The year 2016 was a bit of a roller coaster for me with my oldest child moving to the other side of the globe and my youngest leaving home, but I prepared for it and gave myself extra grace. For me, this grace looked like coffee with lots of half and half, salted almonds, and massively huge bags of tortilla chips. It also looked like me being a little nicer to myself.
At one point (actually, most of my existence previous to this year) in my life, I forced myself to do lots of things and I was very disciplined—mostly because I thought that was how I was supposed to be. It seemed to be the mode of operation for all the women I admired. So I chose to work hard at working out, eating right, and being diligent with a mostly-regular quiet time. I got up early, made lots of food from scratch, and kept a clean house.
Now, however, as I am nearing the half-century mark (and am a novice empty-nester), I am starting to find out who I really am…and that I don’t enjoy all that structure so much and that I really prefer slowness to speed. I have discovered I am a nicer person if I don’t try to be someone that YOU want me to be, but, instead, tap into the person that God made ME to be; He’s the only One that needs to approve anyway, amiright?
And you know what? I’m not really the tough girl I used to strive to be, nor am I very brave; I only look that way sometimes because I hang out with my adventurous family. I’m actually the one that cries like a baby when the hiking gets hard and hyperventilates when I have to climb mountains. I’m just a normal, sometimes fragile, middle-aged (wow, I have never used that adjective to describe myself) gal who resists change like the plague and who happens to like cute things that look like animals (you know, like the cow-shaped cream pitcher that allows you to dispense milk while simultaneously pretending the animal is vomiting) and flannel sheets with rabbits on them (not actual rabbits, though that would be cozy).
I have taken to walking in the sunrise with my exuberant pup most days rather than performing exercises that make me want a four-hour nap by 9 a.m. I let myself eat a cookie with my coffee and have no guilt about it; I even bought a cookie jar shaped like a fox to put them in. Brent and I have been doing a Bible read-through in the mornings where we read a passage and then talk about it, and I haven’t been as rigid about spending my own time in the Word, nor have I been journaling regularly. But I am gaining a depth of knowledge from listening to Scripture being read to me. In fact, each night when I go to bed, I am anxious for morning to come so we can have our coffee/Bible time all over again.
Since my kids are out of the house and my morning schedule is much more lenient, I am allowing myself to sleep in occasionally (but not if it makes me miss my coffee date) and enjoying the coziness of my flannel sheets and the deliciousness of slumber. I occasionally purchase convenience products as part of my meals and have chosen to not look at the labels but instead, to enjoy my reduced stress level. Also, I often just consume tortilla chips from a giant bag for an entire meal, and I’m okay with that.
My house is easier to keep clean now, with less people inhabiting it, but it still gathers dust and pet hair and cobwebs. Uncharacteristically, or maybe not really (who am I anyway?), lately those things haven’t really bothered me. Occasionally, if someone is coming over, I will pull my sweater sleeve over my hand and do a quick dusting of the china cabinet.
And, instead of feeling a loss of control by giving some of these former “necessary things” up and loosening my grip on some of the others, I have felt a new freedom and a deep-seated joy in my paradigm shift. I am not suggesting that these changes are all positive, nor necessarily permanent, but switching things up a bit has helped me successfully navigate formerly unchartered territory. I am also learning that spending more time on what I enjoy actually fuels my mind and body to complete the
drudgery important things that all card-carrying adults must do (ie:
laundry, unloading the dishwasher, and buying actual food).
Lately, though, I am hankering for a bit more structure and will likely pick up some of the dropped balls; others, however, will continue to sit on a lower shelf; they don’t need nearly as much attention as I formerly gave them. And like the “chips for supper” decision, I’m okay with that.
In this year, the grace year of 2016, the year I lowered my expectations for who I am and what I should accomplish, I am much more content with who God made me to be. In conclusion, I guess I write all of these to convince myself that even in a time of great transition, I’m still okay. Life is still good. And the liberties I have given myself to “grieve” and adjust—to be more childlike and less hardcore--have made me feel less frantic and frazzled. That’s what we all want, isn’t it? Just a little sanity mixed in with our craziness? We always think we are in control; we really never have been. However, being nice to myself in my year of transition has leveled out the bumps of this wild ride and made the bruises not nearly so bad. At least nothing a Hello Kitty band-aid and a few tortilla chips can’t fix.
This is real life folks, not dress-rehearsal. I am planning on enjoying it fully.
“In my anguish I cried to the LORD, and He answered by setting me free.”
~ Psalm 118:5