Reel to Real Life

I can’t recall when I exactly I became fascinated with the movies. I would regularly lose myself in the technicolor drama and my imagination exploded with potential. I became the characters I watched. I was the heroine from a foreign land. I was the adventurer from space or the pioneer woman on the wagon train. When I was old enough to attend the movie theater by myself, something inside me must have clicked. I finally understood that despite the cinematic separation between on and off screen life , each person can pick and choose the influences in their world and create their own life movie. The romance we aspire to, the friendships and family we hope for, and the adventure we seek in an existence which can often be lonely, scary, and full of challenge. Even today, I escape to the movies to what I call my reel life.

Becoming enamored with characters for their wisdom, their ingenuity and their heroism inspired me in ways nothing else could. I had no heroes growing up. As a parent, I can’t say if I was ever a hero to my children. I am, however, a role model. Someone who lives their life in the face of adversity. Someone whose individuality does not waver in a culture of conformity. Someone whose bravery hopefully shines to others in my life during times when it is easy to surrender. I am inspired by the Luke Skywalkers of my reel life. I was inspired by all the role models I did not have but found in the movies.

I think everyone goes through a period of uncertainty, insecurity, or loneliness. My favorite stories brought to life in the movies always seemed to give me solace. Whether it is as a child or as an adult, we grow and cling to what gets us through. For me, the potential of an awesome life is what I found in my youth and what I brought to my midlife. Now, I feel like I have made it to the other side. The challenges of my early life are still there but no longer as crippling. My children have been encouraged to find their own way and to seek inspiration in their worlds. Worlds that I have had a hand in creating. As a mother, I have often worried about the journeys my children are choosing to take. Hopefully, they are finding good things in both typical and unexpected places.

You may wonder why the inspiration and escape I’ve found in movies has remained so constant in my mid-life. Surprisingly, I have found I am not alone. I have learned about networks of others who have been so inspired by their reel life they have cultivated communities of their own whose passion exceeds the confines of national boundaries or age. These people read fan fiction, celebrate fun through cosplay, and join others in their escapism only cinema can provide. While one might argue that movies are not real, they are not a healthy way to perceive life, I argue that for me – they do not dictate what people should be but provide me the framework to explore my own imagination. I am free to believe that I am the master of my own life and I alone can choose how to what I aspire and how high I can reach.

I am fortunate that I can now spend my time worrying less about finding my heroes and more time about being one to inspire someone else. I can find the time to share the stories that will stir others to be bold, to take big steps into their real life. Some are lucky to find these people close to home. Others, like me, found mine in the movies. I may no longer need my virtual light saber, but the soundtrack to my real life still sounds pretty darn good.

Guilt: the equal opportunity burden

It wasn’t supposed to go like this. I was supposed to be an equal partner in all things with my significant other in life and in family. Share the responsibility, share the joy from accomplishments in our lives, share common goals so that we were always reassured of the journey we took to bring ourselves to new levels of challenge and reward. Raise our family with strong values, love, and lead by example with exemplifying respect for all things. And then came real life. Discovery of repeating the cycles of past trauma and dysfunction, crises in real time, and then the guilt. The guilt that only comes from hind sight.

I used to believe that my life was to reflect my values and priorities. My perspective was that if you talked the talk, you walked the walk. Little did I realize that life was less about leading by example by what you have and more about reacting to what you didn’t. It was more about juggling the plates and not breaking the important ones. It was less about how nice your table looked with these plates and more about how comfortable your guests were. I felt guilty because I wasn’t leading the mom life I wanted, and in the process, led the mom life that impacted my kids in ways I worry about now.

As an empty nester, I look back at my choices of how they affected my children. Being a step-parent was like a trial run for “real” parenthood. First, there were the years of being just a stepmother. Then there were the years of being mainly just a mom. Finally, there were years of both, when I had to develop answers to questions I wasn’t ready for. I had to be ready to make these decisions whether I was alone, or on the same page with my partner. I had to be ready not only to live the life I felt I should live, but figure how to be the mom I wanted to be, to my stepchildren and my children, amidst all the unhealthy parts of real life that never really went away.

It was difficult. While this blog was never meant to call out the specifics of my life, it does allow me to realize that I spend an awful amount of my life wishing things could have been different. Don’t get me wrong – I made the best decisions I could given the circumstances. However, I have spent lots of my time worrying about what I felt I could have done differently. I often find myself anchored to the past with this worry. Now, I have grandchildren and I see that all of my adult children are creating their own lives. They are making their own choices, creating their own memories. I have to wonder – Could I have done more? Are their challenges in life my fault? Will they ever know I tried? Will they see all that I’d hoped for them but never felt I shared with them?

I know I shouldn’t be worrying about things beyond my control. In my head, I realize that my life never needed to be perfect. But in my heart…that’s a different story. Despite my best attempts to live my life in mindfulness, I continue to be brought back to the thoughts of “what if” I had lived my life differently? Made different choices? Guilt seems like the equal opportunity burden that all mothers face at some point in their lives.

So, inspired as I am for this new year, and for my belief that it is never too late, I make a personal commitment to take each day a time with a simple goal: reach out to my loved ones to let them know they matter. Instead of worrying that I have failed them in some way, I will let them know they are ever present in my thoughts. I accept that I cannot change the past and I cannot accept responsibilities for others’ lives. I can only move forward with purposeful love one day at a time. Loving myself enough to take this step each day allows me to cherish what I have in my life and those who have me in theirs.

This is my journey. One day at a time. One step at a time. Where is your life journey taking you?

Where do I start?

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Part of me said this blog wasn’t a good idea.

I am a mom, currently in midlife. Well, I am not just a mom, but once I had children I realized that I had to develop answers to life questions I used to take for granted. Why must I share my toys? Why do I need to wear a helmet? Can’t I just text you? Now that my children are grown and have left home, my house is not empty as much as it filled with questions about what I want to accomplish with the rest of my life. When one door closes, another door opens. Right?

However, as the over-thinker I am, I began to drift in thought to times that took me away from the present: regrets I may have had in my past, retirement plans that loomed ahead, what traditions and memories I leave behind with my family and friends. While motherhood is not a requirement for a successful life, it continually reminds me that no matter what happens in my life, my motherhood will never change – and it is why I feel the greatest responsibility for ensuring my children’s success. Unfortunately, this overwhelms me with the sense that I am missing out on the present. I am missing out on the moment. Worrying about what I can’t control. Obsessing on how I can balance being the best Mom in Midlife and not lose a sense of myself as an individual trying to leave her mark.

So I am making the commitment to change my perspective on the first step of the rest of my life. Learn to ground myself in where I am by bringing with me the lessons of my mental musings, my maternal worries, and my womanly wanderings through the rest of my journey. Teach myself to maintain moments of mindfulness in an otherwise wandering soul to be better. A better friend, a better mother, a better wife, a better me. Maintaining this blog as a touchstone to my moments.

So, part of me said this wasn’t a good idea. But then again – part of me says I’m willing to take the leap into this moment. Being a better Mom in Midlife. My first act of mindfulness for the new year. Won’t you join me?