I mean really,
where no one sees but you!
The real you!
It is the kind of question that some people find difficult. They spend their lives being someone else because -
- they don't like who they really are,
- or they were formed by parents to be one way and find breaking those habits too hard,
- or they don't know who they are because they are so busy just "fitting in."
So I decided to answer that question about myself - because I am not the same person I used to be just a short time ago. Please check out Chatty Crone's posting to see if it rings any bells for you.
My first 60 years can be summed up in one word: conform. Raised in the 50's (a conforming period) and the 60's (a non conforming period), it was a confusing and changing time. But by the 60s, I strove to fit in and to not challenge. Some of it was in deference to my mom and the dysfunctional family we lived in. I wasn't into causing her any more headaches. Some of it was because I am (was?) an easy going person. I was also raised within a religious tradition that was big into conforming. If you didn't conform, if you questioned, there was guilt.
Self esteem, independent thinking, trusting your instincts, questioning, self direction ... were not ideas that held any meaning for me growing up. I grew into adult hood, selected my professional path from the narrow range available to women at the time (secretarial, nursing or teaching) and married the weekend after my college graduation. I followed the path that was expected of me.
It wasn't all bad. Luckily my selection of a husband was good. We are in our 43rd year of marriage and we have 2 wonderful kids. I wouldn't change any of that. But so many other decisions over the years were tempered and limited by my learned response to conform.
When I look back on that point in my life, I despair at my lack of vision and independence.
When I was 60 the transition began. Mom moved into my home when I was 59. The years between 60 and 64 were increasingly difficult years: growing care giving responsibilities, constantly increasing demands, changing roles, and, at times, unsupportive and challenging attitudes from unexpected places.
Those years changed me. It was like a baptism by fire. I learned to speak my mind, to question authority, to take definitive action, and most importantly, listen to my gut rather than the opposing chatter around me! I learned to set aside previously important relationships. I learned to put myself first, finally. I learned to question even the most basic truths of my religious upbringing without guilt. I am not saying any of this is easy. Sixty years of habits are hard to overcome. But the change is now solidly established within me. There is a different me!
For my mom, I still do the same things she has always expected. For her and her alone, I can set this "new me" aside as it would only cause her stress ... old age is hard enough without expecting her to adjust to a "different" daughter.
And so Chatty Crone opened a flood of realization. I wonder if my care giving years had never happened, would I still be cruising through my life living the expectations of others and seeking to conform.
Just like the zebra in the picture above, I look the same on the outside, but on the inside - I am facing in a very different direction.
Note: I think my butt is smaller than the zebra's. At least I hope so. :-)
(Gosh, is that a cultural conformity that I need to shed? Most certainly!)