With the birth of my first child, my ego, dreams, and most other aspects of Me as I knew Me sloughed off like a snake skin, forgotten. I was a Mother now! That tiny little being depended on me and by golly, that's all that mattered.
Within a few years, I had two more little beings depending on me. Throughout my thirties and most of my forties, I was just Mom. Busy, practical and unselfish.
Oh, I toyed with my old dreams. Took a few classes at the community college. Had some essays published. Met my girlfriends for dinner and a movie every once in a while. Worked some part-time jobs.
For years I held onto enough ego to battle my body over the same 15 pounds, but when semi-daily walks with my dogs, periodic lifting of light weights and eating healthy-ish didn't make a difference, I finally gave up and accepted my body as it was.
I was way too mature and sensible to care that the varicose veins on my right leg were so bad a new friend asked if I'd been in a car wreck, thinking they were horrible scars. I cringed a bit myself when I looked at them, but I hated to be so vain and selfish as to undergo the pain and expense of surgery. There were so many other things we needed.
Then my oldest son left for college.
Oh, my heart ached! For days I would suddenly burst into tears over the pain; it hurt so badly! One day I realized my tears weren't falling just because I missed my son; that's what triggered them, but my tears fell because I could suddenly feel Life, as I knew it, changing. Soon, my two youngest would follow their big brother out of the nest.
I would always be a mother, but I knew the end of my days as Mom was just a few years away. It made me feel...old. And I wondered, if I'm not Mom anymore, what will I be? Who will I be?
Some might call what happened next a case of the MidLife Crazies. I just call it Returning to Me.
You can be anything you want to be. I had told my kids that over and over because I believed it, and now was my chance to act on it. I would be Me. The best Me possible, for as long as possible. I wasn't ready to be old.
I took bits from each of my previous selves: the spoiled youngest child, the tomboy, the homecoming queen, the scholar, the thinker, the independent woman, the dancer, the newlywed, the mother, the daughter, friend, the volunteer, the writer, the photographer, and even, thanks to my husband, the wanna-be drummer.
Dusting off my dreams, I signed up for college classes, one per semester. Over the next few years, I started a blog and began teaching myself digital photography. I wrote a screenplay, polished up one book, and started another.
I reconnected with friends, other women who were going through the same changes I was experiencing, including friends I'd known since childhood, before any of us were wives or mothers. They helped me rediscover the Me I was back then.
I made my own health a priority, scheduling time every day for a workout. I began running again for the first time in years. Part of my motivation was ego, I admit, but I knew others still depended on me; I needed to be in the best shape possible so I could take care of them. Heart disease runs in my family. I wanted to be a good example to my kids, who carry the same genes.
My hair was thinning at an alarming rate, so I educated myself about nutrition and made huge changes in my diet. It didn't have any affect on my hair, but between those changes and my stepped-up physical work-outs, I finally dropped those 15 pounds I'd given up on. What a great surprise!
With my ego fully out of the closet, I treated myself to varicose vein surgery for my 47th birthday, deciding I was too young to wear nothing but ankle-length dresses the rest of my life.
All of these changes acted as defensive armor just in the nick of time, preparing me for the assault of menopause. I've experienced a few hot flashes, but not the mood swings, weight gain, severe sweats, or disrupted sleep some of my friends complain about.
My kids have all flown the nest now; but instead of crying, I feel like I'm flying with them.
The people at Pfizer are interested in helping all of us find our wings and keep flying through these strange, trying, wonderful midlife years and hope to accomplish that through their "Return to You" program, a program aimed at helping women return to their best selves.
Have YOU had a Return to You moment? Please share it with me in the comments; I'd love to hear your story!
Visit the Pfizer Return to You page on BlogHer.com for more blogger stories and prepare to be inspired!