Zara was lost. She was thirty-six, newly divorced, and stuck on a career track she hated. About three months after her divorce, she realized that she had spent her life chasing her parents’ dreams, rather than her own. Even her marriage to Josh had been to please them. Their expectations, and his, if she was honest, had defined her.
The problem was, she didn’t seem to have any dreams of her own. She didn’t know what she wanted or even who she was. She only knew she didn’t want this life. So she decided to ask her friends what they saw in her, what they thought she should do.
Some of her friends thought she was crazy. From the outside her life looked good. She was moving rapidly up the corporate ladder and financially secure. She lived in a beautiful house and traveled extensively. What more could she want?
Others thought she needed to go back to school and find a new career. Or adopt a dog. Or take up painting. Or any of a hundred other suggestions. None of which appealed to her and none of which made her feel any better.
In desperation, Zara decided to visit her grandmother. She’d been reluctant, feeling it somehow a betrayal of her parents. But Nan had always given the best advice. So, she flew to Denver for a week-long visit.
Somehow, once she was there, Zara found herself reluctant to bring up the topic. On the last day of her visit, Nan took her to her favorite dessert spot. Over carrot cake and coffee, Nan pounced.
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“What’s eating you, girl? You’ve been sitting on something all week.”
“That obvious, huh?”
Nan just raised an eyebrow and sipped her coffee.
“Okay, here it is. I’ve realized I have no idea what I want from life. I never have. It’s like I’m this empty shell, filled up with other people’s expectations.”
Nan watched Zara over the rim of her coffee mug.
“I’ve talked to all my friends about what I should do, but none of their ideas feels right. So I decided I should ask you what you see when you look at me. Who am I Nan?”
It sounded lame, even to Zara’s ears until Nan said, “It’s about time. I could have saved you the trouble of talking to all those fools.”
Zara leaned across the table, her coffee and cake forgotten. “You know?”
“Of course I do! Eat your cake while I sort out how to explain it to you.”
Zara forced the carrot cake down, waiting for her grandmother’s pronouncement. Nan ate slowly and sipped at her coffee. When she had finished it all, she set her mug down and looked Zara in the eye.
“I’ve always seen you, child. But you’ve never been allowed to see yourself. Your parents are both very strong—very driven—people. They can be overpowering. You don’t know how to want something for yourself because you were never allowed to. When I look at you, I see a grown woman who has never truly spent time alone with herself, never listened for the sound of her own song, the yearning of her own heart. I see someone who needs to stop asking others what she should want.”
Zara’s eyes stung at what felt like a rebuke. But Nan wasn’t finished.
“I see my amazing granddaughter who needs to stop running from herself and to sit quietly, listening to everything her heart has longed to tell her.”
For the first time in Zara’s life, she felt a rightness deep in her chest, a warmth that had always been missing. She realized she had known that this was what Nan would tell her. She had come here to hear these words. It was time to stop running.
Laura gave me a prompt months ago. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with it until today, when this story came to me. The prompt was, “Who do you see when you look at me? Who I am, who I want to be?”.
It occurred to me that what matters is what we see in ourselves and that we can only find that when we’re still. The only person in Zara’s life who knows their own heart well enough to tell her this truth is her grandmother, and Zara knows it.