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Give ME a Break! (life lessons about guilt and guitars)

June 14, 2019 9 min read 5 Comments

Give ME a Break! (life lessons about guilt and guitars)

On one of our team calls recently, it came up how consistently true it is that we, we humans, are really hard on ourselves. We often have different and stricter standards for our own performance than we do for the rest of world. This shows up in a million different ways, from feeling inadequate with our work, childrearing, homes or yards, to being critical of our appearance. We are also really good at diminishing our accomplishments. Because, really, if could do it, how hard could it be?

What if we chose a different angle? Because the possibility is, that where we see ourselves as failing or inadequate or lackluster…the world just might be peering at us through vastly different lenses. They may be seeing us as real, powerful and even brilliant. And what if we went around with that story in our hearts?   

And, as it turns out, the world is not as focused on any one of us as much as we might think. Most of us are only the heroines of our own lives - no one else is watching us as closely as we watch ourselves. I promise. (And I remind myself regularly…because it can be tempting to think everyone is paying a lot of attention, especially on the days when I feel extra frumpy or extra verbose or extra whatever.)

 

Funny, that.

I went to a 50thbirthday party a few years ago. I talked at length with a woman I hadn’t seen in quite some time. She was dealing with some heavy life stuff. Talking with her was the most noteworthy aspect of the party and I enjoyed it. After the party, I fretted that I said the wrong thing. I was really sure that I said the wrong thing. I worried about this long and hard - right until the next time I saw her, many weeks later. She came up to me and said “I can’t believe I haven’t taken the time to reach out and let you know how peaceful I felt after our conversation at [the party]. I really needed your words of encouragement.”

OH.

OH!!!!

And it gets better. She admitted that she had also fretted since that party. She worried that she complained too much and talked too long and took up too much time with her woes. So, my takeaway is this: we both get gold stars for being real at the party. It’s funny how neither of us let simply being real be enough.

So…. what if we had both been willing to be in that moment, trust the human being next to us, trust ourselves, and be thankful for a real conversation at a big party? HMMMMMMM.

  

Write the Right Story

I mean, really, it could have so many endings! The possibilities are literally endless. I text a friend about a non-emergency. She doesn’t respond.

I am (choose one):

  • The person she is mad at;
  • The person she is annoyed with;
  • The person she is tired of;
  • The person she is too busy for; or,
  • The person she trusts she can wait to respond to until she has time for a genuine response.

She is (choose one):

  • Rude;
  • Done with me;
  • Busy;
  • Distracted;
  • Having a hard day; or,
  • Taking a break from her phone (!).

On a similar note, I have cooked a meal for friends and later worried that it was overdone or too salty or boring or whatever, only to have one (or more!) of my guests ask for the recipe the next day. There are an eternal number of iterations of this situation – you have yours and I have mine. And we all have plenty. What if we choose the stories that reflect our own grace and assume grace and goodwill in others? How beautiful could that be?

 

Guilt and Guitars

This habit to self-criticize extends beyond our beliefs about how we are perceived by the world. It goes straight to our cores and how we perceive ourselves. We are all guilty of guilting ourselves about how amazing we “should” be.

My latest sticking point is the guitar. I have this semi-urgent feeling that I “should” play the guitar. Full disclosure: I am 46, don’t play any instruments, can’t hold a note, and have limited knowledge of music. But at some point, perhaps 5 years ago, I decided that I needed to do this. I’m not sure where it came from – perhaps a romantic notion that I had music in my heart and it should have a way out? I have similar ideas about running a marathon, writing a novel, doing yoga daily, curing the world of junk mail, etc. and etc.  

At one point, I signed up for guitar lessons with both of my daughters. The instructor was charming and direct. One of my daughters was immediately recognized as gifted for reading music and having “perfect pitch.” The other was credited with incredibly adept fingers for string work. I was credited for bringing these clever creatures near a guitar.

Shortly after we started lessons, I had to travel to a distant county to go to court for an embarrassing ticket (fishing without a license – which happened very much on accident and about which I remain very ashamed). My elder daughter accompanied me. We camped, one of the very few times I had ever camped without my dad or my husband to set it up. And in our tent that night, I played a few notes of the only song I was trying to learn (Horse with no Name). I played my few notes over and over. I was so proud to be the person in the campground making music, however limited it was. And that was, so far, the end of my guitar career.

On the long drive home after my short court appearance, my daughter slept. I wrote music in my head, inspired by my love for her and how clearly I could see that she was growing up and eventually away from me. I pulled over a dozen times to jot down the words in my head and when I got home, I tried to sing them into my phone. The tune was never amazing but the words rang true for me as what I truly wished for her. Four years later I gifted the song to her on her high school graduation, terrible tuneless iPhone recording and all. I called her song “Flybird” – an ode to her nickname, Shybird.

 

Flybird

 

She’ll be on her way

In just another day…or so

 

And though it seems too soon

To have her empty room

It’s time to go.

 

I gave her all I had

The good outweighed the bad

I love who she’s become

My lovely one

 

But baby take this one for the road:

I LOVE YOU SO

Don’t always go do what you are told

Life this one life beautiful and bold

 

Go and make your dreams come true

Go become your best you

Yes go and live your big, big life

 

Go out and sing your song

Find a way to laugh along

There really is no right or wrong…just you

 

Find the friends who’ll hold your hand

And the ones who’ll take a stand

Ask them all to join your band

 

And baby take this one for the road:

I LOVE YOU SO

Don’t always go do what you are told

Life this one life beautiful and bold

 

Baby go and seize your day

Don’t let anyone rain on your parade

Do this life thing your own way, my dear

 

I just can’t wait to see

Who you will choose to be

A gift and a mystery, to me

 

So baby take this one for the road:

I LOVE YOU SO

Don’t always go do what you are told

Life this one life beautiful and bold

 

Our door is open wide

If you ever have some time

Our door is open wide

If you ever need to hide

Our door is open wide for you

 

Yes baby take this one for the road:

I LOVE YOU SO

Don’t always go do what you are told

Life this one life beautiful and bold

 

And however imperfect my song might be (I know I am doing that thing…but I am trying to do it nicely – I just deleted “predictable” and “amateurish”), I do love it. And my girl and all of her friends cried over it. So there. [said to myself] But really, the song is RIGHT. And I don’t always live up to its directives. Funny how easy it can be to tell our loved ones what to do and yet, it is most often what we ourselves need to do. UGH.

I have only written one other song in my lifetime. It was for my younger daughter when she was a sleepless little thing. I wrote it out loud on a chair lift while I was trying to calm her. It was all about the different animals she could be and how she would navigate the world on wings, or hooves or frog feet. (“If Mica Jo was a little mouse, I wonder which way she’d scurry? I don’t know which way she’d go, but I know that she could hurry.” And so on.) And after that…that little song put that sweet child to sleep so many nights I couldn’t possibly have counted. And we NEEDED that song. So…perhaps I am a song writer? Which has nothing to do with being a guitar player…but anyway.

So, what if I reframed? “Christine, you are totally allowed to pick up that guitar in the corner and do anything you want with it if you feel like it.” HMMMM. Or: “Christine, you can write songs all you want and you never ever have to touch a guitar.” HMMMMMMMMM. Or better yet: “Christine – how cool that you wrote each of your daughters a song that let them feel your love.” Now that last one, that third version, brings tears to my eyes. Because that is precisely what I would say to anyone I loved if they were having this ridiculous conversation with me.

On a recent hike with a friend, I babbled on about my inadequacies for a bit (we took turns). After a while, she asked: “So, you aren’t really a good person if you don’t do yoga and play the guitar?” She went on to mention the kids I was raising, my two jobs, my marriage, the friendships I treasure, and my home. And she gently asked “are you sure you have to do yoga and play the guitar????”

And my own [less gentle] ask of myself is this: what is enough? When am I enough? What about the dozens of things that interest me and tempt me and distract me – are they worth feeling guilty about? I am beginning to believe that the answer is a resounding NO. And the reality is that while I want to be all of the things I have already mentioned, I also want to be a master gardener, fabulous cook, published author, a wood worker, salsa dancer and the list goes on. And I guess one version of that is “Christine: you are so lucky that so many things interest you….in the right moment, you will pursue the right ones. And you’ll know, because you’ll feel like it. Just like you have before.” And for now, I can let it be enough that I play in my yard constantly (with varying results) and once in a while cook something almost amazing (like the rosemary chicken salad I just made for the Shakespeare Festival tonight).

 

Me, Myself and my Body

It happens with our bodies too. Many of my generation are the products of a body obsessed society and I offer all of us (including me) forgiveness and understanding for having succumbed to the enormous pressure of perfected physical beauty with which we were inundated. And I see my daughters’ generation embracing beautiful booties and bellies and life and I am happy. And yet I still have my own demons to contend with. And I see the temptation to diminish my own appearance. To try on several pairs of jeans to see if any of them work any better than the last pair. To criticize my 46-year-old arms which are not the same slim arms of my 20s (although I am much stronger now and I sport an incredible tattoo). And, those arms have held my daughters through a million moments and hugged my friends through a million more. In fact, allowing myself to celebrate this body, last year, at the age of 45, by committing to a major tattoo was a strong moment for me. I am good enough to decorate. I am a good enough palette for birds and flowers and beauty.  

And when I look back on the moments of impact that I believe I have had in this world, not a single one of them had to do with how I looked. A few small ones had to do with how I danced. The rest had to do with conversations or contributions or comments that were related to my head and my heart and my love of others. And not a single person involved cared what I looked like.

Because this is the truth: beauty truly is, as beauty does.

So, my challenge to myself, and to all of us, is to give ourselves a break. And if something is truly missing from our lists, let ourselves gently and diligently add it in.

Because what we have, what we can do, what we ALREADY do is enough. Really. Whatever it is we seek, beyond what we already have, let it be our gift, not our chore. 

Forever a work in progress and grateful for my community,

Christine


5 Responses

tara
tara

August 06, 2019

I love everything about this, and I love everything about you. And thanks to your beautiful words, I am going to continue to strive to love everything about me! Mwah!!

Susan Nienstedt
Susan Nienstedt

June 24, 2019

Fantastic. Christine is my daughter-in-law I’m proud to say. Her writing is so eloquent and reveals her inner self. She has a huge heart and it shows. What incredible advice for all us! Thank you Christine❤️👍👌🥰💕💕💕💕💕

Carlene
Carlene

June 24, 2019

I could not love this more! Spot on Christine. Thank you for the reminder to treat ourselves with the same grace we would and do extend to others! We are enough!!

Megan
Megan

June 24, 2019

BRAVO!!!! Beautifully written- thank you for the wisdom from Beautiful YOU, Christine!💖

Cynthia Gabriel
Cynthia Gabriel

June 24, 2019

Very thoughtful! All that really matters is Love for Ourselves, Others and Our Planet. All else will take care of itself! Sounds like you have come to that good place that gives us Inner Peace! Wonderful place to be!!!

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