Choosing Grace

Should.

That’s a trigger word for me. I know I use it with myself too much, but I make an extreme effort to not use with it other people. In my opinion, “should” feels critical or judgmental. It diminishes the possibility that there is more than one “right” way to do or be or feel. Should lacks empathy and limits perspective. It is a word that has the ability to make a person feel small and question their choices. It is not a positive word.

Clearly I have an opinion on this. But why?

I am my own worst critic. Truly I am harsh on myself. There have been periods in my life when I constantly and consistently “should-ed” everything I did or said, or didn’t do or say. Those were seasons of self doubt. Hand in hand with the shoulds I put upon myself,  I would also absorb the shoulds that that world put upon me.

Life and time and age bring the gift of perspective, if we are open to receiving. Thankfully, those long seasons of self-doubt are somewhere back in my younger days (along with big hair and questionable fashion choices). That’s not to say that I don’t still occasionally slip a “you should” into my own self-talk, but it does mean that I am infinitely better at not allowing the shoulds of the world color my perspective or choices. It also means that I try really hard to not limit the perspective or choices of others – I’m not perfect, but I am certain that should is not a word that passes my lips toward another person very often.

Bottom line? Should removes the space in which grace – toward myself and others – can thrive. And instead of choosing to live by should, I have chosen to live with grace. Dozens of times each day, my inner voice reminds me “Grace in. Grace out.” When I remember to treat myself with grace and treat others with grace, I counteract the shoulds. Living with grace means allowing for possibility and perspective and choices. Living with grace means allowing for mistakes and second chances.

As a parent, wife, daughter, sibling and friend – instead of choosing should, I choose grace. With my voice and my actions – instead of choosing should, I choose grace. In a world that is becoming increasingly divided – instead of choosing should, I choose grace.

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Pasta – With a Side of Perspective and Persistence

A dyslexic, an Aspie and their mother are sitting around a table…

That almost sounds like the start of a bad joke. But it isn’t. It was dinner time in our house last night.

On most weeknights, dinner is a rushed affair in our house. We eat early so that anybody who has an evening practice, rehearsal, scout meeting, etc. heads out with a full belly. The early meal means generally my husband isn’t home from work yet, so most weeknights it is just the kids and I around the table.

Last night, as the three of us ate our buffalo chicken pasta, my son asked my daughter a series of questions about dyslexia – what do words look like to her, does she see letters backwards, does it make her sad that she has to struggle to decipher text, does it make her nervous to use the tools she’s been given to help in class?

In response to that last question – does it make her nervous to use the tools she’s been given to help in class? – she talked about how some of the kids in her class complained to the teacher that she gets to use something that they don’t. And that one statement provided an opening for the most amazing series of statements from my son…

“They’re just jealous. But you shouldn’t care. You see the world differently from them, and that’s ok. It’s just who you are.  Look at me. I don’t like to think about my anxiety and panic disorders as a mental illness. They are just a part of me, and that means I see the world differently. And my autism isn’t bad. It helps me see things other people can’t see. It’s part of me, and I also think it makes some people jealous of me. Just like some kids in your class are jealous of you. It’s ok. Just be you. Yum. This pasta is good.”

And then they started talking about a YouTube channel they both follow as they finished their pasta.

I don’t know how long those thoughts have been running through his heart and head. I don’t know what prompted him to speak them aloud in that exact moment. I don’t know when or if I will ever again hear some version of those statements come from his mouth.

I do know that in  hearing him say those things – “It’s ok. It’s part of me. Just be you.”  – I was also hearing that somewhere in his heart and head he is developing perspective and persistence. I do know that in that moment he gave me hope. I do know that, even if it isn’t always apparent, he is becoming increasingly comfortable with who he is and the space he occupies in this world.

The words are simple – “It’s ok. It’s part of me. Just be you.” – but the message is universal. We don’t always get to choose the circumstances that shape our reality, but we do get to choose how we respond. My husband and I work hard to make sure both of our kids are developing the persistence and perspective they need to thrive in life. We work at it everyday, but we aren’t always sure we are getting through. At dinner last night, I was certain that we are getting through.

 

 

Too Peopley!

I woke up this morning and for the first time in months, realized that there was nowhere to be, nobody who needed me, and nothing that had to be done. Bliss!

I am an introvert, who lives a life that is undoubtedly more suited to an extrovert. My world is super people-y. Much of that is by choice –  I chose a career that is people-centric, volunteering in my kids’ school and writing this blog. Throw in balancing a partner and one child who are extroverts with another child who is both introverted and struggles with anxiety and life lived at full speed has a tendency to catch up with me.

This week, life caught up with me. I have been feeling physically and emotionally exhausted. So when I realized that my Friday off was actually a Friday off for the first time in months, I excitedly planned for a day that would look something like this (but substitute the pizza with leftover curry chicken that I cooked for dinner earlier in the week)…

But that adage about making plans and God laughing? That is a running theme in my life in ways both big and small. I spoke out loud my intent to recharge by avoiding the world today, and within moments I heard from my daughter “The cat is spraying and it looks like there is blood.”

It sounds awful to admit it, but I was SO RESENTFUL of the fact that nowhere to be, nobody who needed me, and nothing that had to be done had turned into someplace to be, because somebody needed me, and it really could not be put off until later. Yup. I was resentful of an elderly cat who clearly needed to see the vet. Not my finest moment.

And it wasn’t just one moment, it was several moments of my loudly lamenting that my plans of hiding from the world had been ruined. Honestly, I was pretty irrational for about 15 minutes. But I pulled it together, because that cat is as much a part of our family as any of the people who live in the house. And we love her. And we show up for those that we love. So off to the vet we went,  and of course my whole day wasn’t ruined – it took less than 90 minutes from the time we left the house until the time we were back.

The moral of the story – I clearly need to be doing a better job of self care and carving out people-free zones in my life.

And the P.S. to the story – I typed this blog post while snuggled under a cosy blanket with the cat snuggled in sleeping next to me. I am getting my planned day after all!