Trying Too Hard and Still Disappointing EVERYBODY - Elisabeth Klein

I’ve been feeling better lately. I’m laughing more. I’m not stewing as much. My sadness is lifting and my anxiety isn’t my constant companion. I’ve knocked my medication down to its lowest dose.  It finally feels like Spring – in Illinois and in my heart – and I’m so very grateful.

However… I still have my moments of irritability and anxiety, to be sure. In fact, my husband and I even have put language to it. When I’m feeling stressed, I’ll tell Richard what number I am from one to ten. When I say, I’m at a 10, he knows it’s not good (and that he might want to duck and cover).  Those 10s are fewer and farther between these days but I’ve been experiencing a new flavor this year that I’ve finally been able to label.

It’s what I’m calling blended fam-xiety. I get this feeling before a family gathering, when I’m trying to plan a weekend when we’ll have any combination of our kiddos home with us, when I’m mentally lining up all of our kids and their significant others in our living room each morning and praying for them out loud by name, when I’m thinking through the ways I’ve hurt my husband and our kids lately, all that good stuff.

I recently heard that life is not a problem to solve.

Seriously? Because I’ve spent the entirety of my life trying to fix my life. And I’ve especially spent the last year doing that with all our ups and downs and chaos and pain and transition and change and adjustments.

Okay, so it’s like this. Imagine me sitting down at my coffee table, and I have just dumped out a 1000-piece puzzle. And I am super determined. This sucker is not only going to be put together, but PERFECTLY, and TODAY, and even if it KILLS me. Oh, and all the pieces are going to LOVE where I’ve put them. And it’s going to be AWESOME. (Do you hear the gritted teeth? Can you see the clenched fists?)

But here’s the thing. The picture on the box is missing, and instead of contacting the manufacturer for a replacement image so I know what it is I’m actually putting together, I decide to sketch a little something of my own and go off of that.

And then I spend countless minutes and hours and days and weeks and months trying to force every single freaking piece into the place I THINK THEY SHOULD GO, as opposed to how THEY WERE CREATED TO GO, not taking into consideration the fact that some of the pieces, you know, come from other puzzles and, umm, maybe have minds and feelings of their own, and, oh I don’t know, might need some time to adjust and heal and reconfigure in their own timing and such.

That’s been my last year.

I had this vision in my head of what all of this was supposed to look like. No one put it there. My families of origin didn’t put it there. All my pre-marital reading didn’t put it there. And God most certainly didn’t put it there. I did this to myself. (Theory: perhaps because my very own original puzzle was missing some pieces and I therefore spent a lifetime becoming bound and determined that when I finally had a grown-up puzzle of my own, it would be whole. But that’s just a theory.)

And the vision looked something like this: we’d all be happy almost all of the time, and would all get along, and we’d have no disagreements, and we wouldn’t hurt each other, and it would all just gel as if we’d all known each other our entire lives as opposed to, you know, a year-ish.

But that picture didn’t take something pretty important into consideration: that all of these people I was so desperately trying to force into becoming a brand-new, loving, supportive, super-fun family are actually human beings with feelings and lives and pain and were at varying levels of not-quite-ready-for-this-to-happen-yet-ness.

It’s in those moments that I realize I am trying to make too many things happen at the same time in order to not hurt anyone or let anyone down and – I just recently realized – in order to not hurt myself or let myself down.

What I’m finding is that it’s a rare circumstance when I can please all of us at the same time. In fact, I am acutely aware that every single day I am disappointing at least one of my loved ones, if not all of them, all day, every day.

This weekend was no exception. There were five circumstances I was trying to coerce into place within the span of thirty-six hours. They were all good things.  They were all noble things. They were all relationship-building things. But none of them really fell into place, and so I was feeling frustrated and sad and angry (I was at a little bit of a 10 for a stretch there) that I couldn’t get any of those five things to happen that I wanted to come to pass, in the ways I wanted them to, for the reasons I wanted.

But then a little mantra came to my mind this weekend:
Everything will happen that is supposed to happen.

And I said it over and over and over again. And then it hit me that the converse of that statement is also just as true:
Nothing will happen that isn’t supposed to happen.

So, as I was sitting on the couch by the fire with a cup of tea, I took some deep breaths. And I asked Jesus to make our home welcoming and safe and a refuge, and then I heard myself, while crying, ask Jesus to help me just be myself. I told myself that it’s okay to be myself, even if I disappoint those I love. That who I am is enough.

That it’s okay to want all of these things, to want harmony and to want to be a refuge. But that it’s not my job to make all of these things happen, to manufacture relationship growth between near-strangers, let alone overnight. That it’s okay to say no sometimes even if it hurts someone’s feelings (not intentionally, of course), that it’s okay to take a nap if my body really needs more sleep, even if we have people here (I did this this weekend, and I felt guilty…ugh).

Everything happened this weekend that was supposed to happen this weekend. And if something didn’t happen, it wasn’t supposed to. And even though that makes me a bit sad and I am disappointed, it’s okay. And that doesn’t mean I’m failing as a human and a Christian and a woman and a wife and a mother and a stepmother and a friend. It just means that I am human. Who can only do so much. Who is only responsible for my actions and words and peace of mind, and no one else’s. (I have to tell myself this over and over and over again, because, girls, I feel like I’m failing and letting everyone down every day. I seriously feel this.)

And I absolutely must believe that I don’t have to keep trying this hard (because, ohmylands, I have been trying so hard this year, I’ve been killing myself) – to make everyone happy and to make everyone feel loved – because those aren’t my jobs, even as a Christian and wife and mother and stepmother.

That’s up to God. (Thank you, God.)

Here’s a little P.S. This past year has been beyond harder than I ever could have imagined. (Newsflash, Beth: change is hard.) But you know what else? I have had some of the deepest, most surprising moments of beauty this year that I also never would’ve expected. (Like, even this weekend…a few gorgeous things happened that I wasn’t expecting, that I didn’t have a hand in planning.) That only God could have orchestrated. That I never would have saw coming six months ago. Things like apologies and ‘I love you, Mom’ and so much more. Which reminds me of this deep Truth: God’s ways are higher than my ways, his plans are better than my plans, and he totally and completely knows what he’s doing and is the One I need to look to to put my puzzle together.

So I’m placing my hope and trust in God and his timing and his vision, and I’m going to wait on time to do its magic, and I’m going to take a longer view, and I’m going to mine for those surprising moments of bursting joy as if I’m looking for gold in a river (and I’m going to whisper a thank-you to the Divine when I stumble upon something beautiful), and I’m going to love those in front of me today and pray that all the rest comes to pass as God wants it to, not as I want it to, because that will be even better.

God is not a God of disorder but of peace. -I Corinthians 14:33a

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