Throughout the past several weeks our team has been talking to a lot of women about finding peace in their lives...creating some calm in the midst of chaos. This has caused me to look very deeply at my own life and why there are many times when I simply cannot practice what I preach. I think I have figured something out. I’m going to suggest, with a little hesitation because I don’t want you to punch me in the face, that most of it is our fault.
So many of us create a definition of peace that ultimately depends on everyone around us. I am at peace when my children are happy & healthy. I am at peace when my family does not fight. I am at peace when there are no conflicts at my job. But the problem with this definition is that it completely depends on other people. We cannot control the craziness around us. The decisions of others and more importantly the actions of others are completely out of our control. The absolute only thing we can control is our thoughts and our own actions. We are constantly reacting to those we meet. We put out fires all around us. We are in survival mode and it is very difficult to find peace in survival mode. Survival mode means that I am simply getting from point A to point B by what is absolutely necessary. I am doing whatever it takes to do the bare minimum and I have no time for anything else. When I talk to women about this and when I look at my own life, I realize many of us are simply surviving our day. The storm system comes through in the early morning hours and keeps us moving from one task to the next until we lay our exhausted heads down at night. We then spend the next precious, quiet moments at war in our own brain, beating ourselves up because our kids didn't drink any water today, or I can't afford gymnastics classes this session, or I haven't given my husband any attention in days or my bathroom is a complete disaster how can anything get clean in there or what is my real purpose anyway or is anyone in my family really happy or am I raising a future gang leader or why doesn't my boss acknowledge how hard I work or I suck at life because I didn't take my best friend out for her birthday or .....any of this sound familiar? My mind can jump from the simplest annoyance to the most significant possibility of disaster in the blink of an eye when I am winding down from a day. I don't know which way I am going and yet I continue to live this way telling myself that I have no choice. I am in triage fixing one problem after the next yet I try to put a smile on my face projecting that I have it all together so that I can maintain some sense of control.
This is where I had to look at myself in the mirror and pull out my Come to Jesus mode. I realized recently that some of us take pride in our chaos. We deliberately and intentionally create lives full of chaos and stress because our identity as a mother, employee & woman depend on it. We earn our mom badge by being as nuts as possible when it comes to activities and involvement with the world around us. We consider ourselves a valuable employee because we stayed up until midnight answering emails and we came in over the weekend because this place couldn't run without us. We complain about the hectic schedules we live, but we go to bed at night feeling valuable because so many people depend on us to hold it all together. We look at those around us who are calm and slightly detached from the insane pace of the world as something less than the standard we somehow have come to know as the modern day woman. We take pride in the fact that we can handle so much stress. Inside of our very crowded heads we stare stress in the face and say “bring it on” because this is what we were built for. If we are not utterly exhausted at the end of the day, we have not done enough. If we have not used every ounce of energy and space, we let someone down. When our friends ask us about how things are going, we don't reply with positive recollections of our day to day lives. No- we lay out the current stress filled situation that is dominating our day. With that slightly competitive tone, we spell out how much we have on our plate. Almost every woman I know, no matter her career or number of children, do this or have lived this life in the past. Peace isn’t something we strive for because we don’t need it damnit. We need to get to the next Pinterest project or volunteer for that school group or take another carpool to soccer or create some educational filled activity for our 5 year old or organize that closet or create the new initiative at work or be in charge of that group at church or start Christmas shopping in August or or or or….it just goes on and on. Some of it brings us joy don’t get me wrong. I like projects. And I am still a believer that human beings do not do things unless it ultimately brings them more good than bad. But the pace by which we keep ourselves going and the definition of what it means to be a valuable woman is going to be our ruin. We are exhausted. We are running a race against each other but more importantly against the definition of what we thought we would become and we are losing. We are losing because it’s an unfair race. In the end we realize that the only thing we have won is frustration with ourselves and an overall feeling of failure.
So today, I’m not asking you to change everything about your life. I know to most of us that is simply impossible. I am asking you to give yourself a chance at finding peaceful moments among the chaos. Redefine peace in a way that allows it in. Give it a seat at the table and recognize it when it comes to play. Peace doesn’t have to be the ultimate destination. You can find peace just like you find kindness. Why are we kind to others? Because it feels good. Yes it is an obligation and we want to be “good” people but ultimately we are kind because it makes us feel good. It is nice to be of use to others. It is nice to create happiness. It is nice to be recognized in a positive way when we serve those around us. Kindness brings us more kindness. It multiplies. When we focus on it, we find more of it. Peace is the same friends. When you find moments of peace, more moments will find you. When you get in the habit of reframing and redefining your life in a peaceful way, you will be able to easily create that peace that we all are striving for in this crazy world we live in. When you allow yourself time & space and breath to slow down, take time for yourself and let peace in- I promise you that you will be a better mother, better friend, better partner, better employee and better person. Investing in your own peace benefits us all. Peace in our lives does not have to be a crazy idea that maybe will come at another time or place. Let's live purposefully & intentionally.Let's let peace in.