Sunday, May 20, 2012

Reclaiming Our Identity

          As women we tend to give so much of ourselves away in relationships that at times we lose our identity. Because we are so nurturing, we naturally put others needs before our own. Day in and day out we wake up and pour ourselves out like libations to others and we forget that in order to thrive we must save something in reserve for ourselves. Why is it that we feel so guilty holding back just a little bit that’s off limits to everyone and everything else?
            As younger women we are so focused on creating a family or establishing ourselves in the work place (or both) that it’s easy to become consumed with creating order and joy in everyone else’s life, while neglecting our own inner world. We ask ourselves: Is our home clean and comfortable?  What new recipe can I try for dinner? What fun thing can I plan for everyone to do this weekend? Am I pulling my weight at work? But often we ignore those questions that tug at our souls: What would bring me joy today? When was the last time I really laughed?
            I write from the point of view of both a former participant and an observer. You see years ago I almost lost my identity. It was encouraged and in some perverted way expected. Let me explain. My husband’s name is Lynn and years ago when I first moved to his hometown people who, for whatever reason, couldn’t remember my name just called me by his. I was so enamored to be his wife that I didn’t complain, but one day I had an epiphany. I realized that I was a whole, complete person before I ever met him and that to name a thing is to give it power, so I took my name back. I only answered to my given name. I refused to be Lynn, sweetie, baby, honey or anything but Michelle.
            During this time I was working full-time and raising two small children and a teenage stepdaughter. On top of all these responsibilities, I was on several church, community and work committees. Needless to say I was exhausted. It felt like I never got a moment to myself. Even when I went into the bathroom someone would come knocking on the door trying to get my attention. Although I loved my family, all I wanted was to be left alone, and I felt guilty about it.
            I soon learned that I wasn’t the only one who felt this way. Once I was shopping with a teacher friend of mine who needed to pick up some shirts for her husband. As we walked through the department store she saw a pair of sandals that she really wanted, but she kept rationalizing why she couldn’t get them because they were so similar to a pair she already had at home. After going around and around with her, I finally grew weary and asked her the one question that ushered us to the checkout line: “Exactly how many white shirts does your husband have?”
            Take a moment to honestly answer these questions:
            1. Have you ever felt guilty taking time away from your responsibilities?  If
                 the answer is yes, why do you feel bad about taking care of yourself?
            2. If you could have one whole day where no one needed you to do anything
                for them, how would you spend that day?
            3.  Think back on your childhood, what one solitary activity did you enjoy
                  the most ? Was it reading, coloring, baking In an Easy Bake oven,                     
            4. Can you commit to spending an hour alone this week doing this favorite                      
                 childhood activity? Although it’s tempting, resist the urge to invite anyone
                  to join you.

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