I’m taking an easy way with this post — re-posting a column written by my gracious southern hostess, who said “YES, you can stay an extra week.” She’s one of the many angels who have been by my side as I’ve bounced around two countries, dodging floods, landslides and customs and TSA officials. (“Ma’am, can you tell me why you spent less than 24 hours in Mexico?” “Ma’am, we’re going to have to take a closer look at your luggage.”) And I’d like to dedicate what Annette has written to a young mother in Puerto Rico who recently wrote me saying she was exhausted, trying to be a good everything to everybody. Querida, you know who you are!
So — here’s Annette!
How many times in your life — or perhaps each day — have you said or thought, “I can’t…?”
I have an author friend — Susan Cobb — who has written a book titled, “Virgin Territory: How I Found My Inner Guadalupe.” The top line on the back of her book jacket reads, “Real virgins say, ‘Yes!’” Her book tells not only about her saying “yes” to a move to Mexico’s west coast but also about her saying “yes” to a new view of herself and her purpose. In the process, she discovered the need to do away with some old labels.
What resonated with me was the idea of giving yourself permission to think beyond the confines of what you’ve always done or what others have generally expected from you. This also includes permission to view yourself differently from what you’ve accepted for yourself.
I’ve said yes to many things this year that I’ve never said yes to before. This has included taking a trip to Italy without my husband, adding blond highlights to my hair, wearing purple nail tips, downsizing to a smaller purse and joining a ladies Bunco group — to name only a few.
After years of saying “I can’t,” “I don’t have time,” and even “I shouldn’t,” I have this deep desire to say yes to as many new things as possible — particularly things I’ve never done before. And at the risk of sounding selfish, I want to say yes to things that are only for me or of special interest to me.
There have been various times in my life when I struggled with feeling trapped, overwhelmed or stressed, as well as consumed with taking care of others. One such period was when I was a young mommy. Now don’t get me wrong — I sincerely loved motherhood. But I recall days when I longed to have a break — or in other words, to have a little time for myself. I was grateful to have a husband and a family nearby that allowed me to say yes to taking a nap, a walk or a soaking bath; to reading a book; to joining a health club or dance class; to getting my nails or hair done or to secluding myself in the bedroom to watch a movie.
There are times when a mom must simply say yes to herself and what she feels she needs or what she wants to do. And let me tell you, ladies, this is okay!
We don’t need to feel guilty or ashamed of wanting to do something for ourselves or by ourselves!
It will soon be a decade since I became an empty nester. When my daughter first left for college, I remember feeling that I had reached an “end,” and I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do with myself next. I resigned from a job around this same time feeling like I needed to do something different, even though I wasn’t exactly sure what that something was going to be.
Honestly, I feel like I’m still transitioning to my next chapter. Furthermore, it could be that this whole idea of finding purpose, understanding our identity and clarifying our values and ideals never reaches some grand finale. Perhaps there is no end to the discovery of who we are because it’s a lifelong journey.
I can live with that!
In fact, I feel like this truth gives me permission to make changes regardless of my age.
So, any labels that I’ve grown accustomed to as descriptions of “me,” don’t have to remain sewn into my collar. Sometimes labels are imposed upon us that don’t genuinely represent our style, tastes, preferences, interests or values. Or maybe we simply want to consider new ideas and inspirations. Why do we ever believe we can’t make a change?
I think giving yourself permission is about being honest with yourself throughout your life. It’s about not boxing yourself into a set-in-stone self-image, a set of viewpoints and opinions or even settling for a job that you no longer want. It’s also about realizing that possibilities and opportunities don’t diminish with age.
The more I eradicate limiting labels, the more I see the world in color instead of black and white. And what a lovely world I am finding — a world that is flexible, adaptable, resilient, creative, inspired, imaginative, receptive, open, unobstructed, unrestricted, boundless.
Dear ladies and gentlemen, give yourselves permission to do or be whatever you’re dreaming of or longing for. You may find saying “Yes!” and “I can!” feels pretty darn good!
Annette Bridges is a freelance writer who lives on a north Texas ranch with her husband, John. A mother and former public and homeschool teacher, she doesn’t think her insights are any more special than yours. But she believes we need to share what we’re learning with one another, and we need especially to share our insights with our children! First published by the Dallas Morning News after becoming an empty nester when her daughter left for college in 2001, she has since written weekly columns for numerous websites, newspapers and magazines. Visit her website at http://www.annettebridges.com.