A Case for Being Okay with Okay

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2020. This one’s going to go down as a real butt-kicker of a year. For me, personally, my family has been lucky enough to remain healthy, employed, and safe. All good things. I realize the privilege and fortune in that statement, believe me, I do.

But, even with our health, our home, and my work, it’s still been one rough year. Lots of big feels. Plenty of ups and downs. Happy, painting, grateful, and enjoying the slower pace one day; a pile of tears, dirty dishes, unwashed hair, and a negative outlook the next.

Those days of tears, disappointment, and general worry are not my favorite. They’re not anyone’s favorite. But. One thing I’m learning in this year is that embracing ALL the feels, ALL the days, ALL the ups AND downs may just be the lesson I needed desperately to embrace.

A typical firstborn, empath, and people-pleaser by nature, I’ve struggled off and on with some of my most long-term companions: perfectionism, control, anxiety, and self-doubt. In life. In business. In art. In mothering. I lean into a plan. I love a good, hearty checklist. I like the sense of order and calm that comes from a good system.

This somewhat constant reminder to go with the flow—to loosen my grip on a schedule or plan—has been a welcome reminder. To lean into the process. To enjoy the moments as they come. To not get too attached to a perfect, imagined outcome.

2020 had other plans for me, for all of us. Any plan, any checklist, any I’ve-totally-got-this vibe has been flipped, dismantled, and put back together in ways I could have never foreseen.

This somewhat constant reminder to go with the flow—to loosen my grip on a schedule or plan—has been a welcome reminder. To lean into the process. To enjoy the moments as they come. To not get too attached to a perfect, imagined outcome.

I’m learning and leaning into some life lessons I’ve long-needed to adopt in a year when there is literally no other way to get through it all. These are a few of my key takeaways so far.

I’ve learned to make do with what I have.

Making a simple yet delicious meal with what we’ve got on hand has simplified my approach in the kitchen—and is spilling over to other areas of life. An edited wardrobe, a smaller palette to paint with, rocks and sticks as canvases, and re-imagined playthings for S and I to invent. Making do has been a way for me to invite curiosity and creativity into my routine in the smallest and happiest of ways.

To embrace progress over perfection.

Celebrating the life, the work, the connections that are happening—different as they may be—continues to surprise and sustain me in daily life. Letting dirty dishes sit; allowing a painting to take longer to complete than I thought possible; letting days be measured in how we felt instead of what we got done—this is all new-ish to me. And I like it.

To tune in more to my heart, rather than my overactive mind.

Listening to my intuition and energy to determine the next right step, how to spend my day, and what my daughter (or my art, body, or work) needs of me has helped me to release a life mandated by a checklist. I’m embracing more moments as they come, instead of barreling mindlessly through a routine and schedule.

That it’s okay to not feel joy, excitement, or passion 100% of the time.

I’ve spent much of my adult life working to find joy in most choices I make. This year has been a welcome change to let me truly feel more emotions than happiness. To be okay with tears. With naps. With not knowing what the next right step should be right in that moment. Releasing this self-imposed standard of happiness is helping me to feel ALL the emotions more clearly. To release what needs to get out of my body, moving me back to calm, to peace, and yes, even to joy more smoothly on most days.

I’ve spent much of my adult life working to find joy in most choices that I make. This year has been a welcome change to let me truly feel more emotions than happiness. To be okay with tears. With naps. With not knowing what the next right step should be right in that moment.

That YES should come easily.

When I’m more in alignment, more in tune with my own emotions, it’s easier to get to YES on the important (and not so important) things. If I have to overthink my way to YES on a project, a commitment, or a phone call—it’s probably best to just say no. As a mom, saying yes to a few extras here and there (more Cheetos, another visit to the creek, one more show) isn’t going to derail our entire lives. In fact, just in the pause to consider the YES, I’m able to be a more present human, artist, and parent.

For me, realizing that most of my daily decisions are low-stakes and treating them as such has been a welcome shift. Our brains and bodies are consumed with things that REALLY REALLY matter: staying healthy, protecting our friends and family from this virus AND making sure no one feels too socially isolated, bringing knowledge and activism into our lives to push against racial injustice—these are the things that truly warrant our attention these days.

The rest? I’m learning that it’s okay to just be okay. To let good enough be perfect for me. To focus on the living and not on the planning of the living.

Here’s hoping this shift continues to unfold well past this oh-so-memorable of a year, bringing with it more unexpected gifts along the way.

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