Stop. Pause. Breathe.

I’m noticing all the perfectly arranged pictures as I’m looking around the world these days. Everywhere, there are posed, primped, and perfected people smiling back at me. They are everywhere- magazines, social media, pinterest,  billboards, and advertisements. It’s everywhere – church, school,  stores, malls, my email – everywhere! I see it all, and I’ve realized I become immediately and insanely tired.

I know what I’m seeing isn’t really perfect. Behind the images there’s a mountain of credit card debt, insecurities, parents yelling at children, spills, rips, tears, abuse, and addiction. We all have our house of cards, mostly built by credit cards, all ready to fall down against a strong wind.

Last year my life tumbled over more than once as I scrambled to make it look perfect on the outside. I hid my pain behind a smile as my business slowly fell apart and I took a job that I didn’t want. I was overwhelmed and couldn’t be real about it with most of my people. I was slowly falling apart as I smiled for the camera, smiled for social media, smiled for my boss and went to work, smiled as I held on to my pride while I died inside, smiled while I put on the right clothes and didn’t say the real things. I smiled as I pretended to hold it all together as I cried on my floor in my office at night. 

It’s exhausting, so exhausting. When I make the perfect pictures and say the right things and wear the right clothes. When I see the perfect outsides and realize my insides don’t measure up. When I see the wonderful that other people have and I fall into the comparison trap. I feel anxiety well up in my heart and pressure grip my spine. I feel like it’s time to stop being and start doing.

Suddenly, less becomes so much more. Real seems to invite me in. Relax tells me to calm down and put my feet up.  

I remember that as things began to fall apart, a more experienced lawyer said “I’m burned out.” In response to my “how are you.” That’s real. That’s what happens when you don’t have any energy left to pretend – you stop filtering for the perfect. I sighed internally as I nodded and my heart screamed “yes!” But, I wouldn’t dare say it out loud. He was free and I was not.

I try to control the uncontrollable. I try to achieve the impossible. I try to make it look perfect on the outside while I’m losing my mind on the inside.

I’m tired of being exhausted from trying to maintain the fake, perfect, wonderful façade. It’s impossible, it’s unobtainable. Trying to put on the perfect puts a barrier between me and the things that matter. We like what it looks like, but it’s exhausting to live it.

This year, I’m trying to stop. I’m trying to stop maintaining the perfect façade. I don’t have the energy any longer to put on the Ritz.  Especially for Christmas. Especially when it doesn’t matter. Especially when I should say no to one more thing.

I have decided to quit the impossible. I have decided to quit the perfection. I have decided not to put on the exhaustion, keeping up, burned out, unmet expectations of the perfect social media life. I have decided to say no to sacrificing what matters most to me for what someone else says matters right now.

I want what’s real and true and beautiful. I want wonderful that lasts longer than a camera flash. I want real happiness and laughter that’s not posed and perfected smiles. I have decided that pain hurts but I want it because God will meet me in the middle of my mess. I want a new rhythm where breathing is possible. I want to slow down and to stop when necessary.

In this season of more I’m beginning to intentionally decide to do less. Less decorating, less control over other people and things, less crazy hurry and busy. I decided to do less stuff in exchange for sweat pants and hot chocolate. I decided to do less ‘I can’t right now’ for more ‘that sounds fun’.

What does that look like? It’s putting tentative plans on the calendar and saying no if I decide I don’t want to go out into the cold right now. It’s ordering delivery if I can’t handle one more thing. It’s not putting it on the credit card if I don’t have the money right now. It’s not pretending that life is all together when I’m falling apart. It’s asking for help when I can’t do it alone.

Finding a new rhythm is hard work. I feel the pressure to decorate all the trees now, to do all the shopping now, to achieve, and to work harder even though I’m exhausted. The pressure is inside because I’ve spent too much time looking at the perfect pictures and wanting it to be true.

What’s true is that I’ve been doing all the things that are God’s job. What is true is that I’ve been trying to control what’s not mine to control. What’s true is that life is messy, crazy, and hard. It’s all those things while at the same time it’s beautiful, fun, and wonderful. Life is both hard and easy at the same time. Life is a beautiful mess of irony.

Friday we didn’t go to watch the tree lighting because it was late, cold, and we were tired. Saturday night we missed our first night of Advent because I wasn’t finished yet and I decided it’s okay to finish late and catch up later. (There’s no deadline on life.) Sunday, we didn’t go look at lights because Advent readings and hot chocolate mattered more than having a perfect family fun night for pictures. Rest now takes precedent over what doesn’t matter.

I’m going to stop the things, pause life, and breathe deeply of the hope that this season brings. What are you thinking, seeing, and doing in this season?

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