This is a topic that I have been dragging my feet on writing. Not because it is not important, or that I am afraid to speak on it. But, rather, because it is a very recent conclusion that I came to about my own journey.
If you speak to me and hear my story of tragedy to triumph, grind to glory and the uncanny ability that I have had to survive every single attempt that life has made to give up and accept defeat has never materialized into much more than an attempt. Have I had my ‘down moments?’ Most definitely. Did I ever feel like I would not survive? Absolutely. But in every cloudy day and dark night, I always felt that there was a sliver of hope. That all was not lost, that I could not just survive, but overcome and become so much more after the experience was over and so I hung in, learned what I was supposed to and was victorious.
And what were some of my victories? Well (to name a few) I’ve survived abuse, lived through a divorce, battled the guilt of single motherhood and conquered the noose of low-self esteem. And while all of that sound monumental, especially with the details of my story told, the truth is even as I write this I have done the very thing that I want to tell you not to do.
So here goes: Change your name. (That doesn’t mean change your story)
You see, for so long I have lived my story, breathed my story, because I had to live my story that the pain of all that I endured because more than just a memory it became my mark. It became all I knew myself as. But I am more than that. No, I’m not saying that I plan to deny who I am or what I have endured, but those experiences don’t define me. Unfortunately though, because I had told and retold them for so long, I could not see myself outside of those dingy, dusty, dirty glasses that had the smear of my painful past all over them. With my gaze on life marred by those terrible glasses I wasn’t seeing it as the more that it could be, but rather just barely better than what had been. Though I longed deeply for the great abundance that I know my heart and mind deserved, my view to see it was not clear. This cloudy view made what was bad not look so bad and what was good look like all I had already experienced. Truth? I definitely made a wrong turns a few times even after coming out, because what wasn’t good for me didn’t look so bad through my dirty glasses and what was good for me looked just as bad as everything else. This shaded view of the world was holding me back from
I shudder as I write this. And it is because I know just how necessary it is for so many hearts who have been hurt just like mine. Truth is though, so often, those who share a memory from their past may not be too far removed from it. Even as I watch the cursor blink on my screen and prepare to share a very recent, vivid and paramount awakening in my own journey I swallow hard to keep the tears from blurring my vision as the words move across the screen. This topic is not hard for people who have it together, who have everything figured out. It is not difficult for those who have seen nothing but success in their public or personal lives or for those who have had the opportunity to ground themselves in their purpose. But in the shuffle of my life, in the dealing with responsibilities all whilst trying to swim through trauma, I had to admit recently that I needed to give up something so near and dear to me…
If you were to ask me, who is Lydia a while ago I would have rattled off a few facts about myself. I am a single mother to a robust and vibrant little girl. She is my absolute joy and the love of my life. I am a divorcee who is happy living life in this space of freedom and newfound awareness. I am an entrepreneur who is finally free to explore the way that my gifts of writing, singing and speaking weave themselves around the words that speak my stories and help heal the hearts and spirits of those who come in contact with them. Because my job has been tied to what I have been through for so long I stumbled into a terrible habit. A habit that I realized was a noose around my neck that could possibly choke all possibility in my future.
The habit, you ask? Well… I had become nothing more than my story past. I had reduced the definition of myself to what I have survived to the point that I let it become my badge of honor, instead of realizing that my cause, my purpose and my future life was called to be so much more than that.
How did I do this, is probably the next thing that you are thinking and is perfectly logical in the sequence of this conversation. You see, because I had become so used to surviving trauma and getting through things, I had mistaken my survive story with my success story. My survival in all I had been through had become all that I knew about myself and I had even come to think that it was all I was. Let’s take my mothering for example. I call myself a ‘single mother.’ I say this for a number of reasons. First, it is true. I am single in the daily care of my daughter and it is a heavy weight that I often silently struggle with. Truth be told, I don’t actually have to put the adjective ‘single’ on the mother part at all. But that one word adds so much value in my mind because it signifies an experience that I survived and I feel robbed without it. Another would be ‘divorcee.’ If I were to be honest, I believe I say this because I don’t want an opinion to be formed about the legitimacy of my daughter. But again, this is not needed at all. My surviving a divorce and handling single parenting is my current lot, yes, but I am much more than those things. I am a mom. I am a happy, grateful, blessed mom. Never have I thought to use those words to preface my mothering situation, because my struggle was my crutch and mistakenly became my comfort. People don’t even need to know that I am divorced or that I have survived other trauma. They only need to know the success that is me standing before them now and I should speak of myself, the ‘now’ self with what I am to become, instead of what I was and really no adjectives are needed at all.
But I have made a living of telling the stories of my past and the lessons I have learned from them. Am I saying that I will stop doing this? Not at all, because I believe I have lived my journey to help others along their own. My issue is that I need to teach that my journey, despite all the tumultuous events that occurred along the way, is STILL unfolding. My badges of honor are the attributes and virtues that make up my personhood. I am a loving mother, a caring friend. I am a meticulous and hardworking entrepreneur. I am an insightful author. I can’t even begin to tell you how much better I feel even typing those things because those are the things that I want attached to the definition of me. What I survived made me who I am today, but it isn’t all that I am.
I am love.
I am laughter.
I am life.
I am becoming the greatest human being I can be because I trust that life will continue to afford me opportunities to develop and grow and I am aware that blessings are abundantly flowing into my life.
I am more than my past, more than my pain and more than my problems. I can still talk about them and still learn from them, but I am no longer going to define myself by them.
So take a deep breath now.
It’s your turn.
I want you to know in this moment you are more than all of that too. Your definition is not created by your experiences, but by your internal strengths that got you through them. (Uh huh! Read that sentence again!) That powerful truth opened my eyes to new possibilities for love, health and living. It may just be time for you to open up too.
Welcome to the new definition of you.
Author who Sings, Motivational Speaker, Model, Mommy, former Operations Research Analyst who loves cheesecake.
Follow Lydia on twitter @iamLydiaElle