I got in the car and fought back tears after dropping my kids off at pre-school today. It sounds like such a girly thing to do – just cry for no apparent reason, but news flash: I am a girl and it happens more often than I’d like to admit. Anyway, this morning was just like any other; I got up, drank my coffee, did a little reading before the kids snuck out of their rooms too early and were directed back upstairs for 15 more minutes or quiet bliss. Then we had breakfast, got ready, packed our bags and were out the door. It was Thursday after all – my last day of work for the week and the kids’ last day of school. The weekend was upon us; what’s not to be happy about? It was a beautiful day, but as I sat in the parking lot trying to process my feelings, some things began to surface that I didn’t even know were hiding deep inside.
More on that in a minute.
For anyone familiar with the Enneagram, I’m a pretty strong three – The Achiever. This personality type comes in handy at work and when things need to get done (give me all the lists!). But when it comes to being in touch with my own feelings, slowing down and being vulnerable, my personality seems to drop the ball.
You see, productivity and efficiency are socially acceptable ways to avoid feelings. It seems like a great problem to have. Who doesn’t want to get things done? People actually love it, our culture praises it, and I feel a little bit better about my life when I’m checking things off. Therefore, busyness is my safety zone. Busyness prevents me from having to feel much at all. Like Dory, in Finding Nemo when she’s trying to encourage Nemo’s dad who’s understandably upset that he can’t rescue his son. She swims up to his face,
“Hey Mister Grumpy Gills. When life gets you down, you know what you gotta do? Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, swimming, swimming…”
Well, let’s just say I’ve mastered the art of swimming right on past negative feelings.
It took some counseling to uncover this fact. As I work through it, more and more evidence seems to emerge to support my findings. If I’m honest, my entire identity is now based on what I do, instead of being found in who I am. For example, when Brandon walks in the door and I start spewing off the list of all the things I’ve done today, he kindly listens then redirects the conversation to more meaningful content – like who we interacted with and how it made us feel and what we’re looking forward to. You know, normal human connection-type conversation. However, that is not my default mode of talking. I still have some work to do here, old habits die hard.
In this pursuit, I’ve found that just being is insanely hard for me. Sitting quietly with no goal in mind is a foreign concept. In fact, I’m usually early to bed and early to rise simply because I can’t deal with that time in the evening after the kids are down and the dishes are done and you’re just supposed to sit on the couch and chill. Don’t get me wrong, I love an occasional Netflix binge. But if there are no new episodes to watch, I need to be accomplishing something or call it a day. Even sleep is better than lounging around doing nothing because sleep feels like a productive choice. After all, I should rest up for tomorrow’s list.
Anyway, back to the preschool parking lot. I found myself alone, in a quiet spot for just a split second and those pesky feelings caught up with me. I gave myself a pep talk to sit for a minute longer and this is what I heard…
You’re a terrible mother – your kids need more attention and more consistent discipline.
You’re a terrible friend – you know all those moms you just smiled at as you hurried down the hallway, you could know them better but you haven’t taken the time.
You’re husband’s disappointed – you didn’t cook enough this week, didn’t work out a single time and those piles of kids toys and clothes that you’d like to donate have been by the door for over two weeks.
You’ll never fulfill your dreams or live up to the potential God made you for – you set goals and have good intentions but can’t seem to make them work or make any sort of meaningful impact.
What in the world? It’s all true I thought and cried as I drove away, hoping to get it together and start “swimming” again. I began to realize on that drive home that this depressing cycle is just where the devil wants me to stay. The healing comes in settling back into the truth that I know from God’s word and his presence in my life. You see, I’m not the best mom, friend or wife and, let’s be real – I probably won’t be the next Beth Moore (although one should never say never, right?). But I am loved by a perfect God who created all of us in his image. We fall terribly short every day (even Beth, I’m sure) and that’s exactly why Jesus came to this earth to die for our sins and rise again to give us hope for our future. He wants us to be transformed and empowers us to persevere through our struggles here on earth and also reminds us that there is even more glory to come when we are reunited with him one sweet day.
Those feelings of inadequacy will resurface again and my prayer for all of us in those moments is that we will find the strength to be still and know that even when we can’t live up to the perceived standards of this world, he is God.