It’s been awhile since I’ve posted any kind of real update here. Seems like today, quarantine day 40 of the coronavirus pandemic here on the central coast of California, is as good a time as any.
I have four toddler grandchildren. Well, one of them is almost toddling and one them has almost aged out of toddling into full-blown boyhood, but let’s go with calling them quadruplets for now for the sake of simplicity and so that we can get a mental picture of what it’s like when all four of them are at my house. Four times the craziness, four times the cuteness, four times the trouble and four million times the love.
Anyway, one thing everyone knows about toddlers is that they like to say no a lot. But here’s the thing… there is nothing like the utter delight when they are excited enough about something to say “YEAH!” Their faces light up, their arms wave about wildly while their bodies start to run toward whatever it is they’re excited about and their joy is contagious as you can’t help but experience the world the way they are seeing it.
One thing that I’ve noticed about me lately is that I like to say no a lot. In fact I spent the first fourteen or so years of my life steadfastly resisting everything. I was a quiet resistor, but a fierce one. And then something happened when I turned fourteen. I began to realize that life was much more fun if I went along with my mom than it was when I fought her. I don’t know that I had ever thought about the concept of fun before but once I discovered it, I realized I liked it. I liked everyone around me better and I liked myself better when I was having fun. And it didn’t take much to have fun. All you had to do was be agreeable.
It’s like the first rule of comedy, the whole “Yes, and…” response to things (even preposterous things) is not only funny, but FUN.
I spent my high school years pretty happy. At this point, I feel like I need to explain that when I say happy, it’s with the understanding that I still only liked sad songs, sad movies, contemplating the deep issues of the heart and seeing the futility of life for what it was, crying as much as possible in order to cleanse all my heart-wounds, with the occasional bouts of deep, deep depression when a boyfriend broke up with me or a friend disappointed me… but just go with me here. For me, I was happy and confident, free and driven, blissfully making my way to adulthood and owning all of my craziness, which helped to shape me while going along to get along.
After that came marriage, ministry, babies, hardships, loss, change, grief, growth.
And now I find myself here on Day 40 of self-reflection on steroids and I’ve discovered something new that in all my years of self-reflection (which trust me, I have done to an unhealthy extent) I was never really able to put my finger on until now.
It hasn’t been so much that I am about saying no. It’s been that I am about noticing what everybody’s expectations are, and there are a lot of expectations out there. So many expectations in fact, that there is not enough of me to even begin to meet those expectations. For this reason, I have spent my life withdrawing into myself, but I have never stopped observing and taking all of it in and FEELING it. While I have never really had a problem saying no to expectations that I know I can’t or don’t want to meet, I have also never had a problem going above and beyond meeting expectations that I can and do want to meet. You might say that I am an expert at knowing what is expected of me and of others.
But something’s been lost somewhere in there and this is what I’ve discovered: I don’t know what my own expectations are. In fact, if I have expectations at all, I don’t know if they are okay to have and I haven’t been brave enough to quiet my mind long enough to examine them. Now that I’ve noticed this, I can no longer resist it. And believe me, I am good at resisting. It’s gotten me this far, after all. But what I really want to do is to be like my grandchildren and have my face light up and my arms wave about wildly while I run headlong into whatever this is while screaming “YEAH!”
Last week, the weather was amazing and there was not a cloud in the sky and so my stir-crazy 20 year old daughter and I went down to the beach to watch the sunset. The sunset was beautiful but the crazy was even more beautiful. 40 days of only each other for company can do that to a mother and daughter. She asked if she could sit on my shoulders and I said yes because why not at this point?