Happy New Year, y’all!
Like my favey-fave-favorite Anne Lamott’s therapist asked her after disclosing her New Year’s Diet Plan: “Oh, that’s nice, honey. How much weight were you planning on gaining?” Delightful. $150 for that acute observation.
And also, CARB LOAD.
But maybe your NYR takes on a more ominous tone like mine, and it sounds less like let’s take first steps toward that dream or I want to start painting this year and more like BE ENTIRELY MORE AWESOME, DAMMIT! (this is the voice in my head and it is very, very bossy and mean and also it likes to curse at me). I am already a first-born achiever; I don’t need this crap. It has already taken me all of my 40 years to believe that God loves me all the time and I am not one wonky decision away from His bad side.
My identity has always been linked in a very unhealthy way to accomplishment (and its horrid cousin, Approval). I know this about myself and it is at least partly why I constantly (over) share my foibles and failures publicly; admission keeps me in sane territory where perfection is dismantled for ordinary humanity. These confessions are more for me than you, because they consistently remind me that this life is actually really challenging and sometimes I am good at it and sometimes SO NOT and I can say all that out loud and no one will die and God will still love me.
But New Year’s feeds into my dark side, and I feel the pressure toward AWESOMENESS. Maybe this year I will live up to the hype. Maybe this year I will be THE MOST AWESOME author and THE MOST AWESOME mom and the MOST AWESOME WIFE AND PASTOR-TYPE AND FRIEND AND SCHOOL VOLUNTEER AND CULTURAL ANALYST AND RACIAL RECONCILER AND TV GIRL AND BOOK PROMOTER AND BLOGGER AND PERSON OF INTEREST AND INSTAGRAMER!
I will be awesome at all of these things and it will be stunning and I will finally rid myself of this icky guilt I carry around all the live long day for being not awesome enough in the area of ______ (all things fit this blank at one point or another). It’s a simple formula really: just be very, very good at everything. Is that so hard?
The problem is that when I get quiet, when I listen to God’s very still small voice in my heart, when I pay attention to what makes me feel alive and joyful and in my place (as opposed to displaced), it almost never revolves around being awesome.
It looks more like being present.
And being peaceful.
And being less grabby and afraid everything is about to run out.
And being generous.
And being at home with my people.
And being with my friends.
And being in my kitchen.
And being ordinary.
No one would see me in these places and say she is really being awesome at chopping that onion. Or she and her friends are really being awesome at sitting on that porch in their pajama pants. Or she is a really awesome nap-taker. My happiest, best moments are beautiful and meaningful and life-giving but none of them require a high level of achievement.
And the weird thing is that when I spend a ton of time being more awesome at All The Things, it doesn’t even deliver. Because there is always another level of success, another phase of accomplishment to reach for, another person still “ahead” of me, another critic to burn down what I just did, another chance to disappoint, another mountain to climb. The finish line to this particular rat race is THE GRAVE. Please trust me that I am telling you the Gods-honest truth.
Meanwhile, there are these other things, these people and quiet places and loved ones and laughter, and at best, the level I need to maintain for them is mediocre-to-average, yet they bring great happiness. There are these other things, and they won’t end up on a resume, but they put me at great peace. There are these other things, and none of them will impress in the slightest, but they bring me home to myself and my people and Jesus.
So here are my goals for 2015, which I shared with my Facebook friends last week:
Things I Am Going to Try Harder on in 2015:
- Keeping my room clean (hi, I’m a grown up)
- Keeping my inbox from the grip of entropy (the stress this causes is infinity)
- Neighboring well
- More time with My People
Things I Am Not Going to Try Harder on in 2015:
- Answering my phone/texts (MY PHONE IS NOT MY BOSS AT ALL TIMES)
- My kids’ homework: 1.) I’ve already been in 9th grade, and 2.) my 9th grader should not have the homework load of a grad student
- Counting calories/fat/carbs (JUST NO)
- Trying to make Not My People happy
That’s it, gentle readers. These are the other things. These keep my insides calm. These keep me from striving like it is my job. These keep me from the Black Soul Hole of chaos and disorganization, which ruins my game so terribly. These help me love my people better and stop twisting into knots trying to make some folks happy who will NEVER EVER BE HAPPY WITH ME. (Free tip: someone will always not like you, your ideas, your position, your theology, your opinions, your feelings, your style, your friends, your processes, your parenting, and your lipstick color. You will never, ever please every person. Open your hands, unclench, release, be free. Life is too short to live small and afraid and disgenuine and guarded. Just go ahead and live your one wild and beautiful and spectacular life with all the you-ness you can muster.)
For those of you who don’t get sucked into the terror of Being More Awesome, God bless and please keep reminding us panicky, paranoid highfliers that ALL WILL BE WELL AND JUST RELAX AND BREATHE. For those of you who totally get what I’m laying down, let’s just do it. Let’s just say amongst ourselves that we will silence the bossy, mean voice telling us to BE MORE AWESOME and instead we will obey the other nudges, the ones that lead us to love and life and peace and generosity and God and people and rest and gratitude.
We can make that little space right here. We can help unclench each other’s grabby little hands and celebrate ordinary moments in simple places because they certainly count. If something makes you feel more whole, more centered, more present, then it certainly counts. If it helps keep your insides calm, then it certainly counts. If it helps you love your people better, then it certainly counts. If it frees up some inner room so you can pray and figure out that you are loved by God no matter what you do or don’t do or achieve or don’t achieve, then it certainly counts.
So go ahead and lay down any outrageous NYR you will abandon by January 26th. We don’t need to manufacture failure, for the love; real life will see to that quota. Instead, let’s go small, quiet, still, let’s listen to God and see where He tells us to go and say YES, even if that place turns out to be our own kitchen, our own porch, our own people; sometimes the best journeys are short ones. Maybe this year starts not with more but less. Your heart will eventually tell you if you heard right. Moving toward wholeness creates peace, contentment, and gratitude…not stress, fear, and displacement. You’ll know which is which pretty quick.
As for me, call me an overachiever, but I’m going for a made bed and my phone on silent and cooking with butter for people I love and live by this year. I plan to find God in all of that, because that is how He promised us this life works.
What are you working on this year? What are you NOT working on?