Every ten years you have to remake everything.

Every ten years you have to remake everything.

Lauren Winner’s book Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis came out nearly three years ago and I’ve been meaning to read it ever since. (Can we pause to acknowledge the emotional baggage the phrase meaning to read holds for me? Hope, anticipation, and a whole lot of guilt.)

Two things conspired to bump it to the top of my to-read stack: Winner’s new book Wearing God hits shelves March 31, and the whispers I’ve heard about it from well-connected friends have been effusive. And then there was last month’s National Readathon Day. If it had been the tiniest bit sunny I would have dragged the family out for a Saturday hike, but it was 33 degrees and rainy (the WORST combination) so we built a fire, poured giant mugs of coffee, and cozied up with our books. Still was mine.

Still won’t make my list of favorite spiritual memoirs. I skimmed quickly through a few lackluster chapters, looking for the good parts. But the good parts are good, and I found myself taking copious notes.

One of my favorite chapters was short—just two pages. In it, Winner shares a conversation she had with a friend:

My friend Ruth’s mother once told her, “Every ten years you have to remake everything.” Reshape yourself. Reorient yourself. Remake everything.

Sometimes the reshaping is not big, not audible; not a move, a marriage, a child, a heroic change of course. Sometimes it is only here inside, how you make sense of things. Sometimes it is only about who you know yourself to me.

I found myself quickly scanning the landscape of my own life. Was she right?

Ten years ago I was smack in the midst of a brutal two-year period. The stuff that’s easier to say about that time: we had a house we couldn’t sell, we had a string of expensive and rattling car wrecks, I had a yet-to-be-discovered allergy that was turning my face into something out of Phantom of the Opera. At no point during those two years did I sleep through a whole night.

And ten years before that I was a teenager, in high school. I was remaking (making?) myself, all right, but weren’t we all when we were sixteen?

But there was plenty of action in the intervening times, too. 21 was a formative year that fundamentally changed me. At 31, I went to counseling and spent the year taking things apart, so I could put them back together in a stronger, healthier shape.

Lauren Winner Still

Ruth’s mother isn’t wrong, but my pattern has been every five years, not ten.

When I was younger, I thought “remaking yourself” was the stuff of fashion magazines. But my college prof gave me a framework for this remaking way back on the first day of sophomore year. He explained to a roomful of 20-year-olds that if we felt a little undone, it was because we were supposed to. Freshmen think they know everything. Then you begin to study, and realize: you know nothing. The work of the freshman and sophomore years is to crack your worldview apart; the work of the junior and senior years is to put everything back together. You emerge intact, stronger, humble. Or that’s the idea.

You break things, you put them back together. That’s how you remake everything.

Sometimes you break things on purpose so you can reassemble them, stronger this time. Sometimes they are broken for you, and you have to put the pieces back together.

Sometimes the pieces rearrange themselves so quietly, so gently, that you don’t even notice until the shape is nearly complete, and you suddenly realize that you are no longer who you knew yourself to be back then.

Looking back, I’m the person I’ve always been—and yet, I’m not the same. Here inside, how I make sense of things—that has changed dramatically with a regular, recurring five-year rhythm. If the pattern holds, I’m in a year of change right now.

And if the pattern holds, five years from now, when I look back on today, I’ll say about my present self: I’m still me, but I’m not the same.

Maybe the reshaping will be big; maybe it will only be here inside, how I make sense of things.

Maybe it will only be about who I know myself to me.

Do you resonate with the idea of “remaking yourself,” or do you think it’s crazy? Has it been every five years for you, or two, or twenty? I’d love to hear your thoughts in comments. 

Books mentioned in this post:

Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis

Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis

Of all Winner's books, this one has the lowest rating on Goodreads. I understand why: there are more than a few lackluster chapters breaking up the good parts. But the good parts are so good this book is well worth the effort, especially if you've resonated with Lauren's previous works. More info →
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55 comments

  1. Tacy says:

    I DO resonate with this. All of our dishes from our wedding (8 years ago) are breaking! We are going to have to figure out how to replace a discontinued line from Crate and Barrel in about 2 more years. :/

      • Jo B. says:

        If you would have told me on my wedding day we would get 14 place settings of China I spent about a minute picking out I would not have believed you. 30 years later I know I made a rash decision.

  2. Sara K. says:

    I think that makes a lot of sense! I am definitely in a mode right now where I feel like I need to “remake” myself. I’m not quite sure what changes I need, but I’m figuring it out!

    I think it’s probably about every 5 years for me as well 🙂

  3. Katie says:

    Please, oh please, what is the journal you are using in the photo??? I have read all of Lauren Winner’s books but her first, Girl Meets God, is still my favorite. I reread it every couple years. 🙂

  4. Jackie K says:

    Yes, I’ve heard a same adage over the years. A teacher in high school first alerted me to the notion, her cycle was 7 years. Myself, a more sedate 15 year cycle! I find I get a the ‘I’m done with this’ feeling, then lo and behold I start changing what I do, what I have, how I think.

  5. Hannah says:

    I feel like the making and remaking of me has rarely been of my own volition. It comes because forces out of my control shape me whether I want them to or not. Instead of fighting these changes, or fearing them, I’m coming to expect them, embrace them, even (though some are much harder to embrace than others). This mental shift, more than anything, has allowed me anticipate inner and outer change as purposeful–needful–as I grow older. I’m trying to stay awake and to stay me. But, increasingly, I’m allowing for the me of the future to look different from the me of the past.

    • Ashley says:

      I agree. My change isn’t cyclical or linear or predictable. And it’s happened mainly because I lead a life with a military husband and our lives are changed often and without warning or any input from us. The latest and most intense change has been becoming a mother. 9 months in and I sort of feel like I might be “getting it” because I’ve finally refocused, changed my expectations. Met and made peace with a new me. But it’s a temporary new me. I’ll change again. And this time that’s actually comforting!! (I will go back to “normal” again.)

    • Tina B says:

      That’s exactly what I was thinking. The last major change was one that I needed, but was sort of pushed into by other circumstances. And it was at 13 years. I’m certain the next one won’t take that long.

  6. This year marks my husband’s and my 10-year anniversary, as well as my 30th birthday, and I can definitely see some changes taking place–not so much physically but emotionally, mentally, and spiritually (although I have decided that our 10-year-old vacuum and 10-year-old mattress could stand being replaced!).

  7. Annie Beebe says:

    Its so strange that I was just contemplating writing about this very thing this morning. About how I have finally come to a place at 46 where my mind was shutting down from the effort it had taken over the last five years or so (mine seems to also be a five to six year cycle) of being who I’m not. The last month has been spent in the remaking of me into who God intended me to be! It’s the most wonderful, freeing thing I have ever experienced. I also think having children, and helping them move through their various phases, almost forces you to reexamine your values every so often. Mine are two young teen girls. PRAY FOR ME!

  8. I do see the reshaping part (much more often than 10 years) but I also sometimes have the feeling inside like I’m still 15 and figuring this whole “life thing” out. Now that I have a 13 year old daughter I feel like I have a lot more sympathy for my younger self who thought she needed to know how to do EVERYTHING.

    Maybe it’s just that life changes (moving, new baby, child starts school, child starts high school, etc.) make us more introspective?

  9. JoLyn says:

    This idea sure strikes a chord for me. My youngest child got married last summer. I think I am struggling with the change from being a mother of children who need me NOW, to being a mother of adult children who need me not so much and in a completely different way. It is a period of intense reshifting at times, and subtle changes all the time. I like the idea of deliberately remaking this time of my life into what I really want it to be.

  10. Hey Anne ~

    I’m hitting 60 this year. I . Just . Can . Not . Believe . It.

    One of your oldest readers, yes?

    ;-}

    And as I look back, each decade was pretty much different than the one before. And while there were some pivitol moments, life pretty much seems to morph from one place to the next.

    For sure, the older you get, the more you know who you are. And are able to own it. And become more free to go there without wondering or worrying what someone else might think or say.

    I love it!

    • Katia says:

      At 32, I’m finding that this is also true for me. 🙂 I love the adventure and am embracing myself as I am, without hiding anything from the rest of the world. It’s so liberating, to feel free to present myself to the world just as I am as my HSP, INFP self.

  11. Brigid says:

    Yes, this resonates SO deeply with me. I’m 25, and have spent the last year having my life shaken up on some pretty fundamental levels. I’m starting to come out on the other side of a major life transition and finally am starting to look at the rebuilding part of the equation. Luckily, writing my way through it has helped me make sense of much of it.

  12. Katia says:

    I would say my entire life is a process of growing, learning, re-learning, and remaking. I have been learning to trust more and go with the flow of life, allowing life to happen to me and to be okay with the inevitable changes, seeing it more as an adventure. There are still certain events or impending changes that scare me, but I remind myself to silence those pesky naysaying voices. 😉 Before my birthday each year, I take inventory of my lessons from the year that has passed and set intentions for the coming year. I do the same thing at around Christmas time. I find the process incredibly healing, motivating, and even empowering. Right now, I am working toward clearing clutter from my life, simplifying, getting rid of what is not necessary, and reminding myself to think critically before purchasing anything new.

  13. Michele says:

    Hi Anne,

    A former boyfriend told me that life changes every 9 years. Changes have occurred every 9 years since college. I moved to Texas at 22, and moved back to Ohio at 31. When birthday number 40 rolled around my husband of 6 years and I bought a house. Then at 49 I became a widow.

    However, there were major changes during teach 9 year period, marriage, new job, and becoming a Mom to a golden retriever among other things. There is no pattern to the changes that happened during the 9 year periods.

    This has me wondering – since I got downsized at 50 does that mean I have another 3 years before my career stabilizes? UGH!

    Blessings to you and your family Anne.

  14. Rebecca says:

    Mine is every ten years. At 10 I embraced my introverted self and became a classic bookworm (of course I didn’t know what I was doing at the time but I clearly remember a shift occurring). At 20 I was finally healing from the eating disorders that had wracked my teen years. Now at 30 I’m beginning to heal from several years of PPD and I’ve decided this is my decade. I’m not sure what that means but I’m determined;) I am looking forward to 40 (I had my kids early so that could be my grandmothering and traveling decade!).

  15. Autre says:

    Eight to ten here. So wise.

    And exactly THIS:

    “(Can we pause to acknowledge the emotional baggage the phrase ‘meaning to read’ holds for me? Hope, anticipation, and a whole lot of guilt.)”

    is the magic of Step 2 of #konmarimethod !

  16. Hmm… interesting way to think about it. I’d say that certain major, daily-routine things have changed in my life (getting married, becoming a runner, having kids, moving to the ‘burbs, writing about different topics, political opinions) but on the other hand, I’m still me.

  17. Lisa says:

    This is a very introspective deep thinking for me. I do think there is an evolution of change going on. My interests changes, my location changes, jobs change, but most importantly is my deeper spiritual connection with God and my commitment than say 10 years ago or even one year ago. Change is good.

  18. Jesabes says:

    I love this: “if we felt a little undone, it was because we were supposed to.” My last (we think) baby is almost a year and I am very conscious of trying to figure out what we do now that we’re done having babies.

    Along the lines of the 5-year changes, my oldest is nearly 6 and I feel like it’s taken that long to remake myself into a parent. It’s not that I don’t have non-parent parts of me, just that 6 years ago I felt like a total impostor pretending to be a mom and now I belong in that role.

  19. I love this post so, so much. I spent just a few minutes reflecting on why I’m so resistant to a bunch of changes that have been thrust upon me lately – then I realize, it was exactly 5 years ago that the last set of changes came upon me. So, it’s time, and I definitely feel like each “regrowth” makes me stronger. Still me, but I come out of it every time a better version of me.

  20. Oh yes, I resonate with this so much. 10 years ago I took my first job at 25 and started grad school in that field. Now here I am with a solid career and master’s degree under my belt but so much is different. I’m married and have been struggling with infertility for years 3 and I am a different person. What I thought would be the perfect career now bores me to tears and I’m discovering that my true calling may lie somewhere in my infertility struggles. I’m still figuring it out…

  21. Carmen says:

    I put Still on my best of 2013 list. There was something so quiet about Winner’s spiritual memoir. It’s not my favorite of hers, but it did tackle some issues of how one’s faith changes over time. Your post resonated with me today because I’ve been thinking about this very thing for two years. As strange as it may sound, I felt a huge shift almost the instant i hit that new decade of forty. Some things were outside my control. My oldest child transitioned from homeschooling to starting high school. My closest friend suddenly pulled back from our friendship and I was left a little blindsided, but there was this strange undercurrent like this was supposed to happen, like I needed a shake up. At first, I might have characterized this as a mid-life crisis, but I’ve always hated that term. A Mid-life crisis seems almost desperate, but this didn’t feel like that. It felt like swimming under water and suddenly coming up for air. It’s a positive thing and I think there’s been a lot of remaking my life. I don’t know how many years it’s been since the last “remaking”, but this one has been much more dramatic. Is that weird? Am I off base from your post?

    • Anne says:

      I don’t think it’s weird and I don’t think you’re off base, not at all. I love your metaphors and am glad to hear the remaking has been positive.

  22. Jeannie says:

    I appreciated this post, Anne: I turned 50 this past year and with the death of my mom and the breakdown of a close relationship I find myself sensing that some internal changes need to happen as well. Every day I look at the wall hanging in my bathroom that says “There is a time for everything: a time to be born and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to uproot…” and I wonder “What is it time for in my life?”

    I hope you don’t mind my asking a nerdy question: twice you wrote “who I know myself to ME” (not “BE”) — is that a typo, or a play on words?

  23. liz n. says:

    I just came across this quotation and thought it very appropriate for your topic today: “You have to master a new way of thinking before you can master a new way to be.”

  24. Sherrylynne says:

    The paragraph where you speak of your college prof’s insights is what I fear for Christian children who by in large walk into college with virtue and faith and walk out without either and a huge bill to boot. Undone, indeed. Many never from there will bend to their knee to any God outside of their own wants and needs but choose a very progressive track. I appreciate your observations of self-change but shudder to think about paying $40K per year to have someone rebuild the child, break him, and then remake him. I’ve truly pondered and prayed on this one.

  25. april says:

    every 1-2 years for me. but then i’m not one to grow roots. i’m rarely settled, but i’m most often happy. (and constantly trying to stretch myself).

  26. Thank you so much for this post… I certainly feel as if I’m currently in the process of re-making my life: I changed my last AND first names when I married my husband nearly three years ago, we moved from California to Texas last year, have become debt-free and are saving very aggressively for our first house, and I just left my freelance and part-time life of nearly twenty-five years to take a full-time job!

    I don’t know that these Growth Periods happen for me at regular intervals (if they did, perhaps I could prepare a little better!), but it was interesting to think about what my life looked like a decade ago. I’ve come so far in some areas, and I’m still wrestling with a few of the same problems I struggled with when I wore a younger woman’s clothes,

    It’s lovely and inspiring to be reminded to take stock of our progree, and maybe try some different approaches with the issues that remain unresolved.

  27. (I am glad you didn’t rave about Still, because then I would have felt awkward. I loved Girl Meets God but not Still.)

    I can hardly believe it’s now been more than 5 years since we had the beginning of our personal crisis time as a family. Just about 5 years ago, my little daughter and I moved to Chattanooga to join my husband, who had been living here for a few months. We had a condo that wouldn’t sell, I left a job I loved to be a SAHM, and we were in a city where we knew zero people. Those first two years here (as we added another child) certainly transformed me, our marriage, our family, our financial situation. Can I say I sure hope I’m not going to have to do it again in a year or two? Ha. I do feel like spiritually and as a family we are kind of getting to that next place, where we’re reassessing, growing, figuring out where we fit and what we want in the long run. I’m 32, so maybe that whole becoming-an-adult thing is starting to set in. The fact that we are likely done having kids and the youngest is turning 2 might have something to do with it, too.

  28. Jessica Lynn says:

    Yes, I agree with the idea of remaking of one’s self – more as a natural rhythm of life then a conscience choice. Ten years seems to be reasonable timing as I briefly review my life. Five to seven might be a more accurate time frame, but the beginning rumblings begin long before you realize you in the midst of a process of change and then it is several years, before you realize that change has settled and then the rumblings of the next change begin.

  29. Ashlie says:

    This is so beautiful to me. I need to spend some more time (and maybe sketch it out a little for myself in black and white) to really absorb how this relates to me, but it just pings to loud and true, even at first glance. The idea that remaking ourselves is possible is comforting. Thanks for the insight.

  30. Carrie says:

    13, 16, 18, 22, 24, 29, 32-34…..maybe I just spin in circles? In counseling now to hopefully find a new more “me” rhythm. 🙂 Great post!

  31. Donna Sava says:

    I’m pretty sure when you dig something up from your archives…it’s just for me! This was exactly the post I needed to read today. I do believe at 45…I am at a critical tear down and rebuild point in my life. Nothing…and I mean nothing…has gone the way I pictured it…and that’s ok. It has been one wild ride and an amazing adventure. But as I sit on the precipice of my future…I see a strong woman who has held her own…and held it together…and now I can create the framework of the next 1/2 of my life! Sounds corny…but it’s true. Here’s to the reconstruction…and Thanks!

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