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Finding Me

 

 

10014556_684554048274447_771845427_nIt was probably around seventh grade that I first remember teachers pounding the “Be Yourself” drum. Hard.  I remember thinking that it was weird to make Be Yourself number one on the junior high agenda when numbers 2 through 12 had to do with where to sit, where to eat, what to say, how to act and how to dress.  Now, at the advanced age of 50, I find the idea of self-actualization is still loaded with conflicting signals and internal confusion which has grown even more complex since my husband died.

 

In spite of how the print version of Bo Stern may read,  I am often a study in internal contradictions.  My desire to grow old gracefully is often at war with my determination to stop the effects of time. My need for independence fights with my longing for companionship. My certainty of purpose and calling gets caught in a choke hold of insecurity and inadequacy. My introverted longings for privacy clash with my desire for public acceptance and approval.  My seriously opinionated personality wrestles with my desire to keep the peace, stay in my corner, be liked.

 

Behind each one of these statements are stories of moments when I was too small, too proud, too insecure, too hesitant, too terrified to be true to my realest self. In fact, it’s sometimes been difficult to identify my realest self as she was always so intertwined with the person and personality of Steve Stern. Being his was the one immutable fact of my identity for 30 years, and I’m so thankful for that and for his influence on my life.  But five years of illness began the untangling process and then widowhood, which sometimes seems like a guillotine, chopping off all I remember about myself in one fell swoop, though in fact, it was several gradual swoops.

 

So ten months later, I am still unmasking and unmaking. Not that anything was inherently bad in who I was, and not that anything is inherently better now – but the best I can be is me.  For instance, I have always felt an obligation to you, dear readers, to be as hopeful and positive as possible. I like being that – it feels good to me to think that way. But I’m beginning to recognize the signs when the desire to be hopeful slips into pretending things are better than they are. I’m seeing that my revulsion to being viewed as a tragedy sometimes make me push, push, push my best self forward, hiding the scared, frustrated seventh grader away in the locker room until she can get her crap together.

 

I guess what it boils down to is a cold-water-in-the-face awareness that I worry too much about what people think of me, my family and our story.  And while I will always feel protective of my kids, I have also grown protective of my image and that, I’m discovering, keeps me paralyzed and unhealthily self-focused. But the times, they are a changin’.  I feel it. I hear the wind blowing in the tree tops, calling me out to a bigger, broader, braver life.  I feel my heart moving toward the adventure of authenticity in a whole new way. And it’s admittedly scary, because I’m not sure who will or won’t like the real me when she comes out of hiding, but even that feels a little awesome, you know? Finally being willing to relinquish whatever control I thought I had over other people’s opinions is like taking this huge chore off my to-do list.

 

The past few years?  Wow. They’ve been hellish. But I’m getting to know the girl emerging from the wreckage.  And I think I like her.

 

And I’m not editing this.  Because it’s how I really feel.

 

And I love you.

 

With hope,

 

Bo

 

 

May 16, 2016 - 11:49 am

kathy - LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, THIS.

May 16, 2016 - 2:07 pm

Wanda M Stewart - Bo-

Good for you!

May 16, 2016 - 2:44 pm

Keith - This is beautiful, and powerful, and brave, and life-giving. Thank you for opening your heart, to God and to us. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.-John 8:36 Hugs from our family!

May 16, 2016 - 2:47 pm

Victoria - Welcome to the ‘real’ world of authenticity, transparency and brokenness where God’s love and grace leaks out to those around us through the cracks in our less than perfect lives.

May 16, 2016 - 3:00 pm

Pam - I very love this.

May 16, 2016 - 4:56 pm

Heidi Rowles Friesen - I know I’m only 28, and that my husband is still uniquely tied to my identity, but I, too, share in your sense of joy in discovering who I am beneath the muck. This season I am in has humbled me unexpectedly and opened my eyes to some ugly religious ways through which I’ve portrayed God, and some weird, skewed lenses through which I’ve seen myself. I’m so thankful for the hard seasons because — just like you described — they make you get a tiny little spring in your step that something awesome is sneaking around the corner and it’s only a few moments, hours, days until I find a new sense of self. Thank you for sharing. You’re words are enlightening and oh-so-real.

May 17, 2016 - 7:34 am

Jody - Oh my.Becoming who we are is no small task; it takes a lifetime. Sometimes writing our honesty sets other people free as well…I think you’re on to something. Thank you for pulling back the curtain of that coach in the train, welcoming us along for the ride.

May 17, 2016 - 12:19 pm

Jandra Sue - If we’re honest, aren’t we all just a ball of contradictions…???
I relate to your description often.

Only the people I trust most get to read my unedited writing, so you are braver than I!

Bring it on Bo!
I am eager to read the unediting writing from the new you”

May 19, 2016 - 11:10 am

Kate - Thank you for being real. Your transparency gives me courage to be transparent and real too. Perhaps this is one of the many ways God is strong in our weaknesses. He causes it to foster connection.

May 19, 2016 - 1:57 pm

Vicki - Thanks so much for writing this! You’ve put into words so much that I’m feeling about my future…even though I haven’t lost my husband yet. He’s had ALS for 2 – 3 years and the future is such a big unknown…especially the part about independence vs. companionship. I love your blogs and hope you’ll continue to share your thoughts with us for as long as your true self deems that possible!

May 21, 2016 - 4:03 pm

Kimberlie - 🙂 Love this, it is ever so true! 🙂

May 26, 2016 - 8:54 pm

Denise - Beautiful & thank you from the bottom of my heart!

June 5, 2016 - 7:36 am

Peggy - Nice to meet you, Bo.. A friend just introduced me to your page. I am thankful that she did. You are new on this journey of grief. I am over 3 years into it. I lost my dear husband very suddenly to a heart attack. He was only 56. He was my covering and identity since I was a mere child. We married when I was only 15. We had 11 children and were married 38 yrs. Your words touch me to the core, as this journey of finding my new single identity has been a roller coaster of a ride! My story is a roller coaster.. I’ve come to know a stronger, braver, new person that I hadn’t even known existed.. Yes, I’m a different person. My kids have had an adjustment in this.. but, this is what grief does. I am beginning to like my new self also. I also look forward to the next chapters.. you can like me or not! With the Lord at the helm, He will continue to shape and fill the sails of this vessel. The sails may have their ragged edges, but they they are billowing in the wind again..to wherever the way leads home. .. happy ventures, Bo!

June 5, 2016 - 8:20 am

Lisa - Bo thank you for this. What blessing you have been to me. My husband Dave was diagnosed with ALS in February 2014 after a 35 year career with LAPD. He went to heaven December 9 2015. Still unreal to me that he had ALS and that he is gone and living kingdom life. At the beginning of six months I am not the best version of myself, but your sentiments and your soul bearing have encouraged my 28 year old daughter and I to remember we are daughters of a King and loved and cared for. We are not alone. In SoCal, we are part of a faith community that supports us along with close family and family friends. But the understanding of this disease and this suffering as expressed by you as been a gift.

June 6, 2016 - 10:06 am

Carla - Bo, you speak to my heart, always! Love this!

June 10, 2016 - 11:25 am

Carol Weiler - Dearest Bo, God introduced me to you, brought you to me while I was laying facedown on the battlefield , not wanting to get up. My husband has ALS and was diagnosed in 2009 and I can so identify with everything I have read by you. I’m going to each day continue to read your wise words, your honest words, your I’m only human words. I can’t catch up all at once because I only have so much physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual energy and I’m terrified of depleting it all, but I want you to know you have picked me up and given me some strength to carry on the battle. Thankyou for sharing your story, Steves story, and Thankyou God for bringing me an angel when I needed it most!