What Have I DONE??

For the past few weeks, I’ve been re-reading my journals going back to 1987. That’s 30 years worth of personal history chronicled in painful whining and grand declarations of how Things Will Be Different.

News flash: the things I groused about 30 years ago sound very similar to the things I grouse about right now.

Joan Didion said this about those of us who keep private notebooks:

We are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise, they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind’s door at 4 a.m. of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends. We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget. We forget the loves and betrayals alike, forget what we whispered and what we screamed, forget who we were.

As I dug into the question of who I was then, I see common themes echoing through the years:

  • I don’t spend enough time with my creativity
  • I devote my time to the needs of others and ignore my own
  • I have very high expectations for myself
  • I lose myself in destructive relationships
  • I accept less than I’m worth

Sound familiar? It’s been really tough to own up to how my choices have shaped my life and how the who-I-was-then created the who-I-am-now.

Here’s the truth: Self-compassion is the only way to survive this process of what Randy Travis called “Digging Up Bones.”   While I’m ressurecting memories of a life that’s dead and gone… it’s better if I’m kind to myself.


A colleague shared with me how during a time of her own self-reflection, she visualized a tree with many branches representing her life’s decisions. Every fork in the branch reached out to explore a different direction. The branches searched everywhere, some growing thick and strong while some fizzled out.

Looking at the complexity was confusing until she realized that they were all reaching up. No matter how large or how small, how tentative or how forceful, they were all growing upward toward the light.

Every decision brought her closer to her truth.

Despite all the ways I can see how my thinking has not changed, I can also see how different I am now. How I hold my head differently, how I’ve learned to be skeptical, how my creative life is rich in many ways.

I recognize the wisdom in my bones and the intuitive knowing that tells me, yes… this is the way.

If you’ve ever reached into your past to find your present, I’d love to hear about it. What was your biggest realization? What would you like others to know?

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