Anyone else out there reeeaally, really struggle with balance?
(Not physical balance, although those of you who have seen me attempt to board an escalator may beg to differ.)
I’m talking about balance in life. I feel like I never quite get it right – I’m always at one extreme or the other. I push myself way too hard, or I’m overrun with apathy. I floss my gums to shreds or I neglect them altogether. I sleep for 3 hours or 13 hours. I am a person of wild extremes and while there is something to be said for giving myself grace and accepting my uniqueness, there is a time to put that aside and strive for moderation.
This is especially hard for me in terms of accomplishment, the expectations I paint over my life.
I’ve been talking about adventure a lot lately, but I was really inspired by my brother. He recently moved to L.A. to pursue a career in films. He has been there for a little over 3 months and is mind-boggled that he has not made his big break yet. And when he calls me, frustrated and I laugh indulgently and give him Yoda pep talks (Silly Ryan, some time you must give it!), I start to realize how hypocritical I sound. My poor brother and I were born with a potent combination of Asian overachievement and Irish stubbornness. So, not only do we think,
“I should accomplish everything, with perfection, as soon as humanly possible or forever shame my ancestors and bring dishonor upon my family”,
but we follow it with
“I CAN AND WILL DO EVERYTHING AND NOTHING YOU SAY CAN DISSUADE ME, YE ARSE.”
I know, I know – it’s a really stupid way to live. It’s exhausting and disappointing and extremely frustrating. And the hilarious reality is that we bring it upon ourselves. No one else it putting these expectations on us, no one else is pushing us this hard, no one else really cares about our goals and deadlines but ourselves.
So I write this as much for the Ryans of the world as I do for my backwards self:
No one really cares.
No one really cares!
Yes, it is important to have goals and aspirations. Yes, it is important to work hard. Yes, we were given gifts to use them and fear should never hold us back. But for goodness’ sake, let’s be honest: no one really cares that I already bombed my New Years resolution and missed a week of blogging. No one cares that Ryan hasn’t landed a gig yet. No one cares that I didn’t get published on my first try.
Because, as wise old Dr. Seuss said: the people who mind don’t matter and the people who matter don’t mind. The people who would be small and cruel and petty enough to criticize our accomplishments or lack thereof should not be given space in our heads. And the people who love us weep when we weep, laugh when we laugh and ultimately care about the state of our hearts. And they would remind us to remind our Asian-Irish hearts that we are not human doings, not human havings or strivings or accomplishings or winnings. We are human beings, beloved in that simple fact.
So, to the Ryans and Marris of the world and to my overachieving, stubborn old soul…hear this freedom:
You are not your film career.
You are not your book writing.
You are not your red hair or your brown hair.
You are not your freckles or your big head.
You are not your marriage.
You are not your singlehood.
You are not your adventure.
You are a human being and you are Beloved by a Good Shepherd who wastes nothing and in THAT your identity should rest.
It’s so easy to jump to an extreme. To either shut down and decide not to care or to spiral out of control with plans and schemes and worries. But there has to be a balance, rooted in the truth of Belovedness.
When I was writing the Werewolf Jesus book, I had about a week to go until my deadline and I was nowhere close to my word count goal. I was in panic-mode, devouring Smartfood and popping headstands to increase bloodflow to my brain. I got a text from a friend, a writer that I so admire and it just said “bird by bird, Marri.”
Bird by bird.
Fans of Anne Lamott will understand this, but for the rest of you, it basically means “baby steps.” Something that I need to be reminded of nearly every day. It would never occur to me to take baby steps, to bite of only what I can chew, to set realistic goals. And, as I’ve said, it’s ok that I am who I am. It’s ok to be my unrealistically ambitious self. But at the root of most of my extremes is Fear, and that’s what has no place in a life of freedom.
Fear says “Sure, God says He will provide for you, but just in case – you should make sure you obsess over the finances.”
It sits on my shoulder and whispers “He says He is good, but what if His big, sovereign plan is to dangle authorship in front of you for the rest of your life, until you’re old and full of regret? Maybe you should give up and eat some Easy Mac.”
And the comforting thing is that His Love – that will not betray, dismay or enslave- sets us free from this polarizing Fear by offering balance. He tells us it’s ok to live Bird by Bird. That the wonderful combination of our free will and His plan is that if we trust Him for the big picture, we can live in freedom and balance with the day by day. When all I can really control are my actions for this day, well, it really narrows my scope of worry. When all that matters is that I’m Beloved, well, I don’t feel overwhelmed by expectation.
I set out to write a much different post, but sometimes I guess you need to set yourself straight. Someone please email me my own words in approximately 18 days.
I should have fully forgotten them by then and will be in full panic mode that I am 25 and have yet to conquer the world.
As always, I would love if you’d share this or opt to follow me here or on Twitter, etc, etc, etc. Maybe I’ll even pass 100 followers soon?