Yeah, I’m not any one of the usual, charming TSD crew. My name is Jess Adducci and I’m one of the many cheerleaders of the TSD endeavor. Though I started as just a girlfriend of one of the guys in the group (I’ll give you three guesses as to which one), I’ve formed a lasting friendship with Matt and Tony and look forward to continuing my introduction to Jake and Joey. Nick, my husband and oftentimes TSD illustrator, has even been welcomed into the group with open arms and we both were guests on Let’s Try Something New and the TSD Christmas Special.
So what am I doing in the editorial section of TSD?
I’m told this is a safe place. One where things might be confessed, where revelations abound, and… someone mentioned there might be cookies. So here’s goes. Your first taste of Jess Adducci.
I don’t take compliments well. And everything “good” I do feels like it’s what was expected. I’m a fairly intelligent, independent young woman. I got good grades in school. I’ve excelled at jobs I’ve held, which ranged from retail to filmmaker to corporate lackey to surgery center admissions. My other qualities— assertiveness, organization and systems analysis, and problem solving— lend themselves to success in life. And pretty much everyone knows this stuff about me. I was one of the many kids who were told confidently, “You can do anything you set your mind to.” And I took it seriously. It became the bar for my expectations of myself and what others expect of me. Some amount of greatness became the norm. That may sound pompous. But actually, it’s depressing. Because those kind of expectations mean I’m usually just meeting expectations, not exceeding them. Anything spectacular (by anyone else’s standards) I do becomes, “Meh. You know. It’s just what I’m supposed to do.” And since I’m a perfectionist, I also see myself frequently falling short. The bar is sky high and though others might see me reaching it, I never think I do. So essentially, I live my life in the bad and the neutral. Rarely do I live it in the good, the “WAY TO GO JESS!”
On top of all this, I’m a Christian. What does that have to do with it? Well, Christians these days aren’t known for being the most joyous people in the world. And part of Christian culture is an expectation of thankfulness, though often it comes off more as humble brags, martyrdom, and a sort of thankfulness for the self rather than God. There’s an oft quoted verse: “Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” (Phil. 4:6) Christians are supposed to be a very thankful people, even amidst troubled times and needing things. There are sermons all about it. But I would sit there dumbly, completely disconnected from the concept. I think thankfulness is supposed to be a way of bringing about humility and seeing the good in life around you. But that’s not where I went with it. I’m not going to be thankful for mediocre and/or bad things in life. And just “focusing on the good” left me completely baffled. Because “good” didn’t usually exist in my world. Neutral did. Everything was par for the course.
In the last few years, the disconnect and general cynicism really started to bother my husband and I (we’re very similar), especially since it seemed to be something important to God. We’ve had two kids in the past few years and this really is such a rich, happy chapter of our lives. But we just couldn’t properly enjoy it with this ceiling on the good that kept everything neutral, meh, and just downright blah.
We’d been aware enough of ourselves and our cynical, curmudgeon tendencies that we did what we could to fight those tendencies where our kids were concerned. We celebrate every little thing they do. They seem driven forward by the praise. And it became especially important to reinforce good things with celebration when my son developed a speech delay and we started speech therapy. It would be easy to “just expect” him to talk and take any achievements in stride with a “well, he’s supposed to be talking” attitude. But he needed to hear that the tiniest improvements were things to celebrate. It kept him moving forward.
Somewhere around that time, God smacked Nick and I both with a concept that had been foreign to us personally. Celebration. Yeah, we tried to celebrate our kids. But it was a little easier because we hadn’t formed tremendous expectations for our kids. For ourselves? Mountains of expectations and norms. Celebrating ourselves seemed juvenile and patronizing. Yeah, okay, pat me on the head for a job I was expected to do anyway. But we took a breath and dived into the deep end, celebrating everything we could about each other and, as much as our own cynicism would let us, ourselves. Something happened.
We started being a lot more thankful! This world is covered in a grimy film of cynicism and soul killing expectations. I think celebrating— pointedly fighting the urge to downplay, poo-poo and generally disregard the good in life— leads to thankfulness in a way that can’t just be conjured up on its own. I’m probably getting into semantics, but it’s a little like trying to be thankful for something you don’t even see. Celebrating becomes a means to being aware of the good. And remembering there is something out there bigger than ourselves. Which leads back to humility! And thankfulness! Whoa. Celebrating opened our eyes to the richness of our own lives and actually cultivated a distaste for cynicism that has completely transformed us, our little world and the people in it over the last few months. Side note: You know that verse I quoted earlier? You know what comes right before it that never seems to get mentioned? “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Phil. 4:4)
What does celebrating in House Adducci look like? Being with other adults and myself like I am my kids. I celebrate everything my kids do because it brings them joy and a sense of worth and satisfaction. And it helps me notice the little things. I’m looking to celebrate them— to tell them “Good job!! You did that!” They probably didn’t do it perfectly and they might have done it a hundred times before. And believe me, we still push them to strive for something even better next time. But I celebrate them. And my husband. My family’s hearts have grown in response to this intentional celebrating and I see them all so more clearly. And I’m thankful.
TSD is all about celebrating, seeing the good, fighting cynicism, and being thankful for the little things that bring us joy. Nick and I have struggled with celebration but we’re now taking every opportunity to celebrate the moments God ushers into our lives. And that includes TSD. We celebrate the hard work, the stubborn drive, and the heart behind this endeavor. And we’re thankful for a group of people looking to bring a little light into the world.
Do me a favor. Celebrate one thing today. Something small. Something you’d never think to celebrate because it seems so mundane. Revel in it. Glory in it. And feel the fog lift!