I want to talk about the word journey, and I’m not talking about the rock band. I’m talking about taking a trip “without regard to the amount of time it takes.” (Miriam-Webster Dictionary)
Years ago, a young man spoke at church. He was getting ready to serve a two-year mission. Let’s call him Elder Cook. Elder Cook was an amazing athlete. He was very passionate about the importance of working hard to achieve goals and also being part of a team. He displayed a team ring he had, with the initials ETP on it. He explained that the initials stood for Enjoy The Process. Elder Cook’s coach believed strongly in this motto and helped the whole team see the value of it, too. His coach emphasized the importance of being present through the whole journey, and not just at the end goal, such as winning a championship game. This future missionary went on to make some gospel connections of our eternal journey and how we should enjoy the process! I loved his message. Too often I rush through things to just get them done, instead of embracing ETP! (I’m not discounting being a “finisher”. There’s great value in finishing and accomplishing goals. I’m just saying that there can be more to it than that. I want to be an “embracer and finisher”.)
I feel like sometimes I am so focused on my starting point and final destination/end goal that I pay less attention to the journey along the way. Or sometimes I am comparing myself or my situation to other people and to their successes. I then tend to place unrealistic expectations on myself. Or sometimes I’m just on autopilot mode, doing things because I should, out of habit, not because I’m taking the time to find joy in it.
How many times have I made a goal but sabotaged myself with my unrealistic expectations? Or how often do I get caught up in the comparison game? More often than I care to admit. (I wrote a blog post about expectations here if you want to take a gander.)
I had a pretty simple but powerful experience that illustrated what can happen when I’m on autopilot mode. When I’m only focused on the end goal and not on the journey. I had twin toothbrushes in the shower: one for brushing my teeth and one for scrubbing/cleaning the shower. They were on different shelves, so the distinction was pretty clear. (But still. Rookie mistake, Jacquie.) Maybe you can guess what happened? I wasn’t thinking and grabbed the scrubber toothbrush and brushed my teeth with it. It was a low point for me. It was disgusting on so many levels. If you’re wondering what Comet Cleaner with Bleach tastes like, take it straight from the horses mouth; it should leave your bathroom looking squeaky clean, not your teeth. (Gagging sounds were heard in abundance.)
It seems that I need continual reminders that we all have to begin at our OWN starting point. And our journey doesn’t look like other people’s journey. Our final destination doesn’t have to be the same, either. The comparison game is not fun and no one wins. So why do I keep playing the game? It’s not so I can pass GO and collect $200. I never come away victorious. It’s because I’m a slow learner. More on this later.
At church, pre-Covid, my bishop made mention of something that has stayed with me. He said that if you really wanted to climb to the top of Mount Everest, you couldn’t bypass the climb and have a helicopter just drop you off on the top. Your body couldn’t handle it for a multitude of reasons.
You must start at the bottom and make your ascent, acclimating as you go. And there are camps along the way for you to regroup, rest and reevaluate. (I’m simplifying what is actually needed to climb Mount Everest, of course, but you get my gist.)
Isn’t this life? It’s so applicable to many things. This is like our testimonies, our self-love journey, our relationships, our knowledge/experience and so on. We have to start somewhere!
Lately, it seems I’ve been comparing myself more than usual. I’ve made such progress on this front, but it’s like I just went backwards. Talk about frustrating! Sometimes I pay too much attention to the people farther ahead of me on Testimony Mountain, Relationship Mountain, Knowledge Mountain, Homemaking Mountain, Family Adventure Mountain etc. That leaves me feeling so discouraged. Sometimes I’m impatient with myself. Sometimes I’m even jealous and resentful of others who are farther up the mountain than I am. And sometimes? Sometimes I wish I could just get dropped off at the top of the mountain and skip the whole climb.
But, like a young Miley Cyrus once said:
Ain’t about how fast I get there
Ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side
It’s the climb.
Now that both the song and Miley’s throaty voice are stuck in my head, I’m thinking about how much I learn between my starting point and end destination. I’m thinking about the little gains I make and the beauty I see as I’m hiking along. I’m thinking about the relationship I’m building with myself and others along the way.
I have recently implemented quiet/alone time into our family’s daily schedule. My kids initially felt like it was a time out. I explained to them that this time alone wasn’t a punishment, it was an opportunity! We discussed how important it is to be comfortable with ourselves and be our own best friend. I told them that when I was in university, I didn’t like to do things on my own. So, I challenged myself to go shopping alone. Then, I went to a movie by myself. Little by little I did more on my own. I eventually ate at a restaurant by myself. That was more than a little awkward, but I did it! I look forward to time by myself now. It really is a gift! It didn’t start out that way, but because I worked at it little by little, and I enjoyed the process, I achieved my goal!
Just today I was talking to my kids about the best part of LEGO for them. It isn’t the finished product; it’s using their imaginations and creating together. It’s the climb, Baby! Not to say there’s not a sense of accomplishment at the end, because there is! Accomplishing a goal you made can do wonderful things to your confidence, sense of accomplishment and self-love.
I know we can’t expect results when we are not putting in the effort. You gotta pay your dues! (Like when I see a friend and her husband on a spontaneous date because their oldest kid is now old enough to babysit the younger kids. Finding babysitters is a tricky thing right now, so a small part of me gets jealous. Okay, a big part gets jealous. However, I haven’t paid my dues, yet. Evie is 9 and we will get there! Eventually.)
Another thing I need constant reminders of? The gift of grace. Sometimes I’m going to take two steps forward and two steps back (please tell me you get that musical reference) and feel like I’m not getting anywhere. And that’s okay. I can’t be on all the time. I’m not a dang light switch at 7-11. Rest is important. It’s okay to just be. One of my friends said that we are human beings, not human doings. I loved that!!! And I needed to hear it again.
Short story long, I just needed to get some thoughts out. I needed to remind myself about lessons I’ve learned and need to keep relearning. I love learning, but sometimes I feel that I’m such a slow learner. And I can be too hard on myself. This is when I need reminding about grace. What a beautiful gift it is. It’s a gift we receive even if we don’t deserve it!
So, here’s to being any kind of learner, fast or slow. Here’s to setting goals, enjoying the process and giving ourselves grace along the way!