There’s an article about me from 1988 in the Fresno Bee in my file. The headline reads:
“Shy, demure Jones can’t help but draw attention.”
I remember being embarrassed as I read it. It’s always been hard for me to take a compliment, and I see the same tendency in my youngest. I attribute that to spending a lot of my life not feeling I lived up to what other people saw in me. I didn’t recognize my own gifts and attributes from an early age. As I reflect on what I’ve learned, I realize that this lack of confidence left me looking for validation or permission to live my life according to my own plan. And now I’m writing a book about it; reflections on what has worked to help me find calm, and confidence, and get closer to making my insides match my outsides…always a work in progress. Although there is no timeline on accomplishment, there are rites of passage (like sitting and writing in your daughter’s dorm room!) that make me realize my own mortality and know that there is no time like the present when it comes to accomplishing goals.
“Does bringing me here make you feel old mom?” she asked as we navigated the streets of Fort Worth between Target and The Container Store.
“Kind of…but I don’t have the mindset to feel old because there is still so much I want to do.” I said. And this book is at the top of that list.
Born a rule follower and people pleaser, I didn’t know the power of autonomy and the truth that if we are willing to work consistently at something, then what we want is ours to create. I didn’t know that I would have to get over other people’s expectations, my own insecurity, jealousy (which stems from another’s insecurities), fear of failure, imposter syndrome…the list goes on and on. And yet, when I sat back and thought about it, the way around all of these roadblocks to grant yourself permission to follow your own path. And if we don’t, we lose that connection with our true self, and start showing up quieter and more subdued in our own life…not good for ourselves or the people around us.
For quite awhile, I have been interested in generational learning, how we use our own memories and self awareness to pass down our stories to teach and hopefully make life more beautiful because of what we learn through that process. We could avoid so many patterns of abuse and addiction if we understood our worth and attachment styles that correlate with our family stories. No right or wrong, just indelible marks left on little human spirits that we had no control over but that we have to learn to work with so we don’t turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms that cause pain for ourselves and the people we love. How we process these stories and life patterns matters for our own happiness and the little people (that turn into big people) that we get to raise.
Starting 19 years ago (man, that sounds crazy) and over a seven year span, I was blessed with four beautiful children. As I went through those formative years, I put my heart and soul into raising good humans. My goal with these four little lives wasn’t to turn them into scholars or athletes or some version of perfect that I wanted them to be. I had found my calling because these little people had my heart and I felt so lucky to be able to teach them my secrets of life, before I had the courage to talk about what I thought to the world. I wanted to teach them to have confidence that I didn’t even have for myself. Confidence is interesting, it can show up in certain settings, come and go with circumstances, and definitely disappear at the most inopportune times. And although I have lacked it in some places, I felt it from day one as a mom, I was only 25 and I’m not even close to done yet!
Maybe the days passed slowly for awhile as I changed their diapers and took them to Target, but as they say, the days go slow and the years move fast and looking back, even in those early days, the patterns and philosophies were taking shape. From early on, I looked for the value I was trying to teach with any specific scenario that arose, whether it was kindness, honesty, bravery, or many other important virtues that make strong character, I saw both what was facing me in the moment and the bigger picture that was the training ground of life for them. I believed in teaching them black and white, right and wrong young to give them a stable base so when the shades of gray creep in later in life, they have the grounding principles to see the way through, the attachment to know that they are valued and enough, and the grace and forgiveness that is needed to evolve when things don’t go the way you planned.
These days, because I have come through an evolution of my own, they can’t quite pin me down on the black and white “rules”. Because I have the confidence today to know I am grounded in strong faith and principles, I hold much looser to the expectation of what “should be”, work from what is, and know that although I have learned so much, I have also taught a few things in this life. I know my intentions, how I want to be treated, and treat others the same way.
As I leave Lauren in Texas, I realize sometimes it’s not the deepest thoughts that make the impression by this age, it’s our actions that they watch and the simple things that have been sinking in for years that make a lasting impact. She packed all of her own bags to get here and, as we organized in her new dorm room, we set up a bin full of exercise bands and rollers, an essential oils diffuser and lavender oil, and her first request for groceries was oatmeal and peanut butter - because she knows that any meal can be happily replaced with those two things. We had conversations about mental strength, what we can become, introversion, extroversion, and validation, that surpassed anything I knew at her age, and talked about where she would find a church (there are plenty around here). She knows how to care for her mind, body, and spirit and has the confidence to be herself. And knowing I raised a kid who knows these things gives me confidence that the goal I set almost 20 years ago has been attained. No more shy and demure…the process of raising her, and seeing what she has become, inspires me to be what more of what I want to be and today I have the confidence to do it.