I’m sitting outside a coffee shop, sipping some fine English Breakfast. I have lavender essential oil on my wrists, and I’m taking deep, contented breaths while enjoying the relaxing scent and the sunny fall day.
Sylvia 2.0 operates quite differently than the high-achiever of 5 years ago. She still moves fast. Sometimes, though, she catches herself and takes a nice, slow breath. She remembers she doesn’t have to do everything now. As fast as possible.
Grace floats in, plus some compassion for herself and others.
I’m not a yogi, and I don’t meditate; however, I have discovered some new ways of living. Each Friday night after dinner (sometimes on paper plates, sometimes not—I don’t keep track), we cuddle up on the couch and watch a movie on Disney+.
Some of my kids have plastic water bottles, some stainless steel. Depends on which are broken or lost at the moment.
At work, I find myself saying, “I don’t know. Let me think about it and get back to you.” Or even scarier, “I can’t do that right now.” I feel more (though still not totally), comfortable being a regular old human instead of pushing for super-humanness.
I can walk by a box and think, “Nah, I’m not even gonna try to check that one.”
I make mistakes at work. I sometimes think I’ve blown it and am a failure. But instead of doubling down and working harder to compensate, instead of faking it and trying to pretend I’m perfect so others don’t see the weakness, I own my weakness. I apologize. I seek the counsel of others. My human imperfections as a mom and as a coach are no longer so threatening.
Do I long for control? For perfection, and a perfect performance? Yep. Daily.
But strangely, when I realized that I am not totally in control, that I have limits like everyone else, and that perfection is unsustainable, something joyful slid in front of my cracked lens on life, like rose-colored glasses. It was grace.
Not just for myself, because I do struggle to receive God’s grace for myself, but also grace for others. One of the sneaky underbellies of my Perfect Plan and its rigid rules was the self-righteous ego that felt superior to others. It judged. It didn’t show compassion to dear friends who made more relaxed (and probably more enlightened) parenting choices.
I had spent so long finding my value in my performance and in how many boxes I could check. I thought this made me a good mom. Actually, it made me someone who lived in self-condemnation when she couldn’t meet her standards, someone who judged other moms, and someone who didn’t have the grace and patience for her own children.
My health crisis forced me to chart a new path, one paved with grace and humility.
I had to accept that I needed God’s grace for my many imperfections as a mom, and to accept that life is more than rules. It is far more complex (and fun) than a checklist. Accepting God’s grace allowed me to show grace to others, too.
No matter what she looks like externally, I have no clue what a mom has been through or how hard her road has been.
She may be just like me, in the messy process of being broken of her crippling perfection and being put back together in a new and more beautiful way.
You may wonder what my path looks like now. It looks like taking a lot of deep breaths and slowing down.
It means I don’t do much exercise – not because I don’t want to – but because I don’t have to be a perfectly fit human being.
It means embracing drive-thrus as a gift. Not everyday, but for us, right now, every week.
It means trusting that my child who doesn’t show any interest in learning the alphabet will get there.
It’s semi-peaceful, semi-relaxed, and graceful.
It’s accepting I am not an expert. It’s repenting of the old me who thought she knew everything, and more than that, thought she HAD to know everything.
I do not have the corner on motherhood. And I don’t have to.
When I notice I’m fighting to prove an identity for myself in my daily performance at work, I change course and remember I already have an identity in Christ, and it’s better than I could ever achieve on my own.
When I am desperately pushing to meet a motherhood milestone (potty training, teaching someone to read), I have to catch myself and take a deep breath. It will happen in its own time. I don’t have to force it.
I have come to love something I never thought I would. I love showing compassion and relating to moms. I look back at Sylvia 1.0, and I see someone who was obsessed with looking good from the outside, someone who wanted to control her children’s lives to an unhealthy level, and micromanaging every detail. Someone desperate to get it right, and unforgiving of herself and others.
I still struggle with all of this. But my old lens has been cracked, and as God puts me back together, I am going to keep walking down this path of grace and humility and resist the many checklists that try to define me.
As I sit here at a picnic table outside my neighborhood coffee shop, I smell crisp leaves and English breakfast tea. I take a deep breath and smile—it is a good day. I feel grateful to have tasted the freedom that comes when I stop proving myself. I already have God’s eternal approval shining down on me. I’m going to type this final line, press save, close my laptop, and walk home along a sun-dappled sidewalk, in a state of humility and grace.