It’s an Imogen Heap day, an unstrung week in a gray-blue tangle of a month. I’m clinging obstinately to summer, but there are long sleeves under my t-shirt and school schedules on the tip of everyone’s mind; it’s time for a switching of gears.
I’m gravitating toward so many directions at once these days, my imagination bigger than my plate, and while it’s thrilling to teeter on the cusp of everything, I still haven’t summoned whatever latent superpower allows other women to gather the whole realm of possibility in their arms and craft an award-winning life out of it. Honestly, I feel stretched too thin as it is, and yet there is so much untraveled road between this kind of day and the kind I want to inhabit.
I draw too many conclusions from the online world, I know this. I subconsciously assign soul-value to the frequency of someone’s blog posts, the timbre of his or her Tweets. I paint others’ lives between the lines of their Instagram feed and conclude that this one is effortlessly happy, that one writes articles at the speed of light, those love their children perfectly. Every book being read or written, every Pinterest-worthy back to school party… they all accumulate into my perception of better than, and it’s my self-worth that takes the hit.
After too many midnights still at work and sluggish mornings prodded along like mules, the better than begins to grow fangs and I start thinking that I’ve somehow disqualified myself from grace. This mysterious joy that Jesus taught, the utterly relaxing, glorious gift of knowing you don’t have to be any more or less than you are—it starts to seem earmarked for those more important, those with more credentials and charisma, probably more money, and certainly a much longer string of accomplishments at the end of each day. My mind turns to frustrated mantras instead—If I did more, I’d deserve more… or First-world concerns don’t count—and I imagine grace enjoying after-dinner drinks with the cool kids while I scrub burnt grease off the dishes.
It’s work ethic and Baptist theology gone horribly wrong.
The girls start school one week from today, and I’m looking at the mornings ahead with undisguised hunger. There is so much I need to do compounded with so much I could do topped with a heaping swirl of so much I want to do, and five quiet, guilt-free hours a day sound almost too good to be true. However, I need to face the fact that I’ve always supplied my own guilt and chosen defeating mantras over life-breathing grace; I’ve let myself twist others’ beauty into better than. A mere schedule change isn’t going to fix what’s broken here.
I’m the one who has to choose grace and protect it from getting crowded out of my headspace by mule-prodding demands, who has to accept that I am not too much or not enough or worse than or any other point of comparison. This… is hard. I can’t even tell you how hard it is. Clinging to poisoned aphorisms can feel so much safer than letting go of insecurities and embracing the imperfect, uniquely valuable person I am. Even writing that sentence makes me want to reach for my lead security blanket and come up with a few more defeatist insults for myself and over-schedule the rest of my day to keep from hoping for more and and and…
It’s definitely time for a switching of gears.
Do you ever do the negative mantra routine? What do you do to get your thoughts and beliefs on the same page?