I’ve always been hard on myself which is not terribly surprising since I’m a first born, type A female. I can actually hear Patrick laughing from heaven as I describe myself saying “Heather you are probably more like type A+.” I like high grades, lists, plans, the organization aisle at Target and order. I meal plan a month at a time, put all small pieces in Ziploc bags and I love filing things. At this point you are either nodding your head and smiling because you ARE me, are married to someone like me OR you have begun twitching and think people like me should be smacked. I get it. We aren’t easy to love sometimes (or maybe a lot of the time depending who you talk to).
My “type A behavior” had always caused me to be hard on myself when life didn’t fit neatly into my fantastic plans. Infertility, job loss, job changes, kid issues, the weather…there was always something. I would berate myself for things not working out as I thought they should. To say I tried to “get ahead” of God is a massive understatement. It is also quite safe to say that my fears were often greater than my faith.
Suddenly becoming a single parent was not on any of my legal pad lists or the family calendar last summer. It was a like one massive explosion followed by small fires that had to be constantly put out. My kids went from two super involved parents to one parent who was barely limping through. I often felt like I was watching a slow motion video of my own life and boy it wasn’t pretty.
Looking back, I was tremendously hard on myself those early months. I silently beat myself up every time we had to eat fast food, return home for forgotten items or be late somewhere. (Type A me does NOT like to ever be late- anywhere, ever.) I would berate myself when I misplaced something, forgot an event, had to ask for help or just simply wasn’t my best self. My kids had one parent and THIS was what they got?
Over time and through A LOT of reading, praying and continued counseling, I began to see that I really wasn’t all that bad. In fact I was doing pretty ok considering all of the heartbreak and changes. God extended grace to me everyday and yet I couldn’t extend it to myself? God forgave me when I messed up but it was next to impossible for me to forgive myself? I was imperfect and stumbling but somehow surviving. Finding my own way had to include huge doses of grace and forgiveness- from me to me. I had to see my own successes (everyone ate today, was loved and got from point A to point B then point C then back to B). I also could acknowledge my missteps and look for ways to do better the next time (get up earlier or take a breath before growling at small children). However, after that acknowledgement, I needed to pray for peace, patience and then MOVE ON-not wallow in my mistakes.
Jennifer Maggio, who writes for single mothers, calls this “handing over your bags.” You give those bags…those heavy, sucky bags to God and then they are gone. It is then your responsibility to move forward with God’s help. Learning to do this has certainly taken me a lot of time and focus. I still have a ways to go but I’m definitely getting better at it.
I’ve also learned to take care of myself. For me that meant taking naps some Saturdays and nearly every Sunday during the school year when I’m teaching. Sleep is a luxury for all parents especially full time, single parents. There were many weekends this past spring when I laid down to take a nap with a washer full of wet clothes and roughly 276 cars, trucks and tractors all over my family room floor. It didn’t matter though, my body needed the rest and the magical thing was- it was all there when I woke up an hour later. (Fun fact- small children and teenagers are amazingly capable of cleaning up their own messes but that’s another story.)
I recently read a Facebook post about how we “move through” grief. We don’t move on but through. I think a key to this- to moving through any life altering change- has to be offering kindness to ourselves. Extending the grace and forgiveness that God gives so abundelty to ourselves. We have to release ourselves from the negative talk and hand those sucky bags to God. Once you’ve handed over those bags- I mean really handed them over…go grab a nap!
In order to heal we must first forgive…and sometimes the person we must forgive is ourself. ~Mila Bron