2016 is quickly approaching its end and I think most people are ripe and ready for the new year. December has been a very weird mixture of good things and “why can’t life just cooperate?”, but that has been the whole of 2016 for me. One moment I’m singing The Wiz’s “No Bad News” and the next moment I’m singing “You Can’t Win.” They tell me that’s life but sometimes even people who enjoy the thrill of rollercoasters like being on solid ground for a little bit.
Around the end of the year, I try to think more in terms of what have been the major lessons I learned over the past year…or at least what have been the major lessons that were introduced and reintroduced to me in grand fashion over the past year (my annual top 10 lessons post will be posted some time this week). Today’s short post comes in the form of a short story.
Picture it – early, early Christmas morning 2016. My eyes are glazed over and I’m aiding Mrs. Clause (my Mom) by mechanically wrapping the last of the presents with A Christmas Story faintly playing on the television in the background. It’s easily about 1 am and I’m exhausted. My text notifications go off and I check my phone. In my inbox is a message from one of my “goodest” friends thanking me for the present I gave to her for Christmas. I always try to gift something to the most important people in my life during the holiday season, even if it’s something small. My response was typical me, “Yay!!! Merry Christmas! It wasn’t much but it’s the very least I could do for you because you’ve been such an unbelievably great friend to me! 💜” And, in her typical sniper fashion, she proceeded to get me together by telling me that in 2017, I need to learn how to take a compliment or statement of affirmation. If someone says that they love something I did or something I am, I should say thank you confidently and take pride in what I contributed in that moment.
We have built in Terms and Conditions that we apply to ourselves in these situations that others don’t necessarily apply to us. And instead of being able to just rest in who we are and what we have done, we are constantly placing asterisks on ourselves and our actions that denote a falling short.
I did not put her exact message because the sanctity of some rebukes should be preserved, but was worth sharing. There are many of us who do things and we’re always apologizing because it’s not bigger, not better, not more grand, not expensive enough, not cheap enough, not as good as the next person. There are many of us who make decisions concerning ourselves and we’re apologizing to others because it doesn’t meet their expectations – both perceived and real. We have built in Terms and Conditions that we apply to ourselves in these situations that others don’t necessarily apply to us. And instead of being able to just rest in who we are and what we have done, we are constantly placing asterisks on ourselves and our actions that denote a falling short. This robs us of our ability to not only enjoy the joy of giving but it robs us of our ability to appreciate who we are and the beauty of growth. And that keeps us in that perpetual hamster wheel of unreasonable expectations and the ugly cycle of self-wounding.
It was harmless, you may say. But a few harmless comments have jaded the best of us. A few harmless suggestions have convinced too many of us to not go after things and to not change things that we want. A few harmless looks at others’ lives have convinced enough of us that who we are and what we bring to the picture doesn’t matter because it’s not big, not expensive, not flashy, not catchy, not viral. Most of the ways we slowly kill ourselves inside and constantly degrade ourselves and our efforts are made up of a series of harmless events.
I know the popular thing now is to bash resolutions but this is how I look at it – call it whatever you want but making a personal stand to change whatever is not working in your life is never out of style. Of course, it always helps to have friends who call you on your BS, and that can be the difference between a resolution and a lifestyle change. Whatever the case may be, start now to make it a habit to lose the Terms & Conditions on your life and your actions. Be intentional with your actions, trusting that anything done with a pure heart is acceptable AND good. You don’t have to begin it today or even on January 1st but make sure you make this change before it’s too late and all you see in your life from your perspective is a bunch of asterisks.