Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Framing the Future

When I started this blog almost five years ago, I chose the moniker Bossy Betty, not because my name is Betty (it isn’t) and not because I am Bossy (well, not all the time anyway).   

I chose it because my intention was to write in the voice and tone of someone else.  I wanted a persona who had a bit of an edge, a snappy gal who proudly wore a defensive cape of sarcasm. Above all, I wanted the protective shell playing a character can provide.

It was with surprise then, that I discovered the more blog posts I wrote and the more involved I got with my readers, the less able I was to keep up the mask.  

I think that is the nature of writing, or at least, the nature of writing for me.

I look back at those early blog posts and I find I am a bit envious of the richness of my life at the time. Or perhaps it is the innocence and obliviousness of these posts that I long for.

(Irony Alert!  My very first blog post was titled “Why I Got (And Stay) Married.)

I loved writing about my life as a wife and a mother.  I knew readers would connect with the themes and details of those posts.   

Now, a year after my children have left home and a year after a messy, tough year of divorce proceedings, I find I am at a loss as to what to write about.

It seems, dear readers, that I am having a bit of an Identity Crisis.

The past few months have been ones of introspection.  I look back on my life and I see that I have never really, truly forged a path for myself. From a young age, I let others define me. As I got older, I eagerly and without questioning, took the paint-by-numbers path of life.  Education, career, marriage and mothering--I followed the patterns set down by my family and by society and was grateful for them.  It was a safe route and I had good examples to follow. 

However, the artistry of my life was not exactly original and certainly not extremely vivid nor varied.  I was not at all bold with my choices.  At times I painted within those lines against the advice of my inner voice.   My own desires were suppressed, diminished, and at times, drowned.   Still, it was the life I chose.  My boundaries and limitations were set.  I knew what to do and there was a comfort, albeit a dangerous comfort, in those routines.


Oh.  Now. 

I am divorced.  (Still hard for me to say.)  

I am single.  (Still hard for me to believe.)  

The clear-cut patterns are gone.

When you are on the receiving end of the divorce petition, you have no choice but to make major changes just to survive and you have to make them fast.  

Once the dust settles, you look up, exhausted, breathless.  All around you, there is a sense of expectancy. What now?  What next?  The word “opportunity” springs from the lips of friends and seems to be written in bold letters in every recovery book.  

Opportunity, eh?  OK.  Yeah.  OK.  I’ll get there, but that’s one big, honking goose of a word and right now it’s annoying the hell out of me.

I do know I must fight against my own propensity to reach for the paint-by-numbers set again. I stand in front of the blank canvas of the future and note the dizzying array of colors that this new life offers.  


It’s going to take courage to listen to myself,  trust the voice within, and not limit myself.  

Chances are, I am going to make some big mistakes.   

It could get messy.  

It could be beautiful. 

If I’m lucky, it will be both.


Tabor said...

If you were still married you could still make mistakes. At least now they are honest mistakes and they are YOURS. The new clothes will fit, eventually. Glad you are blogging again, even if only once in a while.

Lin said...

I, too, am struggling with where I am and who I am. Em is off to college next year and I'm really panicking on what I am going to do...and who I am going to be, now that I am not "mom" as much anymore. It's scary, isn't it? I want back my old life!!

Yeah, it's great to look forward and say "I can...I can....", but it's also very scary.

I get it, Betty--or whoever you are.


My Mind's Eye said...

HUGS MADI AND MOM aka Ceciilia

Teresa Evangeline said...

"Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don't be afraid." ~ Frederich Buechner

Yes, if you're lucky it will be both messy and beautiful. Sometimes it's hard to distinguish which it is, and that doesn't matter, either.

So good to hear from you.

baygirl32 said...

I wish you lots of beautiful mess! :)

Shelly said...

You are not only a survivor, you are a thriver. You've got some great things coming up in life, I just know it.

Alison said...

Oh, that feeling of a wide-open, pick-a-direction world facing you reminds me of my 20s...I was just as uncomfortable coming out of college and making choices as you sound now. I didn't want to choose; I no longer knew how to find the "right" answers.

The difference for you is a lifetime of experience, certainly more self-assurance, and hopefully a buttload* more self- and world knowledge than a 20-something can boast. (*Pardon my French.) Plus, a couple of cats to impress.

As for blog fodder, I intended mine as a journal of my life, so when I get frustrated or stuck, I just remember it's for me, not my readers, and that helps remove the silly pressures I put on myself. Maybe just think of it as a daily writing exercise, to keep your mind flexible. You can't help but entertain us in the process. Because you are a little bossy, and a lot Betty.

Kazzy said...

I think every blogger looks at past posts and does some real reflection. It is normal. A blog is a living thing, and thinking you can plan into the future what it will all be about is just not real. I like what you have done here. People care about you and your life. Betty or not!

Kazzy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Leah J. Utas said...

Get out there and make mistakes and have a blast at it,"Betty."
My personal philosophy is "Embrace Your Mess."
I'll be rooting for you.

Cranberry Morning said...

I know it's such an understatement to say that Change is Difficult. By blogging, I'm sure that you've found there are many others who've come to this same place, and thought they saw a Stop sign. Looking closer, they saw beyond the Stop sign a fork in the road, and have chosen the path labeled 'Thrive' over the path labeled 'Survive.'

I wish you all the best.

Nancy C said...

Sounds like time for a new blog under your real name -- been there, done that. And it's liberating. I highly suggest it. Just food for thought.

Barbara said...

Betty...I've been single 26 years now...and I love it. I wouldn't consider changing it. But it certainly didn't start that way. A friend once told me it takes at least 2 years before you become "I" and quit being "we." Hang in there...we all care about you!

Larri said...

Sometimes Bossy and (surprise!) Not Betty - looking forward to your posts on the beautifully messy adventure that lies ahead of you.

Joshua 1:9

Mandy_Fish said...

Sometimes I feel like life is a whole series of identity crises. And just as soon I adapt to the latest one, life changes and I am forced to adapt yet again. Maybe this is intentional. Maybe this keeps us from lazing into thoughtless blobs on the couch?

I loved this post. I love that you're sharing this with us.

BECKY said...

Betty, I just read your amazing post (as they always are!) and then I read all the amazing comments left by your friends.(I agree with all of them!) You are such a talented writer!! And I'm sure you have many other talents, that I don't even know about. You could take all your blog posts during this past painful, learning, growing, changing year of your life, and turn them into a best-selling book! And that year of your life I just described....That could be ANYONES'S and EVERYONE'S lives. We all go through things....married, unmarried, single, divorced, etc.etc. Life is not about where you are when the journey is over....but to enjoy the journey itself! Keep on keepin' on!

Deanna said...

I'm looking forward to reading about your journey of discovery. Even without something as dramatic as a divorce to jumpstart the process, many of us travel this path at some point. For me, it was an empty nest a little sooner than I was ready for. However, looking back I can see what a necessary time this has been for my personal development. I feel certain you will face this challenge courageously and ultimately be better for it. Good luck!

YrHmblHst said...

Painting outside of the lines/not by numbers is not NECESSARILY good, in and of itself. The lines and numbers are there for a reason, and if they work for you, are certainly nothing to be ashamed of. If the lines/numbers are inherently wrong, or maybe even wrong for you, then feel free to go on outside.
What is right, followed by what is right for you, should be the guide, regardless of others opinions and their 'oh so extreme and counterculture' musings, which, are usually actually pure social conformity within their group.
Do whats right, do whats right for you, and if youre inside the 'lines' , fine. I certainly don't envy you being in this position, but have faith that you will emerge thru the darkness into new Betty light!

karen said...

I must fight against my own propensity to reach for the paint-by-numbers set again.

I love that line - probably because it describes my own first impulse in almost any scary situation. Sometimes its better to be puzzled and confused because it keeps you from making snap decisions. Sitting on it and then deciding when the clouds clear a bit and you're not so emotional is definitely a better choice. Good for you, Betty!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

The pallet is open, Betty. You are now free to move about the canvas.

Erin Janda Rawlings said...

Although we are at different places in our lives, I am realizing that same very thing: I followed the paint by numbers and now what? I feel that something has been missing, that I have been ignoring my inner voice.

I am going through some growing pains, and it has been putting some strain on certain relationships. It's a tough time, but I am hoping it will be worth it in the end.

Hang in there!

Claudya Martinez said...

Your strength, candor, and resilience shows so much in your writing.

Jimmy said...

There is no clear cut answer to the divorce issue, I have been there and talk about feeling like your whole life was swept away, one day at a time my friend, I am not telling you anything you do not know or have not heard, but coming from someone who went through it before I am telling you, everything will be OK and you will find the correct path, it will be messy at times but in time you will be happy again.

Pat said...

The whole world is your oyster. Isn't that the saying? Maybe you don't like oysters. Hmmm....Okay. Well, I know it's been an absolutely horrid year for you, but you are a stronger and better person for surviving it. You are on the other side and you can do ANYTHING you want to. Knock 'em dead, sista!

Connie said...

It can be overwhelming trying to choose from so many options, but I'm sure you will find your way. We all make mistakes. It's how we learn. You'll be just fine whomever you decide to be and whatever you decide to do. :)

Ms. A said...

I have always found Bossy Betty to be extremely interesting and, they say it's best to write what you know and are familiar with, so I assume there was a Bossy Betty in there, somewhere. You WILL find the words, just like before, I have no doubt!

Ann said...

Listen to what your inner voice is saying and go for the things you really want. Find the beautiful things in life and if it gets messy at times that's what they made Bounty paper towels for. They're the quicker picker upper you know :)

faye said...

'Bossy Betty' by any other name will
always be the same wonderful blogger.

It doesn't matter to me if you use your real name or not... I look forward to
the journey ahead... keep blogging.!!

Gigi said...

Wait - what?! Your name ISN'T Betty? Well, this may cause issues should I ever wander out to the West Coast to finally actually meet you. You'll tell me your real name and I'll tell you mine - but I have a feeling we will continually call each other by our blog names for the whole visit.

I love your paint by numbers analogy - particularly as it seems that is how I've lived my life so far. It's an easy option, isn't it?

But Betty, or whoever you are, I have a feeling that this next phase in your life is going to be an amazing one. You are going into it with your eyes open and knowing that maybe that paint by numbers life isn't for you. And as a result, you will be open to new opportunities and life experiences. And I just know it will be wonderful.


Sara said...

Rather than that patronizing word "Opportunity," think "Selfish." Do and pursue the things that feel selfish. Because those are the things that are true to your wants, not the fairly-tale prescribed notion of shoulds.

I'm currently blazing my own trail of oh-dear-God-she's-not-doing-it-in-the right-order. There are times that I pause to worry about the shoulds, but then I realize that I'm doing things exactly as my heart is telling me. I'm being selfish, and it feels good.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I think this time will be exciting for you though I'm sure there will still be times of regret or sadness. I hope you share it with us.

Leanne said...

My beloved Betty . . . I just want you to know that, who ever you may and what ever direction this life may take you - I am blessed for the time I have had to read your words, feel your pain, laugh at your wit, cry with your tears, and love your heart as if it was my own. I can't pretend to know what you are feeling these days, or even begin to assume this "Wonder Woman Betty" should be able to handle all of this with her hands tied behind her back, AND blindfolded. But I will tell you that you have given more back to all of us than we could have ever given to you. And if I were near you, I would find that "Not" Bossy Betty Betty, and ask her if I could be her friend. I would buy her a cup of tea, I would give her a big hug, and would let her know how much she means to me. And that, my friend, is the beautiful truth. Hugs. (Hmmmm . . . but I wonder what your first name really is. I thought you look like a Diane. Or perhaps a Joan. Yes, Joan. I like that. I think I'll have to call you Joan.) Hugs, again.

jenny_o said...

Awareness is powerful. And you have it.

And, we all make mistakes. Even Betty.

Good luck in finding your new identity.


Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Betty - all things mull through - you've had a huge shock to your system .. well a few of those - and it will take time .. but life adjusts - enjoy - you seem to have a steady head ... with many thoughts - Hilary

Shan said...

I was just thinking about you this morning. Wondering if and how much we might still hear from you. Thought maybe you were off enjoying some big adventures and too busy for blogging.

I have to say, even though we are in completely different situations, I do relate to the identity crisis and wondering what to put down and what to put out there.

Whichever path you choose, whoever you turn out to be, I'm rooting for you.

Sending love.

4 Lettre Words said...

I think everyone goes through this in one form or another. (I am truly sorry to hear how hard the past year has been for you, tho.) Sending hugs your way!

The Green Streak said...

Don't be too hard on yourself for painting by the numbers. You have some incredible accomplishments from that time and those decisions: two wonderful sons, a fulfilling career shaping the future. The painful change has shown you what a strong, resilient person you are and what wonderful happenings are ahead as you go outside those lines with wild paint. Much love.

Pat Tillett said...

I wouldn't care if you said your name was Bubba. You are a talented, sensitive, hilarious and beautiful person.

I have no idea who's quote this is, but it's one of my favorites...
Come to the edge. We can’t. We’re afraid. Come to the edge. We can’t. We’ll fall! Come to the edge. And they came. And he pushed them. And they flew.

You my friend, are sure to fly...

Peggy K said...

You know how you pick up a book that starts out so gripping that you SO want to go to the back to find out how it ends up? That's what I felt when I started reading this post.

I am so excited for you! For the journey you will take in trusting your voice without limiting yourself. And c'mon, BB, aren't the big mistakes some of the best things to write about??

All I know is, I'm lucky to have found you and to have your posts to light up my life, give me something to think about, and a bright Monday morning with beautiful flowers.

Hugs, Sweetie!!

christine said...

you know what? you're on a journey - make the most of it! who knows what's ahead? no-one. It's now your life, your choices - look at what you've done with the house, and how exciting that has been. You're such a brave lady, you inspire others to be brave too.

I retired and enrolled at university after my divorce, got my BA Hons and am now doing a PhD - my choices, just for me - it's exhilarating having the freedom - please enjoy the luxury x

Green Monkey said...

i hope this doesn't sound cold but I'm so looking forward to both the mess and the beauty that comes from a life lived deliberately! Sending love your way, Shannon

p.a. can't believe Betty's not your real name! :)))))) I love it!

Jennifer Shirk said...

I was doing a Jillian Michaels work out today and her quote was, "I don't care if your perfect. Perfect sucks."
Such wise words. LOL
Be messy. Messy is beautiful.

Baby Sister said...

I love Pat's quote!! It's so true!! You will fly, and the life you create will be beautiful, messes and all.

Empty Nester said...

Paint by numbers...never thought of it that way but that's pretty much what it was like during my raising the lovelies years. There were things I wanted to do and I knew how to do them and I did them. And it worked. And then, they grew up and left. YIKES! It took me three freaking years to adjust and redefining 'me' was no easy task. And it's not over yet. Sorry I'm so behind on reading---one new defining moment was that I took a teaching position at the elementary school my girls attended. Now I have to adjust to that. LOL I realized that one thing not that great about being a stay at home mom is that we have no financial independence whatsoever. So, I'm working on changing that. One dollar at a time. :) Anyway, I'm teaching keyboarding and writing! And also doing some small group interventions!

Heidrun Khokhar, KleinsteMotte said...

WOW as Buddy would say, you are really at a new road. Take it and enbrace it and choose new friends and try new things. Life is so short. We are all at loose ends at times but it's what we do next that makes the difference. Courage to move ahead into the unknown is hard but thrilling too!!

Alexandra said...

I love my blog too.

It, truly, has been the biggest, single identifying thing I have ever done.