If you’re fifteen minutes early, you’re on time. And if you’re on time, you’re late.
At least, that’s what I was told (read: forcefully screamed at) by every basketball coach I’ve ever played for. For seven straight years, this was engrained in me four to five nights a week when one of my teammates would arrive at 6:45 for a 6:45 practice.
Lucky for me, being early is one of those things that’s kind of just stitched somewhere deep down in my DNA. In fact, 26 years ago, when I showed up to the scene, I was two whole weeks early. My mama, daddy-o and older sister weren’t expecting me until the end of February, but I came barging in a fortnight ahead of schedule basically screaming, “Ready or not, here I come!”
I look at it like this: God gave me 14 days more than doctors and their fancy science predicted I’d get. He said, “Nuh-uh, she’s gon’ come today.” It’s sweet and all when you think about it. Two whole weeks to make an impact and to show up in big ways for people. But if you actually looked at any random sampling of fourteen of my days under a microscope, you’d quickly realize my extra days were used to jack this place up.
Here is the honest-to-God-but-also-kind-of-awful truth:
I am really good at looking like I’ve got everything under control. I am some sort of wacky skilled at pretending like I’m keeping it together. But the other truth is that that means I’m the World’s Biggest Faker.
I fail over and over and over again at actually keeping it together. (And if you’re curious on how you can do this too, here’s a little step-by-step guide.)
STEP 1: Compare yourself to others.
The other day I was sitting in my cubicle thinking about how delicious my hair smelled. That’s a pretty weird thing to think about, you’re right, but I just switched hairsprays and I couldn’t stop sniffing my own hair. I spent most of my morning figuring out ways to subtly turn my head in a way that would effectively waft the floral scent right up to my nostrils.
Then I got up to walk to the bathroom.
I was feeling great and confident and like I smelled like a field of daisies when, in the lobby, some lady walked by me who had on this absolutely scrumptious perfume. She smelled way better. And I was jealous.
In an instant, I was deflated. I thought about how I NEEDED to know what perfume she was wearing and that only after I got it and sprayed the perfect amount on my body would I actually smell REALLY good. My hairspray no longer made the cut. I needed the perfume. I needed to smell like this lady.
Cue an intervention. Dear Diana, Stop comparing yourself to others. Love, Diana.
My most brutal self-comparison is usually done by way of Instagram (and not based off scent exchanges in the lobby of my building). I’ve gotten really good at looking at other peoples’ little square highlight reels and convincing myself that my life is not nearly as glamorous, fun, delightful or #blessed as everyone else’s. I look at pictures of peoples’ dinners and vacations and perfectly elaborate fishtail braids and think, “Man. If only I had that. If only I had that, then I will really be something. Then I will have arrived to the scene. Then I will be made whole.”
I have this weird feeling I may not be alone in this, so let’s cover something- once and for all:
Baby, you have arrived. You are whole and you are complete.
Actually, I lied. This one is worth saying over and over again: You have arrived. You are whole and you are complete.
Got it? Get it? Good.
STEP 2: Refuse to ask for help.
I was working for my current company for just about a year the very first time I cried at work. I was in the middle of a client crisis that I’d spent days and weeks and months cleaning up, only to realize that the entire project had to be completely re-done (in half the time) on account of an outside error. When my boss strolled by my desk to check to see how things were progressing, I couldn’t even look up.
“How’s it going, D?” he asked.
I finally looked up but still couldn’t speak. I just stared at him. I knew if I opened my mouth, I would instantly morph into a blubbering emotional mess and I feared I would instantly lose credibility as the office sassy-pants. (Update: I am still the office sassy-pants.)
“Why don’t you meet me in my office,” he said, kindly.
I walked into his office and before I could even shut the door the tears started flowing. I was overwhelmed. And I felt like I was drowning.
In this moment, I learned that I am the worst delegator known to man. Perhaps expository of some deep and underlying trust, pride and / or control issue (check, check and check!), I struggle to ask people for help.
The truth is this: After our constant need for Him, I think God’s best idea was us needing each other.
We need each other. We are not islands. We are not meant to do this life or any portion of it alone. I need you and you need me and it’s only after that is realized that we have even a fraction of the chance of keeping anything (our lives, our love, our sanity) together.
STEP 3: Let yourself get puffed up about how you’re doing such an all-star and notable job at keeping it together. Go you!
Please welcome my good friend Subtle Arrogance to the room. We like to call ’em SA for short. SA comes to us straight from one of my best weeks. It was one of those weeks when I went to bed each night, sifted through the events of the day in my head and though, “You did a great job today! You didn’t swear, didn’t leave any conversation feeling like you said too much or over-stepped boundaries AND you obeyed all traffic laws. Look at you keeping everything together!”
SA, you night owl! You stayed up around the clock that week – six days straight – stroking my ego into believing I was put together and had no need for self-reflection or open and honest accountability with my best gals.
Then? BAM! Like night and day, I woke up on Day Seven and was hit with harsh reminders of all the ways I’d been dropping the ball that week.
I woke up late.
I forgot to call my sister back.
I exchanged quiet time for a wine night with my friends. Twice.
I went over my monthly restaurant budget by $40. (This could maybe be related to the wine.)
I distanced myself from a hurting friend because I “didn’t have the energy to listen.”
I hung up on my mom in anger.
I’m pretty prone to these cycles. I know this by now. I can tell when I’m getting over-confident, when I’m becoming too self-assured or self-reliant and when I need to humble myself before anything or anyone else does it for me. But most times, I get humbled before I humble. And it tastes pretty sour each time, but somehow, it always ends up producing something sweet.
STEP 4: Believe you have to keep it together and make it your mission to do so.
Bottom line: The notion that you have to keep it together is just as preposterous as the idea that, “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.” (Um, have you ever had Nutella? Maybe a slice of cold cheese pizza?)
We are all messy. We are all messes. We all have scraped up knees, split ends and chapped, flaky lips. We are all imperfect and that is perfectly beautiful. So just breathe, boo. And let it fall apart every once in a while. (I promise to try and help you put it back together again.)
What trips you up in your quest to “keep it together”?
What do you think makes you think you even have to keep it together?