanding voice tells me I am better off alone than out in the world pursuing my dreams. She is quite convincing.
But I’m tired of living this way. I’m merely existing rather than embracing an abundant life. It is time to replace Delilah’s lies with the truth.
This week’s lie: My value is based on my accomplishments.
I don’t know how she does it all.
Mom spoke these words with such deep respect when talking about her sister. My aunt was married to the church organist of a large congregation. If the church doors were open, they were there. In addition, she was the mother of two, both involved in several different after-school activities. On top of that, she was the elementary school secretary of an up-and-coming urban neighborhood. Yes, my aunt was busy.
I didn’t necessarily want my aunt’s lifestyle, but I yearned for my mother’s respect.
I don’t mean to say Mom ignored me. She gave positive comments (especially when I hosted holiday meals) and she encouraged me to succeed (the world is your oyster was a frequent refrain). But I longed to hear I don’t know how you do it all.
I held various part-time jobs when my children were young, but I decided to teach full-time in 2001. My eldest was in 10th grade and my youngest was in 3rd. I was not certified to teach and felt completely out of my element. If I wasn’t creating lesson plans, I was researching enrichment activities. If I wasn’t grading, I was helping my own children with their homework. Frazzled is a good word to describe this time in my life.
Mom listened patiently as I relayed my classroom experiences. She seemed interested in my lesson plans. But she never uttered the words I longed to hear.
A decade later I was teaching seven different class preps a week. My eldest was married and expecting her first child. My youngest was graduating from high school. Mom was in hospice care. Not only was I grading, prepping, and parenting, I was also responsible for visiting Mom several times a week. STRESSED does not begin to describe my life. And yet… I continued to strive (in vain) to earn those words of praise.
I retired in 2014. My first true act of self-care.
I struggled with the lack of demands and deadlines — not because I didn’t know what to do but because I didn’t believe what I was doing had value. I exercised, walked the dog, journaled, met friends for lunch, began a book project, and taught a journaling class. Yet every day I wondered whether my life had purpose. Wasn’t there more I should do for others? Was I being too selfish?
About nine months later I realized I lost six pounds without any special diet or exercise. I was no longer rushed. I began to observe the beauty in the ordinary. I was at peace.
Now I can look back at my life from 2001-2014 and say without hesitancy, I don’t know how I did it all. But it is not with awe and reverence. It is with great sadness. What small moments of joy did I miss along the way?
The truth: My value comes from simply being me.