Have you heard the phrase “do life?” Like “I love doing life with you?” I like it… It makes life an action, a verb, which it kinda is, right?
This post today was inspired because I saw a meme about homeschooling, something akin to “homeschooling isn’t about lesson planning, it’s about doing life with your kids.” It got me thinking.
I often see posts from people in regards to a spouse or friend, that they love doing life with them. So what is “doing life”?
It’s the nitty gritty. The everyday. The mundane. People present for the real stuff, the good and the bad. Who you choose to do life with, your people, are your village. A little like family, blood or not.
Part of doing life with someone, inevitably, is conflict. Conflict is an opportunity; you can push through the uncomfortable, grow from it, and experience increased intimacy in a relationship, or the hardship can be avoided and the pain cause withdrawal or separation of relationship.
Here’s the thing about conflict. It is yucky and weird and hard, but it is normal. When you’ve grown up in an unhealthy or toxic environment, conflict is scary. Conflict often means trouble, even hatred. When you’ve grown up in trauma or dysfunction conflict isn’t a gateway to grow, it can mean someone leaving or someone hurting you. Once you’ve “grown up” its really hard to shift that mindset!
For the longest time I was terrified of conflict, because for my family it meant someone didn’t speak to the other for a few years, or punishment, or the silent treatment. (Research has shown that the act of ignoring or excluding activates the same area of the brain that is activated by physical pain. Read more about that here. Or just Google, theres a lot to read on the topic.)
I thought if I wasn’t perfect or had a disagreement or did something wrong my friends would hate me, forget me, my husband would leave me… the list goes on and on. But as I have been working towards healing my trauma brain can I share something with you?
I have learned, through some deep intimate friendships, that true love doesn’t walk away because of conflict. True love isn’t specifically romantic, though it can be. True love is agape – the steady intention of the will to another’s highest good. Love that goes beyond feelings, but is a choice. The people that have chosen me over and over since I became an adult have shown me what this looks like. People can disagree with you and still love you.
My husband and his family were my first experience in this. Like I said before, my family didn’t have the best track record in conflict. I married into a family that loves HARD. They can fight but they forgive easily. I’ve seen my husband and his siblings fight and then a few minutes later they’re hugging it out and forgiving – and they let go and move on. We’ve been through our own conflict with them when we eloped at 18 & 19 years old and it wasn’t received well. Still they loved; they pushed through the awkward and hard to restore connection. It was mind blowing to me, I felt so emotionally stunted because I couldn’t grasp their love for each other. And so began my journey, I am learning to love through conflict rather than allow it to destroy. (There are times obviously where forgiveness is necessary but restoration is not, there is a difference between healthy people and conflict with toxic people.)
We live in a world that fights hard to show we can stand on our own two feet! We hustle and slay and can make it without any help! Yet we were designed for connection, we were designed to do life with others. Humans need each other, and its okay to need help and support along the way.
Another aspect of “doing life” is discipleship. If you’re a believer we are called to disciple others. When I was younger that seemed impossible and a bit above my level, like only super wise people who had it all together could disciple others. But when I heard Annie F. Downs speak at IF Gathering a few years ago she totally changed my perspective. We don’t need to make discipleship something harder than it is, we just need to come alongside people and love them well.
Discipleship, loving and teaching someone, can happen as you do dishes and someone dries them. It can be over coffee, or while your toddlers play, or after school. In that day to day life, connecting, showing up and letting Jesus shine through. You don’t have to be 60 with your life all tied up neatly in perfect little bows to help someone on their journey. Discipleship doesn’t only happen on a scheduled hour in a cafe. You can have your own mess and still meet someone in theirs.
Doing life with someone is a sweet space. It’s tender and vulnerable. It’s your friend helping you grocery shop because you’re pregnant and herding two kids. It can look like your friend coming over to clean out your fridge and stock it when you’re a week postpartum. It’s taking you out to dinner to have a hard conversation. Loving someone else’s kids as much as your own, helping you paint, offering your couch to sleep on, running an errand, calling you out (lovingly) on your stuff. Bringing cheesecake over and playing board games because doing life also means having fun! Getting through it all together. The glorious and the disastrous.
So let’s do this life thing together, let’s share our mistakes and experiences and help each other grow. I invite you to find those people you can do life with and show up, be kind, and love well. You aren’t meant to go it alone.
And just in case you didn’t know, you are worthy of love, you deserve good people in your life who show up for you, no matter your mess. Cause we all got some mess!