# beth woolsey

mess maker • magic finder • rule breaker • kindness monger

# Repeat After Me… We Don’t Suck

My neighbor stopped me in the driveway a couple weeks ago to ask how life was going.

Socially speaking, I should’ve said, “Fine!” or “Great!” followed by asking her how she was. After all, based on the Perpetual Weights and Measurements Scale of Whose Life Is Harder, she wins. Her dad died last year. She took over her mother’s finances, in desperate need of an overhaul, handled the snarling creditors, sold the mama’s house, and moved her mom closer. She’s a wife. She’s a mom to a precocious, leadershippy girl-child under 10. And, just for giggles, she topped it all off by having a heart attack a few months ago. When THAT friend asks you how things are going, you don’t dwell on your own tiny problems or burden your friend with them. That’s not How Things Are Done.

Unfortunately for her, she’s been one of my besties for more than twenty years, and also she’s one of those foolish people who ask how people are and expects a real answer. Add to that the fact that I’m horrible at social niceties, and I told the truth. Even though I was already late for work (again), I told her the truth.

“Oh my word!” I said. “OH MY WORD. I suck at all the things right now. I SUCK. At ALL the things. I was supposed to finish the book proposal 6 months ago. SIX MONTHS AGO, which would make sense if I needed, you know, six months to work on it, but I only need 2 hours. TWO OF THEM. Like, 120 minutes, and I would be done with it. Also, I have no idea what my kids are doing at school because I’ve read zero of their backpack materials. Also-also, I’m trying to transition well out of my job where “transition well” means “let people down because I don’t have enough hours to spend there.” Also-also-also, we have exactly one vegetable in our house; it’s a moldy green pepper, and I can’t throw it away because then I will have to admit we have zero vegetables in our house, and, even though that’s totally normal, I can’t bring myself to admit that level of nutritional failure out loud. AND I haven’t said hello to my husband for four days, and “hello” is no euphemism; I literally haven’t said words to my husband because we are ships passing in the night. Every minute of every day is full of activity. EVERY MINUTE I am doing something, and I am still not keeping up. You know what productive people do? I DON’T KNOW EITHER, BECAUSE I AM NOT ONE OF THEM. GAAAaaaahhhhhHHHH. I suck. I suckity suck suck suck.”

She slapped me and yelled, “SNAP OUT OF IT, BETH.”

Except she didn’t slap me.

That would be mean.

But she did tell me to snap out of it.

“You know what?” she said. “Words matter, and you have to stop telling yourself you suck now.”

I know. It’s hard for me to like her, too. People are most annoying when they’re right.

It’s just that I’m still working out how to be a good friend to myself, and I have a lot left to learn.

Quakers have a practice when they worship together. They sit in the silence and wait and listen for God, whom I call Love which is God’s other name, to speak to them. It sounds all woo-woo and crazytown, and it’s beautiful and messy like magic and Love usually are. The Quakers practice this kind of corporate meditation and learn to discern what is Love and what isn’t, and which messages are for the individual and which messages must be shared with the rest of the gathered group, which is, after all, the whole point of sitting in the grace and grime together. Listening for Love and whispering Love’s words to each other over and over and over and over.

I’m a terrible Quaker.

My mind is loud.

I fidget when I sit in silence.

My pants are suddenly too tight, and I remember every single thing I need to buy at the grocery store.

I pick at my nails.

I wonder if I’m doing it all wrong, and then I stop wondering because I’m certain I’m doing it all wrong.

But every once in a while, Quaker practice catches up with me despite myself, and I realize I have a message that must be shared.

Such was a message I received today from Paul, one of my pastors.

I wrote him yesterday, past the deadline to register my family for our church retreat, and said, “Sorry we suck and didn’t do it earlier. :/ We’re so far behind in everything. Grarg. Thanks for your grace.”

Paul wrote back.

Except, as soon as I read it, I knew it wasn’t just a message for me. This is a message for all of us.

Here it is:

Grace abounds.  Glad you’ll be joining us.

Oh…and you don’t suck.

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Okay…now do you suck?  I don’t think so.

PJB

In conclusion, take heart, friends. Be confident and courageous. Grace abounds. And also, we don’t suck.

With love,

P.S. There’s still room at the early November Grace and Grime Spiritual Formation Retreat. Open to ALL types of people from ALL the faith/nonfaith backgrounds; even people who mistakenly think they suck. 🙂 Click here for more information… although the rooming list isn’t actually up to date because DID I MENTION I’M BEHIND ON ALL THE THINGS?? I sure would love to hang out with you, though. Come play with me. And sit in the grace and the grime.

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### 8 responses to “Repeat After Me… We Don’t Suck”

1. Sandy says:

I so needed this tonight. Thank you. Now I need to work on convincing myself that it’s true. :/
I wish I could go on your retreat! Waving hello from PA.

2. Johanna Liscum says:

Beth, this was one of those posts that spoke directly to my heart. I have been feeling VERY sucky of late and it’s been super hard (as you well know). By the time I was done reading I was quite teary.
A big thank you to you and your Pastor Paul, for sharing these words of wisdom.
If you can, please send some prayers to Iowa as I send my husband off to Peru for a week of medical missions and I stay here with our kids and dog who are all going through a rough period.

Thank you!!

3. Tarina says:

The Mayo Clinic taught our daughter a saying. “Don’t go into your mind alone; It’s a dark and scary place, and full of lies.”

4. Ellen says:

I’ve been singing Andrew Peterson’s “Be Kind to Yourself” to my teenage daughter for a couple of years, but I think we might need it for ourselves:

• Kristen says:

This is so beautiful, thank you for sharing! Waving from Maine 🙂

5. Kim Norcross says:

<3

6. Renae says:

You don’t suck, you are loved!❤️

7. I know. It’s hard for me to like her, too. People are most annoying when they’re right.—–just an awesome sentence.

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