Who Do You Think YOU Are?

Now that we’ve all gotten through that first (and some might say unbearable) month of the year, it’s a grand (and some might say painful) time to take a quick looksee backward to collect a few points of data.

I call this month the time of RECALIBRATION because with all the frenzied excitement of December’s last week, which is stuffed full of well-meaning (some might say drunken) promises we nearly tattooed to our skin with the bulldozer determination of rebranding ourselves into the new shinier 2015 version, it can get overwhelming.

Some might say paralyzing.

I see no need for any of us to shrink away from our former selves, or the vows we made to our former selves. Like campaign promises, circumstances change: real life slaps us upside the head, supporters who swore they’d have our back are getting crabby because the timeline is too slow, we’ve finally had a moment to sit down and read the fine print, and in some cases, we discover that Lincoln’s historic and exclusive bedroom smells like Lincoln’s socks are still stuffed beneath the bed. All the hype ain’t quite what it was cracked up to be.

So now is a good time to take a deep breath and practice this phrase:

I used to be …

080215nowooo (788x800)


‘I used to be’ can be just as cleansing as it is clarifying. For example, I used to be determined to rid myself of the seasonal Jack Frost Flab until Polly Polar Vortex burst through the door and hollered hello.

I have changed my mind. I am now simply always on the ball with early winter prep.

Another illustration might be, I used to be resolute in my goal to sing a duet with Frank Sinatra, but then he died.

I never gave up on this goal, I just came to realize it is doubly difficult to sing two part harmony with a corpse.

080215doobeedoo (795x800)

There are myriad examples that may be just as revealing, but a little less disheartening like:  I used to be young, but now I am … not as young.

But each day that has passed has brought something my younger self did not have:


Hard won, effortful, exhausting, mind-numbing, hair-curling, wouldn’t-trade-most-of-it-for-the-world experience. (Some of it I would trade. Some of it I would pay people to erase from my memory and the memory of all the others involved, and then I would be at the mercy of those folks for as long as they would allow me to serve them.)

Or how about: I used to be a student—and go figure—I still am.

I used to be a student in a small classroom, then a large classroom, then on a massive campus. Now I am a student, but one without walls. My math assignments are the bills, the budgets and the taxes. English reports are my books and my blog. History is learned from the library. Science is a rich alchemy occurring all around me—from the stove top to the utility room, from the distilleries I study to the labels in my medicine cabinet. School is ever present, and I will always be a student.

At this point in my life, it’s almost as if behind every door I open, someone is flipping on a light bulb, and a small, but vocal collection of brain cells all join together and belt out a beautiful chorus of an aha moment.

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I pray their efforts don’t diminish. I hope that one day there will be an ongoing work of symphonic status performing up there.

And I implore science to hurry up and double their labors at successfully creating that special pill/implant/gene therapy that will ultimately improve my concentration, increase my memory, and boost my intelligence. I promise to do great things with it. I promise not to hack the financial industry, or mess about in the tech corridors, or commandeer the world’s defense divisions.

I promise. I can assuredly say that I used to be honest is not a phrase I will ever utter.

I really just want the extra brain juice for a few household experiments like figuring out a cost analysis for the most efficacious and least expensive wrinkle creams, or for what speed my make and model of car would consume gas most efficiently, or whether cryonics will be a sound decision for my hound at some point because I cannot imagine finding another animal as perfect for me as he is. And I will wait for whatever cure veterinary medicine doesn’t have available just yet for some ailment he may nearly succumb to in the future.

That’s what I’d use it for.

I promise.

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And how ‘bout this one to leave you with? I used to be afraid to try new things.

I still am. But I never let it stop me. Except when fear equals wisdom. Best not to ignore that little pearl.

Now you look at your life. How many ‘used to bes’ is it filled with?

It takes a significant element of courage and energy to commit to become something. That something that was important to us for a minute, a month, or a lifetime. Identifying your used to be is not a list of your failures.

It is a record of your efforts and accomplishments. It is a sign of movement and momentum. It is a mark of evolution.


(This post was inspired by one of my favorite authors and thinkers: Seth Godin.)

Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all talked about down in the pub. Plus, you can see more of Robin Gott‘s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone.

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109 thoughts on “Who Do You Think YOU Are?

  1. You know, I quite like this….not failing, just moving with what the moment demands….yes, I can live with that rationale…thank you! I used to be “set” in life and now I’m more adaptable and more grateful for every bit of consistency I get. I used to be afraid of change (still don’t like it) but now I realize, sometimes, things have to be shaken (not stirred) to wake you up to all you have. Yes, more grateful and more adaptable definitely. Great post (and great drawings as usual….favourite had to be chicken and egg!)

    • That’s a lovely phrase — moving with what the moment demands. I’ll remember that. It’s very ZEN.
      And I agree, I think the older I grow the more comfortable I become with the idea of adaptability. Going with the resistance. It’s a much more forgiving way of life.
      Thank you for adding more thoughts to chew on. And for the gracious words of praise as well. Cheers!

  2. Some of my ‘used to be’s’ make me cringe (self-critical and overly sensitive) and some make me happy (a singer in a rock and roll band). I know that without them I wouldn’t be ‘me’ now. A much more self-assured, mum and foodie who is rolling along; a whirling conglomeration of past, present and future possibilities. Thanks for pushing my brain box to think, as always Mrs P. I adore the teeny singing ‘a-ha’s’.

    • It doesn’t surprise me, Cheergerm, that you have your “life scales” calibrated and see things with a clear head. There’s abundant proof on your beautiful blog that is a perfect mix of care and kindness, goofiness and poignancy. I think you’ve got it all figured out and are a splendid example of what this post is all about.
      And the ‘a-has’ are my favorite this week too. I really do want those guys in my head.

  3. Excellent post Shelley! I used to be an extraordinarily competent over-achiever in the hope I would convince everyone I was worth the air I breathed. I was terrified all the time of not being good enough. Now I have learned I am good enough [that was a few years in the making! 😀 ] and it doesn’t matter what you think of me, it’s what I think of me that counts and I like being me very much these days. I spend my days doing things I want to do, need to do and enjoy to do. I paint happily all day long if I feel like it. I used to be sad – now I am happy. Can’t ask for anything more 🙂

    • You sound like you have a wondrous life my friend. As I once told a beautiful friend of mine, “Carpe Diem.” Listen, live and share your beauty. It is what the world needs… and what God has given us the choice to do.

      Life is YOUR canvas, so make sure it is your Mona Lisa and it hangs in the Louvre, in your home.

      God bless,

      Stoshu 🙂

    • Pauline, you’re a classic example of the pressures we put upon ourselves as we try with monumental effort to fit the parameters of somebody else’s definition of “scholarly,” “worthy,” and “accomplished.” It takes an abundance of strength to break out of that mindset–as society places nearly unbreakable bonds around our brains. But I think, if we’re lucky–and determined as you clearly are–the fog begins to lift. As long as we can spend time looking back at the collection of our experiences (both good and bad) that created the “us” we are now, we can learn much more than by simply reaching for the unattainable (and unhealthy) in the future.
      I love your comment, Pauline. You are truly one who has walked the talk. I admire that immensely. ❤

  4. This post comes at an interesting time in my life. Yesterday, Alex and I gave notice to our awesome boss of the last five years. We told him that at the end of the next school year (a little over a year away) we would be returning to Canada. We stressed that it wasn’t because of him, or his school, but that our futures were pulling us back west, and while we loved Japan, and appreciated everything he had done for us, it was time for us to go. Surprisingly, he handled it very well. He told us that he too had been thinking about our futures and would be sad to see us go, but he understood, he promised to visit us in Canada during his retirement, and to keep communication opened.

    I can’t speak from a wealth of experience (I’ve only got 3 decades under my belt) but I’ve found that my life feels very compartmentalized. The big life changes such as changing jobs and moving homes closes a big iron door on a particular time in my past, and when I look back on that time, even if only a few years separates now-me from that-me, it feels as if those events have happened to another person. In time, Japan will feel the same way, and that, I think is what saddens me most.

    I’ve always been a person who lives very much in the ‘now’. I don’t dwell on the past and as for the future I believe in keeping as many possibilities open as I’m able, which often means not making a concrete decision on most things that come my way. This current ‘now’ has been one of the best ‘nows’ I can remember, and I’m going to be sad to see it go. Time, however, marches along, and if you don’t march with it you’re going to miss the sights while you’re squinting for a chance to see the past again in clarity.

    Every moment in life is a learning experience and an adventure. If I can remind myself that what is good is now and what is better is yet to come I know I won’t miss anything. Tomorrow is a bright day.

    • Firstly, NJ, congratulations to you and Alex for making this life-altering decision. This is some exciting news! I know how difficult it can be to become ingrained in a place you’ve grown to love, along with the culture and the people and your work there. I have had to uproot myself countless times–sometimes I wasn’t ready to do so. I think this is why I don’t move furniture in my house or young shrubs and trees in my garden. I crave permanence. But sometimes the soil is richer somewhere else and although painful, you will flourish in your new home.
      Because of all the change in my life, I’ve chosen to look at it as a massive quilt that has unmatching patches and patterns scattered all about, with only the stitching thread keeping it bound as a whole. It changes your perspective a little. Everything is accessible to view and admire, you’ll have your favorite patches and the ones with a few stains on them, but it still wraps about your person and comforts you deeply.
      That said, there is an article I want to share with you that you may enjoy by Peter Dizikes. He talks about a book written by Brad Skow called “Objective Becoming,” and is the study of the “block universe” theory of time. In a nutshell, “Skow believes that events do not sail past us and vanish forever; they just exist in different parts of spacetime.” It’s a pretty fascinating read. It might catch your fancy. http://newsoffice.mit.edu/2015/book-brad-skow-does-time-pass-0128
      Here’s to living in the moment, NJ! Cheers

      • That article actually makes a lot of sense with what I’ve learned previously too. That we exist as something like an elongated time worm from our birth until the present. That time is less like a series of snapshots and more like a time lapse photo. It’s a cool thought, I think, though whether or not I completely understand it is another thing. Physics is a bit outside my range of ability.

  5. I used to be angry and afraid. Almost all the time. Then I started to think about what made me feel that way. I noticed that one feeling was the flip side of the other. I was fanning my own flames. Now I’m only angry and afraid some of the time. It’s a huge improvement. Blogging helps, especially when I read posts like yours! 🙂

    • An incredibly astute observation–and one I think many people would find hugely difficult to realize. Especially on their own. I’d say you’re really sentient to your emotions. And we live in a world when we’re more often than not advised to tune out the wisdom of our own bodies and minds. “Push through the pain,” “All you can eat–and more,” and “Just do it” campaigns have taught us to ignore common sense. I prefer the “stop, look, listen and respond” MO. And you’re so spot on about the blogging too. Writing and reading therapy. It’s a massively helpful community to be a part of. Thanks for being a part of mine.

    • And now you’ve got that bewitching little boy who has devilment in his eyes, and who is likely planning to drag you out of that cozy house and into the world to help him explore. Might want to start adding a few steps to your daily routine, David. If for nothing else, you’re going to have to develop enough strength to beat back the gaggle of girls that will hound him mercilessly.
      And I guess I have the internet to thank for putting you into my circle. If I only had an address, I’d send a thank you note. 😛

  6. What a thought provoking start to my Sunday Shelley! I have been much occupied with soul searching of late, you will understand why, and realise how age and experience do their work. I used to be scared of change yet always dreaming of a different life, I used to be constantly focussed on the future yet scared of growing older, I used to be terrified of failure yet scared of never achieving. I now realise that fear is the greatest enemy of life, that staring off into the future means you miss all the glories scattered around your feet, that failure be damned, life is short and wonderful and should be seized and shaken for all its’ worth.

    • I’m somewhat at a loss for words here, Jane. What you’ve written is so intense and eloquent. Your words shine with clarity and communicate the topic of the essay completely. I’m positive they hold universal appeal.
      I wish you continued ease with the soul searching. It seems clear to me that your heart and head are speaking wisely, and the advice they’re revealing to you is golden.
      Be well, Jane ❤

      • I did wax a little lyrical there didn’t I Shelley! There’s another ‘used to be’ for you! I used to be too shy and worried about reaction to write what I feel, now if I write something from the heart I hit the send button and be blowed! See how inspiring your posts can be! I really love Rob’s ‘Aha’ cartoon by the way – having lots of those moments myself at the moment and that image is perfect 😀

  7. “School is ever present, and I will always be a student.” Yes, yes, and you have become quite the remarkable mentor for many. As you awake each day go deep into your mind as you practice centering and utilize, give purpose to your new brain cells which have developed in your hippocampus as not to let them slip away. Give them purpose.

    Keep sharing your inspiring writings with us Shelley; it is helpful, more than you can imagine but most likely understand.

    Much love and respect my lady,


    P.s Congrats on your 4th blue sticker. Do they make those in bumper stickers?

    • I suppose it all goes back to the idea that we simultaneously play the role of student and teacher. I find I learn just as much or more from the community on this site than I dish out. It’s a quid pro quo, and a thriving and healthy one I cherish.
      Many thanks for the nod toward my new blue badge. As most everyone feels, having your work noticed adds a layer of joy. I think deep down, we just want to make a difference. I’m working on a small ripple effect. xo ❤

      • Shelley,

        You have the ability, lust and fever to catch the attention of the masses, and, you always have, be it on stage or via in writing.

        You are an artist, a true performer, and not false. Now, as you grow with age (respectfully I say mind you) you share your knowledge, humor and thoughts which make many of our own Sunday mornings something to look forward to. It is better than any media post, news paper or such than I can think of.

        I look forward towards your first published books. Especially for children, as do my girls.

        S 😉

  8. I used to be warm, and I am hoping that four months from now, I will be warm again… but seriously Shelley, haven’t the sound guys in the big record companies perfected the technique of the zombie duet? It’s always an option! (PS Robb, I love the little feet on Frankie’s coffin!)

    • Ha! Yes, Linnet, you make a great point. They have. But do you know how expensive it is to get a hologram of Mr. S so that I can do a live show with him? The budget for the Tupac show was about 400K. That’s just about 400k more than my current budget. Plus, I haven’t taken into account all the liquor his likeness will suck down during the night. Good God, that blows my allowance right out the water.
      Spring’s a comin’, Linnet. With the temps in Virginia today, “It Might As Well Be Spring.” 😛

      • It is hard to imagine Spring at the moment, but I’m trying!
        I was going to suggest you do a concert with the entire Rat Pack, but imagine the liquor bill for that little outing!

  9. I used to be in a hurry about life. Now I like to take my time. I used to be supple,now I am brittle. I used to be in love with life,and, guess what? I still am. Every facet, every little vexing aspect of it. I find it all amazing and magical. Once again a quintessential Shelly post. You keep it light,pleasant and entertaining and before you know it you find that you are actually thinking more than you had planned. I plan on being able to say “I used to be..” for a long time yet. Three cheers for Rob and Shelly.

    • What a beautiful comment, Benson. From the awareness of your personal path, to the warm and generous words of praise. You yourself have a subtle and masterful way of weaving a blossoming thought. Your words are an easy thread to pull on, as they always lead me to a source of smiles.
      Thank you, Benson.

  10. Another great post to cheer my Sunday. I used my ‘used to be’s to get to who I am. Some good, some bad, but all part of my learning curve to find Me. Took a while, but I think it was worth it. Love Rob’s illustrations again. 🙂

    • Your thoughts seem to be in concert with a few other folks on the forum, and one I cling to as well. Without all those experiences we would not add up. And as complicated as the equation may be, it is a worthy one to puzzle over and wrestle through. There’s a real sense of accomplishment when we reach the answer of ‘ME.’

  11. Shelley, what a truly stupendous post to read on a Sunday morning.

    Your reference to Frank Sinatra made me smile …

    I used to be a very angry young woman, in danger of being a very angry old one, but I did learn to let go – so, ‘Regrets, I’ve had a few’ (mmm, rather a darned lot actually), ‘I’ve travelled each and ev’ry highway’ (yep, down a few cul-de-sacs, more than my share of dead ends and some very stony pathways …) BUT I have moved on and am definitely now doing it ‘My Way’.

    You are a fabulous writer and I hope one day to be as good.


    • Wow, Mel, such lovely words to read. I’m really happy you liked the post.
      And I think you’re selling yourself short. Clearly, you’ve got a very clever way with your writing, as anyone who can weave so many Sinatra bits into one phrase has got my vote. I Get a Kick Out of You! 😛

  12. Wonderful post, Shelley. I used to think I knew what patience and giving meant – and then I had a child. I wouldn’t trade the growth I’ve had for anything!

    And I used to hate talking to strangers…and now I blog and meet fantastic people like you. 🙂

    • Ooh, you’ve hit on a good one, Sue. Amazing how pre-children we think we’ve got the world all figured out, and then WHAM, our definitions are obliterated. The regrouping takes some time–and definitely fresh perspective.
      And I’m so with you on the talking distress. I much prefer the written word. It allows my brain to work at its most comfortable speed: that of a snail with a limp.

  13. Hi Shelley, what a wonderful thought provoking sunday read. I used to be worried and quite controlling but as you get older life throws obstacles in your way that you never imagined you could deal with! Now i am happy to say i have a far more relaxed attitude to life, we only get one so get out and live it, love laugh, sing, dance, be honest and kind. Life is far too short for angst. Love the chicken and egg sketch :))

    • You make a terrific point, Janice, about life throwing obstacles in our way, and I know that at this point in my life I’ve adopted an attitude of, “BRING IT ON!” I relish the idea of facing challenges squarely. There’s a brilliant Buddhist teacher, author, nun and mother–Pema Chödrön–whose words I often seek out for direction. One of the things I’ve learned from her is that it’s a good practice to sit with your discomfort. Or pain, or angst, or unhappiness–whatever it may be. And that controlling it is not necessarily the object. That perhaps, it’s simply acknowledging that this worriment sits beside us, and it’s okay to let it be there.

  14. I used to have hair that didn’t…glow. I used to wear belts that highlighted my slender waist…now? What’s the use…or the purpose?

    I used to be a mental, social mess. Now I’m a peaceful, contented ingrown toenail.

    Life continues to be aspirational and constipational.

    • I think you would hear a resounding chorus of agreement if this blog and commentators could collectively sing, Jan. I think that old phrase ‘my get up and go has gotten up and gone’ applies to so many of us. 😉

  15. Well once again you’ve got my brain cells all dancing around trying to keep up with you and you’ve set off a whole train of thought processes, and Robb’s cartoons are perfectly placed to help that process this week. I just can’t chose a favourite, but the werewolf at the beginning really made me smile. 🙂

    Sometimes it takes a jolt to make us look back and reassess things in our life, see them in a fresh perspective from the vantage point of greater knowledge and experience. I don’t know if you have read ‘Citizen of the Galaxy’ by Robert A Heinlein, but there’s a bit in there where the main character has cause to look back at a message he’d had to memorise years before in a foreign language, but now he’s learnt that language and can understand, finally, what it meant. I think of that often, as memories surface from childhood and I can ‘translate’ them from the perspective of now being a parent.

    • I’ve not read the book, Laura, but as of now it’s on the reading list, so thank you for the recommendation.
      And I know that Sunday mornings are often the times when we’re really hoping to allow our brain cells to loll around for a few more hours, but if it was a worthy dance, then I won’t apologize to heavily for it.
      You’ve actually set me down my own road of recollection to see how many of my youthful interpretations experienced a significant change simply because of age, experience or perspective. This may take some time. Most of my brain cells are currently assigned other tasks. (okay, a few of them are having a Sunday snooze as well.)

  16. What an encouraging post, perfect for this time of year. I used to be anxious all the time and didn’t even know it. I am more peaceful now and find that without the constant busy hum of anxiety, there is more space in my brain.

    • I’m so glad it struck a chord with you, and I agree, anxiety takes up way too much room and seems to grow fat with contentment the longer we allow it to remain an occupant. Happy to hear you were able to evict your unwelcome resident.

    • Aw shucks, Jay, you lost me on this one. N + 1? I’ve given it a day and I’m still scratchin at my noggin. Is this about system redundancy? Or Pascal’s triangle? I’m feeling obtuse. Next hint please.

      • forgive me ~ it is esoteric (i think) –> when i think/write/consider “N + 1” it means one has (YOU in your essay, in this case) has transcended the “dimension” everyone else is operating in. ’cause sometimes i’m barely operating in two dimensions, often 3 — as (again, presumption) i think that is where most everyone meetzengreetz, and on rare occasions i think i’m a dimension beyond. i should have just said i thought your writing and the meaning therein was (azz yooz yoo uhl) a dimension above and beyond what may be merely apparent.

  17. I used to be scared of doing things I like just because I was more concerned about ‘what others would think if I did that’ but now I guess I have moved forward and do no think so much. However, I, still, do give a thought if I feel I am directly going to offend someone.
    Also, I am now less scared of speaking my mind and voicing my opinions; because I feel if I do not speak for myself, no one will.
    I have also become more accommodating of other people’s behavior as I feel I cannot make people act or behave as per my will so why waste my time pondering over a futile exercise. This also enhances the positivity level in my life.
    And yeah, that’s about it; I guess I am done here as of now 😛

    • I love all your ‘used to bes,’ Madhusmita. I think they come from a place of careful contemplation and worldly experience. It sounds as if you’ve taken life’s wisdom and made a counselor worthy of paying attention to. I admire your thinking. I shall sprinkle it about my self and hope some of it sinks in.

  18. Yep! Completely agree. New experiences, acknowledging fear but still trying things, being realistic and accepting what can’t be changed. Great post as always, Mrs. 🙂

  19. I used to be a different me, not better, not wiser…simply different. Or, as Anais Nin so succinctly put it, “I change every day….My real self is unknown.” Also, Shelley I must compliment you on your beautiful and healthy looking brain cells.

    • That’s wonderfully deep. I love the quote. I think I’ll tuck that one away to chew on a bit.
      And why thank you. I too think those little fellas are gobsmackingly gorgeous. I just want to squish ’em–except every last one of them are desperately needed. 😛

  20. This puts a great perspective on things. Really happy to be having a good old nosy through your blog makes for a great read during my morning commute 🙂

  21. I love your advice… except when fear equals wisdom… indeed. I am a student of life, too, Shelley. I’m disappointed if I don’t learn something new every day. xxx

    • It comes as no surprise, Ardys. You are one who studies, explores, and revels in the newness of every day and each new experience. You are a shiny example of how one should inhale and exhale life. The most apt thing I can say about you is that your photos answer the ‘used to be’ question perfectly. For a brief moment, you used to be THERE.

  22. I used to be an introvert, but then I realized labels themselves were confining me.

    I used to be adverse to taking the lead, but now it’s where I’m most comfortable.

    It’s a great thing to be able to say that stuff. On a more negative note, I used to be able to comment on anything for hours, but college trained me to be succinct, so now I have trouble with basic conversation, haha.

    • Three truly revealing statements, Alex. I love the first one–it just makes me laugh with recognition. The second one shows how well you’ve come to know yourself. And the third one reminds me of the argument the great English lecturer Ken Robinson repeats, that our societies mistakenly educate the creativity right out of its students. We replace much of it with fear.
      Loved your comments, Alex.

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