As I was pondering our next steps together regarding the Ideal Life Exercise, I came to a conclusion: I have been a little loosey-goosey with language.
That probably won’t change, but I do want to issue a bit of a correction, so that as we go forward you don’t get the wrong idea about my theories and encouragements to pursue your Ideal Life.
I throw around the word “magical” with a lot of ease for someone who likes to think of herself as a woman who believes in God. When I said that there was “magic” in doing Mise en Place, I definitely did not mean that there was anything truly supernatural about it. Not any more than when I read Marie Kondo’s “Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” did I believe that her book would contain anything truly supernatural besides a method of getting my mess under control.
That said, I am a victim of Fairy Tale culture. While I know that there is no fairy godmother going to come solve all my wardrobe or car problems, I secretly wish there were. I secretly wish there was a genie that would ooze out of my teapot while I am drying it to put it away who could come make my life perfect with three wishes.
Being my own fairy godmother
At some point, while I was stagnating under this rather unexpected role of mother to young children, I stopped existing. This is surely a natural thing, something that is designed to happen. I had had a good run, right? Sixteen years of child-free marriage, a nice career, plenty of experiences. These boys are a blessing, I was reminded constantly by everyone.
I wasn’t hungering to return to the workforce right away, that was by no means my dissatisfaction. I simply stopped existing. When it came time to do things I had committed myself to do, I did them with such horrible guilt that even things I loved made me unhappy.
This kind of dissonance can only last for so long until crisis has to arise, which it did. The contents of my crisis are not useful for our current theme. What is useful is how I got myself out of the crisis.
I became my own fairy godmother. Only I’m not a fairy, or a godmother.
It became abundantly clear to me, at some point in that crisis, that I still existed and that I could not keep on denying myself. For all the “If anyone come after me let him deny himself…” talk we hear in the Church, I could not live like that and be a loving, caring wife and mother. If I continued denying myself I would end up killing someone, metaphorically, with my awful attitude, or myself, perhaps literally, with my unhappiness.
When I went to Uganda in 2007, the children there called me Mirembe, a word which means peace. What was funny about that was that when one of the younger children went to tell me what the word meant, he mistranslated it at first. At first, he said the word meant magic. He was quickly corrected by one of the older girls who said, “Not magic! It means peace!”
Ever since that day in 2007, those two words have been very closely linked in my mind. Because there is something magical about peace. Case in point:
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.Philippians 4:7
Something that transcends all understanding, something that defies explanation. Could it appear to be something supernatural? I think it could.
So when I get loosey-goosey with language, understand that it comes from this place here. When I am talking about magic, I am talking about something that transcends understanding. Something that guards my heartspace and my headspace.
Is the Ideal Life Exercise a biblical pursuit?
I have struggled with this question. If I believe that God has a plan for my life, then who am I to be out there imagining my own ideal life and making a plan to pursue it?
Where there is no vision, the people perish.Proverbs 29:18
When I stumbled across this little verse in the Proverbs, nothing, I mean nothing felt like it had ever struck me as more true than this. Without any vision for my own future, I would perish. I could not, selfish, self-centered brat that I am, I could not exist living vicariously through others and constantly in service to little boys. I would die of misery. And dying is no way to live.
But again, I was kneecapped by the thought that if God was the one in charge of my life, the one who gave me my little boys and my marriage, who was I to be making plans for myself? That was when I came across this different reading of a very famous verse:
I alone know the plans I have for you, plans to bring you prosperity and not disaster, plans to bring about the future you hope for.Jeremiah 29:11
In this translation, there was a tiny little flicker of something I had never seen before: I was being told that I was allowed to hope for something. Hoping for something wasn’t against the rules. And not only that…that God would be on my side as I hoped and would even help bring about what I hoped for.
So is the Ideal Life Exercise a biblical pursuit? I am going to go ahead and say yes. Yes, if it is done from a place of hopefulness and lucidity, not from greediness and comparison.
How to become your own fairy godmother
The “magic” of the Ideal Life Exercise resides in one small discipline: doing what you say you will.
As you formulate your Ideal Life Exercise and start parsing out what is immediately doable, what building blocks need to be in place in order to work towards that Ideal that you hope for, there will come a moment when you have to start doing things.
For me, as I mentioned yesterday, it was drying the dishes and putting them away. It is not fun. But if in my Ideal Life, I am a person with a tidy kitchen, then at some point I needed to start tidying my kitchen.
These little steps start popping to the surface through regular practice of the Ideal Life Exercise. They will not happen all at once, and even if they did, even if you had the entire blueprint of your Ideal Life downloaded into your brain and heart, it wouldn’t serve any purpose until you start doing what you say you will.
The Ideal Life Exercise is a journey which, if you undertake it with honesty, lucidity and hopefulness, that I believe God will come alongside you to navigate. I have often said this, but some of my best ideas are ones that just pop into my head fully-formed, and are certainly not ones that I came up with on my own. I have come to understand those bubbles of lucid thought as God’s input on my journey.
Discipline is the way to make magic. I hate to say it so bluntly. But if you want peace and you want to move forward in your Ideal Life, you must start doing the insignificant little things you can to pursue it. Life isn’t made up of big moments. It is made up of little tiny moments and little tiny decisions.
Over the next few days, I am going to illustrate what it looks like for those little thoughts to pop up and what turning them into action looks like.