by Christie Gardiner, Author & Guest Contributor
I love autumn. I feel like the trees have waited all spring and summer in anticipation. They’ve grown, sometimes painfully, and now they shine the brilliant colors of themselves as if to say, “You thought I was pretty before? Well check this out! This is who I really am.” I type this over my morning cup of herbal tea with the sun and the leaves beginning to yellow on the very tops of my honey locust trees. I’m so excited to see them a week from now, shining in the golden glow of who they really are.
I am an actor. It’s one of my leaf colors. I love live theatre. There is something magical about it; something electrifying. I see it. I perform in it. I read about it. I listen to music from it. I teach it. I swim in it.
And yet, there was a time that I used to spend intermission of plays in the bathroom stalls of the theatre crying. It was a decade in to my motherhood journey. Years before, I had told myself that I was now a wife and mother and as such, needed to put all of the juicy pieces of myself away in the name of mothering. I cried because I loved acting, was exceptional at it, and missed it desperately. That part of my life was over. At the end of intermission, I’d drag my sorry self dramatically out of the stall and take a dejected seat to watch the rest of the play. As there are few things more buzz-killing than to sit next to a swollen-eyed-has-been of an actress who sniffles her way through the second act of a comedy, I eventually stopped going to the theatre all together.
What a lie I was telling myself.
I’m not unique. As women, we all give up parts of ourselves in the name of our excuse of choice (motherhood, career, education etc.); as if our sacrificial offering of self is in some way hollowed or noble. Nothing is actually further from the truth and our “playing small does not serve the world.”
I eventually found my way to theatre again. Once I gave myself permission to be who I really was, (not the caricature I had created about what a mom is “supposed” to be) the world opened up for me and that color came back to life. I won’t pretend it was easy to find myself again. I have to constantly take care that the pendulum of sacrifice doesn’t swing too far to the opposite side of self-indulgence. But when I found myself again, I was excited to see that I was just as colorful as I remembered. I was still talented, still beautiful…and guess what? I am still an excellent mother. Maybe even a better mother. Putting my own priorities back into the equation definitely added extra dance steps to the waltz that is our family life. But oh, oh, OH how the dance is worth it.
If these words have traveled through my fingers and somehow found their way to you, wherever you are, I hope you let them soak inside of you like the autumn leaves on my trees. Let these words change and color you.
If you are a painter…paint. A runner…run. An accountant…crunch numbers. And if you are a mother, take your children with you! Let them see the color of your true self and it will inspire them to keep the core parts of themselves always with them. It’s time to put down the burden of self-sacrifice and be free. You are worthy. You are enough. You have gifts, talents and abilities that only you can bring to this world.
What are you waiting for?
 Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles, 1992
Christie Gardiner, Author & Guest Contributor