“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” – E. E. Cummings

Wonder how long it took for that tree to grow that much? an emjayandthem photo

I have a strong need to be in control.  Examples:

  • I plan gatherings, parties and vacations, down to the last detail.
  • I tend to be a perfectionist and am my own worst critic.
  • If you ask my opinion, I assume you want to know. I  get irritated when you don’t take my advice.
  • It’s difficult for me to trust.
  • I drink socially, but I can count on one hand the times I ever felt drunk … and that feeling?  Far from fun, try horrifying.
  • I make lists for everything.
  • It drives me crazy not to have enough to do.
  • Conversely, while I love a day off with no schedule I only love them if they’re by my design.  (I.E. sitting around waiting on someone else? Drives me c-r-a-z-y).
  • I do not like to be the center of attention, unless it was my choice to be.  Example:  I’ve never thrown anyone a surprise party; I think they’re vile and I’d never want to be subjected to one.  I know some people love them; it would be pure torture for me.

From an evolutionary standpoint, cultivating a sense of control over our environment ensures we will survive it.  Do I need to be in control as much as I need a sense of control over the outcome?

I’ve been thinking a lot about life and my next steps.  I asked myself, “What are you afraid of?”  At first, I couldn’t think of anything.  OK there’s the obvious big stuff that frightens most of us – war, an environmental disaster, something happening to my husband or children, etc.  I realized that, for me, what I am most afraid of is lack of control over my being or my life.

It started young; I’m the youngest of five.  My parents enjoyed a hobby (horse racing) that sometimes took them away from home.  I remember being frightened when they weren’t there and more scared during the parties that were held with loud music and strange people in my house.  I remember being told to go to bed even though I could hear the kids hooting & hollering in the room not far from mine.  I think about the trouble my siblings sometimes got into, and my vows to not follow in their footsteps. So, instead, I became the good kid; the teen who could be left alone because she was always responsible. I became the friend who would drive her drunk boyfriend and his friends home because she kept a level head. I became everything .. to everyone else.

I created a façade for myself; someone who takes care of everyone else and I became an expert at it.  Professionally, it helped that I am naturally organized and pay careful attention to detail.  Making lists was rewarded.  Soon, because I was responsible, on time, and someone others could count on, I was rewarded with more – more work, more responsibility, more to organize, more to care for, more to do. More.

During college, I didn’t date because I had three part-time jobs + a full time course load.  Don’t get me wrong, I was no saint, I went dancing with friends and we drank a little and flirted a lot and had fun, but those times were few and far between.  Consequently, I have very few memories of my college experience. What I do remember is always working, always being exhausted, always over-performing.  What I do remember of that time is intense loneliness and a desire to be something.

At 21, I left Canada and came to the United States. I had $178, a guitar and a few friends.  Auspiciously, I planned on staying for a season; I’ve been here 27 years (and I’m a citizen now .. yay!). It never occurred to me to fail, and I didn’t. But now, years later, I can see how terrified I was.  I was so afraid to fail; afraid that all my big dreams wouldn’t come true and I’d be one of those girls that came slinking home to her parents with no job and no prospects.  And to me, failure was to be feared.

What’s scaring me today is one word: change.   I am turning 48 in a few days and while I am not afraid of aging, I am unfamiliar with who this woman is.  I have always been able to count on myself.  Now, someone else is showing up and, what’s more confusing, I don’t always recognize her.  I don’t know if I can trust her.

Naively, I assumed that I’d become more patient, more giving, and more, well, everything,  as I grew older.  Meh .. not so much.  With my grandkids? Absolutely. Other’s idiosyncrasies? Best I just step away. “Pick the hill you want to die on” is a quote I love but, of late, I’ve picked unfamiliar hills and walked away from known ones.   Weird.

My life is full and, most of the time, I’m content.  I’m thankful that I’ve cleared out the toxic people to make room for the good. I eat well. I exercise regularly now. I sleep great.  I listen. I express my ideas. I share and I pull back.

Things are coming together and changing all at the same time.

What’s next?

I don’t know.  But I do know this: while some of what I’m experiencing feels foreign to me, I’m trying my hardest not to be afraid.  I’m trying to just have faith and not be so worried about controlling the outcome.  I no longer have to be in survivor mode.  I will get through this; I just don’t know who I’ll be on the other side.

Have you struggled through a transition of late?  Please share.

Categories: Attitude, Blogging, Confidence at any age, Faith, Family, Friendship, Gratitude, Life, Life Lessons, Opinion, Personal, Relationships, Self Discovery, Thoughts, Uncategorized, Wisdom | Tags: , , , , , , | 24 Comments

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24 thoughts on “Growth

  1. Hey friend. You read my mind again, didn’t ya? I have been feeling the same for a couple of years now and although I am getting used to the stranger that shows up in my body at random times, I still do not understand her. It’s scary. Life is a little scary. How about we embrace the weird changes and the weird feelings we are having…together? I’m older….I’ll take the lead. Hugs.

  2. I can relate…funny…just started a post about it. Must be something in the water.

  3. Beautiful post! 🙂 I think that a lot of people have a fear of failing. The problem is that this fear also prevents you from trying new things (b/c you are afraid that you may fail at them)! …….I definitely can relate – unfortunately! (I’m hoping that one day I won’t be so afraid of failing—I like to think I’ve already conquered it, but I know deep down inside it still has me wrapped around it’s little pinky finger!!) 😮

    • That is so true, and I didn’t realize how afraid I had been until I looked back. Now, I don’t fear the failure as much as I fear not knowing where this is heading .. and by “this” I mean subtle changes in my way of thinking most of all. Thanks for weighing in!! MJ

  4. Oh, I so recognize this state! Yes, living in a somewhat uprooted mode the past few years, now planning to re-enter life in the lower 48, waiting out the sale of the house, having relationship issues all around me, and sometimes for myself, and doing my own growing/changing…it has been a ride, sometimes amazing, sometimes scary. But I think I’m coming through, am learning that whatever happens, I’ll right myself, I’ll eventually re-balance. That has been enormously encouraging. After many years of life being very stable, the years in Alaska have been full of change, travel, new adventures, stress, distress, and all things un-stable…even the good things! Not saying it is the state’s fault…but our time here has been a time of upheaval, in every way. So I think I understand where you are.

    You’ll find your way…you are too centered not to do that. You are obviously a very grounded person, and I would guess that whatever changes/challenges you’re facing, you’ll be ok. And on the other side, you’ll be the better for the working and the thinking and the growth. But if your experience is like mine, it may grind on you a bit before you’re done.
    Hold tight to the ones you love, and hold on…you’ll come through!


    • Wonderful advice, Sheila, and thank you for helping me by telling me your experience. It is comforting to know that we’re not the only ones, right? -MJ

  5. cooper

    it’s taken me until recently to realize that the question ‘who am i’ is best answered by ‘i am who i am right now – and that’s enough’. it won’t be who i am tomorrow because we ALWAYS change, from day to day. that’s the fun part…we are who we are right now on this (hopefully) long journey. we are never just one thing, we are a collection of the experiences and memories on the path we’ve tred so far to bring us to this point. and tomorrow, if it comes, will be a new point. thanx for sharing part of your journey…

    • Coop, I think I have to steal that quote … “I am who I am right now .. and that’s enough.” Powerful!

      thank you, MJ

  6. Hmmm… this is deep.

    Maybe this feeling hasn’t hit me yet, but I’m pretty content with myself and where I am in life…..

    • and I am glad for you, Dianna! To be clear, I am content with my life and who I am; I’ve always known myself well … it’s just these subtle shifts that are causing me pause. Knowing myself, I’m probably thinking too deeply about it… but I don’t think so. It has my attention ..

      Cheers to you this bright Saturday morning, MJ

  7. Nearly two years ago I had my first child…and then lost my job. I am still unemployed, and happily for the most part, since it means I get to be home with my son.

    BUT, having had a job since I was 16, it has been an adjustment. I liked, even with the frustrations various jobs brought, the sense of accomplishment, knowing people relied on me.

    I know I am accomplishing things with raising a child, but it is very different, and I have had my moments of adjusting less than gracefully.

    Bit by bit, I am embracing change. Whoever you are on the other side of change, you will still be you. Likely, a better version.

    • Thank you for sharing your story and I’ll bet if asked, your little one wouldn’t have you anywhere else but where you are! Thanks for the kind words of encouragement; I believe you … yes … a better version will emerge. Cheers! MJ

  8. It was around my 40’s I realized I wasn’t in control. In fact, with faith, I realized God wouldn’t let me mess things up for me or those around me. I never lost control, just relinquished it. Every last detail is not as important as it once was…because, still…I do a pretty good job.

    • That is a very insightful perspective to have, Georgette, and I thank you for sharing it with little ole me!! 🙂 MJ

  9. “It never occurred to me to fail, and I didn’t.”

    That quote right there is EXACTLY why you inspire me. I have so much love for you, MJ. You’re a fabulous lady!

  10. MJ, I turned 48 last year and took off for a writing class in France – by myself. It was the best thing I have ever done for myself. Like you, I’m a perfectionist, afraid of failure, but more afraid of not being who I was meant to be. I am finally evolving into that person and it’s great. Enjoy this year – I think it will be great for you as well!

    • …”more afraid of not being who I was meant to be.” That says it all, Renee. Thank you for your insight; I feel that what’s coming is good as well, it’s those “whispers in the night” that give me pause. MJ

  11. What a beautiful, honest, moving story of your journey that all of us can relate to at some level.

    This past year I’ve been privileged to have met many women in their 50s, 60s and beyond who, later in life, started brand new chapters in their lives starting businesses, writing, painting, went back to college, and one inspiring lady became a licensed therapist at 70! And on and on and on.

    All these women, just like you…just like me, just like all of us, have something in common. Despite feeling uncomfortable, uneasy, unbalanced, they continued to ask themselves questions and listened to their soul whispering it’s time to start a new chapter…they trusted that they would be okay and they knew that they could always return “home” if things didn’t work out.

    But the truth is, yes, you can always return “home” but once you stretch yourself and grow in a new direction…you will never want to go back. Why would you?
    A butterfly never wants to be a caterpillar again. Never.

    If you were a butterfly MJ, you would be a beautiful one!

    • Thank you, Beth, for your kind words of support and friendship — and the “atta girl!” that makes me want to just go for it. Cheers! MJ

  12. I think we’re a lot alike, MJ (but I’m not really a listmaker)…I just reposted this piece I wrote last April:


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