The mom’s heart is pounding in her chest. She finishes texting directions to her babysitter mere moments before sprinting to the departure gate with her husband. They almost miss their flight. But for all of the initial chaos, she is amazed to find that as they take off she can physically feel the stress begin to melt away. Her husband reaches over and holds her hand.
Want to know the truth about finding yourself? I think you can handle it.
You may be familiar with the common mantra of real estate agents: location, location, location. According to About.com, this refrain means that identical homes can increase or decrease in value depending upon where they are located.
Guess what, moms? The same is true for you.
You would think that your value increases when you are on the home front, taking care of business and contributing to the well being of your family. Actually, though, this location may diminish your sense of self-worth. Look around. Are you in your cluttered kitchen? Are the breakfast dishes still in the sink because you haven’t unloaded the dishwasher so you can load it again? What are all of those papers messing up the countertop? Aren’t we in the digital age?
Are you in your car? What is that smell? What are those random pieces of plastic in the cup holders; why is a football rolling around the back, slamming into the sides of the car every time you turn? You are 5,000 miles past due for your next oil change.
Are you at work, trying to finish that critical item demanding your attention before you sprint out of the office to screech into the last spot in the carpool line? Are you struggling to appear like a professional on an important call, while you hiss into the phone that you are positive you put the compression shorts with the soccer uniform in the back side pocket of the book bag?
You may find that you hardly recognize yourself in these every day and often-exasperating locations. This woman is a mess. She does not feel like a hot commodity. She is in the $1 bin at Target.
In some distant part of your brain, though, you remember a fun friend who danced her tail off whenever she got the chance (who compulsively lied – and was believed – when she claimed to have been an extra in Dirty Dancing), who recited Sharon Olds and Margaret Atwood and Shakespeare from memory, who drowned in her handsome husband’s eyes when he told a story, who was so generous with her laughter. Where the hell is she? She is worth her weight in gold (and that is saying something these days). Her husband misses her. Her children would love to meet her.
If you want to find your old self, consider changing your location.
It is not always possible, or necessary, to take a trip to accomplish this goal. Getting away may mean going out with friends, or having a date night, or going for a long adults-only drive. Just protect some measure of time and space to devote to that part of your being that is often forgotten in the bustle of the daily grind.
Be forewarned: It is hard to take this time and not feel guilty. Last year my husband and I took off in the middle of crazy September to attend a friend’s wedding. I worried over this decision, as it meant we’d miss several activities and games as well as Parent’s Night at the boys’ school. But besides being an important event, the wedding weekend was also our anniversary . . . so we decided to go.
When we walked into the room at the quaint New England inn, we discovered champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries our thoughtful friends left for us to acknowledge our milestone. We had them for dinner, sipping our bubbly drink while we watched the sunset over the water from our back patio. It was romantic and restful and a precious spot of time. I think that one weekend added five years to my life. (I am recharging as I type, just on the memory alone.)
No doubt significant parts of who we are often get lost in the shuffle of everyday life, but the truth is, we can always find that missing person if we just go looking for her.
Want to get a better handle on finding yourself? Read Anne Tyler’s Ladder of Years about a woman on family vacation who takes a walk and just keeps on going, ponder Dr. Jessica Grogan’s thoughts on how to negotiate marriage in mid-life, and commiserate with the mom in the movie Parenthood who confronts the loss of her former care-free self.