The Stories We Tell Ourselves

A favorite author and podcast host reminds me frequently that what goes on inside our heads might be the place that requires the most selective filter. The ongoing narrative, circulating through our minds, is probably the most critical story we will ever write. How we choose to believe our story scripts our legacy.

There is so much I have learned along the way that has shifted my story. Even if this last sentence is exactly what I believe today, there are some things I don’t yet have the intellectual humility to believe as anything other than my absolute truth.

So, my girls, as we continue this wonderful journey, here are a few of the stories I’m telling myself today.

The older I get, I’m finding it equal parts exhausting and exhilarating to love being around people. I have taken to putting my extroverted self into a “productive time out” where I actually try to accomplish things without being surrounded by people. No easy task, let me assure you.

I am the most content when I am caring for other people. While this certainly contributes to my exhaustion, caring for others makes me feel most alive and fulfilled. It is not lucrative, but I have decided that contentment cannot come with a price tag attached.

Discovering the humanity in the people and organizations that surround us has been especially formative in my middle-aged years. Please know that all the adults in your lives are humans too, and we have shortcomings and make mistakes, just as humans are apt to do. It doesn’t mean that we aren’t trying our darndest to make the world better for you.

I have always had a soft spot for teens and young adults. Couple this with feeling most content while caring for other people, you can guess that saving amply for retirement is not high on my list of priorities. While the sentiment waxes and wanes within any given hour, I feel truly fortunate to love my job, and I recognize that this is a profound privilege.

For the life of me, I cannot figure out where my threshold is for saying no. If you took a glimpse into our lives, you might believe that my threshold is through the roof, or maybe you think I’m a lazy wimp who sits back on her laurels all too often. Trying to find this balance is ongoing. Your father likes to joke that I reach my threshold around the Elite 8, just when things are getting good.

Going back to school later in life has been a humbling adventure. Since I’m not quite finished, I don’t know completely how to feel about it. It’s certainly shown me the vital importance of humility. There is still so much I don’t know.

One of my favorite parts of parenting is getting to watch you all find your people. You can say with such a high degree of emotional intelligence who helps you be your best self, and I’m working to take your lead. I don’t think I learned this skill until much later in life.

As enticing as it might seem, I have learned to be cautious of the sparkly parts of life. Nothing is always filled with glitter, so trying to find it is impossible. Social media is a tricky beast that makes it possible to filter our lives so that everything seems peachy. I promise you, there is always something beneath the surface in someone else’s life, devoid of sparkle, that we can’t see.

Two things I’m quoted as saying frequently: “I am delightful, thank you for noticing” and “I am not totally clear on what’s happening, but I’m damn glad to be here.” I think this sums me up well.

I hope, when you look back on your childhood, you will see that your father and I worked really hard to give you a foundation. We are very mindful that we don’t try to prescribe the life we want you to lead. Just because something worked for us doesn’t mean it will work for you. Instead, we really hope that we give you the tools you need and surround you with good people to cheer you along your journey.  

While the statement above is true, I think you’ll remember the thing your old mother said 900 times each day is “Make safe choices!”.

As I progress towards middle age, I’m finding it endearing that many things I have always loved did not changed: 90s alternative rock, teen dramas, doing the laundry, baking cookies, white wine, a good book, and the best people around my table. It’s my prayer these loves never change.

I wonder if there are things I will grow into liking, like how we tell little kids they will grow up and like eating salad. I don’t want to close the door completely, but I can say with some certainty that I will never enjoy running, yard work, naps, or dark beer.

My dear ones, thank you for giving your mother a moment to re-center myself in this crazy fast world. Please know that I am always here to be your grounding point. There is always space for you around our table.

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