Doing the Work: If Most of the Time You Don’t Because It’s not “Good Enough”

FeaturedDoing the Work: If Most of the Time You Don’t Because It’s not “Good Enough”

I am a solid millennial.

When people complain and complain about the millennial generation I know if they’re being accurate based on just how much shame I am feeling about the topic at hand. I’m not on the border. I’m not kind of an x-er or really of a different category. I fit the bill. Guilty.

Oh, also I own a house, have 3 kids, and paid off my student debt years ago. Not that you have to have done those things to be a millennial, I’m just pointing out a place where the stereotype doesn’t hold up.

It doesn’t. Because I am solidly a millennial, I promise you. I love avocado toast. For reals. I mean have you HAD avocado toast?

But more than the avocado toast, I grew up thinking several things.

1. It was imperative that I be happy in whatever I was doing.
2. The world is broken and it is legitimately a thing I need to be directly fixing in my actual life.
3. I personally need to change the world in some way to have mattered.
4. I tend not to have automatic respect for my elders. I mean if it seems earned ok. But if I think I’m more skilled, I’m not good at waiting in line. So as far as those “kids these days” lines go, that one is true for me.
5. If all of the above did not make it clear, my expectations for life are a tad unrealistic.

But I was so sure I could be the one to actually do it! And unfortunately, I did well enough in school that my ego was not particularly deflated by the time that I left HS.

In college, I did just as well! But when I approached the finish line and no one was handing me the reigns to the world or even a job and the economy collapse of 2008 was not promising and turns out I am on occasion too shy for most people to take seriously as a leader of anything unless it is turning in assignments and understanding the minimum work required to get an A without any wasted effort–I started to look around me and all I saw was Illinois.

Whoops.

I spent the last year of my college career in therapy trying to understand where it all went wrong and being pretty sure I had been far too immature to get married and it turns out they don’t test you before they let you do it. (12 Years later we figured things out on the go but it’s a little like laying down tracks in front of a moving train).

So when my husband said he had a potential job offer in Saudi Arabia I laughed and said “You can apply if you know we’re not going.” And then I said with a do not cross me look on my face “because no way on earth are we going to Saudi Arabia.”

And about 3 months later after urine samples and pooping in cups and promising not to convert Muslims and having all our earthly possessions boxed up and shipped the wrong way before finally being shipped the right one we landed in in Jeddah Airport where I felt like I needed to wrap myself up for modesty because though my clothes were modest they were also hot pink and white and it turns out that the dress code for women is pretty strictly BLACK. (Did I mention I like to dress in clothes so bright they might burn your eyes out, especially if you’re one of those people who prefers blacks and neutrals?)

Because it turns out Saudi was hiring and paying when a lot of places in the world simply weren’t. It seemed patriotic at the time to make a lot of money in a Middle Eastern country and then take it all back home to pay off student debt and buy a house, so that’s what we did. And I became something known as a trailing spouse which meant it was actually illegal for me to be employed in our new home and my only job was to hang out while my husband worked.

And after about two weeks of thinking about going nowhere in my career for the next however many jobs I got an illegal job writing copy for the University PR department and they let me name a whole bunch of streets in our new city (they’re still there, the 60 or so names I picked out on bright green signs at the intersections of King Abdullah University of Science and Technology). Of course, after a few Saudis got wise that I was being allowed to do things basically everything else I did was black-balled from then on out and I attempted (and failed) to start social media for the University and attempted to write a University newspaper and failed (4 times mind you) and I attempted (and failed) a great number of other things before I crashed and burned into a hopeless pile of I don’t think I’m going to be changing the world anytime soon and I would settle at this point just to be allowed to change the heading on one stupid article.

So I quit. I quit that job in a flaming hailstorm so boisterous (which involved me crying like a baby in my boss’s office that I had no idea what I was doing in my life and by the way no one has paid me in months and since I’m an illegal immigrant employee complaining about it hasn’t gotten me very far) that 3 other people quit at the same time and invited me to a party to celebrate which is where I finally learned how to get a hair cut in Saudi (they HIDE the salons) and turned down smoking shi sha because it turns out I am still obsessed with that part of me that wants to be SO SO SO good and change the world.

I should have just smoked the freaking Shi Sha.

After that I immediately started sleeping basically all day and staying up all night to play video games and spiraling into an existential tailspin wondering what had become of me. Meanwhile, my husband had undramatically held down a steady good job THIS ENTIRE TIME GUYS. So I started running until I could run a half-marathon. I took kick boxing so I could beat the heck out of whatever I thought was standing in the way of my hopes and dreams. I traveled to Istanbul alone. I got lost in Istanbul alone. I managed to find someone in Istanbul I knew who had a map and found my way to a hostel alone where luckily a very capable friend was waiting so I was no longer alone. I took a road trip in the United States by myself and realized it was the most independent thing I’d ever ever done and wasn’t that sad and wasn’t it awesome anyway? And I took Arabic 3 times a week for two hours until I could speak about as well as a preschooler and at least tell the cabbies confidently to PLEASE SLOW DOWN BEFORE YOU KILL US ALL and then I got a new job which wasn’t as glamorous but at least they let me do things kind of and I could come in at noon and leave at 3 and no one cared so I did.

And then I started having mini panick attacks about how I was basically checking NONE of the to do items on my life list and so I got pregnant with my first kid because at least START A FAMILY was doable for me.

And that is how I had my first child as a result of a way-too-early midlife crisis because I was supposed to be changing the world and I WAS NOT even though from Saudi it was sure easy to let people believe that–because it turns out people start to think a lot of you if you go somewhere they see as dangerous even if where you went is really just full of restaurants and movie theaters and doing just as little as you ever did before but at least you can take the occasional scuba trip and get some nice pictures even though the truth is that your scuba buddy didn’t want to partner up with you anymore than those kids in 5th grade wanted you on their kick ball team and you had to learn what it was like to cry underwater because he went far lower than your license actually allowed you to go and you are still too much of a rule follower and also afraid of popping a lung to follow him.

Weird. It’s really weird. The crying underwater I mean. Probably everything else too, but especially the crying.

So had one kid two kids three kids and then I started this blog and giving people advice not so much because I have so much experience or wisdom but mostly it turns out because I like to give advice. It’s really quite fun but also be really careful who you take advice from–it turns out a lot of us do not know what we are doing. (Have you ever seen the movie 8th grade? Oh my goodness that girl and her video advice.)

And then before I knew it I found myself in a pandemic trying to remote teach (whatever that means) two children while entertaining the other career still un-started with no assurances that there will even be a career TO start before the whole world burns itself down. And murder hornets.

Also, ash is falling from the sky and then snow, and then ash again because apparently my town is stuck between the biggest wildfire Colorado has ever seen and the earliest blizzard Colorado has ever seen and the former is too hot to be put out by the latter.

I’m a millennial. I shot really really high. And every time I’m not happy I am tempted to think that I failed. Even with the paying off my debt and traveling the world and house and kid having. I’m always afraid that I failed. Or maybe that I am still supposed to somehow change the world with my three kids trailing behind and that is EXHAUSTING.

But.

I am changing the world. It’s a fact. I know that about every single person I meet. I see their individual place in the world so easily. I always have. I know just how the puzzle would break without a single person. But I can’t ever seem to look down and see myself. All I ever see is mess and what has to be the MOST exhausting person of life because I won’t stop trying and I won’t stop crying.

Hey, that rhymes.

But that has to apply to me too. And I know, deep down, that raising three boys to become three good men is a world changing thing. And who else could do that but a crazed, crying, trying, street naming, world traveling mom who likes to list of random facts like hamsters eat their young and everyone gets to be an entirely new person every 7 years at the cellular level. It’s a fact.

Maybe if this person doesn’t change the world, the next one will. Or maybe my kids will. Or maybe my stories.

Or maybe, my job was always just to be a normal person living the best life I can and I am not so much an amazing writer or advice giver as someone who adores telling the truth in whatever messy fashion it exists.

That’s not a thing everyone even CAN do let alone WANTS to do, you know. I’m going to write even when it’s not pretty, popular, and my Mom is the only person who ever comments (which is often true, but at least MY MAMA APPRECIATES ME).

And I’m going to be proud of that even if lots of people never wanted to know this much about me. Or maybe only a few people ever read it. Even if I retell the stories a hundred times from a hundred different angles only so that someone else will KNOW without a doubt that their own story isn’t so abnormally messy or weird or broken after all.

You are a piece of the puzzle whether you live to rule kingdoms or just to make sure people get their groceries every day.

It’s a plain fact. If one piece is missing, it almost doesn’t matter what the whole picture is–that piece will dominate your thinking until you’ve looked under every rug and every table and every foot and inside every household register and even behind the bookshelf where it COULD NOT POSSIBLY be (but somehow was).

We need you. I need you. And it’s ok if we’re not happy or even if we’re swimming in anxiety and kids and pandemics and protests and mistakes up to our eyeballs. One person matters forever and always.

That means me. That means you.

So the next 7 years of me I am going to trust that my place matters in the world whether I find the next job, the next adventure, the next world crisis, the next beautiful thought, or just my next good book to read. And so does yours.

I promise.

When The Pandemic Is Not Inspiring: If Creating During Crisis Is Not Your Thing

When The Pandemic Is Not Inspiring: If Creating During Crisis Is Not Your Thing

I’ve written a lot of titles for a lot of blog posts that I have not written.

I have this overloaded and ridiculous ideal that I should be able to crank out work and be one of the most creative people of all time during everything that’s going on.

I mean, have you SEEN what’s going on?

But reality has other things to tell me. My kids. Are always. HERE. And I have no idea what to do with them half of the time. My mothering strategy previous to this was to get out of the house as often as possible and let them be as active as possible for hours at a time while I talked to friends or read on a nearby bench. We’ve still been going to parks…

But guys, it’s snowing outside. Or sleeting with snow threatening later. I don’t know. What I do know is that it is cold and wet when it was 99 degrees two days ago and all the indoor places I used to take them are closed.

And did I mention we’re tied to our home internet connection anyway? Because we are. I have two separate remote schooling schedules to keep track of and one two year old to keep from spontaneously combusting. It just has not been that great for creative output. Also my kids have been on screens so much that I am afraid their brains may melt and start draining out of their ears within the week.

All last night I dreamed that all of my family were just floating through my house talking about bad weather and how they couldn’t sleep. And I was so stressed about how none of us were sleeping. Also I’m pretty sure one of my family members was ghost hunting. Anyway, I woke up super anxious from my sleep anxious that no one had slept, when really I slept but dreamed that I hadn’t.

I’m going to have a chat with my brain about how it is supposed to be on my side. It seems to have missed the memo.

I am not historically an anxious person. I have always been able to sleep, always been able to do what I need to do and shut down whatever part of the brain is supposed to remind you that things could be going wrong or may be about to be going on has always been something I could shut the door on. Or, at least I thought it was.

Since before quarantine, I’ve been learning to meditate and tune in to the part of my brain I tend to ignore.

I can be whiny, I can be a sad sack, but that part of me that worries has mostly been put into a straight jacket and kept in secure vault somewhere in my mind. It has, I know, always reminded me of its presence through dreams–but lately I’ve been letting it out during the day time. And what a time to be tuning into my intuitive future pacing mind. UGH.

It’s not been a great time. Or great for productivity. Or the trying not to feel overwhelmed.

But. I knew, before this, that my right brain was never very appreciative of the fact that I tended to take it out to do parlor tricks and then tuck it away again the second it became inconvenient. I am a person who has let my left brain be in charge for way too long.

If that doesn’t make sense, you should check out this video here. Your right brain doesn’t know how to use words, but it absolutely can contain different information and motivations than your left brain. And it can contain feelings and frustrations your left brain is not interpreting correctly. Oh how I have betrayed and abandoned my right brain.

Right brain has taken the quarantine to show me this, which contrary to my productivity and success minded left brain, has meant slowing down to LISTEN more than to produce. Because it turns out, sometimes you need to take time to connect with yourself in truth before you can be effective.

I’ve needed this time out. And it’s killing me. Are we done yet? Have I successfully made peace with every piece of my fractured and over busy self yet? AM I WRITING LIKE A MASTER YET?

Buh. Blerg. I’m working on it. More meditation needed.

Anyway, does what I’m doing sound interesting and yet way too vague? Let me list some of my current goals and actual activities.

1. Learn to meditate with the Calm app!
2. Admit that I have procrastinated and avoided meditating way too often.
3. Downloaded the app “My Strength” to get help with depression, anxiety, and some goal mapping.
4. I set a goal to read 2 chapters a day. Since my current reading could never match pre-child days, my goals usually get too lofty and I burn out or avoid reading because I don’t have time to sit and read a book cover to cover like I used to. Yup. Nope. I can’t ignore the children for that long. 2 Chapters.
5. Letting my mind wander without direction or goal. This is different than meditating. I’m not trying to clear my mind. I’m trying to listen to it.
6. I deleted Facebook. Yup. Just gone. Of course I have like 25 days to make that permanent, but I’m planning on it. You can go to settings and then personal data to find a way to download everything first, and then delete that sucker too!
7. I have set a goal to have more personal phone conversations with people I have real working relationships with. Wish me luck!
8. I am going to write letters again. I used to sometimes, but then once I felt really weird after a friend received a 5 page hand written note I’d crayon colored in rainbow and seemed to think it was a bit much. She was nice. I may have just been insecure. (Note about me…I’m semi-terrified my friends will discover just how much I love them because I’m afraid it would freak them out. But chances are that if we are friends, I five handwritten rainbow colored pages love you.
9. I’m running. I highly recommend the app “Get Running” which is just verbal directions to cut through your music at set intervals to get you up to running 30 minutes consecutively (which is supposed to be 5k, but I’m me, and I am slow, so I assure that it’s not 5k for me personally. I’ll get there though).
10. I am questioning my own negative thoughts and feelings out loud to myself whenever I feel overwhelmed. I find I have to say it. Like a crazy person. Sometimes I have to hug myself too.
11. I gave up caffeine. I didn’t think this would matter. But holy cow am I never going back to regular consumption of large amounts of caffeine. My spousal fights have gone down about 90 percent since I quit. Along with catastrophizing and impulsively yelling whatever was on my mind.

So how’s quarantine going for you? Whatcha up to? Any self-improvement? Any movie watching world records being set? Domino mazes being knocked over? Let me know!

If Sabbath and Your Life Don’t Seem To Go Together: 10 (Ok, 9) Ways to Rest When You Can’t Stop*

If Sabbath and Your Life Don’t Seem To Go Together: 10 (Ok, 9) Ways to Rest When You Can’t Stop*

I’ve been in the church my entire life, but that isn’t to say I’ve gone to church the same way  my entire life.

There were the toddler years where church was about crayons and cheerios while laying down in a back pew. There were the older kid years where church was mostly about getting permission to sit next to a friend and playing tic-tac-toe and all those other pencil games (like that one with all the dots where you make boxes. What IS that game called?). Then there were the teenager years where church was about trying to figure what clothes would set off the little old lady modesty police and which wouldn’t. Those years led into the almost college years where it was about begging my Dad to be able to go to a different church–one where I hadn’t been up until 1am having an intense argument with the pastor about my curfew. Then followed the odd dark years of college where my goal was to attend church in pajamas, talk to no one, be involved in nothing, and escape quietly out the back when it was over.

Adulthood was started very differently for me, as church was about attending secretly in houses where there was no official pastor and technically we could be arrested for doing Christian church at all. (Apparently the pajama years weren’t enough out-there for me). There was a brief stint before that where church was going to an all Jamaican congregation as the only people who couldn’t dance (though admittedly, that was for only 2 months). And sometimes church was finding whatever congregation happened to be available in Turkey, or Italy, or England, or sometimes listening to a Texas congregation on my computer, or occasionally just sitting outside and trying to hear God outside of any structure at all. And now I’m in the kid years where church is about hoping the kids sleep in until at least 7, and figuring out how to feed and dress everyone and get out the door and be on time without fights breaking out or tears. (There are usually fights and tears).

That’s a long list I know. I’ve done church in a whole lotta different ways. Even in my rebellious and and weird phases I did church.

“But Andi,” you say, “church is not the same thing as Sabbath. That’s a very misleading title that you have there.

To which I reply, “I know. This post is somewhat about how I suck at Sabbath even though I’ve always gone to church.”

Because guys, I suck at Sabbath.

If you grow up in a ministry family, Sabbath can’t really happen on Sunday. Sunday tends to be the busiest and most stressful day of the entire week. Don’t get me wrong, I knew that, and it had been pointed out to me many a time that Sunday could not be Sabbath for my Dad, and probably not for the rest of us either. So Saturday should have been our Sabbath right? But most of the week was for school, and Saturday was the only day open enough to do those extra kinds of things like mowing the lawn or washing the sheets.

No one intended for it to happen, but Sabbath was sort of shady for me. Kind of there kind of not. Kind of Saturday, kind of Sunday, mixed in with homework and chores and poorly defined. Mostly we worshipped on Sunday morning and napped on Sunday afternoon, so that was probably as close as it gets.

My point being, that I came into motherhood already not sure how to do this thing. And motherhood is definitely a gig that does not include a lot of natural rest.

Kids always need to eat.
Kids always need help getting dressed.
Kids always have fights that have to be broken up before punches fly (at least in my boy house)
Kids don’t stop asking questions.
Kids don’t stop needing supervision.
Kids (especially babies) don’t put up with being dropped in a crib or bed with books for a very long time.
Kids do not really let you sleep in or take Sunday afternoon naps.
Kids. Don’t. Stop.

What would it even mean for me right now to fully rest for a day? How do I even do that when I’m fairly sure I’ve been breaking the Sabbath my entire life simply because the guidelines for doing so as a ministry kid were poor, and my own commitment to it shoddy.

Going to church can be part of resting. But I’m very bad at doing it that way–and I shoot away the rest of my day on so many things.

So here’s my Sabbath offering to all the Mom’s out there, and to anyone else who finds themselves heavy laden with things that can’t be put down on EVERY day of the week: I’m brain-storming a list of all the things I CAN and should put down on Sabbath and my plan to be intentional about such things. And because I like lists, we’re going to go ahead and number it up.

1. Anxiety and general worries.

I know this one is WAY easier said than done, but hear me out. I tend to use anxiety to propel me into action. It’s not always a BAD thing for me. I think many people use it to benefit. Some of the reason I worry is because I’m afraid I won’t do a thing unless there’s a proper amount of anxiety beneath it. (And I’m not wrong). What’s school going to be like next year? Should my youngest go to the same preschool as my middle? Can my oldest be trusted on the school bus after the incident this week? Have I done enough planning for what we’ll eat this week? Did I drop the ball on too many tasks LAST week? Is that one lady who’s name I forgot in Mom’s group upset with me, and is the rhyme I came up with in my head good enough to help me remember? Am I connecting enough with my community? Am I being TOO MUCH? Is that one comment I made on Facebook going to blow up in my face?

Nope. Put it down. Put it all down. I don’t have to force anything though today or hold anything more than what I’m doing at this exact minute. Nope nope nope.

2. Food making.

Look this one’s way more practical and not really very deep, but I’m bad at planning ahead on Sunday. A big part of original Sabbath was collecting or preparing enough food ahead of time that it wasn’t a thing you had to do. It doesn’t mean I don’t have to serve my kids, and it doesn’t mean there won’t be dishes that simply must be done after. I can plan ahead and we can do sandwiches and crock pots and soup from a can. I hereby am going to give this to the Sabbath from now on.

3. Kid discipline.

No, hear me out. Sometimes kids must be separated from things that are causing them to misbehave or siblings they are fighting with. But I can go so deep into a shame hole wondering if the consequences I’m offering will produce the desired results, or if my kids are learning anything, or if I should have that talk with them one more time to make sure they understand. But no more. On this day we extend grace, and if it is needed kids are simply separated from the problem or put in a quiet space. Today we don’t lecture. Today we don’t give overly complicated consequences or worry if they will one day end up in jail. I am trusting God with all of that.

4. All the Extra chores.

Some things have to happen with kids always. I can’t put everything down. But I can put down laundry, or more than maintenance pick ups, and stressing over responding to emails. Today is for Fellowship, Worship and Joy–and oxes in the ditch in the way of kids needing undies, brushed teeth, clothing and basic feeding. Everything else can wait.

5. Difficult Discussions or worrying about them.

I hate hard discussions. I am terrible at them. I’ve been trying to have them more lately, without tears or trying to bail out of the whole thing, but it is the most impossible task I take on by far.

But today is a day for pausing and postponing. For trusting God to keep and watch over the relationships in my life and issues that can be solved tomorrow.

6. Bad TV.

Sabbath is for the renewing of the mind. So even though I think “Good Girls” is Breaking Bad for Moms and my new most favorite guilty pleasure show ever, it’s not particularly restorative. It can wait until tomorrow. Enough said.

7. Guilt.

Books could be written on Mom guilt. The constant rehashing and wondering if I’m doing it wrong, if I should plan more crafts and more fun outings and more sing-alongs, or if perhaps I should have gone back to work and hired it all out to a professional who would stay better engaged because sometimes paychecks are more motivating than personal idealism. Ok OFTEN paychecks are more motivating than personal idealism.

But today I’m good. I’m held. No guilt. No wondering. Plenty of walking them to the park and letting them play independently while I soak up the sun.

8. Litterboxes.

The poop will keep. Enough said.

9. Diapers.

The baby can change himself.

Hahahahaha, ok I’m just kidding. Diapers must be changed. Oh well.

10. Dressing up for society.

Now look, its been a really long time since I personally felt shamed into dressing up for other people. But I have started trying to at least put in the effort to not look scary and to take down SOME of the barriers of relating to people by just wearing attractive clothes and trying to do something with hair and makeup. I know some people really DO feel that shame, but either way it is effort put in for people. Can I encourage you to dress for God on Sabbaths? Wearing pajamas in college was one of the most woke things I ever did. I had to get away from worrying about other people looking at me and just showing up for God. And that’s what pajamas were for me  for awhile. I think this is a highly individualized thing and can change from week to week. Even now sometimes I dress up and sometimes I wear jeans and a T-shirt to church. I wear whatever will help me focus on God that particular Sabbath. This might be the ONLY thing on this list I already do without a struggle, and I sincerely want to offer that freedom to more people, especially women. Dress for worshipping God and being right with him–not people.

That’s my list of things I can actually do to rest on Sabbath. Anyone else have any insights into keeping an attitude and atmosphere of rest even around constant family obligations, ministry or anything else that tends to get in the way? I’d love to hear what you do.

*This is a picture of me sacking out in the church atrium while my Dad worked. Off screen I had rolled up one of those TVs all 90s churches had and was watching everything from the church library that seemed interesting. Yup, that’s my blanky.