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.