Do you find yourself watching other people?
I don’t mean casually checking out a soul here or there.
Do you social media stalk, or celebrity-watch, or keep tabs on the big wigs in your community?
Or do you live through your children, maybe? You weren’t popular so you want to make sure your daughter is. Or you push your son to play sports or go out for student government.
Do you weasel your way into mom groups you want to be a part of? Insert yourself into places you weren’t exactly invited but just know you need to be?
Maybe you’re done raising children, and the pressures of trying to be super mom and make them super children are over.
Or maybe you’ve never had children and it’s just been you.
Do you find yourself obsessively watching every reality show on the planet, wishing you had a Kardashian or Kathy Hilton-crazy life?
These are telling questions, but the most important is this:
At the end of the day, was the day itself the kind of day you have always hoped for?
I know every day won’t be perfect, but still.
Are you living a consistently content life?
I have to tell you the truth: I had not been.
For years, past trauma left me sleep-walking through life.
I would try to move forward, but something from my past would catch a hold of my brain and become a hamster wheel of negative self-talk that I couldn’t move past.
I would drink to distract, eat to comfort, binge-watch YouTube to escape.
And all those actions did was leave me feeling more distraught and anxious.
I’d jump back on the hamster wheel with a whole new conversation of negative self-talk.
Did anyone else believe 2020 was going to be the visionary year of change?
I know I did. I remember writing in my 2019 journal about all the many ways this new decade would bring out a new me.
It brought out a new me, alright. A me who was more insecure, less content, and angrier than ever.
But those feelings actually had started long before 2020.
After the birth of my fourth child in 2010, I turned 30.
I realized that I’d lost all my twenties to child-rearing, which I did not regret at all, but that I still wasn’t any closer to feeling content with my life.
Getting married so young, every year was an act of trying to survive, and in the midst of raising small children, just trying to keep your sanity felt like success.
But now here I was, thirty, and I felt no closer to getting anywhere that anyone would deem “successful.”
The only thing I ever knew how to do was work with children or teach, and so, once again, before long, I jumped back into a profession I really didn’t even like all that much.
Because it was all I knew.
We do that, don’t we? We choose comfort, and often times, it’s not even comfortable.
The kind of comfort that’s based on laziness really isn’t comfortable at all.
Because that kind of safety is based on fear. It’s rooted in remaining with what we know rather than taking a leap of faith to what we could be.
Thus began a cycle for me: return to teaching, go back to my old ways, hate my life, want to make a change, take a new teaching job, hate it, go back to my old ways, hate my life, want to make a change…
A vicious cycle that left me in a new city (thought it would make me happy), in an old house (I wanted a project), and with about twenty pounds more weight and a serious self-condemnation problem due to my struggles with alcohol…
Which I was drinking in order to not feel all of the above.
It’s a real smack-my-head kind of thing. From the outside, one might look at my life and say, How could she not see what she was doing?
But I was so not focused on my own life that I missed what I was doing to myself.
I was busy focused on other people, and I was jealous that I couldn’t make my own life better.
What I thought was going to be the year that I had my greatest success- 2020- ended up being one of the quietest years of my life.
With no one doing anything because of the pandemic, I was able to take a giant step back and reassess where I was going and why.
When 2021 hit, I’d built up such a restful resistance, I like to call it, that when all hell broke loose: job issues, Covid, death, suicide, children leaving home– I was able to survive.
In other words, if the worst thing ever had not happened, I would have crumbled when my life changed so drastically, so fast.
What occurred instead was that I had an epiphany. I was destroying myself, and it was on me, and only me to change.
It was time to be the star of my own show.
And what I learned about starring in my own life is what I hope will help you change yours:
To star in your own show you have to take your eyes off of other people.
You can’t look outside before you look inside. I had to get to the heart and soul of why I’d been living the same cycle of misery for years on end.
It started with reframing my past.
One day, every member of my family left the house. I grabbed a candle, turned on some music and sat.
I began to recall many moments from my past that were hurtful and had left open wounds.
I sat outside of myself in each memory, really trying to understand what was happening in each moment, and putting myself in my own shoes or the shoes of the person who hurt me, and attempting to assess each scenario in a new light.
Then, I pictured what my “perfect” life would look like (understanding, of course, that no life is perfect).
When I was done, I wrote down that new life. I taped it inside the back cover of my journal, and I read it daily.
Every time I would speak, I would think about what I was going to say: was it going to help or hurt me? Hang or harbor others?
Every time I would eat, I would ask if there was a reason behind my eating. Am I hungry? Angry? Tired? Lonely?
I began cleaning my house daily, a huge step for me, since I thought cleaning was pointless. Everything had been pointless up to that point.
I committed to lifting weights just 15 minutes a day, 4 times a week.
I started walking my dogs and listening to good Ted Talks on the journey.
I stopped drinking alcohol altogether.
And I now take a Sunday drive, every single Sunday, where I sing, pray, cry and listen to God’s voice inside me.
If you’re going to be the star of your show, everyone else must become a costar, a guest, or an audience member.
And that’s okay. They’re busy starring in their own show, as they should be.
In fact, they’re so busy, they probably haven’t even bothered to check out your new season.
No one is watching us nearly as much as we think they are.
And this is comforting, really. Because it allows us to deep dive into the wide waters of discovering who we are.
Some people will quit you midseason- that’s okay.
You may change the script- that’s okay.
The ratings might go down for awhile- that is really okay!
Just don’t give up on yourself.
If you’re one of those who have read this and thought: Starring in your own show is so narcissistic, I’d ask you to reconsider.
We have far too many martyrs out there in the world, women who have sacrificed their whole lives being miserable so that others could be happy.
We have far too many women who were never told they could, so they didn’t.
Women who were never given the green light to create their own projects or to write their own narrative.
Women who gave up.
Those are the stars who shine the brightest.
And they make the world a better place.
In what ways are you wanting to be the star of your own show in the coming year? What changes do you hope to make? I’d love to hear from you.