I don’t know about you, but I have been tired lately. Physically. Mentally. Emotionally. 2020 has been off to a rocketing start, and while so much of the momentum this year has been amazing, it has also been exhausting. Can you relate?
So far this year I’ve taken the business in some new directions, supported friends who are grieving the loss of loved ones, traveled for 3+ weeks in a professional and personal hybrid, encouraged team members who have been dealing with family illnesses, spent a lot of Saturdays building forts with my nephews, hosted friends and family for meals and multi-day visits, spent hours in deep emotional conversations, stressed about taxes, napped more than normal, woken up at 4am more days than I’d like to admit, done a lot of soul searching and reflection, and tried to spend an equal amount of time just doing nothing.
We all have these things. Perhaps for you it is the kids being sick seemingly non-stop since the beginning of the year. Or maximizing the winter and taking trips to the mountain every weekend for skiing. Or the difficult conversations about your aging parents. Or the lack of passion that you’re feeling for your work these days. Or the new relationship that is lighting you up and where you’re investing a lot of time and energy. Invigorating or stressful, all of these things add up, and you know what: it’s ok to be tired.
Tiredness is a great reminder that our lives need grace. We don’t have to do it all, be it all, or show up perfectly all the time in all the ways. It is ok to take a breath, to slow down, to take care of ourselves, to go easy on others, to receive, to celebrate, to be grateful, and ultimately to experience grace.
One of my colleagues commented to me the other day: “You’ve been really cranky this year.”
Hmmmm. Not exactly what you want to hear. Especially when you’re constantly striving to be the epitome of optimism.
And in that moment there was a flicker of old Elizabeth. The Elizabeth that strives for perfection and is always hard on herself, never giving herself a pass. So in that initial moment I started to beat myself up over how I was showing up for others, how my stress was coming across, how I wasn’t living in an expression of flow and essence and ease (my core value words), questioning if I was on the right track or doing the right things. And then those feelings subsided. And I remembered to give myself some grace.
“I will hold myself to a standard of grace, not perfection.” This is the quote that I keep on the lock screen of my phone, in place of my Facebook feed, and on the underwear drawer in my closet. Although it is something I look at regularly, I still need to be reminded regularly: optimism is grace.
Grace: Favor or goodwill; elegance or beauty of form, manner, motion, or action; the freely given, unmerited favor and love of God; moral strength.
Grace has varying definitions and shows up in our life in so many different ways. And what’s stuck with me the most lately is that grace must find expression in life, otherwise it is not grace.
So here are the ways I am choosing to celebrate grace, and optimism as grace, in the ways that it is already expressing itself in my life.
- Universal Grace: One of the things I cherish about grace is that it has nothing to do with what we do or don’t deserve. Grace is about freely giving and receiving. And I revel in the fact that there is nothing I can do, or not do, that will change the love and grace that pours into me and through me from God and the universe. I am loved and supported simply in being, by being, and valued and worthy in and unto myself. Even when I’m tired. Even when not everything is perfect. I can receive the grace of God and the grace that exists from the universe. I don’t even have to ask to receive it. It is there. Freely flowing. What a gift.
- Grace with Myself: In recent years I have learned, and I suspect it will be a life long lesson to learn, what it means to be gracious with myself. Most of what this has meant is treating myself as I would a good friend – cheering myself on, encouraging myself, reminding me that I’m doing the best I can, acknowledging my worthiness in showing up just as I am and not needing to be perfect. This makes itself known in little ways – the decision to take a nap when I’m tired even when my to do list is a mile long. Or acknowledging that the big project I’m delivering is still amazing, even if it’s not every single thing I wished it would be, and celebrating what it is in all of it’s amazingness. And forgiveness. A whole lot of forgiving myself for those moments when I’m cranky, or not showing up the way I want to, and giving myself the grace to not let those past moments define my future moments.
- Grace with Others: Navigating life with other people – whether they are our immediate family, a significant other, kids, colleagues, neighbors, or friends – can be hard. We’re all human, and we’re not mind readers, so there are a lot of opportunities for us to be frustrated over miscommunications, to feel let down by something that doesn’t go the way we planned, or to be worried for those we love. One of the ways I’ve been celebrating graciousness with others is in zooming out my lens and remembering that we are all more than just the one aspect or one photo frame we see or experience in a given moment. I’ve been especially cognizant of this lately with my colleagues – remembering that in addition to work we all have lives outside of work that influence our energy, our mindset, our stress levels and joy – and acknowledging and accepting each person in their entirety not simply for what they bring to our team. And I’m celebrating this more with my other relationships too, and embracing the wholeness of the people I love and how everything in our lives is interconnected. While it doesn’t always make it easier when someone we love or care about is cranky with us, it helps to remember that often it isn’t actually about us because there are so many other pieces contributing to how we show up in the world.
- Grace from Others: As I was just saying about us all being human and therefore prone to difficulty navigating life with others, I fully accept and recognize that I am an imperfect, and occasionally difficult, individual. We all are in our own ways. And yet there are so many people that still love me unconditionally, show up for me even when I’m cranky, speak truth to me when I need to hear it, hold my hand when I’m upset, remind me to go easier on myself, and just pour care and compassion and humor and joy into my life in so many ways. I am in awe when I know that I am not at my best and I still see the grace someone is extending to me. And I’m celebrating this and grateful for this every single day.
- Expressions of Grace: I’ve started to see and recognize grace in so many different ways. A lightness I feel when I’m walking down the street and enjoying the fresh air. A moment of connection between two people that I pass in the coffee shop. My eight-year-old neighbor dancing in the snow. The observation of growth – in myself, in others, in early signs of spring – all of these represent grace to me.
Saint Augustine once said: “For grace is given not because we have done good works, but in order that we may be able to do them.”
What beautiful truth that grace in our lives is what enables us to be more of who we were created to be and more of who we want to be.
Click to tweet: Grace in our lives is what enables us to be more of who we were created to be and more of who we want to be.
With love, grace, and optimism,