Six tips to returning home in your new fabulous skin.

I recently visited my mom to surprise her for Mother’s Day. It was a lovely visit. However, there were also the usual brief interventions regarding “fear for my soul” and me having a real wedding before she dies. I am not exaggerating. (I should seriously consider packing the mini bar in my luggage before these visits. You think?)

Settling into the visit reminded me of those movies. The ones where the girl leaves home in the first 20 minutes of the film discovers herself and grows her butterfly wings. Lots of empowering upbeat rock n roll, hair blowing in the wind, big sunglasses, and she usually ends up with a tan. Then it is followed by another 70 minutes as she returns home for the drama-filled family reunion. Usually, that reunion consists of her family rattled and confused about her bold choices. They ramble on about how she has “changed” from the little girl they worked so hard to raise. And, don’t forget the shocked faces when they discover her latest tattoo! Oh my!

Let me be clear. My mom is a wonderful woman. You cannot find a person on this planet that would use an unkind word to describe her.  She is sweet as pie and would never purposely hurt another’s feelings. She sits with the dying, nursed the sick, and didn’t discover the word “no” until her sixties. But get real. The dynamics between parent and child are messy. No relationship in your life is as complicated. (The more you deny it? The more messed up your relationship with your parents is. Trust me.)

The modern-day version of Joseph Campbell’s “Hero’s Journey” is our rite of passage. 

We leave home, overcome challenges, shed who we are not, and become the person we indeed are. My journey was messy.  Beliefs drilled into me when I was growing up eventually felt like bricks on my back. I woke up one day, tired and sore, and questioning my sanity. What rational, sane person carries around beliefs that aren’t theirs? It is heavy.  It confuses the heart, and it makes you an unhappy person. Worst of all, it attracts equally inauthentic, confused, miserable people into your life who don’t know who they are either. I recommend that you pause and take inventory of the mess around you. It is your doing. Sorry, not sorry. I have been there. The short story includes a case of waterproof mascara and a one-way plane ticket out of town. The molting process of shedding that identity was ugly, confusing, and uncomfortable.

So when I returned home in my new skin, projecting confidence, chasing big dreams and with an insatiable passion for diversity, what’s up with my family looking at me like I am an alien?

This is what I know. Family is usually more comfortable with the version of you that they helped mold vs. this new version “Jo 2.0.”  I try to remember that it took me decades to find my new skin and then a few more years beyond that to get comfortable in it.  Years of evolving, growing, and shapeshifting. Sitting in my fake identity felt like “dying.” Fake and inauthentic. It will undoubtedly take more than a few short visits for the family to accept the upgrade.

During this visit home, I asked myself what rational person who loves you wants you to be someone you are not? A parent.

Think about it. As a parent, we unconsciously weave our identity into our children. As unconscious parents, we cannot imagine them as individuals. So, when your grown child shows up in their new skin? As a parent, you are rattled. You are clinging to all that you once embedded in them that reflects your own identity? You come up empty handed, and fearful. Thinking, “Where is my little girl?”

The beginning stages of “parental role reversal” do not start when your parents are eighty. It begins when you discover the skin you love as an adult. You no longer shapeshift to make others like you. You feel real and genuine in this new skin. It feels like home.

As you introduce your family to this new, more authentic, raw, real you, hold your head high but keep your feet on the ground.

Exercising humility and compassion alongside this new found confidence is crucial. No reason to act a fool ready to fight or convince others who you are. Just be you.

Here are six tips to keeping your cool and keeping your sanity when you visit family. Remember, you are teaching your loved ones how you want to be treated. Do it with grace.

  1. Be their teacher.
  2. Be consistent in your behavior. This new version of you is here to stay.
  3. Respond with love.
  4. Don’t be offended. It’s not about you. They honestly think aliens switched you and they are struggling here.
  5. Kindly redirect intervention inspired banter. People love to talk about themselves. Get them talking!
  6. Be prepared to shorten the visit or take breaks during the visit. Go outside and put your feet in the grass or take a walk. Allow them to miss you.

No parent ever wants to push their fears and beliefs so hard that they push a child out of their life. Be clear and concise. Let them know if this is happening. Then stop talking. The only words that hold value after this moment are, “I love you, mom. You did a good job. I know who I am. I’m happy.”