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Re-Connecting with Ourselves After Decades of Putting Our Wishes Aside

By Harriet Cabelly December 28, 2023 Mindset

Discovering who we are isn’t only for teenagers going through trials and tribulations of identity. As adult life sets in, and we become inundated with the myriad of responsibilities, we focus on keeping our heads above water. And somewhere along the line of years passing, we lose sight of ourselves.

We don’t know who we are beyond our roles of life that we’ve taken on. Professional, parent, caregiver, spouse, nurturer, they all take on a life of their own and we lose our core selves.

What do we like and enjoy? What are we interested in? What are our dreams and passions?

If we’re lucky, we’ve been able to live at least some of them out in our work and home life. But more often than not, our love of painting, piano-playing or dancing went by the wayside as life kept pushing us along.

When I give workshops, all too often people come up to me and say, “I don’t even know what I’m interested in at this point or what I’d like to pursue if I had the time. If I think back many years, I used to (fill in the blank).”

Sometimes people can’t even connect to any interests or old dreams from the past. It’s one big blur.

Comments like: “I used to love,” “I used to do,” “I used to…,” “I would love to,” “I wish I could,” “Wow, I haven’t done that in years” are all too common, and sad to me.

Much of our ‘old’ and past selves can be found sitting on a back burner where we feel we haven’t been able to touch it, let alone even find it. So, it’s time now to go to the back, seek it out and bring it forth.

But how? How do we rediscover and reconnect with ourselves?

Questions to Ask Yourself

Here are some questions you should ask yourself on your journey to rediscovery:

  • What truly matters to me? What’s important to me? What is meaningful to me?
  • What do I value? Am I living into my values and priorities?
  • What excites and enlivens me?
  • What do I want to do, that I would regret if I don’t?
  • What did I used to enjoy that hasn’t been a part of my life?
  • What makes me feel good and nourished?

An Exercise That You Can Do Periodically Is Happiness Boosters

As a free stream of consciousness, write down any and all things that you love, like, enjoy, that bring you pleasure. These are called Happiness Boosters, and they can be as small as smelling lavender, sipping hot chocolate with your hands wrapped around that funky mug, to traveling, photography, playing tennis. Then pick one or two things from your list and input it into your daily life.

It’s Not an All-Or-Nothing

As the French philosopher Voltaire said, “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” If you love to travel but can’t go to that far-away bucket-list place, then go to a cute B&B away from your hometown for that get-away feeling.

If you love horseback riding but can’t do it anymore, go to a stable and just be with the horses. There’s always pieces of what we love that we can (re)claim and enrich our lives.

“Make a list of things you love.
Make a list of things you do everyday.
Compare the lists.
Adjust accordingly.”

— Dallas Clayton

When we live into our truest selves, we live rich and good lives. As years pass, our selves get covered over with criss-crossed webs, entangled and snarled, and we need to get in there and free our self up, reconnecting with our best self, one who can live well with meaning and joy.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

What activities do you enjoy that you haven’t engaged in for a while? What do you realize has fallen by the wayside that you’d love to get back, even a bit of it? What would you like a chance at? Could you do a piece of it? Please share your thoughts with our community.

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I’ll never forget my teenaged son’s comment a few months after my husband/his dad passed away after I told him I was going to go to a certain event/activity. My son said “I didn’t know you liked to do that.” Yes, we tend to put our spouses and family first but when life changes, we can actually do things we like to do! While I miss my husband every day, I am learning to enjoy this new phase of my life. I’ll try just about anything at this stage – heck I just might like it! Happy new year!

Harriet Cabelly

Hi Lauren, So sorry about the loss of your husband. Sometimes we need a jolt to get us realizing we’ve sort of lost ourselves along the way. Sorry it had to come in this way but you are growing now through your loss.

Pauline Probert

I have been widowed for the 2nd time for 9 months, although I have no children I have spent my life quite willingly doing what my husbands wanted, I am sure at times I had some input into that as after all I had a responsible managerial job for years. But now I am on my own I fill like I am just filling in time, I have joined an active social club and making new friends there, but when I am asked what my interests are I have no answer. Wish I did.


I’m very sorry for your loss, Pauline. I imagine that you feeling like you are filling in time is in part because of being recently bereaved. That said, I am 60 and think I want to retire, a career related book I wrote was published at the beginning of this year and I don’t feel particularly interested in it or work. I am married and have children and grandchildren and I can easily be drawn into their lives and live vicariously through them. I don’t have any particularly absorbing interests. I have no answers either except a sense, a hope (!) that this is a process of transition and if I stop distracting myself with other peoples’ lives, reconnection with myself will have a chance to occur.

Last edited 4 months ago by Sarah
Harriet Cabelly

Hi Sarah, I love your reflection “that this is a process of transition and if I stop distracting myself with other people’s lives, reconnection with myself will have a chance to occur.” So beautifully stated, and I believe so true. We all distract with various things which keeps us away from our selves, and if we listen inward we will hear callings.

Harriet Cabelly

Hi Pauline, So sorry for your loss, again. Stay open and curious to possibilities. They will show themselves. And be proactive to pursue even the smallest interest in something.

Eileen Johnson

I really got into crafting again after not doing it for years when I worked fulltime. I am now better, more creative and am enjoying it more. Being creative in any aspect has always been priority to me . I am even more fearless . I quilt, spin yarn, weave, knit, sew, mosaic glass, garden, cook/bake and am learning modern stitching. It has brought me together with friends and teaching opportunities. 💗

Harriet Cabelly

Hi Eileen, That’s wonderful that you’ve gotten back to crafting. Becoming more fearless can really open us up to new things as well. All the best to you in the new year.

Renee Lovitz

I lost myself while caring for my husband. Then I needed heart surgery after he passed. So now 2 years later, I am trying to discover what I would and could still do with the rest of my life! Sixty and Me helps! Thank you!!

Harriet Cabelly

Hi Renee, Being a caregiver takes a huge toll on you. Glad to hear you’re on your new path now after your heart surgery. Stay open, stay curious to new things and take it one step at a time as opposed to the rest of your life. One thing can evolve and lead to another and new things can come to us when least expected. Elizabeth Gilbert has a good talk on the hummingbird and staying curious to what evolves. Wishing you the best into this new year.

The Author

Harriet Cabelly is a clinical social worker and positive psychology coach. She is passionate about helping people cope and grow through their critical life-changing circumstances, guiding them towards rebuilding their lives with renewed meaning and purpose. Visit her website, and sign up to get free chapters from her book, Living Well Despite Adversity.

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