At almost nine months pregnant, a lot of things look different in my life. I was processing this with my counselor, and I shared that one of the most interesting things is how slow I have to walk. I cannot keep the pace that everyone else is going at, which feels like an accurate picture of life in general. It is fascinating to experience how challenging it is for people to slow down to my pace, or the many times they don’t even realize they’ve left me behind. Often when people do let me set the speed, observers will comment on how slowly we are walking. “Why do you guys walk so slow?” I respond, “Me. I’m the reason,” and watch their faces turn red immediately.
But this struck me as a metaphor for the reality we are living in – why do we feel like we have to move so quickly? One of my favorite things about walks with my husband is that it is never rushed. We are never power walking, we are enjoying time together at a leisurely pace. But culturally we view life as some kind of race, always moving at lightning speed from thing to thing, juggling way more than we are actually capable of carrying.
I have been thinking a lot recently about overthinking (I know). I caught myself multiple times one morning saying to myself, “…but I’m probably reading into it.” I realized I was giving a lot of mental energy and brain space to how I imagined people were feeling about me or perceiving me, without a whole lot of proof of what was actually true.
I read some inspiring Pinterest quote later on that said something to the effect of: Unless someone tells me there is a problem, I’m going to assume things are fine. I shouldn’t be wasting time creating problems that might not even be there. My counselor tells me I have a tendency towards “catastrophic thinking” which surely doesn’t help me in this area, but we are working on it.
Because here is the thing. No matter how perceptive or intuitive I am, I might be wrong. I might think someone is upset with me because their text was shorter than it usually is, or imagine that someone isn’t happy about something because they didn’t talk to me about it, but I could be making it all up. What a waste!
And no matter if I am right or wrong, I don’t have the capacity to be carrying all of that if someone isn’t going to bring it to me themselves. It gets us nowhere, and it’s heavy. I’m not strong enough to carry all of that around all the time.
If this upcoming season of parenthood is teaching me one thing, it is that I have limits and they are beautiful.
Change. She is unpredictable, sometimes coming in like a tornado, or one of those hippie sort of people that just glides in and suddenly the room feels different. But then sometimes she is subtle, whispering ideas and gently lighting candles, illuminating the way forward. She is unpredictable, and sometimes shows up uninvited. But she can be invited, and she will always come when you ask. She typically doesn’t knock, she knows where you keep your spare key under the flower pot and doesn’t hesitate to come right in no matter the time of day. She is loud but sometimes whispers, she comes with the seasons but also travels unexpectedly. “Why” isn’t a question that she will answer for you, and she might not really give you any time to process it. She likes to get moving and get on with it. I think she has our best in mind, but if I’m honest, sometimes in the moment it is hard to tell. She is an invitation, always.
Working in education, this past year was…challenging, to say the least. My department was asked to take on a lot of the additional work created by the reality of COVID. I learned through our awful fall semester that I do not adjust well to change. In reflection, I have done fine with change that I choose—like marriage, or college—but change that was not my choice? No thanks.
Turns out I can be pretty stubborn when I choose to be (and, apparently, that is kind of often). All these changes were happening and I didn’t like them; all this additional work was being asked of me and I had a terrible attitude about it.
In retrospect, I have described it as trying to stop a moving train by pulling on the back of it and digging in my heels. Anyone looking at that would see it is a hopeless cause. At some point, after months of exhausting myself, I let go and begrudgingly hopped on the train. But how much stress and exhaustion could I have saved myself by just getting on the train in the first place? One of the things that made it all so difficult was my attitude itself. Carrying that around made me even heavier. And granted, yes, we can all extend ourselves some grace; we were operating within the midst of a worldwide crisis after all. But I am trying to learn from it and not set myself up for the same kind of frustration again, and I think there are some helpful questions to reflect on as we move forward.