My mother often said, “You should never stop learning.” She meant this in general terms for all people, not just me. Mom was a teacher at heart and she truly believed, as I do, that education is your ticket to anywhere. My college degree was just one of the gifts my parents gave me.
I wonder what Mom would think of the latest online course I am taking. I suppose it falls under the category of self-help. And, yes, I am helping myself by taking steps backwards to find the girl who lives inside of me; the one who loved to play and laugh. I’m searching for the girl who ran barefoot through the hot, humid Indiana summers, the one who wrote scripts of comedy shows for the neighborhood children to perform for their parents. I hope to find the child that believed she could achieve any goal. I want to find the girl who believed in all possibilities and wasn’t afraid to fail, and if she did, try again.
The course developed and given by Brene’ Brown is a total of twelve weeks divided into two separate six-week programs. The first half took place before December and I had a blast. The participants of this course read a few pages every week from Brene’ Brown’s book, The Gifts of Imperfection. Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are. As part of the class, the students are required to have a journal in which we reflect on our past lives, recall the dreams we once had and find the courage and creativity that we lost as we left behind our childhoods.
Creating my journal, I have thoroughly enjoyed letting my imagination flow as I cut out photos and make collages. I paint pictures with watercolors that would not win awards but I find joy in doing. I search through magazines for scenes that lift my spirits and I glue them into my journal. I ponder on a picture of my past self, and imagine reaching back to grasp her hand and feel the self-confidence and happiness. I pull her energy through the many times of my recent self-doubt. The years of being told, I couldn’t possibly accomplish something, and bring that force into now. I wrap that power around myself so that once again I can feel hope and understand the potential waiting inside of me. I am taking a step backward so that I can leap into my future.
There are many articles about being an empty-nester and trust me, it is a time of change for any parent. I have worked my way through this stage of life very slowly. When my girls were away at college, my husband and I felt the emptiness of the house but we knew our children would soon return.
I never really had the chance to focus on myself while my girls were gone because of my responsibilities of caring for my mother, who had dementia. She passed away in February 2012 and my youngest daughter graduated from college the following May. Kristen lived with us until she was accepted into law school. It was a year of turmoil for the whole household. I realize now I spent the good part of that year emerging from a haze of sorrow that had enveloped me during Mom’s six year struggle with dementia.
Last fall, I began to feel the urge to learn something new. Consequently, I signed myself up for this class which allows me to take a step backward, as I call it. I am finding the person who will stop and dance when her favorite song circles through the playlist or will sit in the morning and linger over her second cup of coffee just to pet the cat sitting on her lap while listening to the birds sing. I am a searcher of joy, a spreader of kindness.
Of course, a transformation does not occur overnight nor does change become a constant in the wink of an eye. I have plenty of work to do. I have to remind myself to stop endlessly looking forward and making plans too far in advance. I am learning to enjoy now. It is a delicate balance of making sure I am prepared and then stopping to enjoy the moment I am in.
I have once again found the passion I enjoyed as a young girl: writing and I have a job that I love. Both give a sense of purpose to my life and in return I have found joy. It is the same delight I felt when young as I swayed in the branches of a willow tree while reading a great book.
With age and an empty-nest has come the wisdom I once knew as a young girl. I am happy I can step back into that positive energy.