“What you are is what you have been. What you’ll be is what you do now.” -Buddha
The journey of life – quite a ride with many ups and downs, eh? This week has been a fascinating week for me in that many milestones have popped to my attention. This week marked my 20 year service anniversary as a meteorologist in my company – 20 already?? My oldest boy is graduating high school…18 years already?? I also stumbled over an old chum from my high school days that I had no idea was living in the same city as me – and we may even have been feet away from each other unknowingly many times over the years as he is a medical specialist and I am often at appointments at the local hospital. Heck, my medical file may have or will one day cross his desk for consultation as his colleagues are my current medical team. Small world, ain’t it?
But it got me to thinking about how we change over time along our life journeys, and how we go from almost secretive to open and authentic along that journey. How we carry burdens like big over-sized sticks along our journey. Back in high school, were any of us who we are today? I think back to my own high school days, and the wisdom of age allows me to feel compassion for the sad girl that I was at the time, terrified, no self-esteem, trying to fit in with friends as I struggled to find my place in the world. As an adult, I can see that I never let anyone know the real me back then – I had a ditzy blonde jock persona which was “safe”. I excelled in high school academics – but never let my jock friends in on the fact that I actually had alot of brains. I remember to this day running into another old chum while in grad school – he asked me what I was doing, and I told him I was completing a grad degree in Physics. He went blank and said “Oh, you mean Phys Ed”. Nope – physics. His stunned look was priceless – and I had spent almost every day with him in our high school leaders group. I guess I was easier to accept as a ditzy blonde jock than as a very smart woman. LOL!
I understand now that I was coping in the only way I knew how – I kept people at arms length, because I hurt so much and did not know that it was not normal – my home life was a sham, dealing with parental alcoholism and domestic violence of the worst kind – and hiding the secret shame of it for years. I know some of my friends were struggling secretly with their sexuality, religious conflict, family illness, or family strife. But none of it was never something that was ever acknowledged, only whispered about in hushed tones. To this day, I don’t think any of my high school friends knew that there was so much violence and dysfunction in my own home life. It wasn’t until recent years that I myself came to understand how severely dysfunctional and violent my childhood was – and how it affected the decisions I made in my own life journey, and created the post-traumatic stress in me.
When do we learn to “know” ourselves, really? During the teens and early twenties of life, there is such a struggle to find oneself and so much personally-inflicted drama due to the new emotions and hormones flooding our developing bodies. Once we enter our thirties, more “life” has happened, and we start to understand how our life experiences to date have shaped us, shaped our decisions. We may have had more challenges and struggles – and learned to bounce back – the challenges developing our resilience. Having children strengthens that resilience and resolve as it often helps focus priorities more clearly. As we enter our 40′s, more life happens – maybe more loss in the form of divorce or serious health challenges or even death. Our journey challenges us again – our personal resilience and coping skills developing all the more. We learn to use the stick as a tool to help us along our journey, rather than a burden slowing us down and making the journey more difficult.
Personally, now that I am closing in on 50 years of age, I find myself more and more grateful for all the challenges I have dealt with along my journey. Has it always been fun? Heck no! But it all made me who I am today – and I like that person. I really like that person – seizures, MS, quirky sense of humour and all. I am more authentic now than I have ever been. I know what works for me, and what doesn’t – and I am no longer afraid to claim it. I have had some pretty bumpy times in my life – but I have learned from every bump, even if it meant learning to just walk away from hopelessly toxic situations.
The growth and resilience developed over this bumpy journey allowed me to learn to recognize authenticity in others – such as my darling love, SuperMike, who always makes my heart flutter like a high school girl! My yoga practice has helped solidify that personal authenticity, bringing me peace and more compassion, not only for others, but for myself. Compassion for others is wonderful – but if you cannot have compassion for yourself, how can you have authentic compassion for others? As the saying goes, you have to ” Walk the Walk”, not just “Talk the Walk” or “Talk the Talk”.
Does this mean I am fine with MS and a seizure disorder in my life? No – of course not. But this is the body I have…and I will take care of it the best I can for what ever time I have it. “Be gentle first with yourself if you wish to be gentle with others.” -Lama Yeshe