Living in the shadows is somewhere many of us women have spent our lives. Many of us got used to introducing ourselves as so-and-so's mother or wife. Somewhere along the line we lost our identity as it merged with the family or the husband's.
I chose (and was lucky to have been able to choose) to be a mum at home, I wanted this more than anything when I had my first child and then second and third. I wanted to teach them, to nurture them, to keep them close to me, to share my values with them as they grew. I wanted to be the first to see them walk and talk and wave them goodbye each and every morning as they went to school. I wanted to be there to sit at the kitchen table and catch up on their day, to listen to their friendship woes, to ferry them to different after-school clubs and sporting events. I wanted to be available for them as they became teenagers in case they should need an ear... and I wouldn't have had it any other way. However, somewhere along the line I lost myself. I lost my identity, I became a shadow of who I now know I am.
I have no regrets. Regrets are futile. They steal the pleasure we now find in life as we relive the past. I am grateful I did wake up. I'm grateful for the depression I suffered because it did wake me up to life. I knew I wanted more. I knew there was more. Life in the shadows is a miserable place. We know the sensation of sun on our face and we know how the shadows leave their mark as a chill inside. I felt this chill to my core. I look at photos of myself from that time and see a coldness in my eyes, a sadness too.
I write from a place, today, of having made that step out of the shadows. It takes courage but we can do it tentatively at first, a little stretch as we feel our way gently and slowly, surrounded by those close to us. There is a richness in living life out of the shadows. It takes getting used to.
Maybe it's time now for you to step out of the shadows. It's that time of transition, change is on the horizon, kids are leaving home, or it's the menopause, or it's facing life after divorce or loss.
Self nurture - this is key. Show yourself the love you've been so used to showing others. Loving kindness, the Buddhist way of being, must be shown to ourselves too. We cannot fully love without loving ourselves.
Time for reflection goes hand in hand with self-nurture. Do what brings you peace within; meditation, walking in the great outdoors, yoga. When we take time for reflection we allow our mind, normally so full of thoughts, to be still.
Meet new people-- these people will open your horizon. We become lazy and insular in our friendships if we stay forever within the safety of our tribe. New people from different walks of life enhance our experience of living.
Rediscover your passions, or create new ones. Think back to a time when you were at your happiest. What was going on in your life at that point? What activities were you doing? Do they still fill you with joy?
Take one step in the direction you want to head. We gain momentum by taking the first step. Don't worry if it turns out to be wrong direction, any step is better than no step.
Is it worth it? Our comfort zone is a falsely safe place. It's boring. It'll be a challenge to step out of the shadows but will it be worth it? YES. Take it easy, slowly, one step at a time but you'll see that the fun is on the other side.
Reinvention - who are you really? It is never too late to reinvent ourselves, Maya Angelou told us it was wise to do so. Who would you like to become from now on? What dreams have been on hold for too long?
Are you ready? Join in the conversation in the comments below.