Over the past week I have been thinking a lot about my accomplishments in life. When a city decides to name a day after you (and you’re still alive), it causes you to reflect a little bit on what you are doing with your life.
When I was young, my greatest accomplishments were things like getting an “A” on a test in “Killer Miller’s” math class, or getting invited to senior prom by the “hot new” boy from Miami that every girl wanted to date. I often dreamed about my future accomplishments which would be things like writing a best-seller, finding a cure for cancer, or helping to find world peace.
Then I got a little older and had children. Suddenly, my expectations and what I considered a “great accomplishment” seemed to fluctuate as much as my weight.
A great accomplishment became taking a shower, remembering where I put my keys or finding five minutes of alone time. When I realized I could change a diaper without ever turning a light on, I put a check in the great accomplishment column. If the children all took a nap at the same hour, well that was the equivalent of achieving world peace. Huge accomplishment!
But now that my children are getting older, I’m finding myself again redefining what I consider a great accomplishment in life.
I went to give a public speech last week in Louisiana and it was a magical experience. From the moment I arrived, I was whisked away and treated like a celebrity (photo session and all). I spoke to a huge crowd of people, among them senators and representatives as well as the mayor, who presented me with a key to the city. He proclaimed September 22nd “Blythe Newsome” Day and I felt like Cinderella at the ball. People came up to me afterwards and told me how much my words had touched them.
Was this moment going to be my great accomplishment in life?
The day after my magical night, I flew to meet my children so we could head to Nashville for a wedding. As I walked out of the airport, I was greeted by screams and hollers of joy and excitement as the kids waved and yelled out of the window of the car to me. You would have thought we’d been separated for months, not just a day!
The next 36 hours were a whirlwind – my kids running around with their cousins, wedding fun and the normal chaos that comes whenever big families get together. I was really struggling with how magical the night before had been and my feeling that I had accomplished something great with my speech versus chasing the kids around stressing because it was 50 degrees out and I’d packed sundresses and sandals for an outdoor wedding.
While doing the chicken dance at the wedding, I realized I don’t pop back up quite like I used to. How can I be doing so great one minute and then be so off the next?
On Sunday, we loaded up the car and began the never-ending journey home. At times it felt like the movie Groundhog Day where the same day just keeps repeating itself. We get in the car, drive an hour and someone says, “I have to use the bathroom.” We stop, get out and then I hear “Can I get a snack?” We pile back in the car and an hour it all repeats, “I have to go to the bathroom.” So we stop again, again and again.
But there was one moment on the trip when I returned to the time when life’s greatest accomplishment was just getting everyone quiet. Some of my kids asleep and I had just closed my eyes (don’t worry – I wasn’t driving; my brother-in-law had taken the wheel) when Finn and Ellie asked if they could draw a tattoo on my arm.
“If you do it quietly” I said and slipped into a relaxed, peaceful sleep. I awoke to hear little happy giggles.
I looked down and from the tips of my fingers to the tops of my shoulders, there were pen marks in every color. I gasped for a second and then they started telling me what each picture and mark represented to them. The end result: I have worn long sleeves for the past four days because I can’t get the marks off of my arm.
But every time I look down and see the pen trails peeking out, I remember something. Something I had forgotten. A key to the city, a day named after me, speaking to a large crowd of VIPs. Those are all pretty good signs that maybe I’ve accomplished something great. But looking at my arms, I know what my greatest accomplishment has been. I don’t need a key, world peace, or a proclamation to know that the greatest accomplishment in my life is my children.