I’m a lady that knows how to get shit done. I came from two working-class parents who grinded and hustled their way out of poverty and into a comfortable upper-middle-class lifestyle by sheer grit and determination. I learned quickly, “lazy” was the worst four-letter explicative you could hurl at anyone and “half-ass”-ing anything was something we just didn’t do. Period.
Another phrase that didn’t jive with our household was “I can’t do it”. Because, really, “can’t” wasn’t an option on the table. My father quite literally built a drywall and paint business from the ground up. My mother juggled four children while also supplementing income when needed. I was always told I could be anything I wanted to be; the understood caveat to this was that I had to work for it. And work hard.
My junior year in high school, I got a job working at a local grocery store and loved the freedom that my own part-time paycheck brought me. Although the grocery store wasn’t where I wanted to work, I internalized my parents’ words and “didn’t quit one job until I had another one lined up”. From there, my later high school and full-time college years consisted of always having one job and one side hustle going at all times.
For example, during my sophomore year in college I was especially busy during the weekends. Friday’s first class was a 9 AM, followed by another course of something, then some free-time between my college day and my waitress job at 2 PM. Frequently, I would go to my work-study job and clock some hours there before grabbing a bite to eat at home and working the 2 PM until close shift at the diner. After closing down the restaurant, I would meet my friends at whatever party they were at and, I remember distinctly, one time I fell asleep on the floor of the bathroom floor (pure sleep deprivation, not overindulgence of alcohol- I promise). Saturdays I would pull a double at the diner and then Sunday the morning shift; all the time praying for it to be summer so that I could at least work at my beloved ice cream shop that had much shorter hours and downtime that allowed me to complete schoolwork.
In short, it was a lot.
Branching into my teaching career, I found comfortable familiarity in the fact that there is never a lack of “to-do’s” on a teacher’s plate. Shifting comfortably into the ever-increased workload, I spent my first year typically staying at school until seven or eight o’clock and blocking off all-day Sunday to “get ahead.”
Go, go, go was the normal routine.
Up until the point where it wasn’t.
This weekend, for example, I had big, big plans.
All week long, I was so inspired with blog ideas. I probably received twenty ideas over the course of this week and I embraced the possibility of an eventless weekend by scheduling a date with my computer. On the chalkboard over my desk, I wrote “BLOG IDEAS: ALL BLOGS…. All weekend long!” Underneath the title banner, I organized six of the ideas I felt most confident in, and brainstormed their content. I set myself up for success on Friday and cleaned the entire house (scrubbing baseboards and all!), washed, dried, and folded all the laundry, spent some quality time with friends, and prepared some feel-good, healthy snacks to nibble on over the weekend.
Visions of myself locked in the house, furiously ingesting coffee and unleashing words from my soul, Honore de Balzac-style, filled my head. Writing six posts would pass in no time. Energy, productivity, efficiency: I was the walking (typing?) embodiment of all three!
And, if I needed a “break”? I could allow myself such simple pleasures! I needed to run to the grocery store, go for a walk, indulge in some yoga, and then catch up on some side-hustle work, too! Those “to-dos” could very easily qualify as break time!
Hopefully, as you are reading this, friend, you can see what I did not.
Saturday night around 8 PM, I crashed.
I had nowhere near six blogs under my belt. I did not even touch the idea of making it to the grocery store.
There I was: on the couch, in front of the television, all but inhaling a leftover Valentine’s Day chocolate bar, while simultaneously bingeing Dolly Parton’s Heartstrings (10 out of 10, recommend, by the way).
I may be a lady that knows how to get shit done.
But, I am also a lady that frequently overestimates her own human capabilities.
That night, I attempted to sleep while auditory hallucinations of an alarm clock rang in my head. Tossing and turning for several hours, the imaginary ring of the clock represented all that I had to do on Sunday. Was there any way to obtain the ever-satisfying “check off” on the to-do list that was this weekend?
Sunday morning, my eyes hesitantly crept open at 7 AM.
I took a breath as fear lunged for my throat: how was I going to get it all done? All day yesterday I stayed in my head: making notes, arranging and rearranging the hours left in the day, barganing against the time clock for ways in which I could do more, be more, add more onto my plate. And it didn’t work. “Success” wasn’t the theme of Saturday, but it had to be today.
How was I going to “succeed”?
Rolling over in my bed, I caught a glimpse at the sunlight that poured in between the blinds of my window. Knowing that the world was waking up gave me some slight comfort, and seeing the sunshine gently nudging a pattern on my floorboard reminded me of the promise that each new day brings forth.
Grab your coffee, go to the sun, and close your eyes.
I knew, no matter what the to-do list held, tapping into my body was always at the start of the day. I can listen to that voice.
Feeling my feet hit the floor, I inhaled the scent of deep and rich coffee. Naturally spiced with roasted nut flavor and, per my addition, spirited with cinnamon and nutmeg. I took a full breath. Deep, from the bottom of my pelvic floor. Ancient air filling my lungs, I told myself: you will do this morning routine first, and then you will worry if you want to. But, not now. We are not compromising this.”
Pulling my body directly into the sunshine, I cupped my face and my hands and asked a simple request of myself: Tell me what I need to know.
Release the guilt; embrace the grace.
Release the guilt; embrace the grace.
Swelling and billowing through my body, a new mantra took form. It felt deep, in my lower back. Almost as if my hip hinge had locked down my lower back so tightly to ensure that its foundation was paralyzed. And in that realization of embracing grace, embracing acceptance, allowing myself to be in a space without purpose or productivity, for just a moment, something unlocked there in that area. Could grace be the missing ingredient that had left me unlubricated for so long? Like a car whose engine was without an oil change, every movement, every action was jerky and harsh.
What would it be like to embrace grace? Embrace grace over a to-do list. Embrace grace instead of a schedule. And embrace the gentle momentum of grace rather than the harsh push-through of guilt? The guilt of what is going to happen if I dropped the ball?
I became, in that moment, acutely aware of how my best, most laudable intentions for this weekend had been twisted into quantity, rather than quality.
Did it matter if I wrote six posts?
Did it matter if I went to the grocery store rather than got groceries delivered?
Did it matter if I pushed the side-hustle to Monday?
I entered this weekend with some ideas that needed to be shared. I entered this weekend knowing I wanted to move my body; I entered this weekend wanting to enjoy sitting with myself.
I was not going to allow the guilt to compromise that.
Friend, from what you’ve read thus far I hope you know how first-hand I understand the ease in which productivity can overtake us. The “have to-dos”, “want to-dos,” and “will-I dos” can mangle and tangle themselves around each other so that pressure builds in our lives. Even putting myself in that place right now to express to you what it feels like makes my breath catch and my throat close up: chest tightens and my body braces for the hit.
What would it be like to embrace grace over guilt?
I don’t know about you, but for me that looked like pouring another cup of coffee and covering up the time clock.
Like doing yoga on Sunday morning while my cats napped beside me.
Like sitting down to write without the pressure of expectation but the desire to let the words out from me like water out of a tea kettle: pure and slow.
A lot of the day is spread before me still, even after writing this. What I am choosing to do, though, is honor my desire to create rather than my push to work. Creating words on a page, creating down-dogs with my body, creating vibrant lunches that crisp and crunch against my teeth. Because that’s what grace looks like for me right now. And when I go, go, go crash? I want to honor that, too. Because even when I fail to honor the slow-down, my body does it for me. Friend, how can you embrace grace today?