As a kid, I used to spend my summer frequenting the nearby indoor pool. I spent nearly all of my own money on the pool fee, and it was so worth it. I loved nothing more than coming home from hours of swimming and dunking myself in a hot bath, and then wrapping myself in warm sweats while I relaxed in front of a movie.
I read through my old journals and my old blog sometimes, and I feel a sort of disconnect from the girl who wrote them.
Who stole my brain when I turned 12? I started thriving on fear, on stuffing emotions and instincts down, and living FOR others, on letting my opinions and preferences be sacrificed on the altar of Likeability.
I cared more about being LIKED than I did about MYSELF.
And then I married someone with an addiction to porn. The craziness took hold, and I lost myself. I gave myself up to a world stained with hard words, deep wounds, and lust-filled sex that left me feeling empty and wondering what was wrong with me.
But that's changing.
As I gathered with 14 other women in a cabin detached from civilization, I told them the condensed version of my story.
"I feel like my story is so shallow," I said. Others stories I heard were riddled with stories of affairs, prostitution...
And then one woman spoke up, "There's no comparison between our stories. Just because a husband only looks at porn doesn't make a story shallow. Porn is just the gateway drug. Every woman here who has had a husband sleep with someone else can tell you that it started with porn."
Heads around the room nodded silently in agreement.
The woman continued, "The fact that you're here and that you both recognize that this is a problem isn't shallow. It's awesome."
Clouds parted for me. I knew that -I guess I did. But it's possible to KNOW something without UNDERSTANDING it. And when she said that, something clicked on my insides.
I became more comfortable in my own skin, in my own story.
As I've slowly picked up the pieces of myself that I inadvertently discarded over the years, I've taken part in the most thrilling Awakening.
I've discovered what I makes me so happy inside that I can't contain myself. I know where to reach to find my happiness.
I have the gift of Animation, the gift of curiosity, the gift of sentimentality, the gift of imagination, creativity, humor, laughter! What I have to offer the world is important -and my definition of success has drastically changed.
I love to get my hands on my yarn and crochet vintage hot pads that actually STAY done (unlike the dishes).
I love to write, to feel words handed to me as I place my fingers on my keyboard.
I love sunsets.
I love to feel olive oil in my fingers as I work it through soft flour in the tortilla-making process.
I love to apply and inhale my essential oils.
I love family history work -old pictures and people and stories... nothing in this world thrills me or ignites my inner passionmore than stories, people, and pictures (did I just sort of confess that my favorite section in the newspaper is the obituaries? Well it is. No shame here).
I love music. I make it with my instruments, I teach it to my students, I listen to it almost constantly.
I love teaching in all its forms (except the potty training form).
I love my religion.
But as I've traversed The Awakening, I've also noticed that I have a tight chest. And not in a good feel-good sexy kind of way... more of in an anxiety-pressure-OHMYGAWSH kind of way.
I have to constantly conscientiously be aware of it, why it's there, what put it there, release, relax, let go...
I find the tightness in public places: when the teacher in Sunday School asks us to share an experiences we might have related to the topic. I want to share something that will make me look awesome. I want to be admired. My chest tightens with the pressure I put on myself.
I find the tightness in watching my children play. I don't want them taking risks. What if they get hurt on my watch? Their Dad will be so angry. My chest tightens as I feel controlled.
I find the tightness as I drive. Anxiety grips my chest and the tightness radiates to my knuckles as I grip the steering wheel as if it's my link to life.
I find the tightness as I eat. I've got to hurry and eat, you know, because there's things to do.
I find the tightness in a box and with a fox and in a house and with a mouse and in the dark and in the rain and on a train.
I kid you not.
My state of awareness is exhausting. But it's paying off in spades.
I let go of the tightness in my chest this weekend. I didn't worry if my shirt was too loose, if I was showing more skin than I should. I didn't worry if my legs were too white, if my clothes weren't cute, if my hair looked frizzy and undecided (it matches it's wearer so well).
I let go.
I took my baby to the river and put her feet in. I nursed her in the open for God and everyone (who actually wasn't anyone at all) could see. I prayed with her splashing her pretty red toenails in the water. I spent time in the hammock with her cooing to the trees overhead.
And I know now that when I follow my natural instincts -the ones I have been silencing for YEARS upon years upon years -the tightness dissipates.
Yesterday, I was supposed to get the mail and finish making a sock monkey. But I went to the playground instead. I made playdough instead of folding the laundry.
At it was so hot yesterday... so very hot. So I put us all in clothes we could get wet in and I ran us ALL through the sprinkler outside.
I drip-dried on the porch with a book and a kitten.
Then I came inside, took a hot bath, and put sweats on.
I recognize myself again. I know this girl.
I KNOW THIS GIRL.
She is me. I remember.
The Awakening is enriching, exciting, hard, hard, hard, wonderful, and worth it.