18 Sep
2015
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Lessons from “The Nightingale”

colorful sunset

I read the words, “I always thought it was what I wanted: to be loved and admired. Now I think perhaps I’d like to be known.” I slowly inhaled and gently closed the book. To be known, for someone to clearly and completely understand who you are, and love you anyway, this is what I want.

I found the words for my feelings on the fourth page of Kristin Hannah’s “The Nightingale.” The story is lovely and sad, but honestly, I was waylaid early in the book by those words and later by another phrase. Each time I opened the book to delve into the lives of two French women during World War II, I found myself thinking about being known.

Reading is how I decompress at night and attempt to shake the cares from the day away. Few authors write something that grabs my heart and compels me to remember those words. My thanks to Kristin Hannah. I read “The Nightingale” this summer and two phrases are now embedded in my daily life.

I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve reminded my children to “be you, not them.” That phrase is currently written on a chalkboard in our kitchen. I have a child in junior high. I desperately want him to be brave enough to stand on his own, despite pressures to be untrue to himself. It’s what I want for each of my children and all those young ones they sit next to in class. Be true to yourself and be known. Who you are is wonderfully, perfectly enough.

It’s always been hard for me to have confidence in what I think, feel and know. I struggle with being enough. At times, the worry of other people’s judgement has stopped me from sharing who I am. The closer I get to 40 the easier this is for me to overcome. The older I become, the more I just don’t care what others think or believe about me (for the most part). I want people to know me, for better or worse. It’s not about liking me or even loving me, although I want that too. I want to be known.

In “The Nightingale,” a mother is using the above sentences in connection with her son and wishing she would have allowed him to know her as a person not just as his mother. The people who live in my home, who call me mom and wife, know me. Heaven knows I’ve overshared at times with the people that call me mom. The kids learn a little more each year as they age. I’m trying to open those doors more to other people. I learn so much from others. Other people help to refine my own ideas and beliefs. I long for the honest exchange of thoughts and personalities. I like to KNOW other people as much as I want them to KNOW me.

Later in “The Nightingale,” Hannah hit me with this gem, “Someone told her she couldn’t do something, she did it. Every barrier she turned into a gate.” How often have I looked at an obstacle as something I need to go around, under or over? Countless times I’ve attempted to work with the barriers keeping me in or out. Heck no! I’m building gates.

It’s the people-pleaser in me that attempts to stay within the parameters I’m given. That sentence opened a new way of thinking for me. If you’re standing in a fenced yard, you get out through the gate. It seems so simple, but thinking about problems and difficulties with the idea that I need a way through instead of over or under has revolutionized my problem-solving. Don’t be surprised when you hear my children murmuring about needing to find a gate. They’ll be hearing that phrase quite often at home.

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