I wasn't raised in the burbs. I was raised on 40 beautiful acres of peach and apple orchards overlooking the Colorado River. But, as most small-town kids do, I had dreams of moving to the big city (Denver) and starting an "exciting life." Now I go home to the small town I grew up in maybe once a year, but my day-to-day life exists in a suburb in the foothills of Denver.
It's a great neighborhood with lots of kids, it's very safe, schools are close by, it offers tons of community activities, and everyone is pretty much middle class. Cultural diversity doesn't really exist, unless you count the Canadians down the block and our neighbors who adopted internationally. It's a great neighborhood, and an easy life.
I'm not writing this to take a jab at the 'burbs (or my neighbors, should they read this). I know how fortunate I am to have this life and the beautiful people who are a part of it. I'm writing this because I've never found it easy to fit in here. I often find it hard to connect with the other moms and sometimes don't have anything to add when we talk about our families. Let me explain.
My life has not gone as planned. In many ways, it's the opposite of what I thought it would be when I moved here right out of high school.
I'm the woman who's been divorced. I have two sons who are in their early 20s while I am still raising an 8-year-old with my second husband (who is younger than I am). I'm the mom whose oldest son passed away from an accidental overdose while home on leave from the Army six years ago. I'm the Mom who would prefer a weekend alone at the yoga ashram to the girls' day at the spa. My dad passed away when I was 16, and I have very limited contact with my mom. There's no going home for the holidays in my family. I'm different.
But these life experiences have given me grit, taught me resilience, and shown me how important it is for us to listen to our inner wisdom to create a life that is uniquely and radiantly ours despite what happens to us, good or bad.
I don't believe we have to experience a life-altering event to deepen the meaning of our lives, but I do believe everyone benefits when we act in alignment with our own personal soul-map and quit looking outside for what our life should look like. Below, I've shared the ways you can add meaning to your life, even without an obvious, paradigm-shifting experience:
1. Become a better listener.
Listen with the intent of understanding what the other person is trying to convey rather than trying to jump in with a response. Then, follow up with a question rather than your opinion.
2. Stop comparing yourself to others.
This can go both ways: comparing yourself in a way that makes you feel superior to the other person (judgment) or allowing yourself to feel diminished by assuming someone is better than you. It's better to practice compassion and assume we are all equal (equal in our beauty and our suffering) and let go of what makes you or another feel bad.
3. Connect to your own inner wisdom.
Always looking to others to tell you what to read, watch, or wear is exhausting. Start with a short mindfulness practice of sitting quietly for a few minutes each day. What do YOU want to read or wear today? Where are you out of alignment with your own integrity?
4. Do something that makes your soul sing.
OK, so no one will take that pottery class with you at the local community college, or they think your interest in reiki is really "woo-woo." Go for it anyway. You will meet new people who might be more like you and learn something fun that is uniquely yours.
5. Let go of guilt.
Stop finding ways to affirm that you're not enough. So, you sent your kid to school without lunch (again), or maybe you forgot to turn in the permission slip (again). Your child, and you, will survive just fine. You get to choose how you speak to yourself in these purely human moments that we all experience. Choose self-compassion. You are enough.
Bonus: Be the weird one!
Take it from the mom who is always the weird one. When we step into our authenticity and live rooted in resilience against outside influences, people dig that shit! And it gives them permission to do the same!
More than anything, just be the most beautiful version of you with this one wild and precious life you have.