I’ve done a fair amount of giving up in life. A few days ago I wrote about having given up at music in college. I gave up trying to run and grow my own business. I give up on healthy diets all the time. I’ve given up coffee too many times to count (it’s easy! I do it all the time!).
To be fair to myself, there were some extenuating circumstances in some of those instances. I probably could have put in some more effort or gotten some counseling to help me not give up. Or, I may have needed to lose some of those things to figure out they weren’t right for me.
However, this isn’t the kind of giving up I had in mind when I wrote this title just now. The “oh well, I’m no good at anything anyway.” The Eyeore Mindset I have spent time perfecting. Nope. Here’s what I mean, and then I’ll get to the good part:
I have often had it in my head that, in order to have a sense of self or a sense of worth, I had to be going somewhere. It was okay that I hadn’t gotten there yet, as long as I was on my way in some way. As long as I was making, or re-making, myself by my own rules and following my own heart, I was doing just fine and I could look people in the eye and tell them I “wanted to be a jazz singer” or I was “planning to go to film school” or I “owned my own jewelry business.” When really what I was doing was nannying and working two part-time jobs or half-assing my way through a music degree I hated and wasting my Dad’s money. As long as I had dreams, I had something. I had some kind of future to which to pin my identity. As long as I was in transit to something acceptable, I would be fine for now. And I knew that as long as someday I made it, someday I got to where I’d imagined I would be, I would finally feel at peace. Every celebrity memoir I’ve ever read is the glorification of that drive. I’m listening to one right now. It’s hilarious.
Then later, I pinned my identity on becoming like the mothers I saw around me with 12 perfectly clean children who all spoke Latin and Greek and played classical piano by the age of 8. I had to be eternally pregnant but thin and with-it. I had to be commanding with my children but yielding with my husband. I had to bake my own bread! But it had to be gluten-free. I had to breastfeed until age 7 but still look bangable for my husband at night. Not to mention family prayers three times a day.
Except that’s all complete crap. And I repudiate it. I choose to be a loser. Why?
Well, for one thing, the target shifts every time you attain something. Listen to any podcast made by any famous person. That, or it’s the opposite of what you wanted, or it’s transitory. See Jonathan Brandis.
Those “dreams?” The ones all the Disney princesses sing about? I don’t know how they make anyone happy!! They’re a crock of shit if you ask me. I have some really successful friends. And I know without having to ask them that it’s probably scary and lonely near the top. I also know that they still need all the same stuff I do and have all the same fears. I also know they probably still aren’t doing what they set out to do. I mean, who does that? Like 1% of people. But so many of us still believe that the attainment of something will make us happy. I know I do most times. It’s the gospel according to the whole world. And I include in that all the bullshit that gets thrown your way when you’re a mom. Yes, make good decisions for your children. Yes, be thoughtful. But all the rest? Repudiate it as often as possible. IMHO.
Now, here’s the good part.
When I am at my lowest point; when I can admit that I have utterly failed to do the things I had set out to do at 15, or 24 or 30 and that it’s too late to do them, I’m free. I don’t mean that I think I will never take up a new skill or create something new or get better at piano – or even write a book! I don’t mean that I give up on my kids and on giving them the best I can. I mean, I will never be famous. I will never marry a Hanson. I will not be a jazz singer or a rock star. It’s unlikely I will go to film school. And my kids aren’t going to be well-rounded geniuses. So be it.
When I am at the end of myself, I am finally free. And it’s not a free-fall. Honestly, I feel like I can breathe for the first time in a long time. When I finally admitted that the problem isn’t the money and it isn’t the house and it isn’t that I never had a career – it’s me. The problelm is me…it was a weight off my shoulders.
And yes, you may have to grieve some of it. But sister, you don’t owe anyone anything. Not even Jesus.
Now go outside and breathe. Stand in the sun. Take a walk. Stop thinking about your disorganized pantry. Give yourself permission to accept that you aren’t a broadway star, and cry about it if you need to. And then cry about how badly you fucked up this morning with your daughter. And then just be in that moment with Jesus and let him stand there with you. And you’ll know what to do next.