Perfection. We want it. We admire it. We aspire to it. If we purchase something that is broken, we return it. If something we already have breaks, we fix it or throw it out. And according to some social media profiles, some of us appear to have achieved perfect lives. Everywhere we look, there is the assumption that if something is flawed, it is unworthy. So what does that say about us? If we are not perfect, are we unworthy?
I've been thinking a lot lately about the person I used to be. Back when I was much younger, and just out of high school. It was my first time out on my own, away from everyone who knew me. When I was growing up, I basically lived in a fishbowl. As the child of a pastor, there were always eyes on me. An entire congregation watching me, making judgements, and placing expectations on me. I don't remember ever feeling that I could just relax and not worry about fitting into a particular role. Some pastor kids live up to that expectation, and try to be perfect. Others run from that role and rebel, making every opposing choice they possibly can in a desperate attempt to not be forced into a mold. I didn't do that. I went for the perfection route.
My husband told me something one day that completely changed my perspective. I was going through a challenging time, and I told him I felt like no one was supporting me. He told me that since I am normally so strong, and work so hard on making it look like I have it all under control, that he forgets that sometimes I don't actually have it all under control. That I'm actually having a really hard time, and I'm just not showing it. The implication was clear--for me to get the support I need, I have to be honest about the fact that I need support.
This is one of my favorite times of the year. Not because of the gifts, although I like giving and receiving gifts as much as the next person. But my love for this season, the beginning of a new year, is because it is the perfect time for self-reflecting. And I can self-reflect like nobody's business. Just hand me a journal and a cup of coffee, and I will happily ensconce myself in dreaming, clarifying, and planning until someone yanks me away for food and water. Last year, I picked four feeling words to guide me in the next year. One of those words was "authentic". I was determined to step more deeply into my authentic self. More, I wanted to show my authentic self to the world. I wanted to show up in my relationships more honestly. I was sure that this would lead to deeper relationships. And in most cases, it has. Some relationships have evolved beautifully this past year. But some pain has come from this, too. When I put myself out there more authentically, I had the painful realization that not everyone cares to see the real me. And not everyone deserves to see the real me.
I'm currently reading the book Hand Wash Cold. In it, the author, Karen Maezen Miller, makes the point that laundry is life. Literally. Life is also dishes. And all those other things that we often try to rush through or avoid. Your life is not an ideal "someday". It isn't a perfect vacation. It isn't waiting for you to get the perfect job, or the right career. Your life is the everyday details you currently deal with all the time. Like laundry. And there is an incredible amount of beauty to be found in the sheer realities of life. While reading her book, I found myself thinking about how much a pile of laundry says about your life. The words below just tumbled out of my head and heart. Perhaps they will remind you of the gorgeous details to be found in your own life.
There are six or seven big binders sitting on a shelf at my office. They are full of all kinds of information that is helpful to individuals in different ways. Some of the binders are about helping people learn to stop, pause, and reflect before they act, especially as parents. One binder is full of great information and worksheets on family finances. One binder gently guides people through identifying traumatic experiences they have had, and finding the hope and strength that they can gain from those stories. One really terrific binder is stuffed with activities that help couples strengthen their relationship. They are all really fabulous resources for me. And for over a year, they sat untouched. No one was benefiting from all that important knowledge. In essence, I was wasting it.
Hey. It's been a while since we've chatted. I hope you are doing well. Me, I'm hanging in there, but life has been more than a little full lately. Between school, work, kids, travel, visiting family, and just normal life stuff, lots of non-urgent things have fallen by the wayside. I've been basically treading water, constantly moving in order to keep my head above water, but not feeling like I'm actually getting anywhere. Plus, I'm seeing all the fun things I wish I could be doing, but I know I can't spend my time there right now. When things get crazy like this, I know I have two choices.
When I am talking to my best friend, who has recently become a single mom, one of the things I encourage her to do is to take care of herself. To be clear, I don't feel she should take care of herself because she's a mom and her kids need her. She is, and they do. But that's not my main reason. From my view point, I want her to take care of herself because I love her, and in my eyes she is so worthy of being cherished, and that includes cherishing herself. I firmly believe we are all important, and therefore we should all take care of ourselves. And yet...
My life for the past two months has been completely out of whack. I have not been getting enough sleep. I have not been eating exactly properly, unless you consider snack mix a healthy breakfast. We are not going to talk about the state of my house. My role as a graduate school student has been overriding nearly all of my other roles. But that's the way it needed to be. Now I'm on a short break, and I am happily focusing on the things that have been neglected. I have been spending time with my husband. I am playing in the backyard with my kids. I am reacquainting myself with vegetables. And sleep. Oh baby. I am sleeping like it's my job.
So I'm back to taking classes, earning my Master's degree in Marriage and Family Therapy. It's the most exhausting thing I've ever worked toward, and I can see why many people either don't undertake it, or drop out partway through. It is SO MUCH WORK. And I'm only taking one class right now. My academic advisor recently informed me that after the first couple quarters, students usually "juggle things around" so they can take two classes at a time. I'm not sure what he thinks I'm supposed to juggle, other than my sanity, but apparently things are going to get much busier before they get better.
I am so glad you are here! Welcome to my blog. Look around and make yourself comfortable, because this is your space, too. My name is Amy, and I am no stranger to the ups and downs of life. Join me as we search for beauty and authenticity, tell our truth, and hold space for each other in the messiness of life.