Mother’s Day is upon us and I just celebrated my 45th birthday. These type of milestone birthdays tend to bring about reflection. Add in Mother’s Day and thinking about being a mom and not having had a mom for over half my life, there’s a lot of opportunity to heave heavy sighs.
Like many little girls, I created a story of my life. They were dreams and thoughts and big wishes and hopes. Some were a stretch, like meeting famous people. Others were truly the dreams of fantasies only little kids have. But, most seemed realistic and attainable. It was my perfect life story. A life story that could be made in to a Sunday evening TV show with pixie dust and a prince.
Sure, there would be a lot of hard work and challenges, but my story read more like truth rather than fiction. But the funny thing about these dreams and the life we create as kids, they never include tragedy or sad experiences. We just don’t dream that way.
We can take lemons and make lemonade. But, no amount of lemonade will ever take away that pucker if it’s never sweet enough. And the funny thing about lemonade is that it really doesn’t need a lot of sugar to be sweet enough to bring a smile to your face.
That story, though. The one I created as a kid. The one many of us created. I thought of it as a roadmap. Many women will talk about knowing they wanted a certain number of kids, having a handsome husband with dark hair, living in the country, or the city. We drew pictures of what we wanted our house to look like. And we dreamed of celebrating holidays and birthday and going to the school play, just like our mom.
Reality, though, knows nothing about our hopes and our dreams. And reality has no problem with changing our path. My story included my mom becoming a grandma, but when she died when I was 21 my story needed to change. When my daughter was involved in a serious situation that rocked my family, my idea of being the best mom ever shattered.
Regardless of how we wrote out our story as little girls, there were going to be events that would alter our path. Interestingly, it’s that time of innocence that we must recall when our story is changed without our permission. Like playing a game without rules, kids always seem to figure out how to make it work out well. As adults, though, we need rules. And we need reasons for changing these rules.
It’s not as easy as yelling “plot twist” when you get cancer, find out your child may never speak, or learn your spouse was killed by a drunk driver. It’s not that easy.
We had a story. Hopes and dreams. It’s not as easy as taking refuge with 7 little miners or convincing a beast that he’s lovable. It’s reality, not a fairy tale. And we have to go on. But what about our story?
As I turned 45 and realized that my story is much different from what I planned, I started to pick apart the story to see what happened. Where I had gone wrong? What did I do to change the perfect life I dreamed of as a child?
I had to rethink these events. This journey. It wasn’t me that had gone wrong. I didn’t purposefully change anything. It was just a different story and I had the opportunity to decide what kind it was going to be.
Kids shouldn’t be creating life stories where mommies die or brothers go missing or planes crash on the way to see grandma. What a horribly sad existence we would have if we thought about these things as kids. And so I started to understand that it’s not treating challenges as plot twists or needing to live this perfect storybook life.
It’s that childlike ideal of a life that is full of love and fun and joy and happiness that is what the story is really about. This story created in childhood isn’t a roadmap leading us to these things. It’s a story about living and learning. There is no possibility of joy or happiness if there is no journey. And it’s the journey that shapes us and teaches us.
What have you learned on your journey that is your real life story?