At 18 I decided to live. At 33 I decided to love myself.
At 46 I decided to enjoy the journey.
Deciding to live isn’t just about no more suicide attempts. It’s not just about getting free of addictive or numbing behavior. Deciding to live is also about showing up each day awake and aware, willing to taste what comes your way: the joy, the anxiety, the exasperation, the delight; the wins, the struggle, the sunshine, and long nights.
It means slowing down and noticing the gifts of each ordinary day. Listening as people speak – noticing their quirks and artistry. Tasting your food and feeling her touch. Offering and receiving love, no guarantees. No more hiding. No wishing yourself away. It means realizing that even if this day is your last, you will have fully received its sacred gift.
It means being fully present for the dishes and bill paying. The cuddles and the call you’ve been dreading. For the hopeful new births and the burying people you love. Understanding that you may feel broken or weak or terribly afraid but this does not disqualify you from life. You may have hurt people or sacrificed too much or lost yourself somewhere along the way. And you can still decide to live each day and see what happens.
You might even end up enjoying the ride.
SO HERE IS WHAT IT MEANS FOR ME TO DECIDE TO LIVE EACH DAY
1. I unpeel the layers of self-protection and allow myself to be seen. I decide to like who I am. I am hungry for growth and one of the ways I fight for life is to deepen self-awareness and self-compassion and to embrace each day of the journey. Some days I’m up or hopeful, others I hurt and wonder all over again if I have anything of beauty to offer. I see this truth: I am messy and imperfect and also wise and full of compassion. A tangle of strength and struggle.
2. I sit here and feel things intensely. My stomach clenches and some days I am wracked with grief. I belly laugh and love fiercely. I get angry and say the wrong thing and I own my own garbage and all the ways I’m still growing up. But I sit with it all. I don’t hide anymore and I don’t numb it away.
3. I tell the truth. I risk conflict and ending relationships if it feels important for me to speak the truth. I will challenge you to growth and hold myself accountable to the same standard. If you choose to stay stuck we probably cannot spend time together because I’m fighting for life and need to surround myself with people who are willing to do the messy inner work too. I will not bend to try and make you like me; I’ve worked way too hard to come to freedom for that. I will not sacrifice authenticity for money or esteem or for your comfort. I cannot do this and live.
4. I ask for help. I try and try again to find the people who will hear me and support me. I need to be heard. And this isn’t easy because I am stubborn and if you speak with arrogance or act like you are the expert on me then I’m out. I will not abdicate my power or personal responsibility. And even when things get messy and it’s hard work to find the help I need, I do not quit. I am learning to reach out to friends when I’m struggling instead of isolating. Because frankly, I am worth fighting for. And my husband and children are worth fighting for.
5. I refuse to wear shame. I’ve done plenty of things I wouldn’t wish on my daughter. I have wanted to die; not just as a teen but as an adult with a family who loves me. Sometimes you try to fix me or tell me that you have all the answers for me. Over the years when I have told the truth you gave me your pat answers as though they would resolve everything. But all this did is shut down the conversation and discredit all the work that I’ve done. I fight every day but I will not wear your shame.
6. I forgive myself. I forgive the younger me who treated herself like she had no worth, who practically begged for love in all the wrong ways. I forgive the younger me who was impatient and angry or hurting as she tried to learn how to parent. I forgive the me who did the best she knew how with the tools she had. I forgive the me who is still very much learning how to love and heal, who is learning what it means to grow old together and parent grown-up kids. I forgive myself for all my struggle. For not being perfect and not being a “perfect parent.” For having to understand that perfection isn’t actually required in the first place. I forgive myself over and over and over again.
7. I choose my own labels. Beloved, teacher, mom, lover, friend. Mediocre, joyful, imperfect, gifted, light bearer. Struggler, wrestler, broken, questioner, artwork. Passionate, sojourner, weary, hopeful, stubborn. Determined, compassionate, writer, truth-teller, beautiful. I get to redefine myself when I want and shake off any labels that do not fit.
8. I treat myself like I matter. I eat good food and mostly go to bed on time. I move my body and take supplements and I invest in my health-care like my life depends upon it. I do not keep bottles of pills at home that I could use to harm myself. I’ve learned to say no but also to say yes to things that scare me. I read good books and stay connected to the people in my inner circle, and I do not permit abuse from others or myself. I speak to myself with kindness and encouragement. I retrain a lifetime of belief that I am too fat, too weak, too emotional and remember I am not the only one who struggles.
9. I show up with curiosity. I have learned to loosen my grip and enjoy the journey. I remind myself that control is an illusion anyway and despite the valleys, life has turned out better than I could have imagined. I do the work daily to put my inner critic in her place, scan for beauty, open up to joyful possibility. There is no failure, only showing up and growing and becoming.
10. I offer the very thing I need. I reach out my hand in support, to lift you up, and invite you to join me on this journey to freedom. We need each other. We teach what we have need of, I think. I need understanding and compassion, practical tools and encouragement to remind me to keep showing up and choosing life. So that is what I offer. I offer what I have because it isn’t enough for me to decide to live. I want you to decide to live too.
I use the word “decide” carefully. It implies deliberate forethought – counting the cost within my limited scope of vision. Not necessarily fully understanding how to move forward but knowing I will try.
To decide to live, to love myself, or to enjoy this messy journey means understanding that I will show up. I have removed the escape hatch. No plan B. I’ve put a stake in the ground that will not be moved.
What will it look like if you decide to live each day?
Photo courtesy of M. Sedestrom Guthrie (@HereAndNow.Art)
*Before you go, if my words offer you hope or encouragement, please consider sharing them with others. xo