Although there is a tongue-in-cheek aspect to the title of my blog, shesabadmother, indeed, it is how I feel when I don’t meet expectations as a mom, wife, friend or family member. It’s mostly intrinsic – there’s no one LITERALLY grading me on whether I measure up in any of these roles, and yet time after time, I disappoint myself. Why is that? Externally, I tout the notion that flaws are beautiful, normal, natural and that I accept myself the way that I accept others who are flawed (ie: EVERYBODY): with grace and humor. In actuality, I find myself wondering why I am not the perfect woman described in Proverbs 31. Ahhh, you say: the problem is your religion, your faith! Your Religion makes you think that you do not measure up. When I examine Proverbs 31:10-31, in actuality, that Proverbs 31 woman is a woman of action, a person well-balanced, who has both humility and strength, industriousness and spousal support, craftiness and knowledge of money matters. There are a couple of areas where I do not measure up, and have struggled with my whole married life. But reading those passages doesn’t make me feel bad, so what can it be?
Something I have become acutely aware of in the last five years is how unmet expectations brings out Big Feelings in me: hurt, frustration, anger, disappointment, confusion, and a temptation to distance myself in order to avoid more of those feelings. When those feelings are turned towards my self, my esteem suffers; I can even feel paralyzed or confused about how to make improvements in those areas in which I have experienced long-running failure.
But is this what God expects from us? Perfection?
In my opinion, no. The global picture of scripture shows that improvement is good, is lauded; we should challenge ourselves to be better people when we leave this world, than when we entered it. That includes leaving this world a better place, than when we entered it. But perfection is unattainable, unreachable, and the pursuit of it has the potential to drive us to despair.
Instead, we should practice mindfulness: the art of noticing when there is something that could use improvement, acknowledging that fact, and taking small steps to improve the situation.
Instead of beating myself up when I let frustration overwhelm me when all of my kids are clamoring for my attention at once, are disobeying me, or acting up by annoying each other, I can notice the anger and then do one of two things: breathe in the moment, and breathe out the anger. Breathe IN the moment, and breathe OUT the anger. Or I can give myself a time out; escape into the bathroom, read, take a hot shower, or journal.
Instead of speaking harshly to my spouse when I come home from a night with friends to find the house in a state of dishevelment, I can notice the annoyance and then give myself permission to NOT speak, and to deal with the mess tomorrow.
Instead of bursting into tears when an outfit doesn’t fit me while getting dressed last-minute for a holiday because I spent too much time getting the kids all prettied up, I can make a mental note of my disappointment and plan next time to try on clothes the day before, so that I look and feel attractive instead of less-than, and really enjoy myself.
Instead of finding myself in a state of chaos when trying to organize the kids to do their chores, I can notice my agitation and neutrally examine why: are there too many electronics operating in the background such as the T.V., radios, and dishwasher all at once? Am I looking at the house as “completely destroyed” instead of looking at the job one piece at a time? Am I having the kids clean together in one room, and they are fighting with each other the whole time? Is my expectation Bigger Than what can be realistically met by my actual circumstances?
Mindfulness is a discipline, one in which I could use much more practice, on a day-to-day basis. It has been said that you are one step closer to solving a problem once it is acknowledged.
Consider it acknowledged. Now to address my unrealistic expectations in relationships….