by Joli Beasley
Whenever we go to CU to help Luke move in/out, we usually tack on several more days than we need and take extra people with us just because we LOVE Boulder. When we set out last month, we had a three-car caravan from Tulsa—Mary Beth had come from Austin to Tulsa in her car so Luke rode with her from Tulsa to Boulder. Josh drove Luke’s car with Katy, and Todd and I took a car since the other two cars would be staying in Boulder.
We were going to have five full days in Boulder with one of those reserved for moving. The other days we were going to enjoy our favorite sites and restaurants around town and maybe fit in a little fishing or a hike on one the trails nearby.
Or so I thought.
What I know now is that I completely underestimated my guys’ obsession with fly fishing. I mean, I knew they really liked to fish…I even went with all of them to Gore an hour outside of Tulsa one day just to see where they were spending so much of their time. I didn’t fish of course, because that’s not “my thing.” But I had a good book to read and it was a pleasant and peaceful day. I watched each of them soften one by one as they cast off their cares with each cast of their line.
They invited me to try, but I declined. “I’m good,” I insisted. “You go ahead. I’m watching you though. Looks like fun!” A cozy spot with a good book is my happy place and my comfort zone. Or was it my crutch?
If I was completely honest with myself, I was a bit envious to see they had a hobby that clearly brought them so much pleasure. In fact, it was not just enjoyable, it was life-giving…the refreshment and restoration that flowed into their souls was as obvious to me as the river that flowed over their waders.
Suddenly, but slowly, without warning or invitation, a thought crept in that was oh so familiar yet slightly uncomfortable. I reluctantly realized I was being confronted with a dilemma that I dealt with daily decades ago, but once I conquered it, I thought I would never have to face it again. So I didn’t. I ushered it out gently as an unwelcome guest and quickly filled the empty space it left behind with the words on the pages of my book. The expelled intruder was polite and left without resistance, but unbeknownst to me it waited quietly in the shadows until we went to Boulder where it demanded to be acknowledged.
In the meantime, we got Luke packed for college and made our way to Boulder. As I was saying, my guys love to fish so the very first chance we got we loaded up all of their gear into the car and set out for the river. Tackle boxes and fly rods and waders spilled over into the back seat of the car while chatter and music and laughter filled the rest.
That’s when the “unwelcome visitor” returned and confronted me.
You see, for the first time since I was a little girl, I had to decide…did I not like to fish because I didn’t want to? Or did I not want to fish because I couldn’t? Because I couldn’t with one arm.
The weird thing about it was that I didn’t know. I really didn’t know. The question repeated itself. Do I not want to fish because I don’t like to, or because, how do you fish with one arm??
This goes way deeper than it may seem at face value.
I talked it through with Todd later and explained it to him this way:
My whole entire life I have done everything I have ever wanted to do. EVERYTHING. I even competed in gymnastics. My parents were amazing encouragers. They even put me in piano lessons. Think about that. It was perfectly normal to me. It didn’t occur to me until much later how funny that was to think I could have been good at playing the piano.
In my mind, I did anything I ever wanted to do. I learned to tie my shoes before my friends did, I was a cheerleader for six years, I can put my hair in a ponytail, I changed diapers for three kids, I peel potatoes and I can even put on bracelets with a clasp.
Gone were the awkward days of my childhood where I had to learn how to do everything “my way.” I had mustered through the complicated years of attempting and embracing different sports and activities and I pushed through the self-consciousness of looking funny while I did it. At this stage of my life (I assumed) I had mastered it all—at least all of what I knew I wanted to do.
But suddenly for the first time in my life I’m asking myself…did I really do everything I wanted to do? Or did I only do the things I knew I could figure out? Would I have wanted to play the guitar but subconsciously didn’t allow myself to desire that? Would I like fly fishing if I thought I could do it? I honestly didn’t know!
That’s why this matters. That’s why this will go deeper than just “finding a hobby.” So let’s talk about it, because it’s real. Because if you have been a stay-at-home mom for 21 years and your life has revolved around your family, finding “you” is a challenge as it is. But when finding “you” means going back to those awkward and intimidating days of your childhood when you were learning how to do things for the first time in a way that no one else understood, then it’s even more challenging.
As we pulled up to the river, I knew the moment of truth had arrived…this is where I figured out if I was going to be the old me or the me I want to be. Because as Todd and I approached our empty nester years, I promised myself I would be all in. I’m all in for growth that stretches me, passion that awakens me, and adventures that intimidate me. I knew then that I had no choice.
So I put down my book and I fished.
(To be continued)
Joli was born and raised in Tulsa and is a graduate of Southern Methodist University. She is a Board member for the Tulsa Town Hall lecture series, a freelance writer for TulsaPeople magazine, and a member of the Waller PR team. She has been married to her high school sweetheart, Todd, for 22 years and they have three children.