2021 Check In

I think it might be mutually beneficial to have these monthly or bi-monthly check ins… Changing the calendar didn’t solve the world’s problems (and we knew it wouldn’t), but this year already feels a little more tedious than I expected. I don’t think it’s an entire dumpster fire, but I think the ashes and trash are still smoldering…. so all is not great. Ya know?

Personally, I’m in this weird place where I feel like I’m doing way too much… but that I’m also not doing enough. The other day I requested an application for a court-appointed child caseworker volunteer position. When I was telling K about it he said, “You can do whatever you want, but why do you feel like there’s a hole that needs to be filled with this giant commitment? You already take on so much. Do you need to do this, too?”

I deleted the email with the application.

I am a busy person… When I’m at home I force myself to stay on my feet and clean, organize, pick up, declutter, rearrange, etc. until I’m completely exhausted. I never feel DONE, though. It drives K nuts. And once I sit down on the couch, I pick up my laptop, Kindle, or Switch to entertain myself while watching television.

So right now I’m struggling with knowing that what I’m doing is enough. I mean, on one hand I know that it is… but on the other hand I get a wild hair that says I need to do more.

I’m trying to carry the same grace and forgiveness I had for myself in 2020 into 2021… but it’s a struggle. I think a new year just reminds us how long this insanity has been going on. Sigh. But we’re going to get through it.

Tell me what’s weighing on your mind or heart this month. How has 2021 been shaping up for you? Any major accomplishments we can celebrate? Any areas you’re looking to change your mindset toward? Let’s check in with each other.

Trying to Be Nice

Let’s get real today. There are women in this world who we’d all “love to hate.” Of course, in all actuality, we have no reason to dislike these women- they’re kind, beautiful, honest, friendly, and- in some cases- God-loving. On top of that they’re usually ridiculously creative and they always have the perfect messy bun. Their coffee is always warm and abundant and in a cute little mug that reads, “Stressed, Blessed, and Coffee Obsessed.” Their children are adorable and polite. Their rescue dogs are the perfect blend of Australian shepherd and husky, and their husbands bring them gorgeous white flowers on a random Tuesday to display on their Pottery Barn desk.

You have someone in mind right now, don’t you… Maybe it’s Joanna Gaines. Maybe it’s another blogger. Maybe it’s someone you know in real life. Regardless, it’s a woman who always seems to have it totally put together. And even when she doesn’t, there’s a beautiful smile on her face and she’s asking you what’s going on in your life and how can she help.

So often I wish I was that woman. I wish that I could look at my mantel and just know that a copper bucket with an old wooden spoon and two small succulents would fit perfectly. I wish that I could apply my make-up at 5am and still look like a put-together adult by 3pm. I wish that I was quick to offer grace and mercy to others, instead of the sarcasm and judgement that tend to fly from my lips.

Kind 2

I’m not trying to get down on myself today… I have quite a few qualities that I’m proud of. They could all use some perfecting, but I like to think that goes for everyone. It just seems like these “perfect” women never slip.

I know that’s not true, but when they do slip they don’t bring anyone down with them. They’re not vengeful. They’re not nasty. They’re not hurtful. Those are three things that I know I can be and have been in the past. Those are the traits I’d like to weed out. As of late, I’m consciously trying to delete the words “jealous” and “hate” from my vocabulary. Do I wish I was participating in the trip/experience/etc. that you are? Yes. But more than that I am genuinely happy that you are getting to have that vacation. Instead of saying, “I’m so jealous of you” I’m trying to say, “I’m so happy for you!” And I’m really meaning it.

Personally, my faith plays a role in this change, too. In the past I’ve never uttered or typed the words, “I’ll pray for you.” But I’ve said it a lot lately- and then I really have prayed for those people. I told K a few weeks ago that I often pray for him. You don’t have to be religious to be nice; it just tends to go hand-in-hand for me.

Kind 1

I don’t believe that I will ever master effortless beach waves. My dogs are a weird mix of under-bite boxer and scrawny whippet. (Which I wouldn’t change for the world.) I hope that my future kids will be polite, but I don’t think they’ll ever sport a top knot or keep a cardigan on for more than a minute. (It’s too hard to climb trees in a sweater.) I’ve been drinking coffee for +3 years and I still can’t figure out how to keep it warm.

But that’s ok. These things don’t bother me; I don’t feel a need to change them.

I’d like to be nicer, though. I’d like to extend understanding and grace to those who deserve it- and more importantly, those I would have formerly felt don’t deserve it. People won’t stop being rude and nasty, but I can change my reaction. I can stop that cycle of anger and judgement. I can say “thank you” to the waitress who made us wait 20 minutes to order our drinks. I can smile politely at the scowling woman in Wal-Mart who’s shooting daggers from her eyes at me for no reason. I can refrain from gossip. I bet Joanna Gaines doesn’t gossip.

I’m not in the business of comparing myself to others- really, I’m not. But when I see traits in other people that make them shine brighter (inside and out), I tend to gravitate toward that behavior or outlook or lifestyle. It’s my path to self-improvement.

Then again, if anyone has the secret to perfect hair and well-behaved dogs I’m open to that, too… Just saying.

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A Little Christmas Grace

When K and I make plans for a big date night or vacation, or I’m planning a crazy party or preparing for the holidays, or when I just feel like I’m lagging behind as far as being a good wife/daughter/friend/dog parent goes, I put a massive amount of pressure on myself. It’s an ugly, unkind, nagging pressure.

And I’m only so big and strong, so sometimes that pressure leaks out and it morphs into a carping, badgering, stressful attitude. And I stain everyone and everything around me: the dogs, K, my family. And to add to this toxic pressure, I’m fully aware of the insanity and I bury myself in guilt for not controlling my thoughts and behaviors.

Christmas Grace

I know it’s not just me. Last week Erin touched on this kind of pressure and it’s effects. It’s absolutely maddening and poisonous and draining… but when you’re a Type-A perfectionist (or even a Type-B perfectionist), it’s an annual monthly weekly pressure.

But that night, however long ago, buried in straw and blankets, a baby was born. And that baby wasn’t born so that our cutout cookies could rival Martha Stewart’s. He wasn’t born so that I could gift the perfect toaster oven to Aunt Beth. He wasn’t born so that I could scrutinize the placement of every single ornament. He was born for me and for you and for your neighbor and the guy at the gas station and the woman from the homeless shelter. If the tree slants and the presents look frumpy and the ham is over cooked it’s ok- because regardless, He was born.

Whatever your beliefs- whether they mirror mine or not- Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Cheers to you and yours. Enjoy the imperfect, crazy, messy moments this holiday. Dismiss the pressure and make room in your heart for joy.

Whether your holiday morning is spent around a tree with your significant other or around a table with your 35 family members, make it a good one. Try to replace the nagging with gratitude, the greed with selflessness, and the pressure with joy. We’re not perfect, but that baby is. And because He is, we don’t have to be.

Enjoy the holiday, friends. You are loved.

-Louise

A Grateful Heart with Ember Grey