26 May Chapter 6
Work in progress
It has taken me some time to write this final chapter, for a number of reasons, I think. One is that it feels like there is still so much to say, but I know that we need to draw this to a close. The other is that I’ve been working through another bout of depression and increased anxiety and all that that brings. In a way, it has been an inspiration for what I write about in this final chapter as it’s reminded me that we are always a work in progress. There is not ever really an end state to our growth and learning. There’s not really a finish line to say “we’ve made it, we’ve arrived!” There is just a continuous cycle of change and development and shifts from one season to the other. Often, there are things we carry with us through these seasons, sometimes without intention. Sometimes, there are things we carry with us that are beyond our control. Like depression. It’s not something I choose to carry along for the ride, I’d rather be rid of it. But I can start to learn the triggers, the signs and symptoms and I can start to learn how to better manage these things so we can work through it each time it rears its ugly head. It’s a work in progress. We are all works in progress.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this idea of progress and moving forward gently and consistently rather than in extreme bursts. I sort of picture it like a winding road that moves through the valleys and high up into the mountains amongst the clouds. There are patches that have some potholes and we need to move slower, navigating the unevenness and uncertainty of what’s around the corner, and sometimes, we are high up with wide views across bright green pastures and clear blue skies, almost as if we are flying. Whichever part of the road we’re on right now, progress is still progress. Progress is still moving forward. What our culture tells us though, is that we have to always be moving forward with vigour, we have to always be at a pace above average speed. The truth is that through those uneven, windy valleys, we can’t just speed ahead. It’s dangerous. We have to proceed with caution. What culture tells us though, is that we have to proceed with perfection. Every step, every kilometer needs to be perfectly timed, perfectly placed, perfectly performed. Right? It’s so exhausting! This need for constant perfection. And for what? Why do we feel the need to have and be perfect all of the time? What is perfect anyway? What if “perfect” was enough? What if “perfect” was being content? What if “perfect” allowed you to let go of the expectations we place on ourselves and go with what we know and what we believe in?
You know what I think keeps us from having this type of enough? Fear. Our fear of what others think of us. Our fear of the uncertainty. Our fear of making mistakes (which I don’t think is actually the fear of making the mistake but rather of what other people will think of us for not getting it right). Our fear of the unknown. Our fear of not being enough. Our fear of not being good enough. All the fears that lurk around in the space between our ears. In her book, Rising Strong, Brene Brown writes “If we are brave enough, often enough, we will fall.” Being brave enough means we need to be able to get to a place where we can say to ourselves “I know I will eventually fail, but I’m still all in.”
I’m one of those people who packs a polo neck jersey for a beach holiday, just in case, and who looks at the menu of a restaurant online three days before we go out, just so I can start thinking about what I’m going to order. So, you can just imagine how much I try to avoid the “but I’m still all in” scenarios. The thing is though, we cannot allow these scenarios to overcome us. We cannot allow the fear to consume us to a point that it steals us away from the people counting on us to show up. We should not borrow worry. I’ve felt all these fears, all the fears I know I shouldn’t, but I try my best to be aware of when I feel this way and to flip it on its head, so I can still proceed “all in”. The fearful thoughts in our heads won’t just go away; we have to intentionally focus on making them go away. Have you heard of the acronym for fear – False Evidence Appearing Real? False evidence. False. You see? Stories. Made up. Most often by ourselves. So how do we block out the loud orchestra of anxiety? We find truths. We find facts. We find blessings and joy. We find these things in our lives and we focus on these things. It’s not easy, it often is a fight, but it is possible. If we create them, we can break them down. We break down the false evidence with the true evidence, with the joy, with the prayers. Each and every time.
The other really important part of all this is who you surround yourself with, what you listen to, what you take in each day. As I’ve got older (maybe not yet wiser), and moved through different seasons, valleys, and mountain roads, I’ve realized more and more how absolutely essential it is to have a tribe around me. To grow and learn as a wife and a mom and in my career, I need this tribe to teach me and coach me and call me out when I make a wrong turn. We need to support each other and encourage each other! So many of us are trying to survive the seemingly endless stream of nappies and bottles, of playdates and extra mural activities, of loo paper for the guest loo and dog food for the puppy, all between the juggle of building our careers, or not building our careers, and with mom guilt in some form. So many of us are striving to create a harmony that allows our own self care and love, as well as wishing for an abundant supply of love and time for all those who depend on us.
And so many of us are doing this alone. Hoping that no one will notice how exhausted we feel. Hoping that no one will ask how we are doing, in case we burst into tears. Hoping we can get through the next hour without becoming a monster in front of our kids. Ladies, find your tribe! Surround yourselves with people you can be real with, people who love you because you show up, with or without make up on. Surround yourself with people who are honest with you and encourage you to try harder or take a break when you need to. Surround yourself with people who have gone through what you’re going through or can just hold your hand as you navigate this new road. Surround yourself with people who have run this trail and come out the other side, who can give you advice for your journey. Then, be humble and be teachable. Then, be willing to listen and learn from others.
Be humble, teachable, willing to listen and learn, because we are all works in progress. Not perfect, maybe more broken that we’d like to admit. But enough, for today, in this season. Perfectly enough to navigate the next part of the journey, because the only way out is through.