Life as the daughter of a USAF fighter pilot was never boring with several overseas moves and the merry go round of new schools – 13 in all before college to be exact. But who’s counting? And as my Dad moved up the ranks my Mother’s social calendar was overrun with to-do’s written up into the margins and across the weekends. Coffees, squadron parties, award ceremonies, last flights, Officer’s Club black tie dinners, base fund raisers, welcome teas, tours for visiting generals and community events. Right next to her calendar was always a bottle of Revlon nail polish to freshen up her manicure as she darted out the door in matching heels and handbag. Always pristine she was off to another obligation, driving with her knees as she waved her fingertips in front of the AC vents. Looking back it was a blessing that the base speed limit was only 15 miles per hour.
My Mother could handle a busting at the seams calendar with an air of ease – plus a very smart wardrobe that was “new again” with every base move. Her hair and makeup was always spot on yet she still found the time to pack silly love notes in my lunch always trying to make my childhood a magical one.
What I learned from all of that hustle mixed with the scent of Estee Lauder Beautiful was busyness was a sign that you were doing it right. That success was packed weekends and over flowing party invitations. Always fashionable. Never fashionably late. That a full calendar meant a full life.
Boy was I ever wrong.
Being a natural social butterfly if there was a group I was in it in high school – side note I started high school in South Carolina then we moved to California. Look for that dramatic life defining post in the future. Thanks parental unit once again for that traumatic experience. But I digress . . . . butterflies.
And from a high school career that was a half page resume with student councils, clubs, volunteer experience, sports (and yes cheerleading counts people!) and societies I took the same plunge into college groups and activities. Fast forward to graduate school then my first few big girl jobs there I was raising my hand to join wherever the people gathered.
My daily calendar was as overfilled as I was overwhelmed.
Yet somehow I thought if I didn’t look busy or feel busy then I wasn’t fulfilling my role as the self appointed good girl. I was all things to all people at all times, yet there simply wasn’t enough of me to go around. I never said no to joining a professional or social group and sat on so many boards and attended so many black tie events that I’d have to look at the agenda to remember which group I was supporting at that moment. In fear of missing out I never backed down to outings with friends. If there was a new hip restaurant opening you can bet I had eaten there within its first month of operation. On top of netting promotions at work because I kept pre-dawn to post-sunset hours I managed to keep abreast of all news be it local, international or simply gossip in my circles.
Despite a full life, my happiness tank was on empty. I’d never been so tired yet frantic at the same time.
Instead of creating a wealth of self worth or eons of peace in my soul, all of the striving for perfection on the outside led to a constant state of unrest.
I was either tidying my home like a mad woman as a friend in need called to drop by so by her arrival I was worn out and not invested in our time together. Or I only paid attention to what was visible to the world – forget my character or spiritual life. There I was fretting over booking facials, getting to the dry cleaner or finding the perfect heels for a new suit as I stayed later at work to tackle another project to impress my boss. And do you know where searching for yet another perfect pair of heels to pull off a daily wardrobe win has given me? A closet full of beautiful fancy shoes that my daughter plays with because I can’t get my tortured feet back in them per the podiatrist’s order. My guess is that Carrie Bradshaw is now resigned to a life of sneakers and supportive flats too.
And to be honest, I secretly loved hearing “how do you do it?” and “you are amazing how much you give back.” Like my value was a daily ticker based upon what I had done, where I had been, who I had helped and what fabulous outfit I had worn while pulling off such feats.
So after a painful bout with Shingles on two nerve pathways at once – because I never do anything the easy way – plus a regression of my autoimmune issues, I had to reassess the price of popularity.
Today I am blessed with a very patient better half and three amazing little people who have shaken the ego out of me. I can now say I honestly crave a calendar with blank space. I’ve become a homebody. My twenty year old self shakes her head in disgrace!
But in all of this I am beyond humbled to finally see how the grace of God was always there for the taking. He was just waiting in the wings for me to focus up instead of out.
Here’s a good ending spot, but the internal over achiever in me feels she needs to speak some truths on how to take back being in the here and now. To be authentically available. Like they say, there’s a reason this gift of time is called the present.
- Give up magazines. What? Seriously I had a People magazine subscription for over a decade and it was my Friday night ritual to flip page by page through the gorgeous people with their fabulous clothes and vacations. Granted I knew it’s all airbrushed but it didn’t make me feel any better about myself. Anything we take in and allow to skew our outlook, value or priorities truly is not a wise investment.
- Build in space for the best, shelve the rest. What’s the best use of your time? Well it might require you break up with social media – TV shows, websites – same thing as above. If it doesn’t align with who you want to be or bettering your self it’s just a time suck. Even window shopping had to be taken off of my me time outings because at the end of the day they are going to change up those outfits I so desire and put out new ones that I desire even more. It’s a perpetual cycle of want-don’t have-desire-emptiness- greed. Double yuck.
- I read that Jen Hatmaker’s agent told her “if it’s not a hell yeah, then it’s a no.” So simple yet wise. In booking your calendar or setting up your schedule know that there will always be terrific options, outings and opportunities. But you can’t do them all. Or you can’t at the expense of your mental and physical health. It’s not like you have 30 horrible invitations and 1 awesome invite. Done. It’s usually a host of a lot of good options. Choose wisely.
- Take some time to jot down how you think the world sees you. Then make notes on how you want to be remembered at your funeral. Do the two descriptions mirror each other? If not ponder upon why that is and how you can become your best self sooner rather than later. Nothing changes if nothing changes. Your move.
Prov 14:30 A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones. NIV