Phew. Heavy, heavy, heavy energy feels like it should accompany that title, as that's a question we all ask ourselves at some point in our lives, sometimes repeatedly, sometimes seemingly to no end. But it feels rather light for me today, because although I'm far from having a "final answer," I can tell you without a doubt that there are things, people, activities and experiences that either pull me away from my true self or take me closer to it. Even, arguably, right on the dot, right on the money, for a few blissful seconds: The real me — without fears, doubts, worry or anxiety. Sounds pretty awesome, right?
It came to me last night after an event with a group of other local ladies, an event that I honestly didn't even feel like going to after a long day at work...and taking care of the kids...and dealing with marital issues, insurance issues, financial issues, a messy house...
But I went. And, as is most often the case, I didn't regret going. I had fun, I managed to not feel self-conscious about how I looked, what I said or what I was wearing (is my hair OK? am I wearing too much makeup? does this jewelry look weird with this outfit?) — okay, that's not true, but whatever. I went. And suddenly, as I was walking out of there, wishing it wasn't so late and that I had time to decompress before trying to go to bed, I thought:
Stop. Right now, put your finger on it, THIS is the real you. YOU write a food blog, and you are obsessed with natural health and nutrition, and as much as you go back and forth sometimes about whether it matters, and does anyone read it, and do you have the time, and is this what you were called to do, you keep coming back to it. People, situations and experiences keep putting you right smack dab in the middle of it all, so why are you doubting? It's not like you're wondering if you should become a horse trainer, because people keep calling you and talking to you about horses and veterinary techniques and you just inherited a horse farm in Anchorage. There is no drive to be a fashion commentator, or a soccer player, or a professional dodgeball coach. Why fight against it? This is it. Clearly. At least now. In this moment.
(And of course I know why I fight against it, it's all that self-doubt and low self-esteem garbage, so the whole trusting and having faith thing is always something I'm working on. But I digress.)
However, it wasn't just the writing and the food or some other little tickle that gave me an idea or made me smile. I felt energized. I wanted to go home and be a better mom. I wanted to go home and be a better wife. I wanted to go home and eat better, stop messing around, get in touch with my core desired feelings, put my feet firmly in place. I wanted to shake off the masks of self doubt and low self-esteem and just be ME.
Now, I know that in just that one paragraph I both talked about "being me" and, well, being a better version of me. Mom, wife, worker, sister, daughter — I don't think I'm the only one who wonders sometimes where the line is drawn when we're trying to both accept who we are and at the same time always learn, grow, change and improve.
So how do you do it? How do you find out who you really are? It's simple, really.
You go to these events. The ones you're drawn to, even though your schedule would dictate otherwise. And while you're there, you're present. You're feeling your sweaty palms, and you're wondering why you're nervous, and after, instead of rehashing what just happened, you just sit with the experience and notice how you feel. Do you feel yucky? Like you just spent the last 2 hours faking it? Or do you feel closer to your true self, authentic, energetic, looking forward to the future? (You can feel this at a PTA meeting just like you can feel it after a busy day at work or a play date with your 2-year-old's buddies from tot class.)
You notice how you feel when you're talking to certain people. The energy suckers. Or, those who are happy-contagious. You know what I mean. Some people drain you, and others lift you up. Sometimes, if they're family members, spiritual figures, teachers or close friends, you can't just cut the cord so you know there's an assignment there. YOU are the one who has to change the energy exchange that's taking place and leaving you feeling weak and defeated. But for those whom you can break ties with, do so. For those you want to spend more time with or feel drawn to, make a date. Have coffee. Get the kids together and talk. This person will help you find out who you really are. (This could be your pastor, your neighbor, a coworker or the director of IT at school. Really. Anybody.)
How do you feel when you get dressed in the morning? Are you dreading looking into a half-empty closet? How do you feel when you eat 6 cookies? Closer to your true self? How about when you start with fresh-pressed juice in the morning? When you go for that run at dusk? When you stop at the bakery after work?
The underlying theme here is to be aware and present. Take note of how you feel when you're with someone, when you're doing something, when you're fighting against doing something and how you feel on the other side (after doing it or not doing it, either way). We are all put in the exact places at the exact times that God and the universe dictate. Nothing is a mistake on your journey. However, if we just follow the path without questioning it; if we are almost simply reading a guidebook instead of taking in the surroundings along the way, not much is to be gained. And if you're ever asking yourself these questions, who am I, what am I on this earth to do, you have to start paying attention to the signs. Connect the dots so that you can draw the real you up from the depths where you're hiding and afraid inside.
I had to write this down. For me. I had to remember the moment, the feeling, how much I struggled against it, as I almost always do, and I wonder if you can relate. Who makes you feel more like you? Do you paint, or take photographs, or write, and that activity makes you feel more connected? What is it that resonates in the part of your brain that asks, What am I here to do?
Be in your body, feel the physical and emotional sensations as much as you can throughout the day, and the picture will become increasingly more clear. Habits are hard to break, so you might find yourself doing a lot of the same things you used to do, without even thinking twice about it, and feeling yucky after. You may be so far from your true self in a relationship, job or season of life that it seems way too hard to start taking the steps needed to climb out of it. In addition, as I often feel, I see the goal (some days more clearly than others) but I don't see how to get there, what I need to do and who I need to get in touch with. But the cool thing is, the real you never goes away, and God is always ushering you along. Your inner guide, the voice that leads you on, is always inside, waiting to be tapped. So be patient and persistent, be ambitious and dreamy and realistic and forgiving all at the same time, and most of all close your eyes and let go of the ego's fears, the useless worry, the body-conscious anxiety, the what-ifs and the coulda woulda shouldas. You are in this moment now. You are in this body now.
What does it feel like?