These two little words have been the way my husband Chris and I have greeted each other almost every morning for the past ten years. Our awesome game has sustained us, individually and as a couple, through many years of craziness. One deployment to Afghanistan, blending a family of five teens/young adult offspring, an ugly and painful custody battle, several career changes, aging parents, and fulfilling a dream to move from the city to a farm. The fact that neither of us had grown up on a farm and neither of us had any idea how to grow crops or birth cows just added to the excitement. And the stress. We learned quickly; as Chris remarked, “our learning curve was so steep, it required grapple hooks to climb.”
Our game began innocently enough and over the years has morphed into a rather competitive, albeit loving way to start the day. You see, we strive to tell the other that he/she is awesome, and our little rule is that the first one of us who is bestowed by the other with this pronouncement after midnight will then wear the title of “awesome” for the day. Chris has been known to stay awake long after he should in order to confer, at the stroke of midnight, the title
upon me. Not to be outdone, when traveling I have fully taken advantage of different time zones in order to send the “you’re awesome” text to the hubby when the clock in my area struck midnight, and fully justified bending of the rules because after all, he’s the one at home taking care of our farm and sixty-five cows, horses, chickens, dogs, and cats. I’m certain that he earns the title of awesome every single day for that reason alone. In addition to full-time farming, he is also a volunteer firefighter for our rural community and is almost single-handedly renovating every square inch of our old farmhouse. But the reality is that most often, he beats me to the mark and I am the one wearing the title of awesome. For most of the past ten years I have worn the title uncomfortably, self-consciously, and at times, a little ungraciously. You see, I may be wearing the title of awesome...but most days I don't think I deserve it.
Why has it been so hard to accept this steadfast expression of love and value from one who loves me so? In speaking to others, particularly women of my generation it is often apparent that in a world that seems to value opinions and conflict over relationships and harmony, receiving any daily affirmation is so out of place, so far removed from our usual self-talk that we simply struggle to accept the message, let alone absorb it and wear it. And I think that just scratches the surface. For many women, despite all the self-help books on Amazon and in Chapters, self-love is elusive. If we can’t find our own joy, it’s awfully hard to accept that someone else sees your loveliness and awesome when you cannot.
The sad reality for the majority of women that I have had the privilege to get to know is that our generation, the one before us, and the ones coming up behind us are mostly overworked, over-committed, and overtired. Some women I know have lived through significant trauma and still courageously put on their armor and face the world every day. Helen Reddy was right. We do roar.
So how did we get to this place where our lives are so full, yet so empty? It’s not that our lives are joyless; it’s that we have lost our way and misplaced our ability to see our joy, our worth, our value. We become measured by our ability to juggle, to provide, to give, and most of us do the hardest measuring on ourselves than anyone else ever could. Many of us are "on" 24/7/365, thanks to the technology that was supposed to make our lives less demanding. In my childhood, my brothers and I played with the neighbor kids without adult supervision. We walked to our small town movie theatre every Saturday for the matinee and to the public swimming pool during summer vacation and to the skating rink in the winter.Those days are long gone for most families and that means that moms and dads spend tremendous time, energy, and money ferrying children to organized activities. We have first-World conveniences that are unparalleled in history, and less time than ever to enjoy them.
Ask any woman in her thirties or forties with three kids in sports and/or a demanding job what she wants most to do next weekend, and I can virtually guarantee that the answer most often involves sleep, room service, and silence. And maybe some very good chocolate and a glass of wine. I can smell the ocean salty breeze now. Or maybe it’s a fresh mountain pine fragrance that beckons you. Or perhaps it is a clear night on the farm where the dark blue velvet sky is studded with diamond stars while a gentle breeze ruffles your hair, the chickens have long gone to roost, and the only sounds are from the little frogs in the nearby pond. Ever notice that when you have enjoyed a break from your daily routine, even just a weekend, how much happier and peaceful you feel within?
One of my favorite authors is Marianne Williamson, who said,
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?' Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
― Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of "A Course in Miracles"
The good news is that you can find your awesome within. It hasn't pulled up stakes and left you for someone younger, prettier, smarter, or more pulled together. But if you're like me, your sense of self, your "awesome" voice has been drowned out by the tedious demands that begin most days at 5 a.m. and are rarely hushed before 10 p.m. It's as though an Occupy movement has settled in your head and the tents, garbage, and noise are swarming to take over. It's time to sweep them out.
We are going to do this together. It is my hope with this blog to share some discoveries, a few hard-won insights, and mostly, to invite you into my life. I hope that you will feel free to tell me about yours, your successes, hopes and wishes, and what's standing in your way.
“I’ve learned that making a ‘living’ is not the same thing as ‘making a life’.”