Recently, I came across this quote from Brene Brown:
“I think midlife is when the universe gently places her hands upon your shoulders, pulls you close, and whispers in your ear: I’m not screwing around. It’s time. All of this pretending and performing—these coping mechanisms that you’ve developed to protect yourself from feeling inadequate and getting hurt—has to go.”
These words sum up exactly what midlife was for me. It felt like God had placed a big “GAME OVER” sign on the TV screen in my mind. My avatar had collected a few gold coins along the way (great kids and friends) but I lost at facing the truth about my marriage. I had been pretending for a long time that it was working, but it clearly wasn’t. “PLAY AGAIN?” the screen beckoned.
I spent some time staring at the screen, contemplating what to do next. Do I shut the TV off? Ignore the “PLAY AGAIN” screen and act once again like everything’s okay? But I knew deep down that I could no longer do that. I was tired of pretending. Somehow I needed to find the courage to accept His offer, hit the reset button and play again.
So I left my marriage and my house and am living in a small apartment, starting over. It’s a little humbling, but it feels right. I’m trusting that I heard God correctly, that he was saying:
“Enough already. Listen up. You raised two great kids but in the process you lost yourself. Your marriage isn’t working. Stop pretending. Dust yourself off and let’s play again. This time, pay better attention. I’m with you, guiding you. Start listening.”
During this time, I was in a Bible study class and we were reading the Book of John. Chapter 15 verses 1-2 reads:
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.”
How true this is for me! God is cutting out things that no longer serve me and pruning things that do so they can grow and become more fruitful. Externally, he is cutting and pruning relationships. My marriage needed to be cut while some friendships have been pruned. Four women have now become my go-to’s for advice and a shoulder to cry on. These friendships have become very deep and endearing. These women get it. They can sit in the hard stuff with me and have become my pillars. There’s no pretending with them–only the raw truth. These friendships are like ripe peaches—juicy and flavorful. They feed my soul. I honestly don’t know how I would have made it through the last year without them.
Internally, some serious cutting and pruning is happening as well. It reminds me of what Michelangelo said about his sculptures. David already existed inside the slab of marble. It was Michelangelo’s job to remove the excess—to chisel away the parts of the marble that were not David. I, too, am removing the excess and learning to accept who I am at my core. I am no longer pretending everything is okay to protect myself from facing painful truths. As difficult as it is, owning them is the only way to work through them and rise above them. Otherwise, just like excess marble, they weigh me down.
I am also working to get rid of the stories I have told myself for years—stories that I’m not good enough, smart enough, or worthy. These stories do not serve me. They just make me feel awful. Cutting away these fruitless branches and pruning the good ones will allow my authentic self to grow and bloom.
Like the song “This Little Light of Mine,” it’s time to let my authentic light shine. I will no longer hide it under the bushel of pretending or let my self-sabotaging stories blow it out. Yes, being authentic can leave me open to getting hurt. It’s a vulnerable place to live. But the reward is far greater. I want that ripe, peach experience I have with my four friends to filter into all areas of my life, hopefully someday with a man who will want the same as well. Accepting His offer to play again and choosing this time to do so with authenticity and grace is the way to begin living a juicy, fruitful life.