Ridiculous Expectations

I have a lot of expectations. Of myself, of others, of products and fictional universes–but mostly of myself. I’m perfectly willing to admit that other people are flawed, and do things that don’t make sense, and need days of rest. I’m almost as willing to admit that my favorite character isn’t perfect, or that the fictional universe doesn’t have to be what I really, really want it to be.

But myself? It’s so much harder to give up my own expectations for myself.

So many of my expectations are ones I don’t even realize I have. Like when it comes to adults: I can verbalize that adults are not perfect and do not have it all together. Really, though, I still believe that other adults are in fact perfect, or at least have this adulting thing down to an art, and I’m the only one still bumbling along, avoiding doing my taxes or taking my car to the mechanic. I have this expectation that adults doing avoid anything, ever, and certainly clean and do laundry on a regular basis and want to go to work. I’m not even sure where these expectations came from, actually, because I don’t actually know any adults who want to go to work all the time, and it’s ridiculous to think that no one ever avoids doing things or always does all of their chores. And, see, I can name that ridiculousness, but I still feel guilty thinking of the pile of laundry I need to do. 

And when it comes to writing–boy, do I have some expectations about that. I expect myself to write consistently, ideally an hour or two every morning before I go do some laundry or whatever. I expect my ideas to come regularly (but not overwhelmingly). I expect the words to come easily. I expect myself to always balance perfectly the need to write and writing for money and writing becoming addictive again and writing what I love and writing well. And then I get so frustrated when, oddly, I am not perfect. And, see, I can recognize that these expectations are ridiculous, too, but that isn’t that helpful when I’m in the midst of feeling like a worthless writer because I have no ideas or haven’t blogged in two weeks, or like a worthless human being because I’ve fallen into addictive, destructive behaviors towards stories, or like a failure because I want to write so much that I sit at my computer and watch Netflix because sometimes feelings are just too overwhelming. 

And, yes, recognizing a problem is the first step in solving it. Sure. But I’ve always struggled with this and I suspect I always will. I struggle with my ridiculous expectations, but I’ve also been doing the work to let those expectations go.

Not a Robot


Here’s my latest writing update. As you can see, it’s not very consistent or prolific. I reached my goal of an hour a week only twice. And I’m frustrated that I made so little progress. I know I can do better. 

However, it was a difficult few weeks emotionally. Nothing happened, really, but I struggled again with being unemployed and with what I have been learning or should be learning. As much as I’ve loved a lot of the past few months in really unexpected ways, making what feels like little progress is frustrating, and I let that frustration overwhelm me and keep me from writing. 

So… Not as good as I hoped. At all. 

But: I am not a robot. I cannot expect myself to always feel like writing. I cannot expect myself to always write one hour, exactly, not one second more or less. I cannot expect myself to always write well, always be completely undistracted. I am not a robot. It’s okay if I don’t feel like writing, or if I need a day off. Yes, I would like to build writing into a more regular habit, and yes, not feeling like writing isn’t always an excuse to not write. Yes, absolutely, and I am working to write more consistently. That’s why I post these updates. But, as I work towards building this habit, sometimes I need to remember to give myself a little grace, instead of being frustrated that I’m not perfect. 

Give yourself a little grace. You’re not a robot, either.

Writing Update

I really enjoyed updating you on how much writing I’ve done. It was a nice way to feel accountable and inspire myself to keep going, which is why I decided to continue doing updates.

Here are my totals for the past two weeks:


I kept the same goal of writing one hour a day. As you can see, I’ve been more successful this month at reaching at least an hour of writing in a day, which always feels like the big mile marker. Actually reaching it is such a rush! 
It’s funny that I’ve reached an hour more this month, because my focus has shifted. I started focusing more on the every day part of my goal, and just being excited when I wrote every day. If I only wrote ten minutes–well, I wrote. If I didn’t write anything for publication–well, I wrote. Taking the pressure of reaching sixty minutes off of myself was so helpful and freeing, because then I could just focus on writing. Once I took that pressure off, I started to write more days and to reach an hour of writing more often. 

I always forget how important it is to give myself grace and be kind to myself, but I learned that lesson again these past few weeks.

Here’s to learning it again as we go forward!

What have you been writing and learning?

Perfect Writing

One of the reasons I haven’t been writing much lately is because I want everything to be just right. I want to feel that sweet spot of confidence and inspiration; I want to be somewhere that’s exactly the right mix of quiet, comfortable, and interesting but not distracting; I want to be sure what I’ll be writing while also knowing I’ll be flexible enough to accept if the piece doesn’t go exactly as I’d planned; I want to feel surrounded by God and loved enough that I know I’ll be able to trust myself and trust God. I want everything to be just so when I sit down to write. 

And some days, I really am not ready to write, or something else really does come up. And that’s fine.

Most days, however, when all of those factors don’t line up exactly, it’s also fine. It doesn’t feel like it; I feel unsettled enough that it’s harder to sit down to write, or I use it as an excuse for not writing. I can’t do it just so today, so I just won’t do it. I don’t feel capable of perfection, or my best, or the impossible standard that I perceive as my best, or even something that’s ‘good enough.’ 

Like I said, some days I really can’t write well. There’s nothing wrong with that. But most days when I don’t feel ‘ready’ to write, don’t feel like I’ll be good enough–it’s not true. What I write may not be perfect (well–I hate to break it to myself, but duh), but editing exists. There’s value in writing anyway, in listening to the words and to God and sitting in that space of ‘I don’t know what to write’ and ‘Can I really write?’ and ‘What am I doing?’ There’s value in writing anyway. 

Sometimes I just needed to start, just needed to reassure myself that I still remember how to write. Sometimes the words really aren’t ready, or I’m not ready to write them. Sometimes I really just wasn’t ready to write.

But there’s value in writing anyway. 

That’s what I’m learning, and relearning, and relearning, in this season.

Vulnerable

I linked to my blog on my resume. 

It seemed like a brilliant idea at the time–look, all of my writings and sermon clips, all in one place!–but the first time I sat down to write a post after that, I blanched. Somehow the idea of sending out words into the anonymous internet is WAY different than sending out words into the internet that is now full of people who are considering you for a job. A job as a pastor, no less. What should I post now? What if they didn’t like it? What if I revealed something about myself, and they decided I was too imperfect for their church? What if they saw the flaws I struggle with and talk about here, and decided to take themselves far away from that?

So I posted something, so no one would think I wasn’t regular about posting (although anyone who scrolled to the next blog post would notice that there was a gap of a month and a half), but it wasn’t too revealing. Big news, but nothing too personal. And after that, every time I sat down to write a post, I would freeze up. What could I write that wouldn’t show churches that I’m a human being with flaws and problems??

Then I had the brilliant idea to ask Off the Page if I could write a hugely personal piece for them, and they said yes. Whoops

Yeah.

So, I’m being personal and vulnerable. To the Internet. Including all those people who might end up here because they’re considering hiring me as their pastor. Here it is: my problems, my human-ness, my sinfulness and struggles. And I know I just spent a while saying I don’t like being vulnerable, but please go check it out. Being vulnerable is important. I wrote something true and something that I love–and even if it’s also the scariest piece I’ve ever written for the Internet, I’d love if you went and checked it out. Please join me in my vulnerability.

Life

It’s been insane.

The good kind of insane, mostly: multiple graduations in the family, including my own; packing and moving and cleaning; settling into a new place that I know is only temporary; starting a new full-time chaplaincy internship while also continuing the church work I’ve been doing; worrying about everything I need to have done by the end of the summer but haven’t had the time or energy to start yet. It’s been good, but it’s been crazy.

I’m still figuring out this whole 8-5 thing. It’s been a while since I’ve worked a job like that. I’m still figuring out how to be me and how to sleep enough and take care of myself enough and do the things I love and when I can possibly write without it coming out as gibberish. I’m still figuring out this place that I’m in, and it doesn’t help that it’s highly temporary.

At the beginning of September, I have a meeting to see if I can move to the next step of the ordination process.

I’m trying to give myself grace. There’s only so much that I can do. There’s only so much that I should do. If I come out of this summer an emotional wreck, my meeting will be that much more difficult. Not that I’m currently feeling like an emotional wreck, because I’m not. But I’d also like it to stay that way.

This post isn’t me saying I’m never posting again, don’t worry. It’s an explanation of why I haven’t been posting much lately, and a warning that the sporadic posting will likely continue for the foreseeable future.

How are your Summer’s going?

(Giving Myself) Grace

I’ve been in a place, lately, where writing is hard. I guess I should say it’s been harder than normal–writing is always hard, in some way or another. Writing well and truthfully is never easy. But it’s been especially hard over the past weeks. Paper deadlines have been looming, tempting me to just sit down and WRITE. 

And I do that, sometimes. But it never really ends well. Every time I try to fight through that feeling of not-rightness, that feeling that now isn’t the time to write or it isn’t the time to write whatever I’m working on, and just write anyway, I come out of it so incredibly frustrated, with maybe a few pages of bad writing that I’ll just delete trailing behind.

And I got so fed up of that feeling of just forcing myself through things, of doing things I didn’t want to do. Not a ‘lazy me would much rather be watching Netflix’ sort of wanting, but a ‘this kind of hurts what are you doing?’ kind of wanting. It hurt so much that I finally just stopped, and stopped, and stopped. I stopped forcing it. I would sit in silence, or pray, or write that other piece that’s nudging up at the edges of my thoughts, or go do the dishes, or… anything else, really. 

And it felt beautiful.

It was such a release. I was recognizing how I was feeling and legitimizing it and accepting it. And how I was feeling was tired: tired of being in class, tired of my own emotions, tired of my own avoidance. AND THAT WAS OKAY. 

By admitting what I was feeling, by giving it a name, I was giving myself the grace to feel as I was feeling. I was accepting myself and my feelings, and caring for them, and just trying to understand. And it felt like such love for myself.

How I was feeling was completely okay.

I see a lot online about forcing yourself to write every day and how such good things come from that. I have never, ever found that to be true. I’ve always written badly when I’ve forced myself to write. I’ve always left those sessions feeling empty and drained in a way that feels more like ‘something was taken from me against my will’ than like ‘I just did something good and hard and beautiful.’ Forcing myself to write–to do anything–denies the larger truth that I am not the source of my writing. God is. Good, truthful, faithful writing will not happen on my own strength; it happens at God’s direction. Writing is not the highest good; God is. God is the highest good, and my writing belongs to God. Forcing it is just another way for me to try and take back control of my writing, control that I don’t want (mostly), control that I certainly don’t need.