5 Stars: Clinging to the only reviews that truly matter

5 stars

I'm an Achiever.

I didn't need an Enneagram test to tell me this, or possibly to tell you this either.  But since I'm an Achiever, I took the test anyway.

Ambitious.

Competent.

Driven.

Status-conscious.

Overly concerned with their image and what others think of them.

I have been this way ever since I can remember.  I drive myself into the ground to prove to myself, but mostly to others, that I am capable.  Worthy.  Accomplished.  5 stars.

This perfectionism plays itself out in virtually every area of my life.  I've convinced myself that I need to earn a 4.0, to qualify for the Boston Marathon, to wear a certain size of clothes, and to have those 5 yellow stars next to my name on the dogsitting website, on our AirBnB listing, and in my Etsy shop.

Reviews make or break me.

I didn't realize this until recently, when I mused aloud to my husband, "It would absolutely crush me if I got one bad rating on Rover (the dogsitting app)."

The words didn't sound so flat and absurd when they were just swirling around in my head.

"Really?" he asked.  "You let the opinions of others hold that much power over you?"

Yeah, I guess I do.  Or at least, I have.  I'm trying to turn a new leaf.

The thing is, I love caring for people's pets and humans and hosting travelers in our home.  I love hand lettering, writing, and crafting.  I want to excel at those things.  But admittedly, I often crave excellence so that people will notice and so that those 5 little stars remain perfectly filled.  Rarely ever do I work hard for the sole purpose of doing a good job.

More often than not, the most important jobs are unrated.  Nobody is handing out stars for being a great mom, wife, or friend.  Unfortunately for me, this can mean that these most important roles are shoved to the back burner to make room for less important but more visible ones.

On the rare occasions when my priorities are properly aligned, I still seek positive reviews and perfect ratings in places where they don't always exist.  

This is especially true in my role as a mom.  I take my kids to do fun activities, but it's more for my sake than for theirs.  I tend to care about my appearance (on social media and otherwise) at the expense of their little hearts.

When we were going through the application and home study process to become certified as a foster family, the case worker interviewed our five-year-old.  One of the questions presented was, "What do you like to do with your family?"

"I just like to be together with them," she answered simply. 

She always gives some variation of this answer when asked a similar question.  She never names "the Instagram moments," such as the zoo, the splash pad, or even our vacations.  "I just like to snuggle with Mommy on the couch," she says.

present over perfefct

My husband doesn't care if I'm a 4.0 student.  My friends don't care if I'm an AirBnB Superhost.  My daughters don't care if I'm the perfect Etsy shop owner or marathoner.  In fact, they don't even care if I'm the perfect mom.  They only care that I'm their mom.  

It's time to start letting those closest to me tell me who I am instead of striving for admiration that is fickle and fading.

My favorite book is East of Eden (John Steinbeck) when I have to name an adult book and You Are Special (Max Lucado) when it is permissible to name a kids' book.  

In You Are Special, the wooden Wemmick people walk around all day, giving each other ugly gray dot stickers or beautiful star stickers.  They make judgments about each other and hand out stickers accordingly.  Everyone wants to have tons of stars.  (This sounds familiar.)  One Wemmick, Lucia, has neither stars nor dots because "the stickers only stick if you let them".  Since Lucia cares only what her Maker thinks of her, she is able to let go of perfection and competition and discover true freedom.  

In the words of John Steinbeck, "Now that you don't have to be perfect, you can be good."

Good. 

That's a perfect goal for me.

Everyday Faithfulness

I turned 29 last week (for the first time).  Future birthdays will now be termed, "My Second 29th Birthday", "My Third 29th Birthday", etc., depending on my age.  

For years, I became mildly depressed when I considered turning 30.  It just seemed so ... old.  In my mind, people figured out their life in their twenties and then raised kids and worked like crazy and did "boring adult stuff" after that.  Though it seems silly now, I dreaded my 30th birthday because it signified that life as I knew it would be over and the slow march to a retirement facility would begin.

Piper and Mom Hold Hands

So, on my 25th birthday, I cried because 30 was, at last, closer than 20.  Then, I dried my tears and made my "30 Before 30 List", an agenda of all that I believed I needed to accomplish before my life would theoretically end on May 18, 2018.

I somehow managed to achieve a good chunk of the goals.  I had another kid, saw Blake Shelton in concert, visited three new states, grew an herb garden, got a tattoo, took a cake decorating class, baked an apple pie from scratch, started a college fund for my kids, read 25 new books, and bought a gun (I know how to shoot it, too, so watch out).  

A few of the items got scratched off the list.  I don't really care about getting my master's degree anymore, and I probably will never donate my hair to Locks for Love again.  At one point, I wanted to learn to drive a car with a stick shift, but if we're being honest, I'll probably never have a reason to know how to do that.  Goodbye, Items 1, 15, and 18.

The next category of ambitions are the ones that I could potentially accomplish within the next year before I turn 30.  These include camping for real (not "glamping" in a cabin), fly fishing, and skydiving.  

For the last few goals, I have resigned myself to the fact that they will likely not happen in the next 350ish days, and they might not happen in the next 10,000 days, either.  I won't be finished with school by the time I turn 30, and I may or may not ever write a book and/or qualify for the Boston Marathon.  These three ambitions were particularly tough to release.

***

One of my favorite podcasts is called "The Happy Hour," hosted by Jamie Ivey.  In this podcast, women are invited to chat with Jamie about "the big things in life, the little things in life, and everything in between."  These "girlfriends" usually discuss the big things, though- things like starting their own businesses, publishing books, and adopting babies.  I'm always simultaneously inspired and defeated as I listen to them.  When each podcast ends, I find myself thinking, "Wow, these ladies are amazing!  Also, I don't do anything cool with my life."

A couple of weeks ago, Jamie had a friend on her show who discussed the problem with "comparing the beginning of your journey with someone else's middle or end."  I do this ALL. THE. TIME.  {Please tell me I'm not the only one.}  There is no actual rule which states that I'm a failure if I haven't done certain things by a certain age.  Foolishly, I have created such rules for myself where no timeline even exists. 

Perhaps life is simply a constant flow of ordinary, everyday moments that eventually add up to something great.  

***

Nana and Piper

My grandmother is dying.  She has lived a long, generally healthy life and is deeply loved by four children, eight grandchildren, and a steadily growing number of great-grandchildren.  When I look back on her 85 years, I'm not sure that there is anything in them which the world might define as "success".  She wasn't a great athlete or novelist, and she and my papa weren't wealthy or famous.  

But, for decades, Nana chose to be faithful in the mundane, to follow the plan that God had for her in the small moments, and to serve her family.  Now, as she is dying, she is leaving behind a legacy of kindness and generosity for the world to memorialize.

This is what I want my life to be.

At the end of my days, I hope that people say of me, "She was a devoted wife, a loving mom, a gracious friend, and a hard worker."  I long to arrive at the gates of heaven and hear Jesus affirm, "Well done, good and faithful servant."

For a moment among specific circles, I might be remembered for qualifying for the Boston Marathon, for graduating at the top of my class, or for publishing a book- these things that people (including myself) often consider "big" and "important".  But ultimately, I pray that I am known as a woman who walked the road of everyday faithfulness, choosing joy in the thousands of little and equally important moments that fall between items on a bucket list.