If you’ve been reading this blog through the fall and into winter you might remember that I’ve been doing thought work and heart work and songwriter work and mom work and wife work, but mostly thought work.

One of the things I discovered during my coaching class was that I really love struggle and I really love things that are the opposite of easy or loving or comfortable. For example:

“Oh, it’s my birthday!”

Cue thought cycle that goes like this: “It’s my birthday, I’m old, women aren’t supposed to be old and if they’re old they’re supposed to be super fit and that’s not what’s going on here. It’s a special occasion, I’m allergic to special occasions, I’m the opposite of special, know what I should do? I should have a reckoning as to why I’ve been bad at life for 41 years, I’ll go apologize to my family for sucking it up so bad, fake smile at the cake, blow out the candle. Congratulations, I’ve ruined it for everyone. See? I told you I ruin stuff.”

Pretty bad, right? Now imagine that same thought pattern for things like EVERYTHING.

The coaching class really helped me articulate what kind of sicko habits I had created for myself. And humans love habits. So much. We love following a script- even the bad ones because it doesn’t take much brain power and effort. (Cue plug for a great read: Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit )

I decided I don’t do struggle anymore. I’m not into it and it’s not fun. It’s just a habit I got used to and I don’t want that habit anymore. What do I love about this change? It’s got nothing to do with my identity, nothing to do with my family of origin, nothing to do with anything. It’s just something I got used to and now I’m going to leave it alone.

That’s why this is year is going to be the Best Christmas Ever!

Now, don’t get me wrong. Struggle and sadness are lurking around everything. They get me in the dark and try to woo me back to their team. Sadness and depression won’t leave me, I know, but they won’t be helped along anymore with habits that play in their favor. I can be sad and that’s it. I don’t have to be sad and add a whole list of crap past and present to my sadness to turn it into something bigger and more definitive. So struggle shows up, I fall for it, but then I say:

“Hope, you’re fine. There’s no conflict, this is struggle, remember? And you decided you don’t do that shit anymore.”

And then I remember and I take a few deep breaths and I see what I’m doing and try to let go. But my brain loves this habit so letting go doesn’t feel easy. It’s hard. Thoughts are addictive. I want the hit. I got used to misery and so I crave it. So my thought work is letting go of that thought and picking up a new one. This new one is about the loveliness and ease of everything. BEST CHRISTMAS EVER.

What does the best Christmas ever look like? It looks so easy. I had a good time organizing the youth candlelight service. Most years I’m freaking out and miserable. Not this year. I sat there in the pew and smiled the whole time all those wonderful high schoolers gave their gifts and talents to the service. It was beautiful and I got to be there for it.

I’ve had a good time getting the Sunday School Christmas Eve program together. Most years I lose sleep stressing out over my failings and weaknesses and worried I’m doing more harm than good with my sloppy ways because lining up kids has never been my strength. But this year I’ve loved it. It’s been easy. It’s been a pleasure.

Last night we went to the staff Christmas party and I had so much fun. Today I’m thinking the Dunbars are going to put together an impromptu carolling party for anyone who wants to carol. Trust me, I NEVER would have EVER done that in the past. I still am bad at shopping and gift-giving. That part is still hard, but it’s not struggle.

Wanting Struggle gone from my thoughts was a revelation. Practicing the actual work of identifying it everywhere and getting it gone is harder, but it’s happening and I’m so thankful.

BOTTOM LINE: Life is so much better when you don’t have to try so hard. Life is so much better when you’re not getting graded on everything.

Because you wanna know what? We’re not being graded on any of this. That’s good news. That’s the kind of news that actually reveals how deep our wells are, how strong our arms, how big our hearts so we can go ahead and be us. For me, that’s having the best Christmas Ever.

I hope you have the best Christmas ever as well and I hope it turns into your best year ever after that.

I’m having a song party house concert at my house next Friday to celebrate friendship and songs. Struggle makes me want to worry that no one will come and that it’s a stupid idea. But I want to have a party, I want to celebrate this work so that’s what we’ll do no matter what. I’ll clean the basement, get some beer and sing the songs and it’ll be the best party ever. You should totally come. It’s gonna be awesome.