On being lost– and finding myself– over and over again

Okay, so I’m a little lost. I just finished watching Kung Fu Panda 3 with my toddler to try to pass the hours in between naps because I’m sick and feeling like hell and needed some help from an electronic babysitter (yeah, yeah, bad parent, I know). Have you seen that movie? It was actually really good, and I mean in an enlightening kind of way. That fat, dumpling eating panda finally found the answer to the question he’s been searching in three movies for: Who am I? I can relate on all of these…although I guess I’m not a panda, but maybe the rest are true.

I’ve been on a personal quest for a while now. Years maybe. I’ve written about finding my path and my calling, about being lost and finding myself again. Many times I’ve been really close or think I’ve found who my true self is, but then she slips away and my future plans are illusive and out of reach yet again. Maybe it’s just all the changing hormones talking, but motherhood has changed a lot about how I view life. One thing I’m realizing is that even though I love to completely immerse myself in motherhood and be satisfied in that alone as my calling, there’s still something that feels uncompleted. The last puzzle piece is still missing.

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Why is it so hard to figure out how to combine what you love with your future calling? I keep seeing all these other women put something together and then watch it take off as an enormous success. In reality I’m sure that doesn’t happen for a lot of people, but seeing the successful ones sometimes inspire me, but also can inspire feelings of being…well…a loser. Why can’t I do that? I think to myself, What do they have that I don’t?

It’s not about what I’m lacking, though, it’s about my own journey. This is what I keep telling myself. I thought there was one destined path, but maybe there are many options, and the way that the end looks keeps changing. Why? Because we keep changing. I’m undoubtedly not the same person I was 2, 5, and definitely not 10 years ago. My priorities have changed. My viewpoints have changed. My relationships have changed. So why would it make sense that my destiny would still be the same?

Instead of focusing on making my future successful, I should focus on how to make the now successful. Granted, both types of success are important, but wishing and wanting one over the other is leaving me feeling me depleted, and defeated. What are things I can do right now—or what am I already doing—that make me a success? Focusing on future goals is okay, but not laying the foundation in the present is like trying to win a gold medal in the Olympics without ever training. It ain’t gonna happen.

I’m going to work on things in the present in order to make my future a success. Who I want to be relies entirely on working on the person I am becoming from day to day. What might be helpful in shaping my “self” right now, the woman that will be the present in the future? It’s hard to know, exactly, but these five steps sound like a great start…

  1. Make a list.

I love lists. Not everyone does. But a good list making session gets me all giddy inside. This list is different though. This list contains successes in day to day life right now. What am I doing well? What am I proud of? What makes me happy? It’s important to mark accomplishments and start seeing patterns of what brings joy.

  1. Create vision

I can’t get somewhere if I have no idea how to get there. There are two elements to record here. The big picture (goals) and action steps (how to get there). If I say I want to be a writer as my goal, that’s great, but then what? By saying I want to be a writer so I will write three times a week and submit my work to online publishers twice a month, I can have accountability and a reliable tracking method to chart my progress.

  1. Learn from the past.

There are no mistakes in life, only learning moments. The good thing about the past is that that is where it stays: behind us. It may be really difficult to learn from, but going through things for a reason can help shape the person we become. What are the teachable moments from the past that are important? What are things to never repeat? What are things that really worked out in the end? Don’t repeat what didn’t help personal growth, and do repeat what did.

  1. Don’t obsess.

I sweat the small stuff. I make every minor detail major. These aren’t traits that I am proud of. The outcome is that I ruminate over and over again about not only every [perceived] failure, but also every potential opportunity. I plan and plan and plan, but never actually start. I find enough viable ways to go wrong that I never allow anything to get started off right. There’s a difference between being thorough and obsessing. Being thoroughly prepared allows for being thoroughly ready, while obsessing just creates a lot of static that never forms a complete picture.

  1. The “That’s not it” approach.

My friend Debbie has a fantastic approach that she has been following her whole life. She calls it the “Nope, that’s not it” approach. Instead of picking one direction and forcing herself to fit its mold no matter what the cost, she tries many things until one suits her. Pottery? Nope, that’s not it. Grant writing? Nope, that’s not it. Tutoring? Nope, that’s not it. There’s nothing wrong with finding out that something may not be a right fit and moving onto the next, but it’s silly to waste time forcing something to fit.

I might never find that exact thing out there that will my “it” thing, but there are so many possibilities of what I could be, what I could create, and who I can help in the world.  By focusing on what I love and what brings light and joy to my life, I am okay with going along for the ride.

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