Finding myself

Such a funny dated phrase. I always picture some dude in tight pants, a poncho, unkempt long hair, and a puka shell necklace. And he sounds a lot like Matthew McConaughey. But this girl is out there finding herself. Sometimes in a leather jacket and boots, and sometimes, like right now, in my slippers, jeans, sweater, and reading glasses.


The last few years have taught me a lot. It took Mike's death for me to find myself. I hate that. Logically I can see that I was already on the path, but his loss pushed me harder and faster. Painfully. There were many days spent in a dark closet sobbing. Those days make the warm summer days in my new home on the deck with Paul sweeter. Cool Fall evenings zooming with a client are fresher. In the dark closet, I could not even imagine. But I decided to try.


When I look back, I judge many past decisions harshly.


Sitting in our home between the cornfields, I asked myself how I had arrived here across from the annoying neighbor. Physically here. I don't remember deciding where I wanted to live. But I lived there for 25 years. Mike's family was generous and allowed us to move into their old farmhouse and then gifted us the land to build. Mike never wanted to leave the street for so many reasons. So, an easy decision. Schoolcraft is where we will live. If someone had asked me where I wanted to live, I didn't have an answer. How silly. I wish I had taken just a few moments to picture the whole world and choose.


Living between my in-laws was an interesting decision to live with. Everyone always knew what we were doing. When the trees shed their leaves, you could see if our car was in the driveway. "Who was at your house in the black car today?" "You got home late yesterday." I was relieved when we built the barn and could hide a little. I wanted to set up a garbage service, and Mike said "no" because his family would think it was crazy to spend money on that. Every Friday night was dinner at the folks' house. After a while, I wanted a Friday for just us. To take my work clothes off, put my sweats on, and watch a movie with my guy. But that was frowned upon. "You gotta eat!"


The anticipated family reaction weighed heavily on all of our decisions. That drove me nuts, but I went with it, most times. I let that pressure rule me for many years, and I regret it. We missed opportunities to learn about each other. I played the role of dutiful daughter-in-law, and they didn't get to know me. That's a recent realization for me. Who knows what would have arisen had I said "no" or did something out of the norm. We might have had movie nights at our house Fridays. We might have had garbage service, and they pranked my fancy self by hiding the bin randomly. We might have built a rolling skating rink next to the big barn with a mechanic's bay with a hoist. (Yes – that was the first idea that popped into my head. I LOVED to roller skate and rollerblade, and that would have been a hoot!)

Fear has stopped me so many times. I have missed so many chances. So, I try to be different for the future and find the sweet moments and lessons learned from the past.

That little homestead gave us room to garden with enough to leftovers to can. My mother-in-law, Carol, taught me how to can everything, tomatoes, sauce, pickles, beans, watermelon rinds, bread, meat, ketchup…the list was impressive. That woman could save and use anything. I made a beloved salsa for years and spaghetti sauce that was too hot and plentiful, unfortunately. That first deer season, I learned how to process deer meat and earned my place at the kitchen table with my own knife. That was a proud moment. I cherished my role and celebrated with vulgar jokes, to their delight. "Little Miss Priss" with her jokes and a bloody knife. I would beam when they were delighted.


Sometimes I was fearful and also brave. The definition of bravery, right? I can now give myself credit for finding my power and using it.


When Mike passed, I made new decisions about our home and land. I was scared and wanted to feel safe in my house at night, with Jordan and alone. I locked the barn and put up security cameras. I wanted people to stop taking things out of barns without asking. Those things were mine. Period. I didn't care if someone gave it to Mike for his birthday or that they owned half of it. It was mine, and they needed to ask. But I was scared to say that, so the cameras went up and the locks went on, and no one asked about how I felt. I wished that I had been even braver.

I wish I had stopped them and told them how I felt, even if it meant crying every time. I didn't show my true self at that moment or allow anyone to do differently. Maybe someone would have turned and hugged me all of the times that I needed it so badly. I wish I had been brave.

An offhanded comment has been wearing me down for months "you should have just let him farm that land." Yeah – that would have avoided conflict between our annoying neighbor and me. It would have caused less trouble with the new owners. And most importantly, it would have been easier for my father-in-law. But you know what – that was not right for me. I shared my anger with everyone at the time, but no one showed any concern. It hurts that the avoidance of conflict and trouble was more important than me. That was OUR land, and I got to make the decisions. So, I did. But the anger and hurt stays with me because I didn't tell my in-laws how much they were hurting me.

One day staring at the tree turning orange, I realized that I didn't want to be there anymore. This was not my home any longer. It had become my little padded prison cell. So, I left. I spent two years selling and packing and left. There is a lot more to this story, but right now, I want to acknowledge that I learned about what I wanted, figure out how to make it happen, made the decisions, did the things, and I am happy for doing so.

I am brave, powerful, and can make myself happy. That is the trick. I have figured it out. And I practice every day. Some days are easier than others. But I continue to practice.

So, what are you dreaming of doing? What is holding you back? What would it be like to do it? The time to avoid regret is now.

Be where you want to be and be happy.


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