I have been guilty of waiting for permission to do so many things in my life. Not from any one person, but from myself. I am a grown-ass woman who has made loads of decisions for others, cared for young and old human beings, taken far too many animals on their final journey to the vet and yet when it comes to giving myself permission to do things for myself I hesitate.
I don’t think I am alone. Whether it’s guilt or lack of imagination or any other psychological reason I have no idea. But I know it’s true and I also have experienced the joy and the epiphany that arrives once I have decided. Yes. I am going to do this thing. I have also seen it on the faces of friends who have shared with me their hopes and dreams only to end their statement with “yeah, wouldn’t that be great?”. I smile and whisper, Permission Granted and we both have a laugh. Then it’s quiet and they often ask, “Really?”.
A Different Path
The first time I had this experience was when I was a freshman at a large state university. I wasn’t happy with the academic program offered and made a decision to switch to another school. It was a private university nearer to my home. It meant I gave up the college experience of dorm life and moved back with my parents in order to afford the higher tuition. I didn’t have to get permission from anyone. I just did it. It was quite shocking and though it gave me great confidence I still struggled with this concept.
New Wheels, New Life
Shortly before graduation I landed a dream job and was on my way. However, I was still driving my beater and still living in my pink bedroom at my parents’ house. LIfe was good. I will never forget the day I decided to buy a brand new car because I could. A shiny black Ford Escort with tan vinyl seats, working AC, and a hatchback. I was living large and it felt so good to give myself permission to get exactly what I wanted. I had the capacity to do it. By myself.
So many times we only make decisions when we are required to. We buy a car when our old one dies. We move when relationships or jobs change. We take care of ourselves when we get a scary diagnosis and even then it’s a struggle. It’s the rare situation when we make a conscious choice to do something extra-ordinary, because we can. We get so caught up in the day-to-day survival activities that we don’t take the time to dream and imagine possibilities. Maybe because we haven’t been given permission or justification for doing so.
What About You?
What would you do if you could? Where would you go? Would you paint your living room a different color? Would you take a walk in a beautiful park even if you had to drive to get there? Would you take a nap? Would you plan a trip to a place you’ve only dreamed of going and figure out how to pay for it – even if it would take years? What would you do if you could?
Everyone is Different
Making pro-active decisions rather than responsive decisions can be scary. If it doesn’t work out, there is no one else to blame. It takes courage and confidence. It also takes a mindset that is generous to your own needs and desires. I have absolutely no desire to ever jump out of an airplane. It would take a lot of courage and if that is something you’d like to do I say Go for it. But it’s not for me. No judgment. It’s important to recognize that what matters to one person is not appealing or desirable to another. When a pal shares their innermost desires with you it’s important to listen and be fully present. You don’t need to be squash their dreams because it’s something that you would never consider. We can all dream and our dreams can adjust and adapt to our circumstances. Just because a dream evolves doesn’t mean that it didn’t come true.
The Big Question
When Jim and I were young and dreaming of our family we boarded the Infertifilty Rollercoaster (one star, not recommended). Years of surgeries, medications and monthly disappointments took a toll. Finally, we asked ourselves the Big Question. “What was our goal?” We were entrenched in the process and listening to experts. One day, after more bad news and too many tears, we took a moment and asked each other. Is our goal to “achieve pregnancy” or to have a family? The answer was easy, we wanted to be parents. We unbuckled and got off the rollercoaster quicker than you can say hysterosalpingogram. Just kidding, you don’t ever want to say that word, even if you can.
We started researching adoption options and made the life-changing decision to build our family with a kiddo born to a woman on the other side of the world. Two more followed and our family of five was created. I remember proudly taking our son to the grocery store a few days after he arrived. The clerk looked at him, looked at me and asked if we had adopted him. I proudly said yes and how grateful we were. Then she said, “Well, you got your baby the easy way.” I smiled and simply said, “There is no easy way to build a family”. The comments one hears with an interracial family never cease to amaze and appall.
Just A Little Walk
A more recent example of making a decision to do something that was totally optional and terribly frightening was my decision to join my husband on a walk through Spain on the Camino de Santiago. I have never had confidence in my physical abilities. Never joined a race, been on a sports team or had legit workout wear. Yet, he asked me to walk on this ancient path from Portugal to a city in Spain with him. Over 200 miles in just over two weeks. I was 60 years old and I really enjoyed my time on the couch. But I knew how important this trip was to him and he assured me that I could do this. A few years earlier he had walked the Camino Francais route, over 500 miles. It was a powerful experience and he wanted to share it with me. I agreed with some modifications. We found a shorter route and I needed to sleep well at night so we made reservations at small hotels along the way. I was terrified. This decision was the farthest I have ever been out of my comfort zone. More frightening than traveling alone to South Korea to collect our youngest son twenty years earlier. I changed the picture of myself I carried in my brain. No longer did I say that I am not that kind of person, I decided I would become that kind of person. So, I trained and researched. I treated this adventure as a project and I am pretty good at projects. Plus I got new shoes and that is always a good reason to do something new.
It wasn’t easy. It wasn’t perfect. There were times on the path that I wanted to give up. There were certainly times when I questioned my decision to take this totally optional journey. But at the end, I have never felt such a feeling of pride and accomplishment. Not only had I done something I never thought possible, I didn’t get a single blister. I also didn’t set any speed records. We were likely the slowest pilgrims (travelers on the Camino) on the path. Everyone passed us as we trudged on. It didn’t matter. We were on our own journey, our own Camino. It was an extraordinary experience and I am so grateful I said yes when the opportunity arose.
Waiting for permission to do something that you would like to do is so common we don’t even think about it. Disasters and the needs of others too often dictate our decisions and daily actions. What would you like to do if you could? I hope you hear these words whispered in your ear, “Permission Granted.”