Welcome to Ryley Writes, a collection of thoughts, stories, and work from deep in the heart of Texas.

Pressure Cooker Confessions

shoutout my iPhone and Alpine, Texas

Can I be honest with you?

I mean I normally am, but with some space in between — time to let whatever I'm being honest about sit and marinate for a while. Sometimes years. Enough time to process and enough time to reflect. Something I've learned — past tense — not something I'm learning.

At the risk of butchering that poise, though, I'm just going to be real with you.

This past week sucked.

Come Friday, I found myself leading worship with a woman I love to death at a ladies' retreat I definitely did not feel like being at (while we're being honest, I do not normally feel like being at ladies' retreats, but I really had planned on giving this one an honest go), and at some point during the day she turned and asked what was eating me.

"Oh, it's nothing, I'm fine," I assured her. Then, not ten seconds later, "WELL SINCE YOU ASKED—"

And off I went, diving into a week's worth of angst. When I finally came up for air, she was staring at me like I'd just touched down from another planet.

"Girl," she said. "You know what I think?"

"What?" I sniffled.

"I think you're putting way too much pressure on yourself," she said.

In the blessedly blunt manner that she can uniquely get away with, she pointed out the parts of my story that indicated the impossibly high standards I hold myself to — the perfectionist closeted by the free spirit, a weird but very real dichotomy that exists within me.

I have expectations for myself that I would never dream of placing on others, and that inevitably leads to more failures than achievements.

Grace and truth, grace and truth. I needed more of the former and less of the latter this past week, and I was mad and hurt that when I went looking for it, it felt withheld — diminished, even.

Instead of demanding others balance my deficit, my friend pointed out, wouldn't it just be better if I balanced it myself?

Life is short. I feel the weight of its value. I don't want to waste the time or ability God has gifted me on anything less than His best for it; but I have a knack for taking fear of wasting time in the wrong place and fear of wasting ability on the wrong thing to ironic extremes. I end up spinning my wheels a lot without really going anywhere.

And I'm convinced that your twenties are just a never-ending game of trying to find balance where it seems impossible. Where is the line between selfishness and God-given desire? What is the difference between what I could do and what I should do? How do I learn from past mistakes without letting them weigh down and determine my future?

My brain is always going, always critiquing, and always ten steps ahead.

Pressure? Pressure is an understatement. Sometimes I feel like a human instant pot, which gives any outside contribution immense, explosive power.

My friend sat next to me and told me, as only she can, to give myself the grace I needed.

And for the first time in a long time, I did. If only a little bit.

I think I'll be learning it for the rest of my life, but this weekend, thanks to that sweet and spunky friend, I tipped the scales just a bit in my own favor, and it felt like the best exhale. I had room to think and release and forgive — because the one withholding more grace from me than anyone was me. And once I'd given some to myself, the hits I'd taken throughout the week didn't feel so hard.

Yesterday morning, on my way to church, I opened my phone and read a text from her.

"I heart you Ryley Rush. Relax and grow where you are."

I'm learning that the only one with the power to set limits and time frames and labels upon me is God. Not others, and not myself. I'm learning to give myself grace so I can get some traction. I'm learning to relax and grow, and I'm thankful for a week (and a friend) that made me better at that.

High-Five Friday: January 27

High-Five Friday: January 20