Most Saturday mornings I get to do my thing. I’m kidless and free to choose the who/what/when/where for a couple of hours. It’s so good. A few weeks ago, I headed out for a hike. It was raining, but not too cold and I really felt like being outside in the forest. As I geared up at home, my 5-year old asked me where I was going. I told her.
“Well, who are you going with?” She asked.
“Nobody”, I said.
It was just as I wanted it to be. Outside, alone and free to go at my own pace.
But my kid? She didn’t get it. The whole rain and solitude thing does not appeal to her. To her it sounded like I was getting myself into some sort of trouble. So she cried and begged me not to go.
I tried my best to explain. I told her I wanted to. She looked at me like I was crazy. I said, “Someday you might want to hike by yourself in the forest too.” But she cried harder. She couldn’t relate.
So I smiled, kissed her and went for a hike.
People don’t always understand what our life is about.
Which isn’t the point, but sometimes I get confused and think it is.
When my five year old cries at the thought of me wandering through the forest alone, I smile, kiss and go anyway.
But what happens when a friend doesn’t understand? A parent? A partner? Someone I trust?
And what happens when they disagree with a decision, one that holds more significance than a Saturday morning activity?
Is my response a smile and a kiss?
In my early twenties, everyone got married. Myself included. I was the first of my childhood friends to do so, actually. Which gave me a tremendous sense of “Wise Wife” syndrome. Sorry for that, guys.
One of my best friends (I’ll call her Roxy) had been dating a guy for a while. They met at work, which is only relevant because it meant that none of us had any reference for him. There were no mutual friends. No high school memories. No track record to judge him by. (And of course we wanted to judge him. We were 20-nothing after all.) They dated. They fell in love. They got serious. He staged Roxy’s friends and family at a restaurant while he proposed to her on a boat. As they came into the dining room from the dock, everyone cheered. I went along, clapping and hugging, all the while with a side-eye. Why was I not consulted?
The next week Roxy and I went to coffee. I told her what I thought. I remember saying something to the effect of, “Marriage is like boat. You get to choose who you sail through life with. And you need to choose carefully because the ride is not always easy. Trust me! I’ve been married for like 6 months! I know these things.” Barf.
Roxy didn’t explain. She didn’t shut me out either. Instead, she asked me to stand by her as she said, “I do.” Which is what I did. And now their family has been rock’n and roll’n and love’n for more than a decade. They’re an adventurous team and I admire their commitment and love for each other, amongst many other things.
As I look back, I’m amazed at her confidence and grace. Roxy’s ability to hold in tension our friendship, my lack of understanding (i.e. disapproval) and her decision. She didn’t offer an explanation, nor did she owe one. She did what was right for her. She lived her life and continued to include me in it.
It’s a beautiful, and humbling, picture of what I want for myself. To follow my true north with confidence, but still have the grace to include those dear to me in the journey, even if they don’t get it. I want this because I think it’s where true intimacy is experienced. It is in our diversity that we encounter the opportunity to encourage, appreciate and learn from the people closest to us.
I’m not very good at this. The confidence part comes easier than the grace part. But, in this equation, grace trumps confidence. Because without the grace, the relationship is wounded.
Instead, I often couple my confidence with a middle finger. It’s a kind-hearted one. Sarcastic and jocular, even. But still, a middle finger is a middle finger.
It’s my reaction of choice when I’m hurt. I want people to feel good about my life.
Here’s another way of saying it: I want my life to make people feel good.
What I really mean is: I want to make people feel good.
I care deeply about them. And when I feel like I’m disappointing them, the people who really matter to me that is, I’m sad. And hurt. Both of which shake my confidence, which makes me mad.
Cue: middle finger.
As I reflect on who I’m becoming, this comes to mind. The “opportunity” to couple my confidence with grace. To live in an intimate place with people who live their lives and do things differently.
To be sure enough of my own life that I can
tolerate embrace disagreement with/disapproval of the people closest to me. To continue to include them in my journey – share with them what I’m learning, remain open to their input and invite them to celebrate victories with me.
It’s on me to remember that my life is my own. My decisions are my own. I don’t owe anyone an “explanation” or defense.
Instead, I can offer so much more than that – an understanding of my journey. And that excites me, because I like to share my journey. It makes me feel close. And if I can focus on that approach, as opposed to preparing a defensive argument for the judge, the grace will remain.
Confidence can make space for grace.