It’s been a while since I’ve gotten sentimental over here on the blog. There has been plenty ruminating around inside my head but I was having a tough time putting words to screen. Since John’s dad passed away this winter I have been feeling an underlying sadness. Frankly I never thought I would be so hard hit by losing him – but I think his death tapped into a vein lying deep below the surface of my being. It reminded me of just how vulnerable and ephemeral this life can be. My heart felt broken that my husband lost his father, my children lost their grandfather, and my mother-in-law lost the man she had lived with and loved for 50 years. Losing someone I loved caused a turning inward and made me think long and hard about how I spend my time and why. Despite this realization that I needed to be more purposeful in how I spent my time, in the months that followed his death we raced towards the holidays and then moved right into “spring cleaning” mode. I’ve been running like crazy and while that doesn’t stop me from some serious deep thinking – it does stop me from having the time and focus to share. It was making my heart sad to not be writing. Ironically blogging is a double-edged sword where I feel both vulnerable in the sharing, but also fulfilled because it allows me a form of expression I desperately crave. Despite missing it I knew it was time to press pause, put my head down, and focus on other daily needs. I knew the writing would be here waiting when I was ready to come back. And now I find myself chomping at the bit to write about the things I have been mulling over inside my head. Bear with me as my wheels feel rusty and my pace slow and bumpy. Here is what I wanted to share.
The thing I seek is happiness. And joy. But I often get distracted from that goal by the little things. A leaky bathroom, a stressful job, bills, carpools, cooking, cleaning, after-school-activities… You name it. Life gets in the way of the mission statement sometimes. And the lowest moments for me are the times when I let the stress make me act in a way or be a person I can’t respect or wouldn’t personally want to hang out with. This is how it looks for me. I get stressed and I go inwards. I get a little more quiet and a gray cloud settles in above me. I add up all the stressful elements in my life inside my head and decide I just can’t manage them. Then I feel despondent. How, oh how can I get it all done? How can I turn things around and see the good in things that feel stressful or bad? I have a tough time seeing that as an option. And then I get desperate and start to blame others. Well, gosh darn it, if so and so supported me more and was really there for me in my time of need then I wouldn’t be so stressed out by all of this. If my husband could read my mind then I wouldn’t be so (completely irrationally) pissed at him right now! If this pick up line could move a little faster I wouldn’t feel this insane sense of rage! You know the drill. It’s all angry and ugly and irrational and a big old waste of time!
Then, if I am lucky, about 60% of the time in these moments I have an epiphany. The epiphany is that I can manage the things on my list. My problems, while they feel herculean to me, are pretty small potatoes in the grand scheme of life where there is war and terminal illness and droughts and starvation. And I realize I am incredibly lucky to have the family and friend support system that I do. And it is after this dramatic sequence has unfolded that I then realign my emotions and decide to tackle one thing at a time – AND to start the tackling with a smile on my face. Because at the end of the day the things I have to do and deal with are all things I have chosen. They are gifts that are given to me. Yes, that stinky diaper I need to change feels like a major annoyance, but it’s MY stinky diaper coming off the bum of MY precious baby boy, and that makes it a blessing. And yes, staying up until midnight working on a video project is stressful when I am exhausted from a long day, but how lucky am I too have been given this second career that I really truly enjoy doing. Many people work because they have to, and that “have to” sometimes means doing things they do not enjoy. I am grateful to have the choice. I am lucky. I’m not saying we have to be optimistic all the time, but maybe optimism even in the face of poop is a good thing.
So the other take-away I have found as I assess my stress and how I deal with it is that if and when I decide to turn my anger out at the world, and place blame on others for my unhappiness, it is usually in the form of snarky comments or gossip. I pull apart the way someone else chooses to live when I am in truth just insecure about the choices I am making and the outcomes those choices are manifesting. So I have to consciously decide that I am going to say things that are “kind, true, and necessary”. A wise friend recently shared this theory with me. Reread it – only say things that are kind, true, and necessary. Imagine how much more peaceful this world would be if we all could stick to this idea. When I tear others down I inevitably feel gross about myself afterwards. Even a “harmless” jab – “Well, Betty Sue seems to have gotten here early to secure that front row seat for the class play. Too bad she didn’t have three kids dragging their feet at 7am so she had absolutely no chance of getting here on time!” (Please imagine me saying this under-my breath to another friend in the back row waiting for the show to begin in a very snarky tone.) can do damage to me and others around me. True: Betty Sue did get there on time. Kind or Necessary? Absolutely not! Or how about this one – “It’s like my husband is purposefully trying to destroy me by not putting his empty soda cans into the recycling bin. If I see one more can on the kitchen counter I am going to shove that can where the sun don’t shine.” (Please imagine me saying this to any one of my girlfriends as we hang on the playground and watch our children swing themselves across the monkey bars.) True? No. Kind? Absolutely not. Necessary? I can guarantee while it may get a chuckle out of said friend, it is NOT necessary or adding any value to either of our days. It’s just negative energy. Listen, I know I am a work in progress and there is almost no chance that I will cease to gossip idly all the time, but I do know I can do better than I am doing. And that will be my summer challenge. Less gossip, more joy, more kindness, and more optimism. Join me if you too feel like you need a reset. It’s not too late. We are all allowed a do-over. Starting now.