This current season has brought up a lot of great conversations with my girlfriends about the things we commit to doing, and maybe even more importantly, the things that we say no to so that we can say yes to the things that hold the most truth in our lives. When I read Bittersweet and Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist, it was like a bomb exploded in my heart. She wrote great, powerful pieces about the walk we take in doing life with others, pursuing faith, and the experiences that our lives present. I literally have pages and pages where entire paragraphs are highlighted as the words were challenging me and stirring up opportunities for growth.
One of my favorite chapters featured her tough lessons on overcoming her inclination to do EVERYTHING. Everything for everyone being my drug of choice in the fall. My list of things to do better had been getting long, quite long, and weighty, with what felt like new things being added all the time, never with the thought about what should I stop doing. Stop doing anything? Um, no. For a long time, I had been the girl that could do everything. I don't even have a husband or kids yet so I certainly should have been able to handle all that was on my plate. Not doing everything felt a lot like failing and I wanted anything but to feel like I had not lived up to some potential that I thought had been determined for me.
I remember the day where I thought to myself, "this just has to be enough and how do I stop this crazy train that I am driving". The day.. well, it was when I burst into tears over being out of milk. Full on tears. Over milk. Full of shame. Failing to meet some crazy standard I had set for myself that day of being the perfect girlfriend who makes her boyfriend breakfast before his work trip, in the midst of a hectic week, because I was certain that I could do it all. I am not sure if I cried in that moment because I realized that being a perfect girlfriend is not attainable, or the realization that I could not do everything, or the fact that I was actually questioning if my boyfriend would still love me when he found out I was not wonder woman, or from being exhausted from striving for so much all of the time. I'm going with all of above, as illogical as all of those thoughts may be.
Of course, I tried to recover quickly in the moment, saying I was just tired, and suppressing all those emotions, hoping I could pretend to shut off my mind, and stop my tears for the duration of the breakfast. The saddest part is that all I really wanted was an hour of enjoying being with him and feeling connected. I spent the rest of that day trying to recover and wrestling with how I come clean about where I actually was. On a lot of days last semester, that felt a lot like a sinking ship. I was no where near even knowing how to admit the reality of where I was, but clearly, the moment you start crying over milk, that isn't even spilled, is probably your enough point. At least, it was mine.
Thanks to my graduate program, I am an eternal student of development theory and aware that I am transitioning from seeing self-sacrifice as value for my goodness, and learning that I need to find care for myself (Gilligan's second transition). I am in some serious growth now, full of cognitive dissonance, which I find really hard some days and a total breeze on others. Thankful each day to be where I am, learning and making different choices - much more like a sailing ship.
Niequist wrote a chapter entitled, "Things I Don't Do", where she reflects on her own battle with doing everything and needing to articulate (she's a list maker too!) what she had to quit in order to do the things that allow for the life that we are really intended to be living. I am working on writing my own list, actively turning down opportunities I would have piled on before, and making room for the ability to say yes to the things that are deeply important to me.
As hard as it was to reach this point, I am encouraged daily, and I hope that sharing this will encourage all of you that are struggling with your EVERYTHING. What is on your list of things you don't do so you can say yes?