A Clean Slate

Sometimes you just have to empty your basket and start over. A little over a year ago I realized that it was what I needed. A clean slate. Or in more modern terms, I suppose, a blank word file? Either way, I had reached a point where I realized that I had a basket full of “stuff” that I never meant to pick up. Can you imagine walking through the supermarket and having someone you don’t know just toss a box of cereal into your cart? Would you buy it if you didn’t want it? Of course not! Yet so many times we let people put junk into our lives that never should have been there. And we buy it!

Somewhere in my basket, buried under the nonsense, lay the milk and bread of my life, but I was helpless to dig it out. My existence had become a series of decisions that were made based on other people’s opinions and never my own. I think for a while I almost forgot how to even have my own opinions. I was like a residual haunting in my own body, doing what I’d always done just because I’d always done it. I couldn’t answer my husband with anything other than, “Whatever you want,” when he asked me where I wanted to eat. I cooked meals that I didn’t like, and I spent time on projects that held no real interest for me. It’s a nasty way to live, and I don’t recommend it.

I wish that I could say that someone came up to me and said something clever that changed my thinking and snapped me out of my stupor, but it just isn’t true. If this were fiction, I would certainly write it that way. A light bulb moment, that moment when Monk smiles and says, “Here’s what happened.”

But it didn’t happen that way for me. Part of the problem with living in such a way is that you are so often unaware that you’re doing it. You may know that you’re not happy, but why you’re not happy is a mystery. I didn’t want to whine or complain, so I just kept trucking, kept buying garbage and spending my time on things that were fruitless and dissatisfying. Some of these things were things that other people would buy and love, not evil time-wasters at all. But they weren’t for me. I carried everything around right up until I lost the ability to bear the weight anymore.

It was my body that finally said “no” when my mind failed to do the job. It’s the natural order of things. Your brain tells your hand that something is too hot, and then your hand flinches away. I should have seen the signs sooner, having watched my mother make the same mistake, but I suppose some lessons have to be lived to be fully learned. My body was exhausted, and I had no choice but to empty my basket.

Some people think it’s sad that I don’t sing anymore, and even more people seem to be disturbed by how rarely I pick up my camera. I wear jeans to church now, and very rarely I will even toss something that should be recycled into the trash because I’m too tired to clean it out. I actually cringed admitting that! My house isn’t always clean, and there are goldfish crackers on the floor of my car. But I’ve learned to listen to myself and give myself permission to be who I am. That means that some of the people who used to like me don’t really like me anymore. And all I can say about that is that it is also the natural order of things.

If you find yourself living your life the way that others want you to, please skip the physical lesson and deal with the issue immediately. We live in a society where even people we’ve never met in person think they know us well enough to give us advice, and so often it proves false. I only know what’s best for me and my family, and I’ve learned to be firm in that certainty. Not closed off to other opinions, but determined to hear my own voice among all the others and never to assume that someone else holds the answers that I’m too feeble to find.

And that is my little bit of unsolicited advice for today!


~ by Rachel McMahon on November 9, 2010.

9 Responses to “A Clean Slate”

  1. You’re the greatest wife a man could ask for! You are my dream come true!

  2. I could have written this entire thing (well, no I couldn’t, because I am not as articulate as you, but you know what I mean). I think this particular problem is a very gender specific problem, too…women have a lot of pressure to do and be certain things. I can also relate to feeling pressured to use one’s natural gifts all the time, when sometimes, that’s just not what you want to do. For example, there’s an audition this Thursday that I just don’t want to attend. I don’t know why I’m going other than the fact that I ought to want to.
    I’m still working on living my life the way I want to live it instead of the way my parents, family, or friends want me to. It helps to know that someone else is working at it too. Thanks.

  3. I love you, too, Phillip!!

  4. Katheryn, thanks for adding your input. It’s good to know I’m not the only one. I’ve taken my camera along and shot so many things for the very reason you said. I ought to want to. Sigh.

  5. I understand what you’re talking about. It seems we all waste time doing things to make others happy and let our own dreams go unfulfilled. Everyone has an opinion on what they think you should do but most of the time those people are clueless. The only thing you can do if follow that inner voice. I have to remind myself all the time that just because I can see the path God has for me, it doesn’t mean that he’s bothered to inform my friends that I’m making a good decision.

  6. Wow, good point, Tammy!

  7. Who you are is the only thing of relevance. That being said, who you are is you, not someone elses idea of who you should be. If you decide to do something that someone else wants, make sure it is your wish to please them and not your responsablility. If you wish to wear jeans to church; do it. I guarantee God will not mind. Your friends, if they are indeed good friends, will not mind either.

  8. Thank you for this, Rachel. This is something I have been trying to do myself.

  9. This is so true for so many people. Good writing.

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