I was recently asked this question in response to a statement I made regarding something I should be doing.
Clearly I “should be” looking for my encore career. I should be working towards retirement. I should be home with my children. I should be tending to my mother. I should be babysitting my grandchildren. But here I am in Europe for six weeks. My job ended due to a merger, my home sold weeks later and my children and all on their own…more or less. I even found a lovely family to take care of the dog.
I have no job, no home and all my belongings are in storage. I feel a tremendous sense of freedom coupled with fear–and happiness.
Who was I before the world told me to be daughter, sister, wife, ex-wife, mother, career woman, teacher, friend and grandmother?
Luckily for me I was raised in a time where I could be outside all day until the last can had been kicked and enough fireflies were caught. In the summer I swam all day at the pool, in the winter I ice skated until dark. It was a charmed childhood of towering trees on the shore of a sea-like lake.
I loved the freedom my mother gave me, even though I was tremendously shy I had friends up and down the block. My mother made it clear that if someone asked me to lunch I need not call home. If I did not show up at lunch time she would assume I was eating somewhere else. I was only five and this felt like a great like a great freedom.
Soon thereafter Wesley Underwood’s mother asked me to lunch. I accepted and she told me to call my mother and ask for permission. I explained it was not necessary but she insisted. I dutifully stood on the stool, dialed the number on the rotary phone attached to the wall only to have my mother answer and say I told you that you didn’t have to ask. This is when the world started telling me who I should be. I felt awkward and ashamed. Not the little girl with no limits, but a girl who should be good, polite and responsible and follow society’s rules and expectations. Who was right?
There were numerous lessons like this to come. Lessons that put the little girl into a series of Russian nesting boxes for 53 more years. Slowly I have been opening each box until I found that five year old girl who was confused by the different rules and expectations. She is shy, curious and feels safe with freedom.
Now I have to figure out how to put back the boxes in a way that works for me. By creating a mindful gap from all the “shoulds” I hope to feel safe with freedom, inspire others to take chances and to create the life I dream of, rather than the one I should have.