My dad would warn me when I was a kid: when you're grown, the time will fly by. Unlike most kids who believe that their parents don't know anything, I always believed him. And it turns out, not surprisingly at all, that he was right. The days are long, but the years are short. Another lesson he taught by example was the importance of showing up. Of course, being mindful of these things is always much easier said than done.
Accountability is something I have always struggled with. Whenever I heard the term, my mind automatically drifted towards the notion that if you need accountability, you must be doing something wrong. I imagined accountability partners serving as magnifying glasses for imperfection. Naturally, this was never something I pursued. Why would I, having operated under this supposition for so long? It shocked me when my whole perspective shifted with one word: cheerleader. Of course, it shouldn't have shocked me, but I'm terrible at taking the inverse golden rule to heart; I don't show the same grace to myself that I show to others. Never in a million years could I even fathom of purposefully withholding grace from someone who trusted me with their brokenness, and yet, I am continually -- willfully harsh with myself. And I have a hard time believing that anyone else will show me grace, either.
It has been a long time since I've posted anything goal-oriented, but I want to get back in the swing of things. I want to fill in the trenches of current bad habits and negative thought patterns and build something new -- something good. And I've always been a fan of this time of year: the other day I was in the supermarket and was absolutely giddy to see aisles decked out in that perfect academic shade of yellow, packed to the brim with back-to-school supplies (as I write this, I find myself wishing Tom Hanks would send me a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils). There's an air of anticipation that I sense this time of year that overwhelms that of January 1. New Years has always seemed cliche to me -- so much so that when I decided to join a gym this year, I didn't show up until February so I could avoid feeling and looking like a yuppie.
So, all that being said, I got myself an accountability partner. Meg over at That Hummingbird Life offered to play matchmaker and set me up with someone who had similar goals. We've been emailing and following and getting to know each other, and I am genuinely excited. And now I'm back here, outlining some goals, Gretchen Rubin-style.
+ Be myself, without apology. Lately, I've realized just how much I apologize for myself. I open or close most of my conversations with a question: is that bad? As in, is it bad that I don't feel quite ready for a baby yet, or that I didn't get a lot out of the sermon this week, or that I have never felt called to be a missionary in Africa, or that I secretly really like Taylor Swift, or that I prefer green mint chocolate chip over white? Does it make me shallow or high maintenance or juvenile or [insert negative adjective here] if I feel this way? No -- those are the things that make me human.
The overwhelming majority of my days are spent searching for a sign, a cosmic permission slip saying that it is okay to be who I am. It is okay that I watch an inordinate number of documentaries and have the uncanny ability to keep up with celebrity gossip without trying. It is okay that I'm not crafty. Its okay that I don't really care much about suntan maintenance or sports. It is okay that I need to keep some kind of planner in order to remember appointments and preserve some semblance of order in my life (this is something I never thought I would need, and I have actually felt guilty for needing it).
+ Show up. Be willing to do whatever work needs to be done, whether it be holding someone's hand, cooking or buying a meal, filling up someone's gas tank, cleaning a toilet, giving the talk, or whatever may be asked of me that is possible to accomplish within my parameters. Note: showing up for myself is absolutely essential.
+ Look for opportunities to be inspired. Take delight in the little things that make me happy, and intentionally search for new and different ways to learn and grow. Stretch myself mentally, physically, spiritually. Refuse to live in the proverbial box.
+ Let go. Ride roller coasters, go zip lining, get a tattoo. Do the things that I'm afraid of, and things that make me feel the way I want to feel.
+ Be specific. Being vague has never helped anyone, and I tend to be incredibly vague. In everything from my prayers to my choice of what restaurant we eat at, and I've learned over the past couple months that my lack of specificity is just another form of settling for less than what I truly desire, who I could be, and what I could gain.
In an effort to be more specific, I have created these mini goals for the rest of July:
+ Clean up my apartment and office using this helpful tool. + Post more well-rounded content on this blog. + Have a weekly movie night with my man. + Finish reading this book. + Go back to the gym (it has been too long). + Cook at least five days a week. + Complete the stewardship study on my Bible app. + Brainstorm ideas for 31 Days, because hello, October will be here in like five minutes. + Spend one entire weekend unplugged.
+ Create space. On my smartphone, in the cabinet under the bathroom sink, in my relationships, through my social networking posts. Because clutter in any form is stifling.
+ Cease striving. It isn't about having all the followers or retweets or pats on the back or gold stars. Happiness has nothing to do with quantity and everything to do with quality. Grace is sufficient when we fall short.
It bears repeating: grace is sufficient when we fall short. That is, if we let it be.
So talk to me, friends. How do you feel about accountability and goal-setting? What has been your experience with showing grace to yourself? How can I encourage and uplift you as you go? I want to hear from you.