Thursday, September 22, 2011

Living Intentionally

I remember when I was a teenager, I tried on a lot of different identities.  I was certain that I would find one that fit me like a glove and that when I found it, that would be me, who I was--for life!

I have been blessed to reconnect with several friends from high school and college.  One of the topics that often comes up is that adulthood is not quite what we thought it would be.  We don't have all the answers.  We were so sure that we would, but we don't.  We didn't realize that we would keep growing and learning and redefining ourselves.  But we do.

That is the way of life.

Last year was about healing for my family.  Healing from some things that happened when the girls were in school.  Healing from having been in a situation that did not serve us well for five years.  Healing from something that hurt our family.  Now I know that school is not harmful and that many people have very healthy, well-adjusted lives while in school.  But that was not the case for our family.

This year, through reading blogs about the real life accounts of women just like me who are in this moment just like me and are finding joy and happiness and good things in simple moments, I have realized that living intentionally and authentically, finding joy in the simple moments takes work, it takes effort.  And I want to make that effort.

That is not easy for a girl who has lived a half hour from the hustle and bustle of Manhattan for most of her life.  I live life full steam ahead.  I just go and go and go.  I am focused and driven.  I don't stop to smell the roses.

But I want to.

I have been walking every morning.  It is a time for reflection and introspection.  It is a treasure.

Yesterday morning, I brought along my camera.  When I have my camera, I often stop to appreciate the smaller things.

Part of what my family was healing from last year was other people and their way of doing things.  I thought that they were making me feel that I should do things the way that they were doing them.  I felt judged for not buying my nine year old a Droid.  I felt maligned for preferring the yoga studio over the gym.  Indeed, there was a mother who told my daughter that she would work on me when I wouldn't buy my daughter something or let her do something and this same mother told me my flaws as a parent.  But it was me who allowed those things to taint my vision.  It was me who absorbed those things.  I had a choice, I could have taken it from where it came.  I could have said, We are all different and we are all entitled to our own opinions.  I did not have to let this bring me down.  I did not have to let these things consume me.

"No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."
~Eleanor Roosevelt
 Because of a very select group of people, I had begun to dislike our town.  Since I did not like the schools, I started to not enjoy living here.  I forgot all of the reasons why we had chosen this town.  Our town is always one of the top five towns selected as "Best Small Town".  Our town is a little like a Norman Rockwell town.  The school librarian lives in the house with the big porch and patriotic flags.  A police officer lives in the next house.  We know these people.  Well.  We live in the kind of town where people live + work.  The kind of town where people are proud to hang their American flags.

 The family that owns this house used to own a doll store.  Now they spend the entire month of November preparing their windows, which rival windows on Fifth Avenue for their Christmas decorations.  They have beautiful scenes in each window and an inviting path and signs that welcome passersby to get close and look in their windows at Santa sleeping and the elves working and the baby Jesus in the manger.

 One of the things that Jason loved about this town when we first moved here were the mature trees.  I have gotten so used to this that I no longer even notice it.  During the hurricane these trees scared me.  I didn't see how beautiful they are, allowed to grow freely and dwarf homes as they stretch toward heaven.  A reminder that we are small, our problems are small, our issues are small...and there is so much more out there in the universe beyond us.

 My friend lives next door to this house.  I remember watching our kids play in her backyard and noticing this window.  Then, every time I drove by, I would look at it.  I love it.  I love that someone took the time for that detail, not only with the window but with the ribbon carved and painted over the window.  I love the details of a bygone era.  I love the character of these old homes.  I had forgotten that, grown blind to it since I saw it so often.

 It was a hazy day, cloudy, gloomy.  I ran into a friend who was like, "Why are you taking pictures today?  On this cloudy, nasty day?"  Because it makes me focus.  It makes me appreciate the beauty of our road.  It makes me appreciate where we live.  It makes me think.

 I need to STOP and think.  I need to STOP letting my life lead me.  I need to start leading my life.  For too long I have just gone and done.  For too long I have listened to the shoulds and coulds and musts and not thought about how I feel about them, what I believe.  For too long I have just gone through the motions, letting marketing campaigns and what other people were doing and what other people said I ought to do lead me.  I don't want to do that anymore.  I want to live intentionally and authentically.

So often, I tell my girls to be individuals, not to do what others are doing.  I have quoted that Eleanor Roosevelt quote to them.  I have told them to listen to their own hearts.  I have told them to believe in themselves.  I have told them to think for themselves.  I have told them not to let other people's opinions shape them.  I have told them to appreciate what they have not always look at what they don't have.

It is time I take my own advice.
It is time I live with intention.