From my earliest memories there has always been an ideal, a story about the princess that I would like to become. I played "prince and princess" with my sister, my friends, my dolls. I don't think I ever had to be taught that I was supposed to grow up to be that princess. But the idea was there, always, ingrained in me before I was even aware of myself. I was subconsciously consumed with the deep-seated longing to grow up into a beautiful long-haired maiden, to fall desperately, hopelessly in love with a romantic and dashing hero, to be swept, both physically and metaphorically off my feet, and to ride off into the glittering sunset of true love and eternal happiness.
And all of those things happened, more or less. I certainly grew up, at least into a slightly less awkward and more stylish version of my childhood self. I met several dapper gentlemen and eventually managed to fall in love with the one who loved me back. He certainly did sweep me off my feet and onto his longboard and ride off with me. We were, and are, in fact, crazy about each other. Madly in love isn’t exactly how I always pictured it to be, but then again, neither is my hair. Disney movies and romance novels are notorious liars, after all.
But then, life went on. I always knew in a sense that life really did continue after marriage. At least I thought I knew that the big white wedding was the beginning of the story, not the end. I had looked forward, as far as I was able, into the misty future and seen a husband with a steady job, a house with a little garden and a prowly cat, and me, barefoot and pregnant and happily surrounded by fat babies for eternity. I had looked no further.
And then all of the unexpected things started happening.
The steady jobs didn’t materialize like they were supposed to. The Air Force took us far(ish) away and opened up new doors and new challenges. The house turned into a major remodeling project and the garden into a mud pit. The cat is actually a dog who eats holes in my couch and throws up in my car. And me? Who had I become? I certainly wasn’t barefoot or pregnant or surrounded by babes and their trappings. And no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t make that dream come true. The more I struggled, the more the picture crumbled and I was finally left as I am now: empty and weeping and totally, completely undone.
So what now? I ask myself. What is there to do now? What am I to become in the midst of my shambles? Who shall I be in this strange, unexpected life?
I have focused so hard on the outcomes, the measurable goals and planned future events. And every time I decide, every plan I make, every worry I have morphs suddenly and dramatically into an opposite problem, a totally unexpected decision needing to be made. Not once have things gone as I anticipated. It leaves me shaking and frightened and weak. I’m horribly confused most of the time.
But slowly, slowly the clouds clear. In one tiny space at a time, in one small step after another, I find myself again. Inch by painful, painstaking inch, I am growing.
I am becoming.
I am not who I thought I would be. I am much, much more and I am so very much less than anything I had ever dreamed. This process, this miserable, slow process, with its sudden starts and stops, is what my life is all about. It is about becoming. And I've finally realized that it’s not what I become that matters, but who. Whoever I am meant to be, I will not stop until I have become her. And as the next day comes and the next curve in the road arrives, I will become her all over again.
Image by d'arcy benincosa