We’ve all heard the famous quote by Lao Tzu
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
I would like to add my own take to this famous quote.
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step and will change your life forever, it takes tremendous courage because once you start there is no going back.
My journey of a thousand miles began on January 3, 2013. On that day I took a big step and walked into a counseling office in search of myself. I was lost and alone. I didn’t know who I was or what I wanted from life. I was a wife, a mother to three little boys, I had a successful career and had just completed a Master’s Degree program. My home was small, but it was paid for.
I should be happy.
I wasn’t! I didn’t know who I was anymore. I had once known, but the memory of the young girl with so many hopes and dreams had been buried.
Hobbies? I didn’t have any.
Friends? I had a lot, but I kept them at surface level.
I had spent the first 37 years of my life trying to fit into other people’s molds. I had forgone my passions of the past as a sacrifice for them. I wanted to make them happy and somewhere I decided that if I just said what they wanted, and did what they wanted I could avoid shame, criticism, and judgment. Instead, I found the opposite. The more molded the more they expected of me. It was never ending, heartbreaking, and lonely. Just like a pile of play dough that had been overused and not put back into the container I became old and used. I continued to conform as well as I could, but I was tired of being a blob without and real shape or purpose. When I thought about stopping, my deeper fear of being tossed out would surface and that was not an option.
That day was the beginning of my thousand miles. The journey would prove to be a struggle for years to come. Slowly with time and support from the counselor, I quit being what others wanted me to be. The first steps were the hardest because they were met by resistance both from myself and from others. I knew that once I started I couldn’t go back. I was afraid. I took a big breath, held it inside, closed my eyes and leaned forward. It forced me to either take a step or land flat on my face and so my journey began. These are steps that kept me moving.
Step 1: Daily I would remind myself that it was okay to decide what my day looked like. The guilt and the shame were overpowering. Not only did I feel guilty for meeting my own needs, but I felt that I was being selfish and unreasonable. Others that had benefitted from my old self were resistant to the changes, and made what was already a struggle more so. As they pushed to change me back, I had to stand firm.
Step 2: I discovered for the first time in my life the importance of self-care. As I started doing things several times a week that were just for me I started to discover who I was again. It led to an increase in my self-esteem. As I discovered myself I became more authentic which led me to being able to form healthy connections with healthy people. I had loved my husband so much that in the process I forgot that I was special too.
Step 3: I learned to set boundaries with others. This would be one of the most heartwrenching parts of my journey because my husband then of 18 years left me. He did not like the new woman who took care of herself and her own needs. With each step forward the journey became more difficult, but as I knew better I did better. I was a better mother, I started to develop healthy relationships with friends and continued taking care of myself.
I am still on my journey of a thousand miles. It has been harder than I ever imagined, I am trying to help three little boys navigate through divorce, and I am now remarried and struggling through learning to blend a family. It is a struggle with unknowns around every corner, however, If I look back the day when I took that first step I would do it again. It was so painful, but I have come to realize I was missing out on a very special person. That person is me, and I am worth every step. So are you! Take a deep breath, have courage and lean, it is worth the risk.