I used to spend a lot of time telling people they had pretty shoes.
This was a good thing to say when I had to say something. I was looking down more often than not, so it was something I noticed.
See, a bunch of things in my life had shifted all at the same time.
Friends moved away, kids grew, a move, new groups, new people—and it seemed like the important thing was to find ways to be accepted in those new places. To be part of the group. Any group.
So I would be in conversations where the other person would talk, and the thing I wanted to say—the thing that made sense to me—sounded like:
No. No, I cannot do that. No, I do not agree. No, I do not think that is a good idea.
Or, That is not right. This is not the way. These things are not helping.
Or, What if we just let go of the have-to, the should-have, the has-to-be?
Or, That sounds like fear talking, and we don’t need to be afraid of each other. Why are we building walls instead of building bridges? Why are we building a smaller box instead of a bigger table?
But I was pretty sure that was not how the conversation was supposed to go, so instead what I said was: nothing.
I would say: I like your shoes!
And then later I would say to Dane or to my sister, “This thing happened, and what I REALLY wanted to say was…” (They are already stuck with me, so I can say all the things to them.)
I could hear the truth in my heart, and I could hear the chirpy voice on the outside, and they did not match up.
This is not me, I thought. This keeping quiet, this not-using-my-voice, this saying the right thing (that is really the wrong thing): This is not me.
“For freedom you have been set free.”
“I like your shoes!”
They’re not quite the same.
(I mean, I wasn’t lying. I did like those shoes. I just care about the shoes way less than I care about seeing us all, whole and alive and living in the truth that love will always win.)
Where had I gone?
Why had I fallen silent and small? Why was I hiding? How had I lost the thread of myself?
All those words were trapped inside me. All my truth not getting out—all my pretending that true things didn’t matter—was turning me sour.
Was I the kind of person who does not say what she believes? Why was I that person? Since when?
I thought keeping quiet was the path to community and connection. I thought wrong. You can be surrounded by people, but if you’re pretending to be someone you’re not, you can’t connect with any of them.
The path to community, the path to connection, the path to love, always starts with showing up as yourself.
And who was I?
The only way I know to answer that question is to stop moving. To slow down and listen.
Listen to your heart asking, who am I? This is not me. What am I even doing here? How did I get here?
Listen to the still, small voice calling you back to yourself.
It’s not like you’re on the moon.
What I learned was, it’s simpler than that. You don’t need to go out looking for yourself, like you would look for a lost puppy. You don’t have to create yourself (I’m picturing a wonky lego tower). You’re still in there.
You might be buried under a never-ending to-do list or a schedule of too-much-to-do-in-too-little-time. You might have been shoved to the back of the closet, as it were, hiding behind last season’s best choices and next season’s best plans. But you’re in there, somewhere.
Your self is in there, waiting to be coaxed out like an anxious kitty.
Or waiting for the rubble to be lifted so you can crawl into the light.
Or waiting for everything else—the not-you parts of your life—to be carved away, until what is left is the essence of you.
That pull to find yourself? That call is coming from inside the house, and you don’t have to go outside to answer it.
That’s the good news.
Your job is to UNCOVER something that’s already here (like sliding the peel off a ripe clementine), not to hunt for something that may or not be OUT THERE (rather like alien life forms).
There’s less-fabulous news, too.
The bad news is that it is not easy, this uncovering your heart and figuring out what song your soul wants to sing. It’s not comfortable to ask questions about how and why you slipped away in the first place.
This is where a journal comes in handy, because you can write it all down and see. Oh, I’ve been listening to shame again. Oh, I’ve been listening for what’s best for everyone else, and ignoring what’s best for me. Oh. I see.
But you can be brave.
It is brave to ask who you are, especially if you know you may not like the answers. It is brave to admit you don’t know who you are at this time, in this place, even if you were sure you knew yesterday.
And when you know who you are—be that person.
I had to be me, even if all the Pretty Shoe People walked away. That was a box I was not willing to live in anymore. You don’t have to live like this. I just started talking.
Let yourself out of the box. Drop the armor. Ask the questions.
Find yourself. And set yourself free.
Have you been there, too? Needing to find yourself?
Maybe this will help.
Join me for a mini course in finding yourself. Find Yourself, Free Yourself: five little lessons on slowing down, listening for the voice inside you, and figuring out how to show up in your life as your very own self. Always free, and delivered straight to your inbox.
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