Lighten Up

to lighten up means to relax, to become less serious or less angry (urbandictionary.com).

Happy New Year! Besides authenticity and self-love, this year I’m going to focus on fun!

I’m not quite sure when I became so serious. Perhaps it’s when I became a parent and  felt the tremendous responsibility of impressionable hearts, minds and souls. Or, it could have been when I became a teacher and developed my unwavering professional persona. I think I always had a serious side, but my youth kept it in check. What I do know is that it’s time for me to lighten up!

I recently went through some old pictures that my parents had and was instantly transported back in time to a feeling of disappointment and heartache. As I held the pictures and looked at myself as a preteen cheerleader, these emotions were replaced by gratitude and acceptance. The perspective that I have as a mature adult processed a heavy emotion from my past in a new way which wasn’t haunting anymore.

JF Cheerleading

I tried out for cheerleading in high school and I didn’t make it. I certainly didn’t go into tryouts unprepared. I practiced my cheer routines, my cheerleader voice and my cheerleader look, over and over again. I was obsessed. I even practiced when I wasn’t supposed to be practicing and can still remember my gym teacher, Mrs. Farina, yelling (when I was practicing my splits during PE), “Fornarotto, if you do one more split, I’m going to make sure you don’t even try out for cheerleading!”

I was pretty excited about the whole idea of being on the high school cheerleading squad. It meant being on the big high school stadium field in front of a crowd and representing my school. I knew how exciting that could be since one of my sisters twirled and the other cheered on that big field when they were in high school.

But, it wasn’t meant to be, I didn’t make it and I was crushed. I felt humiliated and heartbroken. I was lacking something that the other girls had, some of whom were my good friends. I had done all I could to prepare for tryouts and my best wasn’t good enough.

Looking at these old pictures reminded me that I used to really enjoy playing and being part of a team. I played softball and did gymnastics for many years. I was even on these varsity teams! I was also reminded that I cheered for several years for recreational teams, that I WAS a cheerleader. It may not have been on the big field in front of a huge crowd, but  I had fun doing it.  I also did other things that my sisters and my friends didn’t do, like play softball and do gymnastics.

JF Softball

JF Gymnastics

As I look to the future and focus on lightening up, I realize that I need to let go of the heavy feelings that I harbor from the past. However, I think that glancing back and not dwelling on the past can be healing when experienced through the lens of a new perspective.

I have to do things that bring me joy regardless of how others may judge me. In Brene’ Brown’s book, The Gifts of Imperfection, she talks about living a “wholehearted life.”

“Let go of who you think you’re supposed to be and embrace who you are. Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we will ever do.”

JF Lighten Up

I’m more of a softball kind of girl.

 

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Changes

“Still don’t know what I was waiting for
And my time was running wild, a million dead-end streets and
Every time I thought I’d got it made
It seemed the taste was not so sweet

So I turned myself to face me
But I’ve never caught a glimpse
Of how the others must see the faker
I’m much too fast to take that test

Ch-ch-changes
(Turn and face the strange)”

~David Bowie

I’m still trying to find my footing as I navigate through the last few months. So many changes including an empty nest and the loss of my dad. I know it sounds dramatic, but without parents, I’m no longer a child. That role was familiar to me and even though it changed over the years as my parents aged, I knew how to be someone’s daughter.

Another role that I’ve defined over the years, through trial an error, patience, anxiety, consistency, heartache, education, love and support from my husband, son and daughter is “mom.” The only thing I’ll ever brag about is how perfect my two children are. I’m pretty confident that I did the best job I could as a mother to my children. I never took this job lightly, always put their needs before mine and never lost sight that I was a major influence on their development.

If anything, I took my “job” too seriously and could have lightened up a little more as my kids were growing up. Thank goodness they have Kevin for a dad! They will sometimes wonder how I can spoil my dogs when I was more strict with them growing up. My response is always that dogs can’t grow up to be bad people. The “heavy lifting” is done as a parent and I can spoil my kids whenever I want now, since they are who they are, and I think they’re pretty awesome.

Since I’m no longer a child, my children are living independently, and I’m looking for a new career path, my day to day life is no longer defined by my role as a child, parent or teacher. I’ve been stripped down to just me; “So I turned myself to face me.” It’s an interesting, yet terrifying time in my life, but I must embrace it. As Bowie says, I must, “Turn and face the change.”

My dad with James and Adella

My dad with James and Adella