My husband, Matt Maher, is a singer-songwriter, mainly in the Christian genre. (He. Is. Amazing.) Lately, a lyric in one of his songs (“Glory, Let There Be Peace”) has been sticking with me: “Let there be peace; let it start with me.”
Originally, I took this at a superficial level. Peace starting with me is easy, right? Be nicer to people. Try to listen more. Don’t be snarky on Twitter. Simple.
Lately, though I’ve been reflecting more on it. What if peace starting with me is not just my behavior toward others, but also how I treat myself? Suddenly, that line gets a lot more complicated and harder to live out. How do you bring peace to yourself?
I’m good at being nice to others, but to myself? Not so much. And is being nice to oneself the best way to bring peace? I think so, but the idea is a difficult one for me, so it took a while to sort through and decide what that would look like.
This is what I’ve come up with so far:
1. Stop reading the comments. This one seems silly, but it was the first one I came up with. I get anxious and worked up when reading social media comments. Yet I always seem to do it. It’s like I WANT to be worked up into this self-righteous anger.
It doesn’t bring out the best in me when I read those comments. I’m angry, filled with despair and just all-around rage-y. I often have to talk myself out of some very hurtful replies.
I’m not going to change anyone’s thoughts or opinions in the comments section. I’m not going into them with an open heart — just with the need to prove I’m right. I’m pretty sure others go in for the same reason. Basically, it’s a safe place to yell. I don’t have to confront anyone face to face, and if I don’t want to deal with my response, I just don’t open the notification. In other words, it’s a very unhealthy space for me.
Step one, then, in bringing peace to myself and calming my heart is to stop going there. I will not needlessly inflame my rage. If I really want to debate something, I want to have the courage to do it with a real person. I want to be forced to have an open mind and heart to their arguments and thoughts. I will not be that way in the comments; I can only do that in person. So that’s what I’ll do.
2. Sandwiches are OK. I know that’s a big leap from social media comments, but bear with me. I’ve set incredibly high standards for myself as a mom. One example is my unsustainable belief that my kids need to have gourmet, gluten-free, veggie-laden meals for dinner.
But making those meals takes time, dirties a lot of dishes, and often makes my kids cry at the sight of them. In turn, I cry, because I think I’m a failure as a mom. I lack: the patience to guide my children through their vegetable aversion; the culinary skills to make them something healthy that they would like to eat; and the parenting skills to have raised vegetable lovers from birth. Not to mention the energy level to clean up after making those dinners. That’s a lot to put on yourself at 6 p.m. with three kids under 7.
Cue the sandwiches. I’ve given myself permission to have PB&J nights at our house. Honestly, that’s when I get the most compliments from my kids. I’m choosing to believe the compliments come from Mom being happier and less stressed out at dinner, leading to a more fun experience — and not that those compliments are a comment on my cooking skills. On PB&J nights, there are not a ton of dishes, so we have more time to play or read together. I have more energy and patience, so when someone inevitably breaks a rule, I’m kinder and more forgiving. We all win.
It may not look like a culinary masterpiece, but I don’t care. I’ll sneak some spinach into the smoothie.
3. “Me time” is actually “us time.” That one is kind of confusing. I don’t mean I’m giving up my precious alone time to constantly hang out with my kids or husband, or to pursue volunteer activities. I’m trying to reprogram my brain — to recognize that by taking “me time,” I’m investing in better “us time.”
There always seems to be something I should be doing: cleaning, playing with my kids, volunteering, organizing, emailing someone, sending out thank-you cards. (Side note: Thanks to everyone who came to Rowan’s birthday party!) Something always takes priority over me doing something that I enjoy, just for me. But the problem with that, and something I touch on in another blog, is that if I ignore that need, I become resentful of all the other things.
I start to become resentful and bitter toward everyone and everything if I don’t take time for myself. If my daily routine includes a feeling of constant resentment, I’m definitely not encouraging peace. So why don’t I do it? That’s something my therapist and I are working through, and I don’t yet know the answer. I don’t want to be a bitter, resentful person, but it is my default to think taking “me time” is selfish. Thus the reprogramming of my brain.
I try to think, for now, of how taking time for myself is actually a way for me to serve others. By allowing myself to rest and recharge, I’m more able to do all the things I think I must be doing. It’s not perfect, but it’s a way to start living a more balanced life, and so far, it’s working for me. My goal is to grow as a person to the point where I realize that doing stuff for myself is just as valuable as doing stuff for others. (Like I said, I’m working on it.)
I’m hoping to grow this list and continue discovering ways to be kind to myself. What about you? What do you recommend to help balance and bring more peace to yourself? Let me know!