I have an amazing husband. This past week he watched the kids for me every night so I could be in my first musical. It ended up being a stretch for me- although not in a theatrically challenging way. It was one of those those things I thought I'd do to show off some talent or just enjoy an activity that doesn't revolve around being "Mom". I instead found myself somewhat humbled- reminded that playing small parts and branching out in life is good even if the path there is difficult and the effort is not appreciated in the way I hoped.
Truthfully, I have not been outside my own comfortable circle of friends and circumstances in such a long time that I was surprised to find myself in a world where I didn't click with everyone immediately. I found myself sitting and listening a lot- in a room full of people who had done countless musicals- singing songs from some of their favorites- and rattling off names, unfamiliar only to me it seemed, of composers and actors from other shows. I also found that being quiet, and being somewhere without my kids shrouded my identity and age- I found out after weeks of rehearsals that several people in the show thought I was a teen. Everyone says this is a nice problem to have, but it adds to that feeling of not belonging where you think you ought to.
At the beginning, and for multiple reasons, I debated quitting but figured I'd stick it out- just sort of put in the bare minimum effort. But just before tech week, I was forced to start meeting people and talking more. (I had been so quiet, apparently, that when I finally attempted to be myself and quipped off a sarcastic line, I'm pretty sure I offended someone who had no idea I was joking.) Despite being in this strange, semi-me world, by the end I had invested so much concentrated time with these people away from my normal, away from my family, that it actually felt like a different life- a different me, a different job, a different set of priorities and people to make happy or find approval from. I don't know why this happens, but it is so easy to slip away from even the most basic things I believe when I'm unsure of myself- it is so easy to forget fundamental truths about who I am, why I do anything that I do, Who I am ultimately supposed to be honoring and pleasing. Why is so much of my self worth wrapped up in my perceived identity? Motherhood? Being a wife? Sister? Friend? How is it so hard to just be the same me in all situations? (Another thought for another time, I'm sure).
In the end, although not all my interactions were positive, I met new people that were pretty fantastic, and a small handful that really encouraged me. And I realized as I was encouraged very simply by others that I was so caught up in my own world of insecurity and uncertainty that I lost sight of who I might be able to encourage. In retrospect, I think that when my short-term goal for myself wasn't met the way I wanted, I lost a grip on the reality that something bigger than me is laced into every day, every moment, every person that I encounter. And the people that encouraged and/or discouraged me made me realize just how easy both forces are to generate. Positively changing someone's day (and beyond) can be as simple as noticing him, taking a genuine interest for a five minute conversation with her, or including them at a party. But it is perhaps easier to make someone feel like a joke by simply NOT looking at them at all- or a condescending eye-roll, or talking down to them- all things I'm sure I have done.
Seems like adults would be able to find their self-worth a little easier with each passing year- that we would eventually find confidence and peace about our identity regardless of our circumstances. But I think it is safe to say that we are all craving love and are very quick to learn who will genuinely give and who will withhold. And it is going to take a love so much bigger than my own to give away if I ever hope to make a difference.