Whoah! It’s been weeks!
I’m kind of at a loss for words. I’ve been spending all of my time reading, going to class, writing papers, and just trying to get my brain to shut down so I can sleep for more than an hour (for cryin’ out loud!)… and this blog has fallen to the wayside. It’s almost comical how quickly the tide turned from a post everyday for nearly two months and then… crickets.
The truth of the matter is that I’m really, really trying to figure out how to have balance in my life. I’m a reckless over achiever. I get sucked in, wayyy in to things that are great but that are also not the most important things. Though I have had great moments in life, I don’t think I’ve ever understood balance. I’m usually jumping from one camp to another – school, friends, blogging, health, Spencer, school, friends, blogging, health, blogging, Spencer… and so on and so on. Can you imagine if I added kids to that mix? As much as I admire all my friends who are mothers, I’m not ready to join that camp, too.
Do you think it’s possible to find balance? I look at people like Gwenyth Paltrow and I’m like, How do you have time to run Goop, make movies, support your husband, take care of your kids, and work with Tracy Anderson on shaping a kick-ass body? I’m sure most of you are saying “Nannies” out loud right now, but really? Nannies may do some of the work, like the cleaning or the feeding, but they can’t remove the pressure a person feels to be everything to everyone all the time. Are some people just not wired to feel so much pressure to be perfect? I have a hard time imagining that. I am really starting to believe that we are all playing this terrible comparison game where all of our relationships, even spiritual ones, are transactional. If I am thin, then my friends will like me more. If I put makeup on and dress well everyday, my husband will be happier (because I’m more attractive). If I can run a marathon, my neighbors will be impressed by me (admiration=love… right?). If I read the Bible and go to church and say weak, doubt filled prayers, I’m still “good” in God’s eyes… and on and on and on.
All of this is transactional. Nowhere in these kinds of thoughts is there unconditional love, unconditional grace, unconditional compassion. Do you think most of the relationships in our lives would even exist without these sorts of transactions? I’m thinking yes, but they’d have to be radically changed. And I mean radically.
I’m going to be honest, I treat most people like this. I accept a lot of people into my life by transactional standards. If you dress this or that way, I judge you and will therefore treat you different. How awful is that? And the worst offender in all of this is the way I treat myself. About 99% of the time, I only let myself be happy once the dishes are cleaned (by me, not my husband or else I’ll feel guilty for not working hard enough), once all of my homework and then more is done, once I’ve published a blog post a day, and have worked hard at the gym. Don’t even get me started on food. I’ve set up a code of conduct for myself and any measure of happiness rests on my ability to not only meet but surpass (with flying colors!) that code. Can you relate? I’m guessing you can.
What would the world look like if we deconstructed this relationship system? I think there would be a lot more grace and a lot less stress. A lot more love and a lot less shame. And the big question, how do we do this with ourselves?
The other day, my pastor, quoting Charles Stanley, said, “Submission + humility – worry = relief.”
Submission + humility – worry = relief.
This is an equation I want to investigate further, and I have a suspicion that trust is the key to solving it.
I want to remove the belief that I have that I am in control of everything I do. I believe that God is. You don’t have to agree with me, that’s okay. I’m just thinking out loud. I am not good at submission. With all the adversity women face to be seen as fully equal in society, I struggle to submit before anyone. I like to live my life thinking that I am in control, that I know everything or have the power to learn everything. I like winning arguments, I like being admired, I like being on top. And when I’m not… well, things aren’t so pretty. So the idea of submitting to God, Spirit, the Universe, what have you, and fully recognizing that they are in control, that they know everything, that they are the ones to be admired, honored, worshipped, and that they will always be above me… that’s really tough. But I know that I need to submit and give up control because, truthfully, I just don’t know everything. I am not in control of every outcome, or every interaction with friends, or every paper that is graded by a grumpy professor. The fact is, life will always be unfair and I have to trust that I will be okay, in spite of that fact.
Humility goes hand in hand with this. If I am operating under the assumption that I am better than everyone else or that it’s possible to be in control of every situation I encounter, than I will always fail. The truth of the matter is that there are millions of people, millions, who are smarter than me, stronger than me, richer than me, and more influential than me. If I take the same trust that I used in submitting my life to God and applied it to humility, I know I’d be a happier person. Because trust is the key. What if I operated under the assumption that people were fundamentally interested in love and not hate, in grace and not shame, in compassion and not fear? It’d be a lot easier to be humble and to think of others better than myself if I trusted that their intentions were good, and if not good, then I will still be okay, in spite of that.
Worry. Ugh. I worry all the time. I worry that I’ll die before I get to live my life to the full. I worry that I will suffer with postpartum depression when I decide to have kids. I worry Spencer will get in a car accident. So much worry. Hardly any of it is rational, and none of it is useful. It is all done in another attempt to be in control and to position myself on top so that I can believe, even if the foundations of my beliefs are weak, that I cannot be hurt by anything in the world. I try to predict the future so that I can brace myself for hurt. And that is just no way to live your life. Again, I need to trust that I will be okay, no matter what happens.
I want relief. I want balance. And as much as I hate to admit it, mostly because I’ve built my life around this belief, I need to give up control and hand it over to God. No one can love me as fiercely as God, no one can keep me safe as well as God, no one can pave the path of my life’s journey as well as God. I know that it’s easier to say than to believe, especially in the face of so much tragedy. How can I give up control and hand it to God when I’ve seen so much hurt and pain, when I feel like I’ve lost so much. Well, if I can step down from my shaky, anxiety-filled, unreliable podium, from which I try to rule my life, I will see where God has showed up. In my beautiful house, in my beautiful marriage, in the relationships God has given me after I prayed for years. In every nook and cranny there is proof, for me, that God has showed up and will continue to. And when I remember that, I always feel relief.
Right now, I am stepping down off my unsteady platform and into the cool relief that is trust. Surprisingly, it’s cozier down here than I expected. And I feel the need to be hugged and comforted, which I can finally allow myself to do now that I’m not requiring myself to be removed and perfect and obstinate. If you’re stepping down too, let’s say it together: we need help. Let’s trust that help is available to us, that we can’t do it all, and that we’ll be okay. Unrelenting love is possible, and there are no prerequisites. We just need to ask.