One of the great joys of being in my 40s has been understanding the significance of other people’s revelations. In my 20s and 30s if someone was dieting or training for a race I felt an immediate wave of shame for not being in pursuit of the same goals. It was exhausting, unproductive, and almost impossible to conquer. Now when I see someone moving toward a goal I am able to see it for what it is—something meaningful to someone else. I can celebrate their climb, learn from their experience, or just go about my life.
I read a post from a friend the other day that made me smile from ear-to-ear. Deborah is a woman who seems to be made of go. The way she parents her daughters, partners with her husband, and hustles and risks for her work, is dizzying in the best kind of way. We met at a conference years ago thanks to Danielle Smith, and have been friends ever since. After spending more time with her at the Mom2 Summit in May, she became more real to me. I read her posts and updates in her voice, I remember the things she confided to me about balance and exhaustion. When something would annoy me or make me doubt, I’d hear her voice, “Amanda, that’s nuts” or “Girl, you are up here compared to them,” holding up her hand and then wiping her face and blurting about the heat. Deborah was my favorite character in a novel come to life and set down in my world. I haven’t taken that gift lightly.
When I saw her post, The Moment I stopped Caring What Other People Think of Me, I immediately clicked. It feels like everyone writes about conquering doubt or throwing caution to the wind, but somehow I knew hers would be different. I knew it would be about releasing the grip on self-doubt and meaning it.
That was a 10-day trip of just letting stuff go. Then all this past week, at home, I took the girls to our clubhouse pool and by Wednesday I realized I didn’t care who looked at me or what they thought. I realized, I’m just as awesome as my kids think I am. Slowly, I’ve been finding myself letting go of the expectation of who I think I’m supposed to be and am beginning to love who I am because damn it, I’m pretty awesome.
She has a passage in the post about needing to do it for her daughters, but between the lines what I saw was that it was for her in a new way. Getting back to the gray in the post title, I am discovering that the more I age and become certain about what I know and believe, the grayer it all becomes.
Yes, we do things for our daughters, but in the not so distant horizon is a time when our girls will be women and off on their own. Will we stop? Or is it ok to realize before they leave that we are worthy of care too? Must we insist on assigning the impetus for our growth on something other than wanting to feel good?
I speak up because I have to, I grow quiet because I need that too. I lay the groundwork and do the brutal shopping to look professional and put together, then I say “Pffft,” and yank my hair in a bun and slip into jeans and say, “This’ll do.”
The more black and white things become in my life the more I see that gray is a constant and, if I really explore how I feel about that, I am grateful for it. For every time that I’ve woken up or met the end of the day thinking that I am old and past the best of whatever I was going to have, I have a moment of clarity that reminds me joy and contentment are not in invisible pores or days without deadlines.
Delight and heartache are laced together, sometimes coming at once, other times eclipsing each other. When my back inexplicably aches in the morning I find a way to dab a bit of purple and white into the gray until I have tendril of lavender looping between black and white.
Wishing us all the courage to mix a bit of color into the gray.