A while ago I wrote about our daily routine–sort of–and then we promptly got sick.
Fevers, chills, sore throats and coughs and all the snot in the world, and it just went on and on and on, keeping us from anything like regular sleep or work or play.
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When our normal gets interrupted, that is when the “shoulds” in my brain start whispering and will not stop.
You should be answering those questions, checking that email, writing that thing or that other thing. You should be making a real dinner. You should be reading that book. You should rest, sure, but you should find something more creative for the two-year-old to do than watch Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.
I could hear the list, and I knew what it really meant.
You’re not doing enough, not hitting the important notes, not managing this very well at all.
Meanwhile a sick day turned into sick weeks and while the list of shoulds kept growing, all I could actually do was drink hot tea and cry about the pressure in my sinuses.
(And Evelyn did do things other than watch Mister Rogers. At one point she sat up in her fervered sleep and cried out: “We could get a fish! IN A BALLOON!” We all just nodded, yes, yes we could, anything is possible. Now go back to sleep.)
But you see how this works.
My brain tells me I should be doing creative things—no, mothering—no, self-care—until I literally cannot do all the things I think I “should” be doing, because they cancel each other out. There is no winning that argument. No matter how I slice it, I come up not enough. And still coughing.
And then another part of my brain starts asking, Shouldn’t you know better than to listen to all that? Haven’t we been over this before? (It… does get noisy in here.)
Brene Brown* writes that shame hangs out outside the arena, away from where the real work is happening. Shame does not help, it just waits for you to come out, knocked down and out of breath, and then, “Shame laughs and says, ‘I told you this was a mistake. I knew you weren’t _______ enough.’”
And oh, that sounds familiar. Shame says: not enough.
Shame says, shouldn’t you be better at this by now, this being a human and a parent and a creative person? Shouldn’t you have a plan, a system, a secret weapon? You really should.
But what does love say?
Love is patient, right? Love is kind. Love doesn’t stand around with a big old list of your mistakes, waiting to read them off like proof of your unworthiness.
Love says, “Oh, honey.”
Love says, “Can I help you? Here, let me hold that for you. I see you’re hurting. Sit down, I’ll get you a cup of tea.”
Love says, “You’ve got this. Take a minute, take a breath, and then you can get back out there. I know you can do this.”
Love says, “It’s hard out there, but you are enough, just as you are. And even now, you’re becoming who you’re meant to be.”
That’s how you can tell the difference.
Shame says: Not good enough.
Love says: It’s all good. It may not be safe, it may not be easy, but it is good.
Shame, love: only one leads you toward health and wholeness, and not just when you’re fevered and germy.
The good news is, you get to choose which voice you’re going to listen to.
The bad news is, you have to keep choosing. You have to keep practicing. You have to choose over and over again, every time things don’t go how you planned, every time you open the door to go out into the world, every time you get down on your knees to talk to your kids, every time you have a hard conversation, every time you try something new, every time you make something that wasn’t there before. Every time.
Shame or love?
They’re both talking. But who you listen to, that is your call. And, I suppose, it’s mine.
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