”I read and walked for miles at night along the beach, writing bad verse and searching endlessly for someone wonderful who would step-out of the darkness and change my life. It never crossed my mind that person could be me.” ~Anna Quindlen, Writer (1953- )
I spent many years, walking through my life, thinking someone outside of me would/could change it. If I just found my prince… Isn’t that the draw in romantic movies? Isn’t it what (most of) the Disney princesses bank millions on? Most often, it is the female being “rescued” from her dreary existence, but on occasion, the man is “rescued” by the “perfect” woman.
In either event, we are enticed into believing that happiness is found outside ourselves, that our lives will be magically transformed when the “right one” comes along. Now, I love a good romantic movie just as much as the next gal, assuming I’m sitting next to my older daughter, not the 14 year-old, but there comes a point when these movies can be as toxic to our spirits as that theater popcorn is to our bodies. Hollywood rarely has the star end up alone, finding his/her own beauty and purpose. Nope, 9.5 times out of 10, the romantic leads end up together living “happily ever after.”
I remember the feelings I had when I was my daughter’s age, the flutters that came when watching a romantic movie, the secret desires to be “swept away.” And though I never saw myself married, I did (secretly) want a man to “whisk me away.” I wanted the fairy tale romance, for all the wrong reasons. I wanted to be whisked away from myself, thinking that would make me complete and change the loneliness I felt inside. I thought happiness existed outside of myself. I bought into the fairy tales, hook, line and sinker. And then, I grew up.
Next month, my husband and I will celebrate 26 years as a couple together. I had left most of my unrealistic girlhood fantasies behind by the time we said, “I do”, and I will admit those that those I carried into the marriage caused some bumps. However, it wasn’t until my early 30’s that I (really) stopped expecting him to make me happy and started creating my own happiness. When we look outside ourselves, to a boy/girlfriend, spouse, friend, child, or job to “fill us up and make us complete,” we search for treasure in an empty vault. Joan Didion once said, “The willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life is the source from which self-respect springs.” Only when we take complete and total ownership of our lives, our choices, and our happiness can we truly live “happily ever after.
However, this is often easier said than done. Like all journeys, learning to take charge of your life begins with one step, regardless of size. One step in the direction of the life you’ve dreamed about. One step out of the darkness and into your own happiness. One step.
Often times, our steps lead us away from the things that once made us feel happy or empowered. Life gets busy, or our partner doesn’t enjoy the same activities, or we land last on the list of “to-do’s” and rarely find the time to ___________. And, often, we’ve simply forgotten what we liked before marriage, children, divorce, health problems, etc. Somewhere along the road, we lost sight of who we were…who we wanted to be…what made us happy. We may not even know who we really are today, outside of the roles that define us as wife, mother, sister, employee, volunteer, etc. Like the romantic lead on the big screen, we may simply be waiting for someone else to come along and change our lives for us.
Today is the day to take one step in the direction of your dreams. Begin by re-discovering who you were when you were young, before you dreamed of someone else “changing your life” for you. Did you paint or draw? What was your favorite way to spend a day? Did you have a favorite author, food, color? Where did you go to be with yourself? What made you feel empowered? What would you be doing right now if you knew you couldn’t fail? Ask yourself questions. Get to know yourself, once again. And, above all, (as I’ve told my girls)
“Go out and be the kick-ass heroine (hero) in your own life!”
Please join the conversation. What one step will you take to change your life today?
8 thoughts on “I searched high and low…(Wednesday’s Wisdom)”
I totally love this post and have been meaning to reply. I began truthfully taking charge of my life about 3 years ago. This began with accepting where I actually was in my life at that point, then moving, as you said, one step at a time in the direction I wanted to go. My relationships with others are richer and more loving now that I focus on loving myself first-this includes being mommy to a wonderful 8 year old. I used to think that I couldn’t do the things that made me “me” because I didn’t have the blocks of time I had before I became a single mom-but now I look for small bits and pieces of time and work in the things I love around and between-reading, writing, painting, and playing music. I also intertwine things I enjoy with giving Maycee new experiences (like piano lessons and riding horses), and thus we both are happy! Thanks for all of these great thoughts!
I don’t usually like recurring themed posts. When I say “usually,” I mean “in 100% of those that are not yours.”
It’s so strange and magnificent to see these thoughts articulated–and so beautifully!–by someone outside myself. I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently as I sort through where my life is and where I want it to be. I remember being in law school and (as now) very unromantic, but so hopeful that some amazing artist would whisk me away and make my life more magical.
At some point–probably post-Japan?–I decided I could spend a whole life waiting for that. I don’t do as many spur of the moment fun things as I used to, but all told, I’m much happier than I was when I always sought immediate gratification.
Rediscovering reading has been such a gift. Whenever I read, I feel like young Deb lives on, and it rocks. 🙂
In my early 40’s I read a book by Dennis Praeger called Happiness is a Serious Problem and learned so many wonderful things. Happiness, like love, is more of a commitment and responsibility to both yourself and the others around you. On the days when it seems impossible, I try to be the best actress that I can be, and eventually it comes back. I have also adopted thankfulness into each morning. Every morning before getting out of bed I think of 3 things that I am thankful for. They can not be the same each day either, and occasionaly they are very basic like seeing, sense of smell and ability to walk. After all, what would life be without these basic abilities. Thank you, Mary. Happiness has been a wonderful thought for me today!
When you are married to a doctor, you learn early to make your own plans.
It’s hard to explain why I won’t change them just because he’s suddenly available.
Thanks for sharing your wisdom! I had a few bumps like that too.
You were quicker than me. I was in my 40’s before I realized I was responsible for my own happiness and when I did, everyone was happier, not just me. Great Wednesday post!
Great article with lots of wisdom for those younger women who are still looking for someone to complete them. Thanks for sharing. Connie
I LOVE this post. I will never forget the boy I dated when I was 20 (shortly before I dated my now-husband) – he told me he genuinely believed another person could make him happy. I ran screaming (since I knew he meant ME! The pressure!), but in so many ways, I’ve felt the same way.
I’ve been married for a few years (together for almost 9), and I think I am still coming around. I think sometimes I still search for “treasure in an empty vault” (GREAT line), but have gotten better about making my own plans and taking the bull by the horns (i.e., making my own happiness). For me that means if I want to see a movie and my husband doesn’t, I go by myself or find someone else! Same for all of the other things I used to hope he would want to do (like going into NYC), but doesn’t.