This Is Your Life.

Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself. George Bernard Shaw

As promised in last week’s post, I have made a commitment to examine, consider, explore and wonder about each concept of “The Holstee Manifesto.” Well, the wondering part has already begun! I have wondered already if it’s too lofty a pursuit! On the surface, the sentences sound simple enough — but if you look a little deeper, they can make you squirm because they invite self-inquiry and change. And as Sonia Choquette often states: “If you are not uncomfortable, you are not growing.” Okay. Okay. A deal is a deal. So, here I am with concept number one: This Is Your Life.

When I first read this, I immediately felt annoyed, for it sounded like a patently obvious statement. We all know this, right? If I’m honest, though, I haven’t always owned that piece. I grew up feeling the need to care for my family members ahead of myself. It became as natural as breathing to me. For instance, as a teenager, it seemed like each time I stepped toward something for myself, a crisis or greater need would pull me back. This happened so often that caring for others and putting myself on the back burner became an identity.

One day I was having a long, overdue lunch with a friend. She was busily chattering about her life — what she was up to, the travels she had taken, what she hoped to accomplish in her career. I listened intently, enjoying her enthusiasm for life so evident in her voice. At some point, my napkin fell onto the floor, and I knocked my papers off the table. One paper, a small note, wafted over to her plate, landing smack in the middle of her food. She immediately laughed and picked it up, but as she read it, her look became puzzled.

“What do you have listed here?” she asked.

“Oh, that,” I said nonchalantly. “It’s just yesterday’s to-do list.”

“A what kind of list?” she asked again.

“You know, a list reminding yourself to-do this and that during your day.” I felt a little self-conscious and couldn’t understand why she was quizzing me. I snatched the note from her and glanced down at what I had written.

1. Take cat to vet.

2. Help Kate with her letter to the attorney.

3. Take groceries to shelter.

4. Call to check on Ann.

5. Pick up kids from school.

6. Talk to the teacher.

7. Meet plumber at house.

8. Eat lunch sometime?

“What’s wrong?” I asked. Now I was the puzzled one.

“Tami,” she said, softly lowering her voice. “You have to remind yourself to eat lunch? Wouldn’t you normally take time for yourself in the day?”

My face reddened a bit as I looked again, seeing the culprit sentence last on the list. I even saw the question mark, as if eating lunch were negotiable. I also noticed that all the activities were service oriented — outward giving and other-related. Sigh. It was clearly a pattern.

Somewhere along the way, I had lost my way — the one to myself. I realized that I didn’t really know what I wanted. But I sure could tell you what everyone else wanted. Do you know what saved me, what pulled me out of the conditioned stupor I was in? Do you know what helped me realize I actually had my own life — an inner life rich with ideas, dreams, and desires all my own?

Writing. Not the academic, devoid-of-feeling writing you may have been taught to do in school. The kind of writing where you speak your truth on the page, one word at a time. The kind of writing that feels warm and fuzzy, like you just received a personal Valentine’s note. Writing that is a guilty pleasure, inviting you to fall in love with yourself. If you follow an idea with words, ones that interest you, ones you have passion for, you’ll discover that they lead straight to yourself, straight to the heart of your own life. Writing doesn’t have to be lofty or perfect or even well-written. The best writing shows up in the form of a crayon-scrawled note from your child or in a for-no-reason thank you note that surprises you on a day you really need it. The best writing comes from the heart any day of the week. And the good news is that we were all born with the gift of language.

In a weird way, I guess that to-do list helped me after all. It reminded me to pencil myself into my own life.

So, in the script called “This Is Your Life,” would you be the star of your own show? Or would you be backstage, watching from behind the scenes to see how things turn out? Participant or observer? You get to decide. For me? I am continually writing the script — sometimes it’s a juicy thriller, complete with ups and downs, twists and turns, love and laughter, adventure and excitement. And other times it’s quiet and flowing, and well, comfortable. I know. I know. You never grow in your comfort zone. Time to write a new chapter. I think I’ll title it: Blast Off 2019! What will you title your new chapter?

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Tami Hendrix