Life is different now. As I sit here, just a few months shy of 45 (gasp!), I reflect back on the little girl that once was. Not the freckle-faced 8-year-old girl, full of mischief and fanciful dreams but the girl that was 25 …and then 35 and now, almost 45. She’s not gone, that girl. Just…different.
Not worse, not perfect – but hopefully just a little bit better.
It seems fitting to think about sacrifice on an Easter Sunday. I’m not a deeply religious person – that’s another thing I’m working on. Nor do I want to press religion on the few folks out there who might read this and not believe. Having been in your shoes, I know that’s the worst thing I could do. But, whether you believe in God or think that the Bible is just a fascinating story, there’s a lesson there. We’re worth fighting for. Love for one another is worth sacrificing for. It’s worth the fight.
I recently realized I carry less emotion than I used to. I still feel all the things and I certainly THINK all the things but there’s something about entering these “middle years” that helps us look at things through a bit of a different lens. Initially I thought, well, I’ve been through so dang much and I’ll be damned if I’m gonna put up with the stuff I used to put up with. I thought that, because of my trials, I’m tougher, grittier and more determined than ever to have complete control over my life.
That’s partially true but what I realized was that it was less about being strong enough to throw in the towel on people or situations that bring frustration and more about knowing when to show up to the fight. When you battle with grace and the wisdom of all that experience that has made you different, you’ll come out better on the other end. The girl I was would analyze a situation, a person, an interaction and make a decision based on that. I did not believe that I had the power to shape the outcome and I certainly didn’t want to fight uphill against an adversary that had so clearly expressed their lack of respect for me.
It didn’t seem like it was worth the time. And here’s the kicker, sometimes it isn’t. But you’ll never know what’s fighting for if you don’t start the battle. Sometimes the battles we fight are just with ourselves, right? Occasionally your opponent is not just a person but it’s the internal conflict created by trying to decide what and who to fight for. And the final battle is sometimes deciding that you’ve fought enough.
And I guess that’s just it. When you’ve given something your all, when you’ve put your whole heart on the table, communicated the contents of your soul – you’ve already won. You’ve been true to yourself and I think that’s the thing we can only learn with a few years under our belt. It’s ok. You tried. It’s ok. You’ll be ok. Not everyone will be ok. But you…will be.
I’d have given up. Years ago, I’d have given up on some of the things I am fighting for. Not because I didn’t want them to work out but because I thought what people (and the world) was showing me was two dimensional. Maybe I didn’t ask the questions because I didn’t want to hear the answers. But if I’d have asked the question, maybe I would have known that I didn’t fail. We have to confront the hard things. We have to take the time. Because, in a blink, there’s no more time for questions.
In order to figure out what is worth fighting for, a tremendous amount of humility must be engaged. You have to flip into that gear of self-deprecation and be willing to be yelled at, scolded, made fun of – whatever. If you don’t, you’re missing the opportunity to really know people. And I suppose the sacrifice is that it could all be for naught. You may still be hurt. Scars could still pop up from time to time. But I think about the times people have judged me without asking key questions and it makes a little part of my heart break – wondering what could have been if they’d only asked one hard question.
Beautiful moments come after hard-fought battles. Those times when you really break through – really reach a person. Uff. There’s not much that can compare to the connections that can be created in those moments. You could be someone’s savior, truly. What if you’re the one that walks a lost person through the front door of the life they could be happy in? You never really know.
I am being opaque but that’s not because I’m sheltering any one specific person or myself. It’s because I want this to be broad. I want it to apply to different people in different circumstances. So don’t hold back. Ask the questions! Have the hard conversations! Try! Be the one that goes boldly into the unknown. You may discover that there are far more things out there worth the fight. Show some ankle and maybe someone will show you theirs – or at least loan you a sock.