Living Five Minutes at a Time: My Messy Beautiful

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It matters how you treat people.

It matters how you live your life, how you do your job, treat your friends, speak to your kids, care for your animals.  It matters. And it matters that you infuse love into what you do, through each and every seemingly small moment of the day.  Even if those moments are organized into minuscule, five minute increments.  As small and insignificant as that portion of time might seem.

And yet.  Five minutes can be long enough to make a mess of things.

I know.

Lately, I have been living my life either five minutes ahead or five minutes behind where I ought to be.  It’s like I am either rushing too fast or moving too slow.  In all, I am not thinking/living in the moment like I feel I should be. That is, if I was to be ‘living up to’ my best, ideal vision of myself.  That ideal I hold so dear.  And when I sat down to really contemplate this thought, I came up with eight random things I wished I had known about, five minutes before/after they happened.

1. That bag of dirty laundry that I left behind at my lovely friend’s house in N.J. (while traveling during Spring Break)- wish I had known it was sitting there in her man cave five minutes before we left (instead of ten hours later). #nicepartinggift

2. That curb that I sideswiped while backing out of my sister-in-law’s driveway (causing Husband to curl up into the fetal position)- wish I had thought about it five minutes before getting behind the wheel. #soyouthinkyoucandrive

3. Those three fish tacos I ate recently at the Ground Round- wish I had purused the menu five minutes longer before deciding what I was going to eat that particular night. #intestinalgrief

4. That one hour trampoline privilege (Sky High, N.C.) that I paid a left leg for- wish I could have traded it in for Twinkies five minutes after I started jumping (like my life depended on it).

5. And while on that thought… regarding the one hour trampoline privilege that I recently paid a left leg for- wish I had a catheter inserted because five minutes after I started jumping (like an Olympic gymnast on steroids), I was making like a crazed woman for the lady’s room.

6. That email that I was recently trying to save- and all those pictures and other important stuff that seemed so NECESSARY at the time- wish I had remembered that PURGE means GONE FOREVER about five minutes before cleaning up my email queue.

7. But then too. Those beautiful children that I mama-bear growl at, for various reasons or another, and whom I rush along and nag– sometimes I wish I could just remember- five minutes before those words and frustrations pour out of my mouth- that these are just moments in an otherwise beautiful life.  They are not worth getting in a blathering dither over.

8. And this one.  Ouch. This one hurts my ego a little. That conversation I had with my mom recently- that one during which I proceeded to unload all my petty little troubles- wish I had been able to go back five minutes in time to the moment before she proceeded to tell me about a very tragic loss that had occurred in her life when I was away on my trip.  While I was going on and on and on about my bladder troubles and other petty little worries.

Sometimes five minutes is all we need to put life into perspective. 

Five minutes is enough to show me how beautiful my life can truly be. How beautiful it truly is.  If only I am willing to stop and take the time to see the beauty in the moment.

Want to hear five of the best minutes of a day in my life recently? It was without a doubt, when I went to a small grocery store in the town of Cornwall, P.E.I., Canada. Not an event I would usually connect with morphing into daily high points, but that day it was. The cashier: she was friendly, pleasant, affable. I could hear in her voice, as she talked, that she just genuinely liked people. Liked her job. She called me ‘hun’ three times. And while that normally wouldn’t rub me the right way, that day those words seemed almost soothing.

“Anything else I can get you hun?” she said smiling.  Then later…
“Are you paying for that with debit or credit, hun?”
“Thanks, hun. Have a nice day!”

And maybe it was her smile. Maybe it was the respectful way she talked to the meat manager as he brought up a box of seafood to be priced. Quite possibly it could have even been the combined effect of both she and her colleague in the cash right next to her, a woman whom the older gentleman in line after me greeted her warmly with, “Ah Lyndsay! This makes my day just to see you here!”

And with all that love, it isn’t too far-fetched to surmise that this little grocery store is a good place to work. A good place to BE.  It exudes an atmosphere in which love is valued.  In which small moments are valued. For you can feel love palpably. People in this store genuinely seem to like being here, and perhaps the reason is because they just feel like they’re with friends.

It’s that kind of store.

And I couldn’t help but think of that well-touted line, ‘whatever you’ve been given to do, do it well’, in reference to these two women and their ethic of care towards their customers. Because they weren’t just delivering a service that day: they were offering love. Five minutes at a time, and in the process, the whole ordeal had the effect of moving me in a very profound, emotional way. I really felt touched by the kindness I observed and experienced.  And I can only hope to live up to that high ideal as I also go about my life’s work, inside my own home, workplace and classroom, living with and teaching the little and big people I’ve been called to learn alongside.

What a great inspiration it is to watch people doing what they love to do and seeing them doing it well.

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Because really, when it comes down to it: we’re just people living our lives, five minutes at a time.

Five minutes: it’s all we need to put everything else in our messy, beautiful lives into perspective.  Because that’s what this is all about- the messy in our lives is really the beautiful.  And if I was really being honest, it’s not about five minutes before or five minutes later- it’s really about living out both the frustrating five and the pleasurable five in life- at one and the same time.  Does this mean we cannot talk about the small stuff- the random things we wish we could do-over?  Of course not. In talking about them, in VENTING at times, we realize that they are just small moments that comprise a bigger life.  In validating our small moments- and learning to laugh at them, we come to appreciate the bigger picture that much more.

And in the process, we realize- life is full of moments that we live.

Five at a time.

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This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!

 

 

 

 

Arms Outstretched and Hands Raised

Last night was kind of the crowning glory for me.  A moment in time when I wanted the ground to open up and swallow me whole.  And to be sure.  I have had my fair share of awkward moments.  Moments when my truly funny life has imitated fiction.  Watch me in action for about five minutes and you could probably catch me doing something just a little left of center.   We fools are probably why they formed channels like TLC.   We’re just a little bit on the special side.

Adorable, but special nonetheless.

So I guess it could be said- there have been one too many times in my insanely crazy real life when real life has imitated art.  As long as you understand that the art I am talking about is a very entertaining (albeit low-budget) television reality show.  (Shout out to the Duggars… love you guys!!)

But physically mistaking my friend’s husband for my own has got to be a low point of the week thus far.  Even for me.   I made contact with the poor guy’s shoulder…!  Yes, it could’ve been worse.  Thank the Lord for that.  And yet.  This embarrassing faux pas has got even me wondering: what next?  How am I going to top that one?  If only…I hadn’t been rubbing his shoulder…if only I had caught myself before making contact.  If only Brian and half of West Price had not witnessed the event….   If only.  So much embarrassment could have been saved.  But nevertheless.  The ‘if only’ is not what happened.  Obviously.  And here I am to tell the tale.

What next?  Can there be any lower levels to reach?    I am already lying face down at the bottom of the barrel.

So it wouldn’t be surprising to any of you, now would it, that I was again late for work this morning.  I should just shoot myself and call it a draw.  This is becoming a habitual rite of passage for me, transitioning from my home self to my professional self.  I feel like one of those old time coal engines that take their good ole’ time warming up.  And when they reach full steam, look out.  They cannot be stopped.

This morning was the usual busy morning.  Rushing, meltdowns, fights over clothing.

Yadda, yadda.  The works.

But what was different this morning was I had actually convinced myself that I would be on time today.  (Stop laughing, fellow co-workers.)  I felt like I really had a fighting chance of arriving at work before the expected check-in preliminaries, for a lovely change.  Everything was seemingly lined up in my favor.  I had an extra hour today to play with, an extra hour within which to arrive.  So it should naturally follow, if ‘one’ had so much extra time on their hands that ‘one’ would thus arrive at work at the very least, before their first meeting of the day.

Should’ve, could’ve, would’ve.  And it should be noted: I am ‘one’ gal who has always been the exception to the rule.

So.  Since I did not arrive on time… but instead arrived late (5-7 minutes late, to be exact…but who’s counting), and since I missed the introductory staff meeting, as well as my first grade level meeting (very small short meeting)… I was extremely disappointed in myself.  Frustrated would be another choice word.  And so it was.   That I spent the majority of the morning berating myself and beating myself up for my ineptitude and uselessness.  Telling myself I was incompetent and a total let-down to my profession.  What.a.jerk.    (And this is just my day job.  Don’t get me started on the other slack areas of my life….)

About half-way through the morning, I made a trek up to the office.  Sheepishly looking around to see who was watching, all the while wondering if I would ever be able to arrive ANYWHERE, ever again…on time.   And so, I decided to unload all my feelings and frustrations on the very capable and caring shoulders of our amazing secretary.  And as I proceeded to tell her the very many ways in which I felt I was unable to live up to my expectations of myself (not to mention the expectations everyone else probably had of me), the conversation took a turn.  It swerved away from me apologizing over and over again for all the failures in my life and instead started heading in a direction I like to call ‘forgiveness’.  Grace.  Acceptance.  Toward a place where a body can say to themselves,

“You know what?  You’re not perfect, girlfriend, and you never will be.  So why don’t you start forgiving yourself your failures and start concentrating on what you’re doing right.  And while you’re at it, start learning to say NO.  YOU ARE TIRED, girlfriend!  You need to cut yourself some slack!  If you drop a few of the balls you have in the air, nobody is going to be the worse for the wear.  Stop trying to live up to everyone’s expectations and start setting some limits for yourself.  And while you’re at it, do something nice for yourself this weekend.  Get a coffee just for the fun of it.  Buy something pretty.  Read a book.  Go for a drive.  Call up some friends.  Laugh.  Love.  Live.  YOU DESERVE IT!!!”

And I don’t know about you, but I kinda like the view from that place- from GRACE.  From Forgiveness.  From self-acceptance.  Because it is so freeing when you tell yourself that you’re okay.  Just the way you are.

And I tell you all this because?

I don’t want to hide my life behind a facade pretending to be something I am not.  I am exactly what you read: a bumbling fool most of the time, but for the other twenty-five percent of the time, I am a girl who is learning to love herself.  Flaws and all.  And I think that when we take down the walls that hide our true selves from public view, we come to discover…we are all essentially alike.  We have insecurities, flaws, un-met expectations of ourselves.  We do embarrassing things.  We mess up.  We live crazy lives.  We are a work in progress.  And if we can share with each other a small portion of ourselves, it might encourage us all to live life as if we had no secrets.

And life stripped of all that baggage- those feelings of inadequacy and failure and incompetence and disappointment, is SO MUCH BETTER than hiding behind a false barrier.

We need to live life in view.  Maybe not as in full view as I do (I have pretty much no pride left- my dirty laundry is hanging out for all the world to see baby.  And those hip-hugging puppies are not pretty, let me tell you.)  But let’s be serious: we are so very much the same and we can learn so much from one another when we come out from our hiding places.  When we live our lives with arms outstretched and hands lifted.  And we stop hiding who we truly are.

Keep on Keeping On

That moment. When you feel so very, very horrible. And all because you have left your middlest child at the rink, waiting for the better part of an hour because you had no way to get in touch with her. And all because you were driving from Point A to Point B to Point C to Point D. And on the way you nearly ran out of gas.

And then. When you finally did arrive and met your crying child at the door of the rink, her friend says to you, eyes raised as she breezes by, “She sure was getting worried.” And you later find out that ‘said’ friend also asked your child, “Does she always forget you like this?”

That moment. When the semi-middlest child tells you that you never give her enough attention, that you always favor the youngest because they’re the baby. That you never listen to her. Oh! That dreadful word never. Never, never, never.

That moment when Oldest tells you that you never (there it is again…) go to the rink to watch his games; or that, at the very least, you are not there as much as he would like. That you never pick out the right kind of jeans, that you don’t buy the right kinds of cereal. That you don’t live up to all his wildest expectations of what a mama should do and say or be.

And you think you might be a fail.

That moment. When your older child takes a compliment you’ve given to a younger child and turns it into a stab in her own back. As if to say. That in complimenting anyone else, it automatically means attacking someone other than them in the process.

That moment when you are trying to tell everyone how well they’ve done, how very proud you are. And no one is listening because it is not about their own very selves, at that very second.

And you feel so very tired.

That moment. When you are worn down and drug out and used up because of life. And because you went to bed late the night before. And all because you were booking a solo ticket south FOR YOURSELF. For the very reason that you dropped a chair on your foot earlier in that same evening. And that incident was the last straw that broke the camel’s back.

Because you’ve hardly given your own worn-out self any attention lately.

That moment, …THAT MOMENT. When you look at your hands, at your feet; and they look…old. When you look at your body and it seems flabby. When you look at your eyes, and they seem tired.

That, my dear Mama, is the moment you realize. That being a mother is the hardest gig you’ve ever had to do. Harder than anything. Ever. And a secret part of your own self knows this to be true: that the reason God doesn’t let us look forward is because in His great wisdom, He knows a mother’s heart would fail if she knew all that was to come. Yet. In His great mercy, He allows us to look back and see how far we’ve come.

That moment. When a Mama gives herself grace. When she forgives herself, even when her four precious off-spring in their immaturity cannot. And she tells herself:

“Well done, Warrior Mama. You are doing a bang-up job being a Mom. You are doing me proud, Self. I know how hard you work at this. Keep on keeping on, Soldier Mama. There will come a day when this too will pass, and you will forget how hard it was and only remember how awesome you did at the hardest job know to human-kind. Mothering. You are beautiful, wise, full of grace upon grace. And your children will one day rise up and call you blessed. Don’t you ever give up.”

That moment is what keeps me going.

Keep on keeping on, soldiers.