As part of re-balancing my life, I have been doing a lot of soul searching. Disclaimer: This blog is not named “Sheila.” Blogging provides a personal record of this journey, but I’m also writing with the thought that my work may prompt someone reading (all five of you!) to do your own soul searching – if you need to. Maybe this is only useful for me. But regardless, the point is not to be endlessly focused on self. The point is to become a better person, a better everything…and that takes thought and work.

Life is a process of growth and evolution. We move through visible and defined changes, from one birthday to the next, from baby steps to running, from being the child to being the parent, the grownup. But once we arrive at the stage of adulthood, other than physical signs of aging, change can become less visible, less measurable.

So how do I know I am growing, maturing? I’ve heard it said that some people grow up, others just grow old.

I can look back and see many differences in myself, spanning the years. I see changes in style of dress, taste in food, decorating, in personal pleasures. There are some constants. I am always going to love chocolate, home-grown tomatoes, ice cold Coke from the can. I will always need music and books. Faith and family are foundational to me.

There are surface changes. I love rich colors now; in my 20s I chose blues and creams as a home color scheme. Nothing wrong with those colors. But now I choose vibrant shades of berry, greens, black. For many years I loved the country theme and found it cozy and soothing to surround myself with that look. But gradually, I have come to appreciate a more traditional and classic style. I still love the country motif…in other people’s homes. But not in mine.

I love traditional Southern foods…fried okra, butter beans (ok, most of you will know them as Lima beans) black-eyed peas, my grandmother’s cornbread. But over the years I’ve added a lot of other favorites to my food list. I am intrigued with herbs, cheeses with names I can’t pronounce, cooking methods that I haven’t tried before, regional specialties that seem exotic and luscious because I didn’t grow up eating them…I have broadened my food horizons.

I can easily recognize external growth. It is harder to catalog the evolution of my thoughts, my personality. Am I just mellowing, as I hear happens as we age? Am I just worn down by life? My husband says we (he and I) are worn “down to the nub”…we’re just two nubs….not sure exactly what a nub is, but it doesn’t sound particularly attractive. But here’s my question…what change comes from my own effort, and what has occurred due to external forces? I’ll be honest to say that I want to believe positive change has been intentional. I’ll let nature and time have credit for the fine lines around my eyes or the gray hair that I very regularly color blonde.

Bottom line, I’m not sure I can sort it all out. But I know I am more giving, less judgmental than I was in my 20s and 30s. You probably remember that time in your own life. In mine, it was a curious combination of insecurity, bluffing my way, trying to put on an adult act; and viewing life in very concrete terms. I thought I knew a lot then. This is hardly unique to me; I know many people have this realization. But the fact that it is a common occurrence does not lessen the profoundness of it to me.

Sometimes change is so incremental, you don’t know it has occurred until you have the “aha” experience, and realize you’ve rounded a bend. Sometimes change is intentional. And sometimes it is thrust upon us…no option to stay with the status quo, the status quo ends; you have to find your new normal. The challenge is to nurture positive momentum, resist negative movement, and gracefully accept the un-sought, unbidden change that is here to stay. You can’t stand still; but you can focus on moving forward, not losing ground.

Where are you on your journey?

Your thoughts?

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