Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Fortitude: It's Not for Sissies

~mental and emotional strength in facing difficulty, adversity, danger, or temptation courageously.

I heard an author speak on The Today Show this morning who had written a book called, "Fortytude".  It was a play on words to include the number forty with the purpose to talk about the experiences of women in their forties.

You see, in our twenties we are career oriented.  In our thirties we are busy raising our family.  (Or in my case, you completely get those reversed.)  But in our forties we come into a season where we aren't quite sure WHAT we are supposed to be doing.
Our kids are successfuly managing their social calendar and homework schedule (hopefully) and our spouses (if we still have one) are enamored with their career and any sport that graces the television.

This is where I find myself.  I am looking for the Fortitude to distinguish the 40-something year old Laura from the one of my youth.  I certainly don't look like what I envisioned at this time in my life and it inspires more questions than confidence.

My kids managed to become almost too good at being adults.  My marriage ended over six years ago.  I have long since figured out that when the trash needs to go out, it's me.  When the groceries need lugging in, it's me.  When I don't know which bill to pay first, yep, it's me.

But this isn't what constitutes Fortitude.  It's when the loneliness and longing for your past family life hit you like a ton of bricks; it's when the financial pressure builds to a slow-boil and there's no one to commiserate with; it's when we are treated unkindly or judged unfairly and we want to run down Main Street screaming.

Yet, we continue our lives, one breath at a time.  That, is Fortitude.

I have learned that life is not one big act.  It is a series of acts with lots of scenes.  And we are the main character of our life.  We must rearrange the set, change the scenery, put on a different costume and evolve as the story rolls.

Now, I don't mean to suggest that we should fake it.  Just be prepared to "reinvent" yourself as the role in your life progresses and changes.

The book's author had some great ideas that, with my good friend tonight, we put to paper.  We listed 5 prominent life areas that could be used as guideposts to change.  They were spiritual, emotional, physical, social and mental.  Then we made short and easy lists under each one of activities that would/could fill that need FOR ME.

The important part here is, as you complete your grid, make an effort to listen to YOUR voice.  Consider YOUR standards, YOUR goals and YOUR values as you decide what activities will further your life and drive it closer to the goals that YOU desire to accomplish.  The author said, "Listen to your authentic voice."

I know throughout my life, I see a pattern of wanting to make someone happy, proud or content by the choices I made.  I sacrificed my own common sense and long-held values in an attempt to make the "right" decisions as seen by important figures in my life; or to make everything look "good".  I just wanted everyone to be happy.  It was all a facade.
This isn't anyone's fault.  It is a character trait that I was born with and never learned to manage or control properly.  It is truly a shame that I have wasted so much time worrying about what other's expect or want from me.

If you would have asked me over the past few years, I would have told you that I have experienced Fortitude already.  But as I look at the road map I created tonight with my friend's help, I see that I am about to experience the real thing with the Reinvention of Me.

One more point that played a big role in my progress this evening is one that I learned from my other friend who attends AA:    "Accept people and things as they are."
Well now, ain't that a grand idea?  It sure takes the pressure off.  If we can accept the things we cannot change, then that is a big responsibility lifted off of our shoulders.  The load gets immediately lighter.

Join me in this walk.  But if you are fortunate enough to have found your Fortitude already, then just add me to your daily prayer list.  I welcome all the prayers I can get!

Dear God, Thank you so much for the friends and family who share the load with me.  You know, the ones who take my call and actually listen?!  You have blessed me with friends who I can call on.  Thank you also, for their wisdom and sound advice, for their uplifting words and patience beyond measure.  God, if I am to find the "real" me, I will need You.  Please feel welcome in my life to show me how I can grow and become more like You. ~Amen.