Give Yourself Grace

Josephine Jones

I am sitting here drinking my coffee at 7 am on a Wednesday morning, thinking to myself, “How did I get here?”. This semester has been the hardest few months of my life. I am not referring to how stressful college classes are or how prevalent my lack of sleep is, but the difficulty I found when I realized I had hit rock bottom for the first time. The unexpected became a reality in my life. I found myself broken, like a shattered mirror unable to put the pieces back together. Despite how I let myself get to that place, on Tuesday February 28, 2017 I found myself on an 8 pm flight back to Green Bay, WI. For anyone who knows me, the very thought of skipping an entire week of college classes would give me an anxiety attack, yet I was doing it. Although completely out of the norm, I knew I needed to do this. At this moment, I decided to take my place of complete vulnerability as an opportunity to find resilience and build myself back up from nothing. I cannot begin to believe how much individual growth I have found in the last 3 months despite the hardships and burdens that were weighing heavy on my heart. My journey to finding this individual growth all started when I realized to give myself grace.

Leave it to a mother to tell you that you are amazing and beautiful and intelligent. Mom, thank you for 7:30 am phone calls, followed by 12 pm lunch break phone calls, and 8 pm mental breakdown phone calls. If we were to look at our total talking minutes for the month, I think Sprint would realize we have taken the unlimited family plan to our complete advantage. As I was struggling to make it through each day, you were there every step of the way. From receiving cards in the mail (literally) every single day, to dropping everything in your life to make sure I was OK when I came home for a week, you are one of the very reasons I am where I am today. You are the woman I aspire to be someday: a compassionate, caring mother with an insane work ethic who embodies and shares the faith of the Catholic church. Mom, thank you for being my rock. When I hit rock bottom, you were right there with me, and for that I cannot thank you enough. Love you to the moon.
As I was home for a week, spending time with family was the best medication. With each of us growing older and our schedules filling up, it is becoming rarer to have every single seat at the table filled. On Saturday morning, we were all present for the first time since Christmas. Classic Jones brunch consisted of way too much food and often lasted long as it was filled with laughter and loud voices. Four days at home and I was finally starting to feel a bit better. At this moment of being gathered together, our mom and dad shared some unexpected news with us. My dad had been diagnosed with cancer. I can still remember the feeling of my heart sulking to my stomach and my breaths slow to a stop. Selfishly I began to ask God, “Are you serious? I honestly thought things couldn’t get much worse, and now this?”. I then began to become angry with myself. I was so caught up in my own personal problems and would call all the time to complain to my parents, yet they were dealing with this the whole time. Putting things into perspective, I slowly began to realize how little my problems were in the grand scheme of life. From that point forward, the family dynamic did a complete 180. I think we all began to realize how blessed and fortunate we have been thus far, and the slightest bit of adversity we were about to face was going to be difficult. Throughout the next two days, we did not fight one time. We were present with one another. We were together, and that was all that mattered.
The C word. It is such a scary thing. In all its negative connotations, however, I began to see a different side of the dreaded word. With these past few months, I can easily say my dad has become the most admirable person in my life. Although you do not wish adversities and hardships upon anyone, they really do present an opportunity to change your life if you are willing to be resilient. Dad you have found resilience. From deciding to completely renovate the entire house because you have always wanted a bigger kitchen, to taking time off work and booking family vacations, you are living for the moment. You are such an inspiration to me and my every day. I appreciate your weekly phone calls and inspiration to “just do my best” because in the end everything will always be ok. Before we knew much about your progress, you called me one afternoon and told me that we better start living for today because tomorrow is never guaranteed. You truly have been living each day. You constantly inspire me to be present in each moment, to truly love those who I am with, and to just do the things I have always wanted to do but have never made the time for. Dad, you are the definition of resilience. I cannot believe how much your mindset and attitudes toward life have changed, but it has been overwhelmingly significant reason that I am able to be where I am today. I thank God each night for your prognosis, and am continually praying for your recovery. Thank you, dad, for having “changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes” (Jimmy Buffett).
Through all the hardships the last few months have brought me, I began to self-reflect more than ever before in my Leadership class at the University of Minnesota. Thanks to my amazing instructor, TA, and classmates, I was pushed beyond belief to persevere and find resilience. After watching a Ted Talk in which JK Rowling discusses the benefits of failure (https://www.ted.com/talks/jk_rowling_the_fringe_benefits_of_failure), I could not believe how accurate her talk spoke directly to my heart. In her speech, she talks about how hitting rock bottom is sometimes necessary for success. In my head I am thinking, “Finally, someone is telling me that being broken is OK and I can only go up from here!!!”. Pages upon pages of journaling later, as well as countless discussions about letting ourselves accept failure, I realized I was able to give myself grace. I realized it is ok to take a night off of homework. It is ok to eat an entire pint of ice cream by yourself because you are feeling down. It is ok to say no to the expectations of others when you simply do not have the time. It is ok to “wing” a college exam because you decided spending time with family was what you needed more. It is ok to not be perfect. It is ok to embrace your imperfections. It is ok to let yourself be in a place of failure and cry from time to time. It is ok to give yourself some grace.
Today I am sitting here (still drinking my coffee), looking out at the sun beaming through the window. This morning I spent some time with God and focused on a daily intention, wrote down a list of things that make me happy and fill my cup up, and wrote this blog post. As I go forward, I am reminded that I must actively pursue happiness, but not dismiss feelings of failure when they show up. Hitting rock bottom is not ideal nor is it wanted, but to be honest it is inevitable. It is a fact of life. If you have not been there yet, I am sure you will experience failure at some point throughout your existence, and when you do, do not run away from it. Embrace it. Use it to find yourself and to find resilience. In the end, give yourself some grace because imperfections are beautiful.
Hi! My name is Josephine Jones: kale enthusiast, concert junkie, amateur blogger, perfectionist, (5 am) morning riser, positivity promoter. I am currently a Junior here at the University studying Nutrition, with hopes of attending Physician’s Assistant school upon my undergraduate completion. I am also a Leadership and Spanish minor. I am a foodie and LOVE cooking. I also love to run and water ski. My summers have been spent competitively water skiing since I was 9 years old. I love everything about the lake. Most importantly, I love spending time with my crazy, loud family. My 3 sisters (and brother-in-law) are my very best friends and have created a huge part of who I am today. My typical day consists of too many to do lists, too much coffee, and too little sleep. Nevertheless, I am currently loving life and continuing on my never-ending journey of personal development.