Monthly Archives: January 2016

Failure Extraordinaire

Since my blog posts are usually meant to be funny (and the title of this post is a bit tongue-in-cheek), I should warn right away that this post is more on the serious. I feel compelled by some recent soul-revelations to talk about something that I’m only beginning to realize, and is starting to gnaw on me to share.

I’m afraid to write this post. I’m afraid of sounding trite, or redundant to a million other posts, or sounding not like me. I’m afraid of making myself vulnerable. I’m scared of my writing, grammar, punctuation not being perfect. I’m scared of choosing the wrong words, or wrong point of view. I’m afraid of not being clever enough. I’m afraid of accidentally sounding like a know-it-all. I’m scared of being only average, mediocre. I am afraid of failure.

I’m not just afraid of failing at this post, or that recipe, or at choosing the right thing to wear. I am afraid of failing at everything. I don’t mean this in that vague, carelessly broad sense of “everything.” I mean that in everything I try, or have half a mind to try, I am afraid of – and, actually, quite sure of – failure. This seems like exaggeration, but it is not. I am also confident – although I don’t believe that most people approach life with a certainty of failure – that I am not entirely alone in this fear, and maybe someone needs to hear this.

Let me share some things that maybe some people know about me, but maybe not most people.

I am a mom. With my whole heart, I believe that my greatest purpose and calling in life is to raise my children well. They have been entrusted to me, and they have no idea how to do for themselves or succeed in this life until I have sufficiently prepared them. It is my job to teach them, to nurture and enrich them, to feed them and provide for them a peaceful home that’s fit for growth and development. It is my job to cultivate creativity, and teach them how to do things and what it means to help and serve and work hard and find the place in this world that is meant exactly for each one of them to fill.

Except…I’m not good at any of those things. Not a single one comes naturally to me, and most don’t even come to me with excruciating effort. I’m really not that good at cooking. As a matter of fact – I really don’t like cooking. At all. And…I really don’t like arts and crafts either. I don’t know how to sew anything more than a button or a torn seam. I don’t know how to knit or crochet or make a fully-functional paper-mâché toddler reading nook. I don’t really want to either. I don’t have creative ideas for storage and organization to keep my home running smoothly, and the energy it takes to enforce chores upon these kids to teach them to do their part exhausts me at the very thought of it. I cannot keep up with the messes as they make them, and even more so I cannot keep up with the creativity it takes to motivate them to do the work themselves. But I chose this life, and I still choose this life.

I love my children. My heart yearns and aches for them, and I love them more than my own life. My deepest desire is that only good – the absolute best – will be their portions in life. My mind tells me that I must, in some way, be the best mother for them because they are mine. My shortcomings tell my aching heart that they deserve better.

I love your children. They are priceless gifts to be treasured and nurtured and appreciated. I even love their cute little quirks and the adorable funny stories you tell about them. And when they are in my care, you better believe I will treat them like I treat my children, and my heart will ache for the absolute best for your kids too. And you also must believe that because I love you, I will watch your children when you need me. I love children, and here is the part where my heart starts racing and my eyes start watering for fear that people I love and admire will see me for what I am.

I love children, but I do not enjoy them.

I am a mom, and I do not really like children all that much. I am not a cook (this is not news to most people), and I do not enjoy kids. I don’t enjoy playing kid games with them, doing arts and crafts with them, exercising with them, playing outside with them. I do not enjoy having them “help” me cook and clean, or figuring out how to answer their questions on a kid-friendly level, or planning and implementing child-enriching games and activities.

I like to do grown-up stuff, watch grown-up TV, read grown-up books, talk and think about grown-up things, and even write about them once in a while too. I like to have complete thoughts and speak in coherent sentences and put on my makeup without little hands in my makeup box – hands of little girls that are counting on me to teach them how to become young women who know how to use makeup appropriately. Now. Not later. Not when I’m not busy. Not next time. Right now. How am I supposed to stop the freight train of a mind that says “get out of my way, I’m in a hurry” and instead say, “sure honey, I don’t mind that you’re using my makeup brushes on your peanut-butter-and-yogurt-covered cheeks.”

I am a mom with young children. I’m supposed to be able to do this and want to do this. I’m supposed to nurture kids – my own, and others – by being involved in the kid-related activities and ministries that my kids are blessed to participate in. This is what I am expected – assumed – to be, and I am not. My too-grown-up-for-my-own-good mind computes this as failure. Not just failure at one thing, but failure at everything; and with it, guilt. The guilt that I’m not contributing to society and community in the way I’m meant to contribute.

At the moment I’m getting a little lost in my explanation, but there is a point here. This failure, that feels like the ultimate failure and tells me that I don’t measure up to anyone or anything, creates a fear of failing at everything.

This is about fear. Fear is crippling, and there is no easy fix. This is a battle you may or may not face, but it is one that I will probably fight my entire life.

I’m not writing this to guilt friends and loved ones into saying the things I want to hear. I am writing this because of the encouragement that I’m only starting to realize, and though I still lack confidence in everything – everything – beginning to understand a few things is insanely freeing.

I struggle with fear. I struggle with figuring out who I am and what I’m good at, and what I should be doing. I have been told a handful of times that I can write. I may not be the very best, but I know that I can write; and I sure as anything can write better than I can cook. And yet if I’m not told that by enough people, or often enough, fear tells me I can’t do this either …it’s just another non-talent I’ve been trying to force something out of …I cannot succeed at this or anything …I’m just not one of those “talented” types.

It is freeing to start learning to be happy with who I am, but I think the bigger struggle and even more freeing is learning to be happy with who I am not. Beginning to understand that we are not all expected to be the same, and anyone good at the things I’m not good at is a hero and a blessing in my life and community, to fill in where I’m lacking; and anyone who is better than I am at the things I’m okay at, is someone to learn from and admire. They haven’t taken up all the success available in that area of ability, but they may rather be helping to pave the way for me to join in on the success.

Learning to accept who I’m not helps me to accept that maybe I’m not a failure as a human being, I only need to worry less about trying to perfect myself in what I’m not, and start paying attention to growing in what I am. It hasn’t been easy.

The truth is: What I am not, someone else is. It is balance. I can let the amazing gifts of these someone-elses put me to shame, or I can choose to be grateful that someone was created to be able to do what is not in me to do. I can be afraid to try anything new for fear that I haven’t a single usable gift or talent, or I can learn to count every non-success as a key part of embracing who I am and who I am not.

This is what is buried deep within me, but it is not just for me. It is for someone else too. It is scary, but it is okay to not be what you are not.

Feel free to remind my of this when I forget.

 

But I Don’t Feel Any Different

It’s January 1st, 2016 and I don’t feel any different than I did last night, in 2015. I’m still groggy and tired, nursing a completely unreasonable headache and wishing I was in bed sleeping. It’s not from staying up late to watch the ball drop, drinking, or partying – it’s because Christmas break is loooooong. Last night I was in bed by 11:30, which was three and a half hours past the time my brain, body, and conversational skills started begging me to put them to bed. That’s 8:00. But it’s okay. I have high hopes for this year. They are the continuation of my high hopes for yesterday, and the day before, and the month before. And so far, so good. Setting goals and making changes is hard. I’m learning how to make practical monthly goals and keep them visible and accomplish some of them. I’m not great at it. I’m not gonna lie, there were several monthly goal pages that looked like this

20160101_111837 (1)

And in November my “Bible in a Year” goal read: “Finish September and October Bible.” And there’s also that blog that I started and said “I’m going to write more,” but neglected for months at a time. But I’m happy to say that most goals and most months of 2015 were what I would consider a success (although I’m starting to question that right now), and I plan to make 2016 at least slightly more successful – whether it’s more goals, or more realistic measurements of goals on those months that I don’t seem to have what it takes.

Regardless of my successes or failures, I hope everyone has a full and successful 2016 that sees not only the majority of what each one hopes to see accomplished, but the immeasurable joy and peace that comes with the happy mix of best efforts and deep contentment. These are things I’m thankful to be in the process of learning, and of which I hope I will never stop stumbling upon reminders, while I spend the rest of life trying to get it right. I wish the same things for all of you and, in a few words, here are my three hopes for you all in this brand new year, whether it feels like a magical fresh start or really what it actually is – the day after yesterday.

 

1. Call a Spade a Spade

If you weren’t a super organized, party-planning, gourmet-cooking, Type-A-go-getter supermom (or dad) yesterday – you are not a super organized, party-planning, gourmet-cooking, Type-A-go-getter supermom (or dad) today. Neither am I. And after a 2015 spent actively seeking self-improvement, I am still not. You don’t just wake up one day and decide to be Martha Stewart, or that friend who you’re pretty sure is where the whole supermom idea originated. But you can decide that today you are going to start cleaning the kitchen every night before bed and making your bed as soon as you get up in the morning. You’ll probably still feel like a dirty, old, beat-up garden spade on many days. But some days (like when you wake up to your clean kitchen and nothing is in your way for starting your day, or when you’ve finished the monthly fitness challenge you committed to do every day in January) you’ll feel like the Ace of Spades.

 

2. Understand Awesome

I’ll keep this one brief to avoid the risk of sounding like I’ve arrived at the finish line and actually know something. All I do know is that one of my favorite, most joy-and-peace-creating lessons I’m learning in life right now is that awesome is not a limited resource. When someone else in your life, or on TV, or in your list of favorite authors is so amazingly incredible that you don’t think you can possibly compete – great! Because her being amazingly incredible does not close the door to everyone else being amazingly incredible. There are plenty of floats in the awesome parade. It’s a lot like contentment. Recognizing that someone else’s successes are not a threat to your ability to succeed is so very freeing. Then you can see and adore everything good in everyone you know. It feels good! Next step: tell everyone you know every good thing you see in them. I’m working on that part. If you can believe this – I’m shy! But there is no (rational) reason to be shy about complimenting someone, and it is exactly what I would want someone to do for me. That’s the golden rule in action right there.

 

3. Embrace intentional

I got pretty lucky (blessed) in my twenties. Sitting back and allowing life to happen, all of my biggest dreams of home and family unfolded so beautifully around me. I only just stumbled upon the lesson that I can actually choose and act and make things happen, at about age 30. I’m still not very good at it, but I’m so thankful it fell into my lap before spending the next decade letting intangible, inanimate abstractions take the reins of life, and wondering why I couldn’t get the rest of my dreams to come true. For about a decade I wrote down yearly goals and stuffed them in a folder somewhere to be accidentally discovered three years later. Years. But this year is going to be different. This year I’m going to write measurable goals, break them down and work on them monthly and daily. I know it’s going to be different. I just know it. It’s going to be different because last year was different. And last year was different because I had an epiphany one random day back in October 2014 – not New Year’s Eve – that if I wanted to see things happen I could actually make things happen by…get ready for this…actually doing things. Intense, right?

 

There’s no magical sparkling feeling that makes a new year special or makes an unmotivated person sashay off the couch and conquer world hunger. Take it from the dreamer who has to force herself to roll off the couch to conquer familial hunger. But there is something about a fresh calendar page, a brand new day, even the measurable time frame of one calendar year that offers hope to wipe the slate clean.

This year, I hope you don’t write resolutions. If you can resolve to change your life overnight and do it, then by all means I celebrate your successes. But for the rest of us, I hope you write some yearly goals. But more so, I hope you write some smaller goals.

Go ahead and write down “I will lose weight in 2016.” That is a dream. So don’t forget to write down “I will record everything I eat this month and stay within my nutritional needs” and “I will do push-ups, squats and planks every day this month.” Those are intentional. Write them on a piece of paper that you can keep on your counter or desk or bathroom mirror or someplace where they will be obnoxiously in your way all month. Write them and leave space after them to make a tally every day you succeed and an X every day you don’t. Forgive yourself for the X’s and feel good about the tallies. And if your January goal sheet ends up a nearly blank page with a giant FAIL written across it, then throw it all away and give up until next January because you failed and will never get it right and you can’t start over in the middle of the year. Sorry. This was starting to feel a little too much like a self-help book, and a zebra can’t change her stripes, and call a spade a spade and what-not. It’s good to be back.

 

A content and intentional New Year to all!

 

Blessings,

Elaina

Hey! I’d love to hear your thoughts and epiphanies and what-nots. Please join me in the comments below.