I had dinner with some friends the other evening. This couple was in my life prior to the divorce tsunami (in fact, my then-husband spoke of me in glowing terms to the wife just weeks before he left), provided support during the year of tear-stained cheeks and building a life from scratch and now they have welcomed my new husband into the fold. I call those BDA friends – before, during and after.
As we were walking back from dinner, the wife half of the couple posed a question,
So I know you have learned so many things from of all of this, but what are your top three?
Challenge accepted. Although it did take much of the walk back from dinner to sort through the myriad lessons learned to arrive at the top three.
Walls are a prison, not a fortress.
I had several friends die while I was in high school. Several as in eleven. One after the other in a series of unrelated accidents and attacks. It left me raw, but I was functioning fine as I left town for college. Fine, that was, until I called a high school friend that fall and learned of two more deaths. My response was to narrow my world, limiting its inhabitants so that those damned statistical deaths would have a harder time reaching me. My then-boyfriend now-infamous-ex was the sole inhabitant within that inner world, all others relegated outside the walls built to protect my heart and my sanity.
I am sure that over the years, that approach protected me from loving and losing a variety of friends. But not because the strategy somehow prevented loss; it prevented love.
After facing the biggest loss of all, I welcomed everyone in to the inner circle; I even actively sought out inhabitants. And, have I lost some of them? Yes, although thankfully none to death at this point. But I am no longer so afraid of loss that I’ll let it hold me prisoner.
Autopilot never takes you anywhere worth going.
It’s scary how easy it is to let inertia take the pilot’s seat of your life. At least, that’s what I found. I made plans, set them in action and then just let it happen. Not only was I not as aware of life passing me by, I also ended up with behaviors and habits that no longer served their original purpose. For example, I went into “grit my teeth and get it done” phase when I was simultaneously working on my master’s degree, taking a gifted certification class and teaching a new grade level. After that year was over, I should have downshifted.
But autopilot was on.
Now, I make a concerted effort to always survey and reevaluate my course. And I’m not afraid to make corrections.
Place more emphasis on being rather than doing.
I used to love being described as a hard worker; it was the best compliment I could receive. And I was a hard worker, the one you would always want on your team. Unfortunately, that drive also carried with it an anxiety about getting everything done and a sense of self-worth tied to my accomplishments rather than my character.
I’m still a hard worker, but I now know how to push the pause button. I am okay with task-free moments and even (occasionally) entire days. There’s a balance now. A sense of peace.
So those are my top three lessons. The rollerblading outing prior to dinner demonstrated that I am still learning to go downhill. So, there are still lessons left to learn!