Tag: simplicity

Assumptions

Monday we talked about expectations and I was blessed to learn that I’m not the only one who saddles my friends with all sorts of unrealistic baggage! Thanks for sharing. However, I don’t think our expectations are the only way that we create unnecessary complexity in our lives. I believe our relationships–that sweet sense of fellowship and community that we have when everything is functioning the way it was meant to–are often waylaid by a second destructive presupposition: false assumptions. We’re too hard on each other because we expect and we assume.

Number 2: Assumptions I think assumptions are different from expectations because they deal less with what we do and more with what we think. Let me give you an example. I have a friend who is an amazing cook. Everything she makes is divine and her dishes always garner oohs and aahs wherever she goes. Now, since she’s so great in the kitchen, I automatically assume that any meal I would make for her would fall far short of her standard of excellence. Surely my chicken casserole would end up in her garbage disposal. So I’ve never brought her a meal. Not when her kids were born. Not when she was sick and couldn’t cook for her family. I’ve never even offered. And she’s probably assuming that I don’t care because I haven’t met her expectation (i.e. I haven’t showed her that I care through my actions). See what we do to each other? She expects something from me, but I fail because I assume she wouldn’t be wowed by my offering which leads her to assume that I don’t care. My failure to act has led us onto a psychological battlefield, one where we spend sleepless nights staring at the ceiling wondering why our dear friend is so cool and distant. Yikes! This is a hypothetical but it sounds so close to the truth I think I’d better get cooking!

I honestly think that dealing with assumptions is more difficult than weeding out expectations. Our thoughts are slippery, tricky things that are hard to control. I guess the most helpful advice I’ve received on battling my own runaway imagination is to stop taking myself so seriously. A few weeks ago some friends of mine got together for coffee and didn’t call me. I could assume that they’re mad at me for some reason (surely they’re getting together to talk about me behind my back!), but I’ll save myself a lot of agony by realizing that the truth probably sounds a lot more like this: they just plain forgot. Or someone was supposed to call me and didn’t. Or they know that I’m busy right now and they were trying to do me a favor by not tempting me with the siren call of a girls’ night out. If I have the strength to assume the best (and I don’t always have that fortitude), I can step out of the junior high drama of relationships and exist in a healthier, more stable community.

So, your turn. Do you jump to conclusions? Are you the type of person that always assumes the worst? Or are you one of the ever optimistic, life’s a bowl of cherries, and “I believe the best” sort of people? I’d have to say I fall pretty firmly smack dab in the middle of the two. I’m an eternal optimist, but I’m tender, too. It’s hard to be confident enough to assume that when someone narrows their eyes in my direction, they’re just squinting at the sun. But I think I’d be a much happier, more settled person if I could convince myself of that more often.

simplicity

Expectations

So I’ve gotten a bit off-track with my blogging. I think I was supposed to post about my people epiphany several days ago, but I got sidetracked by Dancing with the Stars and the sudden realization that life is an adventure, baby. And what an adventure it is! Just this morning I was thinking back over the last several months and it struck me that our everyday existence is nothing if not spectacular. Right before lunch I had the pleasure of attending a lecture by Pulitzer prize winning author Marilynne Robinson… A few weeks ago Shane Claiborne spent a few days at our house… Right before Christmas my seven-year-old son learned to recite the entire Christmas story out of Luke 2… Last night my baby cried in my arms as he struggled through the advent of his first tooth… Life is full of surprise and beauty and wonder. How blessed are we!

But, enough of my wide-eyed gawking at the world. Today, as I promised, I’m going to try to assemble my thoughts on how we are too hard on each other. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I’m no expert. These are just my thoughts and ideas as I pray and study and talk-talk-talk with friends and family. Join the conversation!

A few posts ago I admitted that I’m a perfectionist. That I’m hard on myself and that I have pretty high expectations for Nicole Lynn Baart. And though I reserve my harshest critique for myself, I’d be a big, fat liar if I denied that some of those expectations get passed on to the people around me. I wish I could say I’m a paragon of patience and understanding, but the truth is I can be anything but. Sad, isn’t it? But I don’t think I’m alone. Considering my own experiences at the butt end of people’s misguided expectations, I’ve come to the conclusion that we are all prone to be too hard on each other. And I think our shortcomings in this area can be categorized in two different ways.

Number 1: Expectations I think when we consider our unrealistic expectations of each other, we have to categorize them as things that we want other people to do. We expect a phone call, a meal, an offer to take our children, a birthday card, a big hug, a fill-in-the-blank. We expect people to be on time, to rise to the occasion, to do the job the way that we would do it. Like it or not, there are certain things that we consider to be “givens.” The problem is, we’re the only one with access to our own personal checklist of “the way things should be.” My solution? Lower my expectations. If I’m supposed to have coffee with a friend at 10, I try to give her a wide window of grace and won’t start getting antsy until 10:15 or later. I know she loves me and our time together is as meaningful to her as it is to me. But I don’t know what her morning has held: spilled milk, a dirty diaper as she’s walking out the door, a last-minute phone call that she has to take… Who knows? What I do know is that I can control my reaction, and preserve our relationship in the midst of potential frustration.

Wednesday I’ll deal with the second part of this equation: assumptions. But for now, I’d love to hear from you. What unrealistic expectation do you cling to? Do you dare to share a time that you clung to that expectation at the expense of a relationship? Or vise versa–Can you think of a time when you had to shoulder the burden of another person’s expectations?

simplicity

Life’s an Adventure

So I’m completely exhausted. In preparation for my dancing debut (shoot me now), I’ve been logging two hours a night trying to learn the cha-cha. My partner is absolutely amazing, a great teacher and all around wonderful guy who is more patient with me than I deserve. But he pushes me hard, and I fall into bed at night aching and sleepless, with dance steps replaying in my head on continuous repeat. I’m getting better (I hope), but it drives me crazy that my improvement is slow at best. Hmm… Didn’t I blog about this recently? I’m so hard on myself.

Anyway, I told you I’d be posting about the second half of my personal epiphany today: we’re too hard on each other. But I’m afraid something else has taken precedence again. What can I say? My train of thought is obviously runaway.

It struck me this week that as I continue to try to get a handle on what it means to live a simple life, God keeps heaping things into my lap. I feel a little like my own personal assistant, sifting through the possibilities and attempting to ferret out the things that are worthwhile–that are meaningful or important or God-ordained. When a new opportunity gets added to the pile, I can assess it from a bit of a distance… but there inevitably comes a point when reality hits and I’m stuck living out of an agenda book that seems anything but simplified.

Wouldn’t it be easier to just say “no”? To pull back from everything and streamline my life? When I started studying simplicity, I believed that was the answer: paring down my never ending To Do list. But I’ve come to the conclusion that there is much more to it than that. More importantly, I’ve decided that taking such a “one size fits all” approach (i.e. cutting things for the sake of a self-imposed austerity of life) is foolish at best, and downright damaging at worst.

Guess what? As much as I long for a sense of simplicity, peace, and inner contentment in my little world, life is an adventure. I get one go-round on this swiftly tilting planet, and I don’t want to waste a moment of it. Is this dancing gig eating up hours in my week and adding a thick layer of complexity to everything? You bet. But, on the flip side, am I loving it? Am I appreciating the fact that this is a once-in-a-lifetime chance? The sort of opportunity that I’ll likely never have again? You bet on all those counts, too.

And so it continues… Opportunities arise. The phone rings. My email inbox pings. And while I think it is important to learn the fine and lasting art of saying, “no,” I can’t help believing that the other side of this carefully balanced scale of a wild and wonderful life is learning to say “yes.” Yes to things that will stretch me and make me grow. Yes to new adventures, even if they seem hard or challenging or risky. Yes, even sometimes when I want to say no… because my days are numbered. And I want to suck the marrow out of each and every one of them.

simplicity

Loosen Up!

If you’ve ever graced my home with your presence, you probably learned something about me the moment you stepped in the door: I’m a perfectionist. No, my house isn’t perfect (far from it) but I am a pretty exacting housekeeper. I dare you to find a crooked picture or a yellow leaf on one of my numerous houseplants. And you can bet that in the moment before you came I was zipping around dusting tables, wiping the last crumb from the counter, and making sure the fruit in the bowl on the center of our dining room table was prettily arranged. It’s kind of sick, isn’t it? Seriously, who am I trying to impress?

That’s just the thing: the only person I’m trying to impress is me. I have very high standards for myself (at least in some areas of my life), and I’m crazy hard on myself if I can’t keep those expectations met.

In my last post (Everything is Grace) I told you that I had recently come to a couple of conclusions: we’re too hard on ourselves and we’re too hard on each other. Today I want to pick the first idea apart, and hopefully spark a discussion. Or at least give you permission to loosen up a little!

I told you that I’m doing a Bible study on Biblical simplicity, and that so far it’s really striking a chord with me. In the very first week I found myself faced with the question: What dulls your senses to God’s still, small voice? The answer came so quickly and so forcefully I’ve been chewing on it ever since: the myth of perfection. I think I spend so much time making sure my life is just so that I don’t have a spare minute in which to be still. To simply be. Later on in the study I wrote this in the margin of my book: I need to give Superwoman the heave-ho! But how am I supposed to do that? Right now I’m typing with my bed unmade (gasp!) and the counter cleared but still crumby from breakfast (oh, the horrors!). Can I slowly strip my mythical Superwoman of her powers by forcing myself to let the occasional thing slide? Or will that just create more stress in my life? Does it take something deeper than enduring a dirty counter to cultivate a spirit of grace and simplicity?

I don’t know. How’s that for wishy-washy? Here you thought you were going to read a post with a few answers in it, and instead I write those dreaded three words: I don’t know…

But I can tell you that I’m trying to let go a bit. To stop beating myself up if I send my four-year-old to preschool with his hair fuzzy, or to give myself the grace to leave the house without my hair done and my make-up in place. (And that’s really a stretch for me because I look like a corpse without something to brighten me up!) That feels like a start. A place to begin. But there has to be more to it than that. So, your turn. I’d love to know if you have any ideas, any methods that you use to battle that inner voice that whispers: “You’re not enough…” We’re in this together, my friend. And in the words of Stuart Smalley: “You’re good enough, you’re smart enough, and doggone it, people like you.” 😉

simplicity

Everything is Grace

Has it been a week since I last posted? Wow, time flies when you’re feeling dragged along by a runaway train. And it’s an absolute whirlwind when you seem to be hanging on to said train by a fingernail. Ever felt that way? Like you’re one small bump from being thrown off altogether? I’m there right now.

Believe it or not, I kind of thrive on the adrenaline rush that goes along with a quick pace. But everyone has their breaking point, and I think I hit mine last week. Between a book deadline, an impending book release, a new project about to begin, a baby who isn’t sleeping through the night, all the “regular” stuff (cooking, cleaning, laundry, groceries, carpool, etc.), and some pretty weighty issues that my friends and family are dealing with (and that I’m internalizing), I just sort of shut down these last several days.

I’m not much of a crier, and I don’t lash out when I’m stressed. Instead, I get real quiet. I read books when I should be doing something else. I take long showers, wear my pajamas until noon, and find myself staring out the window at nothing at all. It’s been one of those weeks. I kept opening up my laptop to blog or take care of my long to-do list, but I always ended up shutting it long before I managed to accomplish anything. Sorry about that. Many of you wrote amazing, thought-provoking comments on my last post, and though they moved me, I never got around to responding. I will, I will… I guess I just needed to let go a little this week.

It’s funny how God works in everything and through everything. I really believed these last several days were a write-off in the grand scheme of things, and yet even in my paralyzed state, God has been working in my heart and in my mind. My busyness, the Bible study that I’m poring over, the complexities of a simple life (how’s that for an oxymoron?)… It all fits together. How cool is that?

St. Therese of Lisieux is often quoted as saying: “Everything is grace.” I don’t know where or when I first heard those words, but they’ve been a soundtrack for me lately. The sunshine highlights dust bunnies on my floor and something whispers: “Everything is grace.” Instead of the gourmet meal my family deserves, I throw a frozen pizza in for supper and I think: “Everything is grace.” I fall asleep nursing my baby in the afternoon and wake up to the understanding that everything is grace.

Okay, I’m not trying to excuse my lethargy or assert that it doesn’t matter what we do because everything comes down to grace anyway. What I am saying is that I discovered two things in the last week. Two things that I think wholly relate to the concept of not only a simple life, but an abundant one. Number one: We are too hard on ourselves. Number two: We are too hard on each other.

There’s so much more that I want to say about those two (not-so-shocking) discoveries, but I’m going to leave those thoughts for my next post. Until then, I have a couple of questions for you. First, How do you deal with the times in your life when you feel like you’re stuck on a runaway train? And, second, What sorts of emotions does the quote “everything is grace” evoke in you? They’re a loaded three words for me…

simplicity