Amidst the daily reflections, I glimpsed a view of my self at 50. I still recognize me in the pages, but I can see how I've grown and changed since then.
I was exhausted just reading about my life. We had two resident teenagers and two more who visited their dad three times a week - plus another four offspring who turned up from time to time. They were normal adolescents for the most part - moody, messy, partying procrastinators wanting freedom but eschewing responsibility, getting in their share of trouble that parents worry and grieve over. I spent many journal pages wishing they were different and looking forward to the time they would be grown up and gone. During that same period I was working full time and taking two classes. My life was crowded and chaotic. I yearned for quiet and time for myself.
Now those teenagers are grown. The two who lived with us are today a nuclear engineer and a marble and granite fabricator, with the financial resources to make it on their own, paired with the restricted freedom that comes with adulthood and responsibility. I'm pretty sure they would have turned out about the same if I had been more relaxed about the whole adolescent thing. But I hadn't learned that yet.
Now I have. Our house is quieter these days. We're still busy, but with different activities. I can usually detach from the issues of family members unless my assistance is requested. My children and my husband are managing their own lives without my participation, leaving me free to embrace my own life.
In some ways, though, I'm the same as I was 15 years ago. I still don't like the dark days of winter, still worry obsessively about my body even though I'm very healthy, still bemoan the excess weight I carry. But I am now a regular exerciser instead of making excuses for not doing it. I've learned to leave my husband alone when he's in a mood rather than trying to track it down and discuss it with him. I rarely try to get him to get rid of all the useless stuff in the garage and the shed. And most days I don't worry about a future as a bag lady.
Since the kids left home, and especially since I stopped working three years ago, I've taken time to identify and prioritize my values, which I've discussed in previous blog posts:
When I had kids at home, I might have had the same values, but they were buried by the day-to-day jobs of parenting and work that came first.
The local senior center opens its doors to the homeless on nights where the temperature is expected to drop below 33 degrees, and teams from my church feed and shelter the people on Monday nights. I can only do this until we leave for Arizona in late December, but I signed up for the Mondays I'll be in town. On the cold nights I'll be at the senior center from 6 in the evening until 8 the next morning. This activity actually hits all five of my top values, but I've never done it before, so I have a decent mix of apprehension and anticipation.
Now that I've finished reading the journals, I'm looking forward to my work on the new book. As I gather and develop the material, I expect many reminders of the gifts of my life. That's partly why I'm writing it. To remember.