Thursday, January 17, 2013

What If You Lost 10 Years?

I just finished reading a book called What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty.  Among other topics the book explores the idea of what would happen to a person in they forgot ten years of their life.  What would change?  What would stay the same?  What person would you be if you didn't have the experiences you have to shape your thoughts and behavior?

One of my favorite things about being a reader is how it allows me to think, feel, experience the world from a different point of view.  This book has me thinking about my life and what would be different if I woke up believing that I was only 35 years old.  How is the person I am today different from the person I was in 2003?  How is my life different?  How are the people I surround myself with different?

In 2003 I had three children, not four.  My oldest was in public school.  The middle was in preschool.  The youngest at home. We were living in a three bedroom, two and a half bath house in Marietta, Ohio.  Rob worked regular 9 to 5 hours, give or take, at a nearby chemical plant. He was home every night. We had a strong, happy marriage.  I had my own direct sales business and was building a strong team.  I was very active in my church and mom groups. I participated in a book club.  I had a group of close friends.  We  had several couples that we saw regularly.  I was close to my parents.  I had relationships with all my sisters though none of them had children and only one was married. 

Now I have four children; 16, 13, 10, and 8.  My oldest daughter has her driver's license.  We've been to court with her.  Our relationship has grown and changed.  I believe it's strong.  My three younger children are homeschooled.  The path from public school to homeschool has been a total surprise.  I never would have predicted that choice.  We live about 15 miles from where we lived ten years ago, but during that time we moved about five hours away and lived for five years before moving back.  Even though we live so close to our previous residence life is nothing like it use to be.  We now own a 37 acre farm.   Rob is getting ready to take a job that will have him working from home and traveling.  His hours are anything but regular.  We still have a strong, happy marriage.  It's different.  I'm more independent.  We both take more care of our relationship than we did.  We are able spend more time alone together than we did then.  I've given up my direct sales business.  I volunteer on a limited basis and am a member of a very small church.  I have no close friends.  We don't have any couple friends that we see regularly.  My parents and I are still close.  I have much closer relationships with my sisters.  Most of them are now married with children but I think the difference is that we have made mutual efforts and getting to know each other.

In the book, Alice discovers that a balance between her younger (introverted, relaxed, optimistic) self and her older (organized, assertive, controlling) self is key for happiness.  By losing and finding her memory, she realizes that she lost more than that. 

If I compare my younger self with my older, I'd say that there are positives and negatives with both. I took better care of my younger self, physically.  My younger self definitely had more energy and in a way she was more organized.  However, my older self has learned the value of saying no and letting things go.  My older self has learned that setting priorities and sticking to them is worthwhile.  My older self spends more time with family and less time with friends and acquaintances.  I miss close friends but have enough people who are important to me to make my life full, most of the time.  My older self is angry more often than my young self but my older self is also more content and peaceful.  My younger self talked more, told more, shared more.  My younger self almost always knew the best way to get a job done and wasn't afraid to jump in and do it.  My older self still often knows the best way to get a job done but is a lot less likely to jump in or share that way. 

It's interesting to think about how I've grown and changed in ten years.  The biggest surprise in my look back is that I haven't grown and changed all in one direction.  Growth doesn't always mean up or out.  Growth can happen in a lot of ways and can look very different in different situations.  All change isn't necessarily change for the best, but it may be the best change for the time.  Older self or younger, I'm so thankful that I have the ability to look back and be pleased at what I see, both past and present.

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