When I started writing this piece the theme was rediscovery. But as my thoughts progressed, I didn’t know how to write about rediscovery. Until recently I never practiced the art of being Shelly. If I never knew who I was, how could I be separated and lost from that. Perhaps I was about discovering.
This post is part of the story of how I turned my life around, the year I turned 50. I left everything behind, running from a life of drinking, toxic relationships, sadness, and so much drama.
As I wrote in a previous post on reinvention – I spent a lot of time thinking about how to discover my lost passion. I am not into reinventing myself. However, I am all about figuring out who I am, and rejoicing in me.
Books and articles say to go back to your childhood and think of the things you did then that made you happy, in order to find that lost part of yourself. I was doing this, but I was doing it wrong. I now understand how the passions of my childhood, healed me as an adult.
My passions as a child – wandering and reading
When I was young we wandered. We were free range kids, allowed to roam the hills, and creeks, and the back 40 well into dark. I can’t even really tell you a particular activity involved, we just walked and walked, never really having a goal in mind, we wandered.
I read all the time, stowed away in the corner of my tiny bedroom. Or I would take a book down to the creek that flowed at the bottom of the hill just below the house and sit and read. I read in the bathroom. I read books I probably should not have read at such a young age, like Valley of The Dolls. My mom was a reader as well. We had books spilling out everywhere.
When I turned 10 I began to understand the realty of my young life, reading and wandering would become my escape. My dad was an alcoholic who at times would turn violent. My passions turned into a way to escape.
An excerpt from a recently found essay I wrote several years ago, described how I escaped into reading, “Yesterday I was ten years old, strong in the knowledge that I, like Sam Gribley, in My Side of the Mountain, could take to the woods and survive, escaping the world around me. Or as the Box Car Kids, Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny escape the cruelty of adults eventually finding a long-lost relative so my suffering would not have been in vain. I designed elaborate plans on how I would find shelter, food and make friends with the animals. How I would perch high up in a tree and watch my family and relatives who lived along that dirt road and feel superior because I had escaped and found the solitude and the understanding of life I so desired.”
There were also activities that I would not call passions, but shaped my journey to discover/rediscover me. I spent many hours on the water. The lake was as much a part of my life as eating and sleeping. After dinner we would load up and head out. When we got older we walked to the lake in the middle of those long, hot summers. My sister and I would float on our cheap air mattresses and gently move up and down with the wake of the boats.
To this day I feel alive around water, the ocean, a lake, a gently moving creek.
My grandfather was a dirt farmer, and I remember sitting along the side of the road with him, during the summer as we sold corn (roastin’ ears), tomatoes, and watermelon. He owned a few cows and hogs as well. We ate the produce out of the garden, and butchered our own beef and smoked our own bacon.
While I don’t always practice the farm to table way of eating, as we did in my childhood, deep down inside I long for what that rustic, hard-working practice means for my health and for the health of the environment.
Childhood passions all grown up
And yet as I thought back on my passions as a kid, how was I to rekindle my passion for reading and running wild? Are these things adults can spend their days doing? It seemed particularly tough since the memories of those activities were so intertwined with violence, fear, and sadness. I felt like a failure because I couldn’t as easily transfer my childhood passions into an adult purpose.
Telling women to reinvent themselves by going back to their childhood is not bad advice, but it is incomplete advice.
I healed myself with my childhood passion of wandering
While in Colorado I hiked 14,000 feet mountains, ran trials, and set beside Clear Water Creek in Golden. Every day I sought out an outdoor activity, and at least once a week explored a new trail or open space. Just as when I was a child I loved being outdoors and what better place than Colorado?
The stillness out in the open spaces allowed me time to reflect. I cried and I laughed. I refused to sully the beauty I was experiencing at that time by engaging in the log distance drama, or anger. At the end of the Dowdy Trail near Boulder Colorado, I would sit and start at the Flatirons, quieting my mind. I would stand with my arms outstretched and let the sunny, baby blue, clear sky of Colorado marinate my soul with peace, understanding, and forgiveness.
Hiking mountains allowed me to grow physically strong. Confidence that I could get to a summit, with only myself pushing me was imperative. Bierstadt was my first 14’er where I did not go with someone. Yes, there were many hikers there, but I could only rely on my own encouragement to succeed.
I used my passion for wandering as a child to wander in a healthy and productive way. I rediscovered the passion for wandering in Colorado and was able to rekindle this in an adult manner. I’d come a long way from using my wandering to escape.
My passion for reading
As an adult I’ve read way too many self-help books. So much so I now regularly rail against the conventional wisdom of self-help. I grew weary of all the lists, tips to be successful, the just do it, and repeat your positive affirmations. They weren’t cutting it. Not that it’s bad advice, it’s advice designed for the masses. I believe for any self-help to be useful, you have to build your foundation first, based on the uniqueness of you!
I believe my love of writing is a natural by-product of reading. These two go together like peanut butter and jelly! So now I write a lot and I write about whatever strikes my fancy. Writing has helped me process my feelings, and most of the time as I write, I can figure out what I need to do next for any given situation. Writing has helped me purge in an appropriate way when my emotions make me want to be inappropriate!
Oh I still read, every night before bed but very few self-help books. I dig into books like Catherine the Great, Roots, Madam Bovary, and Anna Karenina. I’ve read every Jane Austin book, and will soon tackle Virginia Woolf.
Here is where I am supposed to give you a list and send you off to (re)discover you.
Good for you Shelly, now tell me what to do. I don’t have a list for you. 10 ways to do what everyone else is doing is not a magic bullet.
Truth – I was desperate. I had reached a breaking point in my life and I ran. However, I believe I knew intuitively where to run to. And instead of spending too much time analyzing the why, I just acted. Deep down inside me I just knew. I trusted the decision I made. And it paid off.
The best parts of my childhood came back naturally when they needed to.
Are you in the process of (re)discovery? What were you childhood passions? If you are like me and cannot literally relive your childhood passions, how can you re frame, or reshape them to fit now?
Let’s start a conversation. When we share our stories I believe we can take what others have learned and make them applicable for our own lives. Leave your thoughts in the comments!