Empty Colored Glasses
In junior high, I couldn’t wait to go to high school.
In high school, I couldn’t wait to go to college.
In college, I couldn’t wait to graduate and start teaching.
Once I started teaching, I couldn’t wait to meet my future husband.
Once I met Carl, I couldn’t wait to get married.
Once we got married, I couldn’t wait to have children.
Once I had my children, I couldn’t wait to get promoted to my dream job.
By 2012, Carl and I were happily married with three healthy children, and a gorgeous home. I’d worked my way up to becoming the principal of the perfect little elementary school. I’d achieved everything I’d ever wanted, my life was better than I ever imagined, and I’d done it earlier in life than expected. But I was empty. Why wasn’t I satisfied, fulfilled, content, cup overflowing, dancing with joy, sharing the love and singing to the Lord?!
“I wanted to FEEL how everyone else LOOKED.”
I feel like my early life was one big rush. I don’t recall ever “enjoying the moment.” You know the quote “it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey?” Yeah, that was probably written for me specifically. What about “stop and smell the roses,” or “take the scenic route?” I was always a sprint by the roses...on the highway...while mentally writing my grocery list...and applying mascara...before lurching at the stoplight at the end of the exit ramp. I was too oblivious to see the approaching stop light in time to slow down, so I’d get mad...at the stoplight!
We had our son Ben one year into our marriage, then Mia and Addy followed immediately after. I had three kids under the age of three while working part time as an elementary administrator. I thought I could do it all! I had a happy marriage, three healthy kids, a beautiful home and a job I loved. I had arrived! I was determined to be the hot wife, the playgroup mom, the favorite boss, the community volunteer And while I was doing all of these things in some capacity, I wasn’t doing any of them well.
One day, I looked around and realized that despite my seemingly perfect life, I was always restless, irritable, and discontent.
I tried to feel better with new clothes, renovating a new house, taking on more at my job. I hoped to feel complete when I was thinner, hosted more parties, gave to more charities, or received more professional accolades. I looked for fulfillment in new outfits, new relationships, new projects. But nothing changed, I still felt the same inside: less than. Unequipped. Incompetent.
Why wasn’t my house always clean and organized? Why didn’t I always have seven nights of meals planned and the grocery shopping done before leaving for work Monday morning? Why didn’t my kids always have everything they needed on the day it was requested at school? Why did Carl feel like he wasn’t getting enough attention, and I preferred to stay home than go out? Why did I want to stay in the car in silence instead of socializing with the other moms at soccer practice? Why did I dread kids’ activities, being around other people? Why didn’t I want to be more involved at church? Why couldn’t I stick with an eating plan, a workout plan or a morning devotional?
Every time I measured myself using someone’s else’s ruler, I came up short. I was always off, late, unprepared. Things didn’t come together the way they looked like they did for everyone else. Clearly, I miscalculated somewhere, preventing the perfect execution of how I envisioned the perfect woman to live. If I viewed the PERFECT LIFE as a Pinterest Post, my attempt was an epic fail. No matter how hard I tried, I could not nail it.
Unless I was drinking.
When I was drinking, I was fun mom, sexy wife, sophisticated professional. I was more mature, more social, more outgoing, more creative, more productive. I was less uptight, less sad, less anxious, less worried.
Life through my wine glass was perfect.
“Until the next morning, when the bottle was empty
…and so was I.”
No matter how perfect I thought my life looked, I was never satisfied. I wanted more. Nothing was giving me a sense of satisfaction, of accomplishment, of being “finished.” And while drinking temporarily removed those feelings of restlessness and incompletion, once I “came to,” I felt more lost and hopeless than ever. The lowest, loneliest and most pathetic I’ve ever felt in my life, were those moments after I’d failed yet again, to control my drinking. I’d become dependent on alcohol to numb the feelings of failure, yet it was giving me something else at which to fail. It felt like a riptide pulling me under, the more I fought against it, the closer I came to drowning.
Today, I am 39 months sober. And over the course of these last 3 years, I’ve learned I’ll never feel fulfilled with any thing in this world. I’ll never arrive or finish, or achieve a gold medal. I’m not perfect, my life isn’t perfect, and neither are supposed to be. I’ve come to accept who I am, how I’m different, even embracing it. I’m learning to look for ways that God can use me the way He created me. I’m appreciating relationships more, and things less. As much as I don’t want to, I’m choosing to feel feelings, dealing with them instead of numbing them. And while it doesn’t come naturally, it definitely requires some effort, I’m trying to choose to see the positive, the learning experience in situations that don’t go my way.
I have three kids watching how I respond to stress, grief, rejection, and anxiety. And while I’ll never be a perfect example, my hope is that through my transparency, and admission of my weaknesses, they’ll learn to focus less on the glass being half full or half empty, and more on the fact that they have one, and it’s refillable. Comparison and competition are exhausting. Acceptance and authenticity are empowering.