“The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.”
The above quote is shared by one of my favorite novelists, Anna Quindlen. Several years ago, I read her poignant and powerful little book, A Short Guide to a Happy Life. I can remember a line from the book, one I read over and over again:
“We have to teach ourselves now to live, really live…to love the journey, not the destination.”
I wanted what Ms Quindlen was offering: the ability to live in the moment, to leave behind the hopeless quest for perfection and begin the journey of finding and loving ME, real and imperfect Michelle.
But how? All I had known was the ability to pull out the needle for my daily dose of perfection injections. Being ME just didn’t seem good enough. I mean, really, how many times do we look at a magazine cover or TV commercial and think, “I am still not worthy of success or love. I will never look like that!” The endless and brutal battle with ourselves to become something completely unattainable.
We focus on the exterior and neglect the interior: Vanity vs Authenticity. We desire what we can see, placing little hope on what we cannot.
Vanity and my focus on creating a persona, not being a person…never brought me peace. I didn’t intend a superficial life for myself although, for some time, that’s exactly what I had. Job titles, always living in the future and looking for the next career move, which would bring a nicer house, a newer car, a better wardrobe. It was never sufficient and it wasn’t really living.
Then, one day it clicked: being intentional and present in my life was the key to breaking free from the unconscious maze I had created. For so long, I did what the world expected me to do. Like a faithful flock of sheep, I followed along. I had turned up the volume and drowned out the voice of my soul.
“People don’t talk about the soul very much anymore. It’s so much easier to write a résumé than to craft a spirit.”
~Anna Quindlen, A Short Guide to a Happy Life
Wow! I had crafted the education and the résumé and the fancy life that would make me feel worthy of existing, or so I thought. Yet, I had left my spirit bankrupt. Huge wakeup call! I had not been seated in the driver’s seat of my life’s car and it was on the wrong path. U-Turn required!
Goals, education and career, oh, they are all great things! Only, I had been, as Ms Quindlen writes, focusing on the “Life of my mind.” I also needed to focus on the, “Life of my heart.” My life, at the time, had become about the physical and material. The bank account may have been in order, yet, my spirit had experienced too many withdrawals.
Get A Life was the sign I saw posted on the exit to happiness. A real life: one filled with authentic moments and directed by the woman living those moments: ME.
I closed my eyes and began to envision what that life looked like. I saw LOVE. Real, honest, present, giving love. It was waiting within me and had been there all the time. LOVE for me and LOVE for others around me. LOVE that would expand my territory and lift me to new heights of awareness and understanding. LOVE that would bring me to know, truly know, the woman in the mirror.
Let’s face it, life is short. Blink of an eye short. Why would we ever live it any other way but authentically? I don’t want to waste my life. I desire to make it the best life possible. In fact, I ask my God each and every day to use me up. And, I never (not anymore) compare myself to someone else. I am ME: perfectly imperfect and happy.
I stop to feel the breeze on my face, or to notice the miracle of nesting baby birds. I listen to the sweet sounds of my children as they giggle and play. I watch my dogs roll in the grass and I laugh at their silliness. I embrace messy hair, along with my best pair of ripped jeans! I take in the healing of a warm cup of tea. I delight in the little moments. And, yes, sometimes when the notion strikes me ~ I hang upside down from my favorite tree!
I got a life! A full, beautiful, and delightful life…one I do not take for granted. And, the cherry on top of the sundae is ~ I found the balance between a personal life that nourishes me and a professional life that fulfills me, never depleting me. I slow down and love more. I follow my own values. I forgive and I live. Amazing!
Today, I claim my life. I believe in my potential to live abundantly and authentically. I listen to my inner-wisdom as it guides me to what is essential for happiness. Today, I “get a life” and start living!