For the love of my sanity, I’m writing this blog post.
My lovely Bible study group decided to read For the Love, a new book by Jen Hatmaker, an undiscovered genius and comedienne extraordinaire. I loved the book so incredibly much that I finished it in 3 days. But when she referenced Friday Night Lights on the very first page, I knew we were fellow Dillon Panthers and would get along just fine.
In the book, Jen discusses a lot of things (overalls, Jimmy Fallon, and dinner parties, just to name a few), but one of the main threads throughout the entire book is the inability to do it all. As a 21-year-old girl/woman (gi-man, maybe?) who is about to start a real job in the real world –literally– TOMORROW, reading Jen’s words was so encouraging.
We see so many women on Facebook who have Pinterest-worthy birthday parties for their kids, make 5 course meals for dinner every night, carve a beautiful bookcase from scratch, or suddenly decide to take up curling lessons and we think, “Man! She has got herself together! I don’t even have children to take care of and I haven’t been able to keep track of my razor in 2 years.”
There is always an impossible standard of “having it all” that we have to live up to, whether we’re 21, single, and starting a career or 40, married, and handling 3 kids every day. Even 18 year old kids have to see Kylie Jenner’s face plastered all over the TV screen and think “I’m supposed to look like that?! I’m just trying to pass trig.” It’s okay, 18 year olds, I just barely passed trig and I look nothing like Kylie Jenner, but that’s probably because I don’t have $10,000 worth of junk shot into my face every month. If I was rich, maybe it’d be a different story. (*insert crying-laughing emoji here*)
In the book, Jen talks about how it’s impossible to balance on a balance beam when you have 5,000 things pulling you in different directions. Prioritize your life and your obligations, cut what you don’t need, and you’ll be able to balance on the beam. Makes sense, right? Sounds super easy.
The thing of it is, for the past 3 weeks, I’ve basically had nothing to do. I wake up late, visit Rick at his office for lunch, go straight to the gym, stop by Target on the way home, shower, watch TV, and go to bed. Sounds pretty simple, yet somehow I still manage to leave my wallet at home, forget to lock my car while I’m in the store for a half hour, or get to the gym and realize I didn’t wear tennis shoes (seriously).
I especially second-guess my life when I visit my cousin Jen in California (who I sent a copy of this book to). The woman has 5 children ages 8 and under, is homeschooling them, and still wakes up before them to read, study the Bible, and do every other incredible thing in the world. She has the most stress on her plate of anyone I know, and she is still the most graceful, kind, loving, and Christ-emulating person in the world. Yes, the word rock-star is completely appropriate.
Can someone explain to me how she can raise 5 (amazing) mini-humans, teach them everything they need to know about life, and cook dinner and drive to soccer practice while I forget my shoes on my way to the gym?!
Luckily, I had a chance to talk it out with aforementioned lovely Bible study group last night. I was hesitant to be honest and vulnerable about my inability to even take care of myself, because, well, I was scared of them judging me.
I’m always scared of how people will react when they realize I’m a hot mess. It’s easy to be caught up in wondering what others think of us. But, in the words of Ellen DeGeneres: “You know, it’s amazing how much time that we put into thinking about what other people are thinking about us when everybody else is just thinking about what we’re thinking about them.”
So I was honest with them. You know what’s amazing about a group of legit friends? There was no judgement. There was no side-eye. There was only a chorus of “I’m a mess, too!” coming back at me.
When we’re able to admit that we don’t have it all together, it enables other people to admit it too. That kind of vulnerability and honesty is what makes true, lasting friendships. If we know that our friends are struggling or feel like they don’t measure up, it’s a lot easier to encourage them and hold their hand through it. If I admit that I am struggling or feel like I’m not measuring up, it’s a lot easier to my friends to encourage me and hold my hand through it. And really, that’s all anybody wants.
I encourage you, if you’re reading this, to break down the facade of perfection that you’re trying to live up to and show your friends your faults so they can share theirs. It’s like a big old weight being lifted off your shoulders. Working moms, encourage stay at home moms. Women, encourage your girlfriends. Husbands/boyfriends, encourage your wives/girlfriends.
Here’s a big one that is often overlooked: wives/girlfriends, encourage your husbands/boyfriends! The unattainable standard is not a standard exclusive to women. It might be a different unattainable standard, but men are not immune to the lie of needing to have it all.
Men are expected to go to work all day, come home (with a bouquet of roses in tow) in a fabulous mood, regardless of how their day went, prepared to chat mindlessly with us about Kate Middleton’s latest hairstyle. They’re also expected to know every statistic of every sport, stay up-to-date with current events, and keep up with the Kardashians so we have something in common to talk about at the end of the day.
We also want men to take the kids to Daddy-and-me gymnastics or coach Little League, go to the gym to get Zac Efron-esque abs, and display those abs by the pool for our viewing pleasure in the 20 minutes of spare time they have in a day. Is that even fair?! I think not.
My point in all of this is that everyone needs encouragement. Moms need encouragement, college students need encouragement, Dads need encouragement, and the waitress at Cracker Barrel needs encouragement.
Holding ourselves to unattainable standards forces us to hold other to unattainable standards too, and it’s just a vicious cycle of failure and defeat. The more we are honest about ourselves and our reality, the more we are able to encourage others and live life together with them instead of through an Instagram filter or carefully curated Facebook photo album.
I’m starting a journey tomorrow into what they call “adulthood,” so we’ll see how it goes. (I told my Bible study girls to schedule in a “Paige breakdown” on Thursday just to play it safe.) I don’t expect to be able to do it all or to be able to knock it out of the park. But hopefully, when I fail, I can at least make it humorous enough for it to be entertaining when you read about it on the blog.