It seems that there is a growing list in my head. I've been in there organizing and sorting out various thoughts and thinking patterns. From the best I can tell, I started this particular list when I was in 1st Grade. Oh my.
There are a number of highlighted items, with a few repeating themes. "The teacher smiles at me when I have the correct answer." That seems innocuous enough to me, so I did not delete it. Then there was a logical progression of "My parents take me to Baskin-Robbins for a good report card", "I excel, and other students look up to me and ask for my help", "I follow through with my tasks and I'm chosen for more responsibility", "...Honor Society, academic scholarship, college...job". This is when things began to change, and there is a lot of crossing out, rewriting, arrows to the back of the page, and lots of editing.
When we are young, expectations are the things that motivate and fuel our reasonable success. As early as from our cribs, we find that smiling babies are rewarded with attention and affection, and so we learn to anticipate responses to our specific performance. As we grow up, we begin to function and participate in school, work, family and community based on carefully learned and measured expectations. In most generally healthy families, youthful learning can actually benefit from that sequence. It's just that somewhere along the way, it's really hard to make the transition from an "other's opinions" based performance, to a healthy and God informed personal compass.
If we don't do some organizing and sorting out, we begin to live by unhealthy lists. Ever in pursuit of the ultimate collection of soulful gold stars, we push ourselves harder and harder, finding that we are more driven than motivated, more desperately producing than inspirationally creating, more needy than present, more remote than available, and far less content with what we apply our heart, hand and time to. On a good day, we can convince ourselves and those around us that we are capable and successful. On a bad day, we are angry and disappointed with everyone, and quietly nursing an unattractive bitterness toward God.
Wow, all of that was in my head. I've really got to get a cleaning service in there.
Here's a fresh new list I'm starting:
I'm not in charge of other people's happiness
I'll do my best with what God allows me to participate in
I'll find flourishing and contentment in the richness of daily fidelities
If I am not successful with my tasks or efforts, I'll try again without a personal flogging or self-hate as motivator
If, no, make that "when", I disappoint people, I will objectively own my part, but no more than that
I want to be good at what I do, wise in my choices, and to rise to the appropriate expectations I and others put on me
Even good things can become unhealthy obsessions, so I will listen for God directed discernment as to what is important, rather than taking on everything as my job
I will gratefully surrender to the fruit of the Spirit, not the fruit of Kim
I will exult in the LORD, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. Habakkuk 3:18
I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well. Psalms 139:14
I'm wearing my personal compass necklace all day, to remind me.