Something really powerful happened to me after defending my thesis this past Friday. I experienced a shift. You know that feeling you get on a molecular level that causes your whole world to forever be altered? I was on highway 94 when it happened. I had both hands loosely on the steering wheel; it was raining, and I was leaning slightly forward with a smile on my face completely and utterly turned on by the world and everything around me. Never mind that the sky was grey and threatening to turn into snow. Never mind a lot of things. I was happy and completely present--and for the first time in my life I felt like a woman. Not a girl, but a woman.
Granted, I'm 33 years old and maybe I should have started feeling like a woman a long time ago. But, you see, I've been a daughter, a student, an employee, an underdog for so long that I had never really experienced the full power of my woman-ness.
In my teens and early 20's I was so completely ME. I didn't care what other people thought. I was independent. I was fearless. I was also relatively young. Somewhere along the line, to an extent, I lost the best parts of myself. As a student, adult daughter, and employee I started seeking all the same things: approval, respect, praise, admiration. And I now see how, in the process, I lost little pieces of myself, bit by bit. I allowed my confidence to get rubbed down. I gave away my fire and grace. I replaced some of my favorite qualities with a lowered sense of self-worth. But in these past several months I've started to understand something about the ways that waiting for approval can hold a person back in some seriously disabling ways.
Lately, I've been thinking a lot about the ways that I've limited myself. I've been trying to understand what happens inside of me when I feel less than capable or less than beautiful or less then anything. What, exactly, happens in the moment that I quit trusting my true self? What is the sensation? What is the trigger?
The day before defending my thesis I met up with my dad for a quick hello. He neglected to wish me good luck or really even acknowledge my accomplishments in any way. In the moment of lamely saying goodbye I felt heart broken and invisible, yet again. But you know what? As I walked away I realized something important: it no longer needs to matter. I can't change him. I can't make him care. And if he does, I can't make him show it. Most importantly, I realized that it is a waste of energy to try and prove myself to him or anyone. Because I've wasted a lot of energy doing that for too many people. I'll still have a relationship with my dad, but from here on out it is going to be on different terms. I'm no longer going to vie for his praise or approval. I'm no longer going to do that for anyone.
After leaving the defense I went out for lunch with one of my professors and she said: "You know, Jessie, you've changed. You're not the same person that you were before." And the funny thing is that I feel like a different person. I feel it from the inside out, and the outside in.
My point is this: I am no longer the same person that I was. I cannot explain it. I cannot describe it. But all I know is that something very important has shifted somewhere deep inside of me. For the first time in my adult life I feel like I am completely and absolutely me.
These days, my life feels like it has caught on fire. I feel empowered and strong. I feel fearless and am hungry for adventure in a way that I have not been in a very long time. Something has shifted and now there is no going back. I am learning and growing and am still scared as hell on a regular basis. But I also feel more capable, willing, daring. Suzie made this necklace with the intention of bringing fire, vitality and joy into my life. I put it around my neck knowing this and feel grateful for the power radiating from her creation. Should I forget any of the lessons I've learned, this necklace is surely a beautiful reminder.
This past week my aunt has been staying with my husband and I while she receives outpatient treatments for Luekemia. She's been in the hospital for the past 4 months and will return for another 3 months beginning next week. I have spent the past several days making sure she is ok and feeling comfortable. I have been sitting in a hospital watching dozens of cancer patients (some just babies and children) and their families doing whatever they need to do just to get through it. My aunt amazes me to extremes. This morning, while sitting on couch, she received the phone call that her own mom died last night--also from cancer. Yesterday, while sitting in the hospital, I received a call that Clara, my adopted grandma, passed away. I keep thinking about Patry Francis and the way she is open to life--it's beauties and pains--with such intensity and love. It is humbling and empowering all at once.
Today I am grateful for the magnificently fierce women in my life. They teach me not to be afraid of transformation. These brilliant butterflies--I am grateful for all of them, including you--my beautiful, strong friends.
"You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face." ~Eleanore Roosevelt
Read more about Suzie's pendant on her blog. Her story makes me love my new necklace even more!