In mid 2011, I heard about an online scrapbooking class that involved choosing one word to focus on throughout the year and then scrapbooking about how that word in some way "played out" each month. Being passionate about words (which no doubt was either caused by my love for reading and writing or, conversely, is part of the reason for both loves), the concept appealed to me, so I signed up and paid the fee for the 2012 session. I spent days agonizing over which word to choose, first choosing "authenticity". I loved the sound of the word and its meaning, but as I played around with it a bit, I decided its lengthiness presented some challenges, so I ultimately settled on "authentic".
I chose this word because I had discovered in the 18 months since my husband's passing that making decisions was difficult. Part of this, of course, was because I was still dealing with grief, and quite frankly I didn't do my best thinking during that time period. But the issue went deeper than that. While it my sound cliched, I had come to realize that I had no idea who I really was apart from my role as daughter, wife, mother, and teacher. I had lived with my parents almost to the point that I married my husband, and 2 years later, our son was born. Personally, I had been a member of a familial household all but 2 years of my life, and professionally I had been functioning as either a student or a teacher for the majority of it. As a member of a group, there had always been others to bounce ideas off of. Being a group member also caused me to learn, as (I believe) any group member does, to compromise and to consider the opinions and needs of others. Of course, this doesn't indicate subservience or marginalization. For example, throughout my marriage, every home I lived in reflected the family, not just myself. It reflected, for example, the facts that children and their friends were often present, that one member loved to hunt and fish while another enjoyed reading, scrapbooking and various crafts, and that durability and cleanability ran hand in hand with style
Now, though, my husband was gone and both of my children lived outside the home; to a large degree my life was the proverbial blank slate. It was time, I knew, to get to know myself again so I could live in a way that was right for me. I googled "finding yourself" and got hits to more articles than I could read in a lifetime and to a few blogs. I began skimming and taking notes. As I filled a composition notebook with ideas garnered from articles, blogs, and other sources, I quickly saw that everything I jotted down fell into 4 broad categories. That realization allowed me to sharpen my focus and eventually led me to the parameters I needed and within which I could work, as well as to a goal to work toward.
That goal was to attempt to discover what it meant to me to live a life that is authentic spiritually, emotionally, physically, and relationally and to make choices that would enable me to enjoy a lifestyle that is truly authentic. By the end of February I had quit the online class that had been the catalyst for this project. Numerous glitches in the material provided (due to updates by the instructor that were not accounted for in the course materials and technology) and the resulting problems caused me to give up -- I had enough stress in my life that I didn't need to add more in an attempt to have less!
Even though my involvement in the class ended, my interest in and desire to live an authentic life hasn't, and in the 16 months since I became a drop-out, I've given quite a bit of thought to what constitutes an authentic life for me. While I'm not there yet by any means, I'm getting closer, and I'll share more about that in upcoming posts.
What about you? Was it difficult for you to transition from who you were as a member of a couple or group to a person on his or her own? If you've made that transition, how has it impacted your life? I'd love to hear your thoughts; as usual, you may either comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.