Reclaiming the future means giving wings to the dreams you forgot that you had.
Nearly eight years ago, my world was turned upside down. I had a 6-month-old and a 2-year-old, an alcoholic husband, a house in foreclosure, and a divorce on the horizon. Out of necessity, I was focused on survival. I had two very young children and needed to place my energy there instead of on myself. I also was dealing with loss. The life I thought I’d have, the plans I’d made, had just disappeared. I got through each day, each month, each year, working and mothering and doing the best I could. And in my grief, I didn’t have the energy or the hope necessary to make new plans because I couldn’t stand the thought of disappointment once again. At some point in all of that, I stopped dreaming and daring and traded it for a life of surviving and, dare I say it, settling. I was stuck.
Don’t get me wrong, by all measures, I have come a long way and am doing well in life. I have a good job, my children are thriving, and we enjoy life a lot, but after my loss, I stopped allowing myself to make any future plans, to hope for more than what we had. I had been living a life paralyzed by fear of what I could lose if I dared to hope.
I was frightened by the idea of hoping. I was afraid that I may not get what I dream of again. What if something goes wrong? So I didn’t even try. And then one day, a friend asked about my bucket list, a list I didn’t have. I felt exposed, but through our conversation, I realized that everyone has fears, but that shouldn’t stop me from dreaming.
I can’t let the fears and the “what ifs” deprive me of the joy and abundance that could be. I have to remember that just because I lost something once doesn’t mean that I lost everything forever.
So in the last few months, my focus has been on reclaiming my future. I will no longer be a victim of my circumstances. I will allow myself something that I’ve feared for a long time; I will allow myself to dream big and to hope for more. I am going to reclaim my life because my life, and the lives and dreams of my children, are too precious to keep myself paralyzed.
But what does that look like, reclaiming one’s future? Is it standing on a mountaintop and proclaiming it to the world? Or is it intentional baby steps of doing the next right thing? I think it’s a little of each; it’s speaking into existence the things that I want and then doing what needs to be done to get there.
For me, it started with making some goals. What did I want to see happen in my life? If I wanted a house, a vacation with my girls, another degree, I had to give myself permission to hope for more. In doing this, I validated my own worthiness. Setting goals was an affirmation of myself, my life, and my ability to choose.
And then came the stage of “acting as if.” Acting as if is a way to practice the positive, a way to bring behaviors and hopes into existence. I had to act as if I could do the things I thought were out of reach. What if I could buy a house? I had to push down my instinctive thoughts that it was terrifying and beyond possibility; I had to act as if I knew what I was doing, as if it was possible, and I worked toward that goal.
Finally, I have had to trust myself and do the next right thing. Of course, I will still have those intrusive moments of fear, thoughts of settling and not working towards what I want, but I have to actively decide that those thoughts will not drive my decision making. My past loss and fear will not define my future. I have two little people watching me–what I want for them is to have and follow their own big dreams–so I have to show them what that looks like, even if sometimes it takes a little “acting as if” to convince myself that I deserve big dreams, too.
And you, mama who feels like me, I see you and I honor you. Reframing your thoughts and reclaiming your future are not easy, but I urge you not to let your fears paralyze you. Reclaim your hopes because you deserve big dreams, too.