My birthday is January 12. A friend of mine, whose birthday is also in January, said that having a birthday right after New Year’s is sort of like a double invitation to reflect on her life, what it has been, and what she wants it to be. I loved that when she said that; she is very wise and good. But then I started kind of hating it for me personally when I started reflecting.
My life has been wonderful. No doubt about it. Sure, I have regrets, but not many. I was raised by great people in a great place. I’ve been loved. I’ve been given many fantastic opportunities. Lots of my dreams have come true. The past is not really the problem. I can’t go back and change it anyway. It’s that question of what I want my life to become that makes me feel uncomfortable.
Maybe it’s just the winter restlessness and anxiety that always seems to set in about now. But this invitation to a new year, and what life should be, is one I think I’m going to decline next year, because here’s where that sort of reflecting takes me:
I need to do better. I need to be a better Christian, wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, teacher, piano player, singer, writer, cook, house-cleaner, dog owner, budgeter, person. I need to be skinnier. I need to exercise more and eat less. I need to do more laundry. I need to read the Bible more. I need to give my kids more attention. I need more stuff. I need to be more grateful for what I have. I need more time. I need better skin. I need to help people more. I need to prepare better for my classes. I need to learn how to use technology better. I need to market my books. I need to write more and better. I need to get my Ph.D. I need to whiten my teeth. I need to make more money. I need to do more research. I need to get more sleep.
You know what? Those are lies.
Now, I’m not knocking growth and development. But the problem with reflecting too much on how things could or should be is that we miss what is. Click To Tweet And I don’t want to miss that.
This was painfully illustrated to me by a recent parenting struggle. I was pretty down on my kids for some sub-standard behavior. I kept thinking how I needed to do better, questioning what I could do differently to teach them, what more I needed to learn, practice, give. I thought about how things needed to change. I reflected on the future and what if it was just going to get harder, and what if we all made worse mistakes, and their lives were ruined because maybe I was a horrible parent and our family was going to go straight down the tubes? And I was pretty miserable and so were they. For several days. It was hard to shake the gloom and doom around our house. Because as you know, if Moma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.
It has been suggested that I may tend to take things a bit too seriously. I don’t know if I was doing that or not. I usually think people who say that don’t take things seriously enough. But I do know that in the midst of all of my somber reflections, I finally remembered something true: I have awesome kids. All four of them. They’re actually amazing. And Stone’s a good dad and I am not the worst mother in the history of ever. And we all make mistakes and have to say our sorry and be forgiven and get more chances. That’s what healthy families do. So maybe we’re not going down the tubes yet.
I believe the future is bright. I hope we all keep getting better and better till Jesus comes back. But now—this moment, this place in my life–is beautiful. And I don’t want to miss now because I’m bemoaning the past or afraid of the future. I want to be still and know that life is good, so good. And what I have and who I love and what I am are enough—more than enough. Beautiful. Now.