Grace and Sleep - Part One
Grace and Sleep
Life got turned upside down a couple of months ago. My third child was born, a beautiful baby girl, and a real game changer. Having three kids is no joke. And to everyone who says “having three is no different than having two”, or “after two it’s all the same,” I say “on what planet and in what life are you living?” It’s a freakin’ circus most of the time, and when it’s not, it’s total chaos.
My older two children are 11 and 3 years old respectively. So I have a pre-adolescent middle schooler in one of the most egotistical stages of development and a toddler who...well, it’s called terrible three’s for a reason. Mix in a brand new baby and what do you get? Three little people all competing for my attention, my time, my love, and my energy.
Luckily God knows exactly what we are capable of handling and our newest addition has been sleeping through the night since she was four week old. Yes, I know how lucky we are, and how unusual that is. But that’s one thing that I truly believe my husband and I have down to a science after three kids. The sleep thing has always been a non-negotiable for us and with each child we curated their love of sleep from infancy. Our kids love to sleep, all of them. Even the older ones ask to go to bed when they are tired, instead of eking out every last milli-second of the day in fear that they are going to miss out on something.
Wouldn’t that be nice?
So, please notice that I said that the baby was sleeping through the night. I did not say that I was. Talk about frustrating! You’ve probably been there at some point — exhausted and presented with the perfect scenario for sleep, but there you are lying there wide awake staring at the ceiling.
Recovering from childbirth and weeks of sleep deprivation requires some serious time and some serious sleep. Being a parent, and in particular a mother (sorry gentlemen, it’s true) is hard on so many levels and it starts at the very beginning. Add in the fact that we naturally have the instinct to neglect ourselves in order to care for our children, well no wonder that so many women take months or even years to fully recover. And many women seem to never come out of that cycle of self-neglect.
The most interesting thing of all is that while I have been struggling to learn the ropes of my new life, there are so many women in my life – friends, family, clients – that are, in one way or another, struggling to make heads or tails of some new paradigm in their own lives.
I know women that in the last couple of months have had brain surgery, been diagnosed with cancer, relocated their family, left their job, started a business, and welcomed new human beings into their lives.
Big, HUGE freakin’ deals. Game-changing, life-disrupting things.
I’ve talked to all of them, at length. You know what I’ve heard? I’ve heard every one of them say how utterly exhausted they are. I’ve heard them beat themselves up because they didn’t have the house decorated for Christmas. I’ve heard them fret about what was taking them so long to heal. I’ve heard disappointment at not having the time to attend their child’s basketball game. I’ve heard genuine fear of not being enough, having enough or doing enough for others.
From my own lips, I’ve heard similar words. I’ve gotten down on myself for not being back in shape yet after the baby (cuz I had a baby just two months ago), I’ve lamented over my life of exhaustion and not having the energy to do anything but get myself out of bed in the morning and be a mother, and then I’ve allowed myself to feel like a bad mother because I’ve been thinking so much about getting back to work that I haven’t been present with my children during this time that I know I will never get back. My baby will never be this tiny precious angel again, my three year old peering eagerly over the edge of the bassinet at her little sister is on a limited run. These moments are fleeting and I’m freakin’ thinking about work. What’s wrong with me?!
It’s so, so easy to go there. It’s so, so hard to stop ourselves. But that’s exactly what we need to do. Stop it!
There are two things that we beautiful, amazing, powerful women need in times like these, and these two things are the most wonderful, unselfish, benevolent gifts you can give yourself and those you care about. I was introduced to them in a whole new light recently by my own coach. I’d like to introduce you to my two new best friends.
These two gifts are called Grace and Sleep, and they will change your life.
These two gifts, if you allow them, will keep on giving. They will fill you with gratitude on a daily basis, they will restore your energy, your verve, and vibrancy, they will make you more productive, sky-rocket your creativity, increase your compassion, and make you a healthier, happier person. Not to mention they will make the five ways of haggard you’ve been feeling (and let’s face it, looking) disappear, the dark circles under your eyes, the sugar cravings – amazingly they go away when we take care of ourselves in this way.
I often ask my clients if they know what the definition of Grace is. Many don’t actually know, others say “just letting things be okay.” So I think it’s important to really understand exactly what this new gift you’re going to give yourself is all about.
Grace is defined as “unmerited favor.” Another meaning of Grace is “simple elegance and finesse.” I absolutely love to marry these two meanings because they pertain to being a woman so much. We are queens and goddesses, we women. We dream of simple elegance and finesse, we’ve been trying to convince everyone that our lives and accomplishments are all about these two things since we were young. Yet that “unmerited favor” has been something we just don’t get.
What the hell does that mean anyway?
Unmerited favor means you simply don’t deserve the approval, the support, or the liking for something – but you have it, or you give it, anyway. It is kindness beyond what is usual or due to you (or someone else) – yet you do it, or you receive it, anyway.
We’re often pretty good about having grace for others, just think about your kids or those closest to you. How often do we excuse them for their shortcomings and screw-ups? All the time, right? But the sensation and idea for ourselves often feels completely foreign and uncomfortable. In fact, some of us are incredibly horrible at allowing others to have grace for us. They tell us “it’s okay”, “don’t worry,” “give yourself a break,” yet we continue to beat ourselves up about it long after it’s been forgotten by everyone else.
I know you know what I’m talking about.
The fact of the matter is that you deserve some grace, for Heaven’s sake. And more than likely the person who needs to give it to you is none other than YOU.
You see, my friend, so many of us women are our own worst enemies. Your biggest critic is likely the same woman you stare at in the mirror every day. And I’m talking from experience because I promise you that no one can beat me up and make me feel worse about myself than me, myself, and I.
In your mind, you might not feel like you deserve to take a break and do something for yourself for once, and maybe you won’t be getting the coveted Mom of the Year award, but the truth of the matter is that we are all doing the very best dang job that we can. Good enough is good enough. So what if the house didn’t get all decked out with lights and decorations this year. So what if you weren’t able to make every one of your child’s basketball games. So what if your kids had to eat mac and cheese out of a box for dinner (gasp!). So what if the house is a mess and the dog needs grooming. So what if you weren’t able to return every email in your inbox before the end of the day.
Give yourself a freakin’ break lady! And give yourself the gift of grace. Unmerited favor. Dish yourself up a big ol’ helping of that, please. Be, dwell, reside in the knowledge that you are doing the best that you can. And even if perhaps on this one occasion you’re not doing the best you can...well, chances are you are still doing the best you can.
Remember that the best part of you is that you are perfectly imperfect. Grace is what flows through the cracks and dark spaces and smoothes out the wrinkles. Like a fine painting examined up close, we can nit-pick ourselves and our lives, finding every tiny thing wrong or that we could have done different or better. But if we would just stand back and take in the whole picture, things start to blend together, even out and come together gracefully, elegantly, and it all seems so well orchestrated and purposeful. Sometimes we find ourselves staring at a masterpiece.
This life of elegance and finesse we are all after, you’ll get there. We are all queens after all. But for it to be authentic and the real deal, you’ve got to give yourself some grace. Over and over again. Because real life, well the way that plays out looks more like the elegant woman walking and waving gracefully as music plays in the background and then comes to a screeching halt when she trips on her dress and does the smackdown. The grace comes when knowing that we aren’t, at that moment, embodying our ideal, we stand up, straighten our crown and keep going.
Have grace for yourself, do yourself a favor and give yourself some unmerited favor. In doing so you are much less likely to get stuck in perfection paralysis and then you can start making some real progress.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t have the time and I can’t afford to be stuck anymore. I need to know that when I feel like I have messed up or fallen short, it’s okay and that it doesn’t mean game over or that I should just quit. And knowing that I’m a high performing, powerful woman means that I can’t look to anyone else to give me that validation. I’ve got to take the moment I need to be upset or mad or sad, have my cry and then look myself in the mirror and say “Erin, you’ve got this, you can figure this out, you’re doing great. What do you need to do now?” The grace comes from me.
The grace comes you. So if you’re waiting for your husband to come home, or your boss to show up, or your mother to call so that you can tell them what happened, make excuses, or invite them in on your pity party – STOP IT! Ask yourself if that is really what a woman who lives an AMAZING life does. And the answer is No.
The simple truth of the entire matter is that grace is absolutely vital to living a life of presence and purpose and power and joy. It’s time to count yourself amongst those who deserve your grace and love. So next time you’re not being as productive as you want to be, or the project isn’t turning out how you envisioned it, or the house is a disaster area and your kid just left for school in his pajamas – skip the self-judgment, the guilt, and the self-loathing.
Simply say “Grace.” Pour yourself a cup of tea, straighten your crown, and keep going.