Months after our wedding, I received an anonymous envelope with a newspaper clipping from the Miss Manners column titled, “Thank-you notes way, way overdue.” While reading the words on the page, my eyes skipped to the underlined portion which read, “They would like to know that you received what they sent you, and that they succeeded in pleasing you. They would like to know this immediately, which is when letters of thanks are due.”
Ouch. My heart sank.
In the column, a bride was asking Miss Manners for advice on what type of note she should include in her thank-you notes that were being mailed out nearly two years after her wedding day. Two years?! We were only months into our marriage. Why did someone feel the need to send this to me? Shame coursed through my body as I realized that I had been caught. I was struggling to complete the task of writing thank-you notes, and as I read Miss Manners response, I realized that it didn’t matter what my reasons were for the delay, it was simply unacceptable.
Something happened inside me that day when I read the words from the article, and instead of taking action to complete the task at hand, I sabotaged myself and any effort I had left to express my gratitude. I stopped writing, stopped trying, stopped caring.
Very few people know the heartache I experienced in the weeks and months surrounding our wedding day. Although I felt it at the time, I have been able to see more clearly how the heartache during that time was beyond my emotional capacity. Something had to give. Depleted and misunderstood, I walked forward in life having swung the pendulum from people pleasing to “my give-a-damn busted.” The freedom to be felt like necessary grace.
Out of one crisis and into a perpetual season of crisis, aka parenting, I have found that I constantly swing back and forth between duty and letting myself off the hook. At my core, I am drawn to the center balance, and yet, it feels as if I must shift from side to side before settling somewhere in the middle.
While sorting through a pile in the kitchen recently, I came across sealed envelopes with names, return addresses, and stamps, but the receiver address was blank. Next to the envelopes were cards and pictures for my in-laws that had been signed by my husband and sons, but not me. Underneath the pile was a box of earrings I had ordered months ago. Shame washed over me as I realized that the envelopes contained thank-you notes from my birthday last November and the cards for my in-laws were for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. The box of earrings arrived just days after school ended this year and was a gift for my son’s teacher. I still can’t get my life together.
Lately, I have become curious about where I spend my time. I struggle to believe that I am managing my time well at all. Don’t get me wrong; I am fully aware that as a working mom of kids with additional needs, I have to bestow grace on myself. And, I do. Yet, for me and so many of us, it feels like we never have enough time. I’m starting to understand, however, that we tend to make time for what matters to us.
In the quiet of night, when I recount the ways I spent my time each day, I am aware of the places where ultimately I have sabotaged my deeper desires—desires for connection, friendship, self-care, love, and gratitude. I have found that very few of the spaces that occupy my time are saving my life right now.
What could happen if we actually began to make time for the things that matter to us?
What if we make time for the things that bring us life, that sustain us. The things that bring hope and beauty into our world. What would happen if we could learn to sabotage our own sabotage?
Would we share the words of gratitude that our people need to hear, even if it is not immediately? Could we set aside our need to be understood? Hopefully we would lay down our shame, pick up a pen and start writing, start trying, and start caring again. After all, it’s better late than never, right?
Bethany Cabell, a lover of simplicity, is often inspired to write by the relationships she holds as a wife, mom, and a physical therapist. Bethany, her husband and their boys returned to life in Texas after wandering off to the Midwest for a season. What she once pictured her life to look like has forever been changed by her two sons. Navigating this messy and beautiful path of parenting two children each with their own unique challenges, she finds grace and beauty in the gift of each moment.