Living My Best Life
Today marks the 52nd blog post from Alice Picks Up a Pen! Just over a year ago I decided, "I am going to declare myself a writer and then I am going to write like I believe it." I have proceeded to do that over the last 365 days with blog posts, podcast essays and a couple kids books and poems submitted to publishers. I worked hard to let go of expectations while also realizing any kind of success is - write, submit, receive a rejection letter, repeat. It has been extremely gratifying to have people in my community come up to me and discuss a piece they read on Alice Picks Up a Pen or from The Nameless Show podcast where my contribution is called Conversatins With Alice Wyatt. People are incredibly kind and a statement like, "Your word choice is akin to a string of pearls, each one in the perfect place.", keeps me walking on air for the next week, while also striving to do better.
I had thought of going to once a month blog posts so I could concentrate more on submitting to publishers and working more intently on my kid's book ideas. After really taking stock of the last year though, I realize I have to have a deadline, even if it is just in my head. If I am not putting one new something into my blog then I have given into my inner cat nature and am doing way too much napping in the sun to accomplish the goals I have set out for myself.
SO, onward into the literary breech dear ones! Thank you so much for your love and support. Seeing the notifications pop up on my phone from all over the United States each week gives me great comfort and courage to keep - picking up my pen.
LIVE YOUR BEST LIFE
Do you have someone in your life who is so alive they change the dynamic of any room they walk into? I have a daughter like that. She is a blond-haired, blue-eyed, alabaster-skinned, tattooed version of the Sun.
She came for a visit the other day and in the middle of telling a great story she says, “I know, I am too much sometimes.” I want to leap out of my chair in protest, snatch those words out of the air, throw them in the crackling fire warming our conversation. It would be pointless. Words are a reflection of the heart and tossing them into an inferno does nothing to change the source from which they came.
I too vacillate between “being too much” and feelings of not being enough. When I feel ALIVE, excited, energized, bouncy and charismatic, part of me waits for the judgement of diva, narcissist, or faker. Why? Nobody ever says these things to me, in fact many people respond to my friendly energy by opening up and engaging in personal, meaningful conversations. Instead of waiting for judgement to fall, I should advocate for myself like my heart advocated for my daughter, recognize the world needs our ALIVENESS. It is a gift from God.
On the other hand, feelings of not being enough come from my introverted side. The side longing for a week with nothing but reading, writing, feeding my chickens and making love to my husband. Sheer heaven, no obligations, no expectations, no need to explain my lack of bounce or totally absent charisma. Rather than label myself FAKER for seeming to be two people, I am beginning to extend grace, embrace all aspects of my personality.
I come from a faith tradition where being ALIVE is reserved for pot smoking hippies who paint their houses bright colors, drive fuel efficient cars, grow their own food, celebrate mountain-top solstices and (gasp) DO YOGA! For many years my heart longed to be pulled into that dancing circle of women who knew exactly who they were, and took what they wanted out of life.
I finally realized there is no neutral, you are either ALIVE or you are dying. I leapt off my self-imposed altar of martyrdom with a speed that was traumatic for people in my life. One son really struggled with my having a mid-life crisis at the eponymously appointed time. He was a young husband with a new baby, a job that sucked his soul, and had a whole lot more questions than answers about adulting. He needed me to be that bastion of KNOWING I had been his whole life. From my perspective, his picking and choosing from my bucket of wisdom had me laying awake many a night, but we were each playing our roles according to the rules society imposed upon us.
When I acknowledged, “What I don’t know about anything - is everything!” it was really, really hard for him. I was breaking rules I made him obey. I was questioning authority that had been foundational to our family his entire life. I was embarrassing him by doing things no mother should do: sowing some oats, making really bad decisions, causing pain to those I said I loved. It was a crazy way to throw off the shroud of the almost dead, but I had gotten a taste of ALIVENESS and wasn’t going to let it pass this time around.
We have had a tough couple of years, he and I. Because he is a lovely human being and because I will always be his mother, we hung in there. I grieved the loss of innocence in our relationship. The veil of mother/child had been ripped away, revealing two very flawed people trying to figure stuff out.
My children are my joy. My husband is my faithful, loving companion of 33 years; he holds part of my soul. My faith in a creator Who loves me, anchors me during storms and is the joy filling my heart on beautiful spring mornings. It could be said if you bring a child into the world your first responsibility is to them. I repeated traditional wedding vows, till death do you part. Not much room for wandering off to find yourself, is there? Often joining a church or faith institution shifts priorities from self to collective. Ultimately, none of those things were enough to make me feel ALIVE because I was living life based on other people’s expectations.
Interestingly, my son was going through his own journey of throwing off expectations. It looked different from mine, and because we live thousands of miles apart and, our relationship was strained, I wasn’t in his inner circle as he struggled. At the tender age of 25, he was brave enough to wrestle with questions I didn’t tackle until I was 50. He has come through that time stronger, wiser, and with the wisdom to know there is a whole lot more grey than black and white.
We had a good conversation the other day while I was out for a walk. He is making plans to take his young family back to the Smokey Mountains of his childhood, raise some chickens, figure out how to make money while spending the majority of time at home with his young sons. He said, “You know Mom, there are so many ways to live your life. I think the one most honoring to God is to LIVE YOUR BEST LIFE, no matter what that is.” Then there was a pause he said, “I am really sorry I was so hard on you when you were trying to figure out what your best life was. I didn’t understand what you were doing. I only knew how it felt to me. I am really proud of you Mom.”
When I pushed the end call button on my phone I had definitely joined the ranks of free wheeling hippy women. Though almost blinded by tears, I picked up my feet, raised my arms, and began dancing down the middle of the street.
Twenty-five, fifty, seventy-five, no matter the age, our biggest gift to the world, the people who love us, to those not yet impacted by our power, is to be the best version of ourselves. Do the hard work required to find out what that means, then do it. It will not be easy, you will be misunderstood, there is no instruction manual crafted for your unique journey. You will make mistakes, have to find grace for yourself, dig down deep, start over with fresh vision. As a reward, you will be joined by incredible people on the path, some will be total strangers, some may be your kids.
P.S. As I wrote this, I typed ALICE every single time I meant to type ALIVE because they are only one letter apart. Putting your name instead of ALIVE in this narrative has exactly the same impact and makes you laugh to boot.