Monday, November 7, 2011

Realizing Your Whole Self by Connecting With Those Around You

Today I visited Cunningham Park for the first time since Extreme Makeover, Lowe’s, and the students from Drury finished their restoration and memorial projects. I got out of my car and proceeded to stroll around the park while observing all the goings-on around me. The scene was both idyllic and surreal. While families enjoyed such typical park-type experiences as exploring the new playground equipment and walking their dogs along the paved walkways, they did so against the backdrop of the ruins of St. John’s Hospital and some of the still-standing shells of former homes that were destroyed by the tornado. I watched as mothers rode down slides with their children and grandmothers explained the newly erected volunteer memorial to their grandchildren. Older sisters supervised their little brothers, warning them not to step into the water around the enticing new waterfall and its resultant pond.

Joplin's first park

Joplin and its residents are not the first – and certainly won’t be the last – to endure the devastation of a natural disaster. Southeast Asia had the tsunami, New Orleans had Katrina, and Haiti had its earthquake. Lives were forever changed. Yet, in all these instances groups and individuals came together in a myriad of ways to help the victims recover and rebuild their lives. Human beings worked to bring about a better life for fellow human beings.

As I surveyed the flurry of activity around me, reflecting on the impact of the many different volunteers who have been so important to the success of our recovery efforts this far, I began mulling over a question recently asked by Women of Acumen, “What is your definition of a whole woman?” (Yes, actually, someone did ask me a question about something I could blog about).

We moms and our daughters are fortunate to live in a culture where - finally - a woman can literally be whatever she wants to be: president of a corporation or a country, an acclaimed musician or actress, an astronaut or Nobel-prize winning scientist. Whatever a girl dreams, she can now become.

And yet, we women still struggle. We struggle with finding the balance between having it all and martyrdom. We struggle at merging our personal ideals with those of Society. And all too often we find ourselves wondering just exactly who we are and what we were working so hard for in the first place.

As I stood there, though, with the wind blowing the flags that hold court above the playground, I realized that being a whole woman, indeed a whole person, is really about connecting with those around you.  In order to connect with others, however, you must first connect with yourself.  Take care of yourself both physically and spiritually. Connect with your inner spirituality by going to church or synagogue or the mosque or the temple or even a yoga class –whatever your personal preference for spiritual expression may be. Discover who you are on the inside and what your personal goals and desires are. By doing so you develop your capacity to be more empathetic toward others, and sometimes individuals – even entire communities – will need and appreciate your ability to help during their time of distress.

Being a whole woman also means possessing a sense of self-awareness. Some women desire to hold positions of power outside their homes while others wish to be more hands-on with raising their children. And often a woman’s role within her own family and career will change depending on the needs of her family as well as her own needs and goals. No one career path is completely wrong or right for women collectively – it is the idea that a woman has a choice in how she lives her life that is most important.

Monument created to celebrate the many volunteers who have helped rebuild Joplin, MO

And this, my friends, is what I see in my own city and the world at large: a real need for each of us to be the absolute best we can personally be in order that we can help others be the best they can be. It’s what this blog is about – what my life as a mom is about: helping others realize their God-given strengths and talents so that during our short time here we may use them to help make the world around us a little better than it was when we first arrived on the scene.

What ways do you use to define and recognize your "whole self"?  How have others helped you along your personal journey?


  1. Dawn! Do you Amy Stevens from LifeFromTheTrenches? She is from Joplin, too. She is a blogging friend of mine, and she has written at length about the sometimes frustrating process of watching Extreme Makeover fix some homes while there are so many others that need attention.

    To answer your question, I tried to be a full-time SAHM for 7 years. I smiled on the outside, but secretly I felt unfulfilled on the inside. I love my son beyond words. He is the coolest dude and the best thing that has ever happened to me.

    But I have another calling, that of teacher -- and as a adjunct professor in our local community college, I am able to be both. A wise friend told me that I would be happier if I listened to the little voice inside me that wanted more.

    She was so right.

  2. Renee', surprisingly I do not know Amy, but naturally I went right on over to her blog and introduced myself. Thanks for letting me know about her!
    I know being a SAHM can be a great luxury for some moms and they must sacrifice a lot in order to be able to do so - both financially and professionally. I am always happy for those women who are able to physically and emotionally strike a balance with both; it can be so hard to do. And, the truth is, every person is different - some women need more "me" time than others, and some moms really need to put more time into their careers and professional lives than others (for lots of different reasons). The key is to figure out what works best for YOU - and then accept your decision and move forward with it. Oh, and like I said in the piece, you probably need to be willing to re-visit your decision from time to time in order to "tweek" it to fit your current needs. I'm just thankful that in our culture we are able to make these choices and decisions, and I hope that we will in some way be able to provide inspiration for those women struggling in cultures who limit their ability to choose what path they wish to follow.