On "can" and "should," but not how you think

[Repost.  First published on my Wordpress blog on July 10 2018.]

I didn't want to.  I really didn't want to.  It was hot; time with barely-acquaintances stretches all my introvert muscles and tires me; and I don't do hot dogs.  But.  It was post-season picnic night for the league runners-up, with hot dogs, treats, and a kids vs parents baseball game, and my son's father wasn't able to take him -- and my little homebody really wanted to go, and that was a big deal.

There was a time when I would have said, through gritted teeth, "Fine, we can go."  But I would have said that only out of a sense of duty, and I wouldn't have been able to enjoy myself.  My son's preteen boy antics would've annoyed me; I would've felt that I had nothing in common with the other parents; and playing baseball would've just felt too big and too vulnerable.

But yesterday I was able to say, "Yes, I can do that."  I took him, I introduced myself and chatted with other moms; I played baseball and hit a double despite my son trying to trash-talk me from second base; and I even ate a hot dog (smothered in all the toppings).  While it was out of my comfort zone to be at the party, it didn't harm me, it made my son really, really happy, and I even enjoyed it.

IMG_E4514 Yes, this is a baseball field in their backyard.  They salvaged a backstop.  Isn't this amazing??[/caption]

The line between what we do just because we can, and what we do because it's actually right is sometimes pretty thin.  Thin enough that I know many women who either cross that line regularly, or must be quite intentional to make sure that they're not.  We expect ourselves to be all things to most people, to hold ourselves and everyone else together, and to be The Queen of Loving Attitudes while we do it.

In other words, we expect the impossible, of ourselves, and almost all the time.  And when we can't do everything, or do everything Up To Standard, we damn ourselves for "failing."

It's a funny thing that where we give grace to others, we often withhold it from ourselves.  I shared this "test" with a friend yesterday when she was apologizing for telling me about her struggles: When I'm doubting myself or telling myself that I'm not enough, I ask myself if I would ever say these words to a friend?  Would I expect her to Do It All, and With A Smile?  Would I even think these thoughts about her?

The answer is never, ever "yes."  What would I tell her?

I would tell her that she rocks.

I would tell her that her life is so hard, that when I see her struggles, I admire her courage and her tenacity.

I would tell her that she is an example of grace under pressure, of perseverance, of love.

I would tell her that I'm proud of her, and that she is seen, and that she matters.

Does this sound familiar to you?  If you're struggling with what you "need" to do just because you expect it of yourself, ask yourself what you should do because it truly brings vitality to your life.  What would you tell your hypothetical friend to do?

What brings grace?

Two years ago, the baseball picnic wouldn't have brought life.  Yesterday, it did.


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