Sunday, October 28, 2012

Dealing with the Past Self

Once again Ollin Morales over at Courage 2 Create has written a winner of a post, Burying Your Past Self: A Ritual. This is about putting aside the tendencies or habits that hold us back and keep us from being the person we were truly meant to be.

There is a saying in the world of writers: kill your darlings. In the craft of writing that means that you can't love your beautiful words too much to edit them ruthlessly. In life, I think it means sometimes we have to kill off aspects of ourselves that are holding us back in some way or another. Often those are aspects of our personalities that we cling to and allow to rule us. Fear is a big one for me. I have been oppressed by my fears most of my life. I haven't totally offed my fear, and I probably never will.  I have managed, however, to shackle it enough to to allow me to do a lot of things that would have been unthinkable for me in the past.  That is important, at any stage in life. It is probably healthy on multiple levels to conduct an annual check-up on what parts of us are holding us back.

I'm in a different place in my life than Ollin. I just turned 58. Instead of burying my past self and turning myself into someone completely new (and probably totally unrecognizable), I find myself digging up parts of myself that shriveled up and went dormant through neglect over the years. Interestingly, I find myself looking back across the decades and reaching out to the Young Woman I was in my twenties. In many ways, she was quite a gal. She had ambition, albeit unfocused and perhaps somewhat unrealistic. She had dreams. She was smart. She was not unattractive, in an Seventies kind of way. (On what planet would those clothes and hair be considered attractive today?) She could be very funny, sometimes even intentionally. She could be the life of a party, on occasion -- if egged on by the right people. She could dance (maybe not well, but she was not inhibited from having fun trying). She loved singing in piano bars.

In some ways, that Young Woman died when I got married. Somehow, despite all my feminist ideals, once I was a married woman, I did everything I could to turn myself into the kind of woman my mother was: totally devoted to family; cooking everything from scratch; doing church work; self-identifying primarily as a homemaker, even when I had a job. I went from being a happy young thing to being a boring middle-aged woman living almost entirely inside my own imagination, because I had no real life to live.

I still live a very solitary life for the most part (which suits me), but I've recently found myself dusting off a few of the dreams that I abandoned along the way. My youthful career ambitions don't appeal to me any more. I really never wanted career success enough to make the sacrifices necessary to get to the top, anyway. But, I have been surprised to discover that some of my abandoned dreams still shine in the deepest recesses of my heart despite being neglected and rejected for so long. Writing was the big one, and I'm already pursuing that dream as best I can while still working full time.

Today, I stand at a point in my life where I am still young enough (in my mind) to pursue a few dreams, perhaps. Maybe it's also time to embrace my younger self, and let her help me learn to have fun again. Maybe we might even dream some new dreams.

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