What Soul Searching Looks Like

So you’ve taken the time to dig deep, to gain some new perspective, to halt the breakdown that was inevitable. What does soul searching look like? Well, it probably looks a little different for everybody.

In the book, Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert searched her soul across Italy and India, finding love and contentment with life. Author Shawna Niequist (I Guess I Haven’t Learned That Yet) moved her family from a church-centric, mid-west town to the bustling Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan in the midst of soul searching and an attempt to create the life she and her husband wanted. Certainly drastic changes of scenery while eating, praying, and loving might be amazing for my psyche, my soul searching expedition hasn’t exactly looked like that. Yours probably wouldn’t, or hasn’t, either. And I’m not even a hater. Those are the soul searching efforts of my dreams.

So what does soul searching – taking time for your own self to get some clarity, gain some perspective, and garner some new hope – actually look like for folks like me? Well, here’s how I’ve spent the last 5 weeks…

Crying. It makes me giggle a little to start with that, but it’s true. I was so overwhelmed with emotion, I could hardly keep from crying whether I felt happiness or sadness. The first week or so was tough, what with all the tears and snots and the emotional roller coaster. I had turned to absolute jelly, and my emotions ran high beyond my ability to control them.

Solo. I have a husband and a 14 year old daughter at home. I have SnapChat streaks with a few friends. I know a bazillion people. But I made my nest in my library, complete with books, blankets, tissues, and coffee, and that’s where I have camped. Ocassionally, I wandered into the kitchen for water. I got enough dressed and made up to be socially acceptable and took my girl to the horse barn. I’ve been to a restaurant or two. Otherwise, I kept to myself. And I like myself. She had been lost, so I had to find her again.

Together. When I wasn’t alone in the library snuggled under a blanket crying…*giggle*…I was with my family…together. Not with friends, not with extended family, not with extra teenagers tagging along…just us. Generally, our time together is spent working, doing things for other people, participating in a sporting event, building something. Nope. We have taken every opportunity to be exclusively together hanging out, eating at our table, playing board games, traveling for a few quick days to the beach. I made a couple of appearances at the dance studio, and I braved a few impromptu visits with friends to see their baby. That’s it.

Recovering. For the last 5 (now almost 6 weeks this Monday), I have nursed a cough. It just won’t quit. I have felt rundown, sore, and tired. After a few weeks’ worth of antibiotics, I’m still a little snotty and plenty sneezey. I have a new nebulizer with a shiny new box of albuterol to go load into it. A urinalysis revealed an infection, and I’ve taken medicine the last two weeks for that. I’m still awaiting the results of a complete blood panel, and I have an OBGYN appointment in a few weeks. I have had three migraines. I hadn’t realized how ravaged my body was, and it is taking some time to heal it. For this, I am both ashamed and apologetic…to myself.

Thinking. I hold the unpublished, totally down-played title of Supreme Overthinker of Possibilities. Yep, I’m the SOAP. Yet I needed time to sift and sort through all the thoughts I was (am) having about recent events, my life, what in the world I’m doing every day, and on and on and on. I was suppressing all that I think about, my opinions, my dreams, my desires, my own personal likes and dislikes…everything…in the interest of pushing through, crushing what I thought were worthwhile goals (for whom?) and making big things happen (for whom?). I spent time reflecting, reexamining, recalculating. I needed, as my beautiful Australian friend, Stacey, would say, to “have a think” about my life.

Evolving. I realized that I’m living fast…and for other people. That’s been my life for a really, really long time. My year-long quest to become a Reformed People Pleaser culminated into this “graduation” of sorts in my small library, a ceremony complete with tears, plans for the future, and goodbyes to the past. If there is a Magna Cum Laude designation for such an achievement, I earned it. I know I have to live differently, for me, for my husband and kids, and not waste another moment between now and dead working so hard to please other people at the expense of my body and my own lifestyle.

Questioning. I almost used the word “fearing”, but I’m not much on being afraid. I’m questioning my future. I’m asking myself how I’ll go back out into the world and not fall into the same traps. I’m trying to figure out how I will not only do life differently but DEMAND that life is not the same, so I don’t get sucked up in the mouse wheel again (that I most definitely am good at creating for myself). I’m challenging my relatively new thoughts and lessons I’ve learned about People Pleasing and how to stay on track. I’m wondering how I’ll handle the pushback, the negative opinions, the guilt trips, the confusion that will surely follow when I stop catering to others and start making me and my immediate family the priority.

My soul searching hasn’t been glamorous, although I did treat myself to falafel with a spicy tzatziki sauce, hummus and pitas, and saffron rice at a Mediterranean restaurant in Memphis. I have prayed like crazy, gone back to church, and revived the spirit of God in my heart. And I did get to sit with my family next to a beautiful pool in the Florida Keys for a few days. So I guess I got a little eating, praying, and loving in there after all. Now…an extreme move? I don’t know about that, but it feels hopeful and so liberating to think that I have the ability and the freedom to choose a new way of life, new scenery, and new habits anytime I want to in order to have the life I want to have…because I only get one life. Only. One.

Next…taking flack for taking care of yourself. Let’s deal with that in Part 4.

Published by Amanda Herring, Writer

Practical wisdom, joys and pains, motivation and tough love, from the perspective of a Mississippi mom, traveler, business owner, goal crusher, substance seeker, and full-time dreamer

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