A couple days ago, my daughters made a “kids couch.” They pushed together two folding chairs, covered it with a blanket, and snuggled up on top with books. It was adorable that they were so determined to sit with each other – and appalling that they were driven to such lengths because our love seat is lost under the remains of Christmas. Stockings, crumpled gift bags, a laptop bag that once held my computer and now is stuffed with blocks and a shirt that still has its tags, discarded jackets, and more cover every surface of what used to be a functional piece of furniture.
I’ve been sitting in my office for two days now, trying desperately to finish this post and several more writing projects. But I can’t put a complete thought into words and punctuation without stopping for another notification. Between my phone buzzing and my computer dinging, my head is spinning!
And then there’s my fridge. I can’t find a spot for our tea pitcher, but I also can’t find anything to use for dinner tonight. What is IN THERE, anyway? How can I possibly have (or complain about) so much food but nothing to eat?
Basically, it is complete chaos over here. And it’s overwhelming me to the point of stress paralysis. I walk into a room, stare at the mess, and walk right back out. I add another three or four tasks to my to-do list before I run out of room on the piece of paper covered in scribbles. I could start a new page, but what’s the use?
Even though I call myself a “recovering perfectionist,” the truth is that I still struggle with perfectionism. And part of that battle is my tendency to be all or nothing. That means when I face a mountain of laundry or a stack of unexpected medical bills or a list of writing deadlines, the result is always the same. I panic, because I can’t tackle it all at once. I freeze, terrified that I’ll never take care of any of it. And I act like a child, essentially putting my hands over my ears and crawling under my bed, shouting, “Lalala! I can’t hear you! You don’t exist!”
It’s not good, you guys.
Thankfully, I’ve been learning a lot from a friend much wiser than me. Her name is Sara, and she was a blogger and writer. She battled chaos that was infinitely more serious and challenging than my messy house or busy schedule; she had a rare, terminal disease and spent her days home bound in a small condo in Iowa.
And yet – she managed to keep herself from feeling overwhelmed. And even when her body was literally paralyzed, she kept her heart and mind looking upward and moving forward. She did it by simply choosing joy – finding the beauty amidst the bedlam – and facing whatever life gave her head on, with determination and gratitude. These words of hers are helping me this week:
I think our expectations of what we want life to be often overshadow the good things that are already in front of us – and that’s when we miss the silver lining. When my sister was going through a divorce, we were on the phone talking about hard decisions and out of my mouth came these words that I would later cling to for myself as well: “All God asks of us is to live the best life we can with what we are given.” We are all given different blessings and different crosses to bear, which means we can only take care of what’s in front of us in that moment and do the best we can.
I don’t know if that conversation brought any relief to my sister, but as my life changed over the years it proved to be something I needed to hear. I needed to remind myself that my old gifts were gone, and they didn’t serve me in living my best life anymore. I had new gifts and crosses given to me, and I had to rethink how to live my life with them. It took a while to find my new normal, and that continues to change on a daily basis.
But when my focus is on living the best life I can with what I have in that moment, I always find my silver lining. I’m not expecting what I used to have or what I think I should have. I’m looking at the blessings right in front of me and saying thank you every day.
Excerpt, Choose Joy: Finding Hope & Purpose When Life Hurts
As a perfectionist I deal with the trouble caused by expectations quite often. Sara reminds me that our expectations can get in the way of us not just dealing with what we truly have, but also being thankful for it.
My couch (FINE, my entire living room) is a mess partly because we all received more presents than we needed or deserved – but I refuse to complain about that, because who doesn’t need more socks and more books is never a bad thing).
And all those message notifications are more than interruptions. They’re evidence that I have work and ministry to do, something I have longed for and desperately needed through more than one wilderness phase of my life.
As for the fridge? Well, it’s full-but-empty because my kids and husband were home for the majority of two weeks, and that’s what happens when your house is full and your life is busy. Extra time with my people means less time for chores and errands.
So today I’m taking a note from my friend Sara, and I’m changing my expectations to exactly what I have in front of me – and then living my best life with what I have and what I can do.
I can put away half the stuff littering the couch. I can turn off my phone’s notifications. And I can stop at the grocery store for chicken and milk and carrots. Because my people expect dinner – and a place to sit afterwards, and I want to be here with them, focused and grateful for what I’ve been given.
How can you choose joy, even when facing chaos, today?
Such an amazing reminder. I really needed this today. Thank you.
@Julie, She was an amazing women and continues to be such an inspiration.
Ooohhhh, I read this and felt like you were talking right to me. I needed to hear all this! I’m going to reread it all, right now, a little slower. Thank you.
You are not alone. I think we all need to hear this at different times. xoxox
Just a thought..
that when your mind is racing.. and your focus is all over the map..
1 sometimes it’s health related. That fractured state of being can be indicative of something simple like a vitamin or mineral — magnesium — vital D, deficiency
Or it can be something a bit more intense. But never just dismiss it as a ADH thingy. You may do yourself a injustice
Second: that sort or fractured focus can come on when ones will is in direction opposition to one’s want.
A power struggle if you will .. if left unanswered. . Will our with greater frequency. But make sure first that it’s not organic first
It is always good to comprehend ones limits right up there with ones horizons too I suppose. . But a perfectionalist is one — who refuses to delegate power. Think about those words a bit.
Delegation is a power in and of itself but we can’t see it for the forest. .and the trees mentality.
God delegates His power –thru us –and instrument of God– to do His Will.
If God is willing and most aptly able to delegate.. why.. can’t we?? A wish to be Gid, to be better than God. Wow those are heavy long winded discussions. Suffice to say.. Human Ego. Human Pride.
So.. back to all that unfixed overwhelmed head space.
If we — the perfectionalist. . Who loves God more than our need to own ALL the power.. more than our Ego, our Pride.. can delegate… the focus becomes finite. You do this please. You do that. I will do thus. Together it gets done –pay attention– God’s way. Not ours. Not of our own personal power. Not to our glory . Not to our standards.. but to His. To His big picture.
It’s a mind blower for sure. That if we step aside from our expectations of how, when , who and why etc..then pray GOD. please guide me in this task of delegations.. and His big picture unfolds. Your focus returns. It’s a win-win for everyone, because –they’re all now part and parcel of God’s Delegated work plan-!!
Just my thoughts
Such wonderful thoughts and I so appreciate your sharing your insight. I (Jen) wrote the intro for this, but my friend, Mary, actually wrote this post and I will make sure she sees this comment because there’s so much truth here. 🙂 xoxo