I have a friend, Audrey Rindlisbacher, and recently I was listening to an early morning Facebook Live she did. The topic was ‘comparison.’ Audrey is an exceptional woman who has been speaking and teaching for years on great books. I have sat with rapt attention in her classes. She inspires me with her knowledge of natural law and principles.
Not too long before she did this Facebook Live, she spoke with another woman that she considered exceptional. This mom had been the Young Mother of the Year, had multiple degrees, and currently lives in a foreign country where she has been for the last ten years with her family doing full-time work with refugees. Audrey admitted that during her conversation, she had thoughts like these – “You have always wanted to take your kids and do some humanitarian work. Why haven’t you? If you had, your family would be so much better off. You are so lame!”
I had to smile inwardly because when I first heard Audrey speak, I had similar thoughts – “Man, you should have read more great books than you have. Why haven’t you gotten as much out of them as Audrey has? How come you don’t understand natural law and principles as she does. Reading isn’t enough; you needed to think as she has. You are so lame.” When we begin comparing ourselves to others, our self-talk plummets! When our self-talk dives, then our life-results also dive. We must speak kindly about and to ourselves.
Another reason to speak well of ourselves is that how we are and what we do,speaks volumes to our children. We want to model a way of being to our family that will help them as they tackle hard things in life and as they begin seeing that where they are and how they are doing is different from someone else.
Tools to Derail Comparison
When I find myself treating myself poorly or comparing myself to others, I have a couple of tools I use to get myself back on track.
1. Focus on gratitude. When I shift from seeing what I am not or what I don’t have and focus on who I am and what I have, my self-talk improves. My result improves. There are many ways to stay in gratitude, but one that I use is a gratitude journal. Each evening before bed, I take a moment and write at least three things I am grateful for. No matter how terrible the day has been, I have yet to be stumped. I can always find at least three and usually more. Keeping my eye on what I have that is good keeps my mind on a higher plane, so I don’t spiral into negative thinking and self-talk.
2. Limit social media. As much good as social media has provided, it is a hotbed of comparison and envy. Currently, three of my daughters have taken breaks from social media. No Facebook, no Instagram. They have found that they feel better about themselves when they cannot compare their worst to someone else’s best. I spend less than 1 hour on social media each day, and on days when I don’t need to be on it for work, I spend none at all.
You don’t have to give up social media. Just limit the time you spend there. If you have a hard time, then turn off your notifications. Give yourself set times during the day to participate. When we compare ourselves to others, it creates unrest within us. It sucks the joy out of our accomplishments. It diminishes us in our own eyes.
We each have strengths and weaknesses. We all do well at times and at others do poorly. We all are in the process of becoming. Accept that you are still learning, growing, evolving. Be kind to yourself. Speak and think with generosity, and it will improve your pace. It will also give your children a better example of what to do when you are not perfect. It will do your family good.
Take the time to let a friend know about these simple tools to derail comparison.
A few years ago, I stopped business building after ten years. I published a book, and I’ve continued to write, but my main focus shifted to caregiving for my family. For now, it’s my calling and mission. My mother has Alzheimer’s and lives with us. My husband has been ill for some time. My daughter works full time, and I get my grands off to school most days and help care for my granddaughter, who has severe Cerebral Palsy. It is a lot. I take it very seriously.
I use prayer to stay focused on what matters and on what to add or delete from my life. It is imperative to receive this help in our busy four-generation household. Without direction, it would be impossible for me to maintain balance. Through prayer, I understood that my mission needed to change from speaking and teaching to caregiving. It was equally clear that I should continue to write my weekly article, post once daily, and work with a few mentees. It wasn’t an easy choice; I LOVED what I was doing but I trust God. So, after agonizing for a few months, I made a leap of faith.
A couple of years passed, and then this spring, I understood that I needed to add two resource sections to my newsletter – Resources Worth Sharing and the Home School Corner. That added to my workload! (By the way, I am always on the hunt for excellent resources to share. Got one? Please send it my way.)
Then, a couple of months ago, I felt prompted to begin making the articles into audios. YIKES!!! I have put it off for a while. I made a few attempts to figure it out but then would let it go in frustration. However, this week I determined to get it done, and after some crying and handwringing, I DID IT!! Can I say that I am over-the-top proud of myself!!
I have asked a few questions as I have implemented these new things:
•Why would I be asked to let go of something I loved and was good at, which impacted others for good? After all, it was my dream and passion.
•Why would God ask me to keep writing and mentoring when life is crazy busy, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed?
•Why does God keep asking me to learn how to do hard things? Isn’t what I do enough?
•What should I be learning?
In the past two decades, God has asked me to let go of several things that I loved, and which mattered to me. It was never easy to decide, but I did because I trust God. What have I learned from letting go?I have learned that I can make hard decisions even when they fly in the face of what others think I should do. I have learned that life isn’t always about me and what makes me happy. I have learned that when we give something up, we make space for something else. Often it’s of more value than what we gave up.
Every week I get one or more emails from those who read what I write and those I mentor. They consistently relay the message that what I share matters to them, helps, and gives them confidence and hope in their efforts. Every week in my small way, I have an impact.
As for question number three, I have pondered it diligently. Here is what I think. I needed confidence that whatever is required of me, I can learn how to do it! With God, all things are possible. In the coming days and years, this clear belief, backed by my own experience, will help not only me but others. Life can be tough!
I have also learned that when we are faced with something we don’t know how to do or a problem we are unsure how to solve, we need to move. As soon as we take even a small step resources and people that we need begin to come to us. But the key is to move.God can’t steer a parked car.
Another thing, getting older is not easy. Things change, and it’s tempting to begin doubting yourself and your abilities. My memory has become an issue. I will recall your face, but I may not know your name, where we met, or anything about you. If you tell me your name it all comes back. It scares me because I may see you in the future, and despite this current hardship, I want you to know that I am your friend and I love you. It matters to me.
My energy level has changed. I can still work rings around many younger people, but I feel the difference. However, God keeps asking me to learn and grow despite the challenges of aging. He asks me to keep sharing with you. I believe he wants me to remain confident in my ability to impact my small piece of the world for good despite the limitations I may face. We really are never too old to influence others positively. Talking with those I trust has helped me deal with these things.
I am sharing all of this, so you know where I am and why I do what I do. It may help you because what you need to do in your current life may be kicking your butt. : ) Maybe you struggle to do as you feel moved. Perhaps you’re afraid to give up something you love to make space for something new. Perhaps your needs outstrip your current abilities or skills, and you must learn something. Maybe something has changed, and you are scared. Perhaps you need a mentor.
A True Story
This is the process of life. It never stops. It doesn’t matter if you are twenty-five, fifty, or over seventy, like me. We need to keep pushing the boundaries of what we know so we can serve better. We need to be obedient to what our promptings, gut, or thoughts tell us. We need to be willing to go to some scary places. How do I know this? Let me share a story that drove this home to me. I was younger, but I am living the truth of what I learned then.
Marjorie and Marion were eighty-year-old twins. They had both lost spouses and lived together. Every day they took a walk around the block arm in arm.
One day Marion was walking alone, and she was a bit tippy on her feet. I saw her and was worried, so I went out and said, “Marion, can I walk with you.” As we walked, she talked about her life and her sister. They had been fighting, and she was sad. Their relationship had been a mess for a few days. She was trying to figure out what to do about it. She began to cry.
I was stunned!! I couldn’t help myself, and despite her tears, I blurted out, “Marion, I thought when I got to your age, I would have it all worked out!”
Through her tears, she began laughing – “Oh goodness honey, that will never happen. There is always something to work on!”
So, take heart. You are not yet eighty, and so as Marion said, “There is always something to work on!”
Because I keep learning hard things, here is what is new as of today. Each weekly article has a featured image. When you click on the Go To The Article link it will take you to the website. Please note that in the corner of the featured photo you will see a small sound icon. Click it and voila, you can listen to today’s article. You will also see a soundbar at the end of the article on both the website and in this newsletter. Again, you can listen in. God knows that you are busy and that sometimes listening is more accessible than reading. That is why he had me learn this new, hard thing!
Here is the caveat. I won’t be doing any fancy editing. I won’t be taking out all the little mistakes—no musical introduction. No logo. Just me, a busy mom, grandmother, and caretaker, sharing with you. You get what you get. I hope it will be enough and that you and I can continue to learn from one another as we share our experiences.
Listen, I never give up until I learn how to do what is required. You do the same and if you do it will be enough. : )
Do me a favor and spread the word that you can now listen, as well as read.
I recently finished reading The Choice. The author, Dr. Edith Eva Eger, spent part of her teen years in Auschwitz. She shares things she learned while there, after she left, and while working as a psychiatrist with other trauma victims. It was gut-wrenching and not a pretty read. I had to endure a bit of foul language. It went with the territory.
I could relate to many things she shared, as I have also experienced trauma.I could affirm many of the healing tools she spoke about because I have used them.
One that has made ALL the difference for me in the latter part of my life is encompassed in a phrase Edith’s mother shared all the time and which Edith carried into the concentration camp – “No one can take away from you what you put in your mind.”
I know from my own experience that this is true. We can choose our story no matter what is happening. We can choose to forgive. We can choose to love. We can decide how to respond. We can think negative thoughts or positive. We can choose. Our ability to choose what goes into our minds is the greatest gift we have been given on this earth. It makes ALL the difference.
We don’t need to be dealing with trauma for this to be true. It is true every day, in every situation. It is true as we deal with friends, family, and even enemies. It is true in abundance and scarcity. It is true in sickness and health. It is always true. What we think about and how we frame it determines our lives, whether we are growing or dying, whether we are happy or dissatisfied, whether we are contributing or not.
You change your story by controlling your thoughts. You manage your emotions by controlling your narrative. When you do this, you take more positive actions, and you get better results.
Tips for Better Thought Management
Here are some tips to begin to master your thoughts and hence, your responses. I have been using these tools for the last fifteen years, and I can promise that it will change your life if you use them.
TIP 1—Take responsibility and stop blaming
Blame is an indicator there’s a problem with our way of being or how we perceive what’s happening, or in other words, our thoughts.
TIP 2—Decide to think the best of others
The key to overcoming the natural man’s tendency to assume the worst about others’ motives is not to polish our apology skills nor learn to control our anger and frustration. Rather, the key to overcoming this destructive behavior is to question our story. Examining the negative story we tell ourselves . . . causes us to consider alternate explanations for their apparently hurtful behavior. To accomplish this, ask yourself one question: “Why would a reasonable, rational, and decent person do this?” Or, if this is too unwieldy, ask, “Why would a decent person act this way?” (McMillan, “Master Your Stories and You Master Your Life”)
TIP 3—Choose words wisely
Dr. Wayne Dyer has said, “What’s in you is what comes out” (“Why the Inside Matters”). It’s true! Pay attention to the words you say in frustration, sorrow, and anger; you’ll get a good idea of what you’re holding onto in your subconscious mind.
TIP 4—Keep practicing
Managing your thoughts and putting good things in your mind is something you need to do daily. There isn’t a point when you’re so good at it that you can stop working on it. Negative thoughts will come, and they’ll need to be managed.
Dr. Eger was able to survive the concentration camp because she controlled her thoughts. She held on to the good and let go of the bad. She remembered the joy and dismissed the pain. It all took time. Some took a lot of time, but as she persisted, she was able to heal.
Thoughts and the resulting stories are powerful in determining our happiness level. When my granddaughter, Mary, was six, she loved to watch the fish in our tank. We have a very sleek, silver catfish that swims fast and erratically whenever anyone stands in front of the tank. I believe the fish does this out of fear or because it has been disturbed.
One day Mary asked me, “Do you know why this fish swims so fast when I’m looking at him?” I replied, “No, why?” She responded with, “Because he likes me!” Like all of us, Mary gets to write the story, and her story makes her happy. And for all I know, her story may be as valid as mine.
You can find more tips and some amazing true stories in Chapter Five of my book Becoming A Present Parent: Connecting with Your Children in Five Minutes or Less. It is worth the read!
When you fall in love and marry, there’s no way to know what’s in store. No way! You can’t know till you get there.
Don and I were deeply and passionately in love over fifty years ago. We raised seven kids, and they are great people, but it wasn’t easy. We had some significant bumps in our marital bliss road. It shakes you up a bit. But we weathered those years, and with a dollop of joy, laughter, and forgiveness, we all came out OK. Don and I were still intact as a couple and we still deeply and passionately loved each other.
The years passed, and the things that you can’t know till you get there sneaked up on us – financial worries, adult kids and their issues, aging, health, energy differences,stress. They all took their toll. One night I was grieving a bit because we’re not the same. Our relationship cannot be the same. Sometimes it feels like two people who care about each other living independently in the same house, sort of like roommates. I talked to God about it because I want to remain deeply and passionately in love with this man even if we’re here together for 60 or 70 years. This isn’t the first time I’ve been in this place and gone to God for help, and I suspect it won’t be the last time. Then a miracle happened.
I got an Echo dot three years ago. I tried everything I knew how to do, but I couldn’t get it to work. It sat in a cupboard. This week my sister came, we got it out, and she tried to get it going. No luck. The next morning there it was on the counter, my daughter saw it, and after an hour of figuring out the kinks, it worked.
As we ate breakfast, we listened to the music of our time- Neil Diamond, John Denver, The Mama’s and the Papas, Sonny and Cher, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Monkeys, Barbra Streisand. I was having a hard time getting stuff done because I kept stopping to dance. We laughed a lot. Smiles just seemed to happen over nothing. During lunch, Don and I gazed across the table at each other. I sang the lyrics, and he cracked old jokes. It was fun.
Later, as I was cutting kale for the dehydrator, he gathered me up, and we danced around the kitchen for a short moment, as Don’s ability to move is compromised. Wow! That felt so wonderful. We haven’t been able to dance for some time. Then I returned to washing kale. As I worked, I thought about Don, how funny he is. How handsome he is. What a great question asker and problem solver. An all-around good guy. A keeper, as we used to say.
Then in a moment, I was overcome with such a feeling of love I began weeping. It’s all still there; deep and passionate love. It will always be there, but sometimes it disappears inside life, illness, work, stress. But if we focus and ask God for a small miracle, it resurfaces to save us. God is good. He loves Don and me, and we love each other. Such a gift. Such a blessing. Such a life!
Is That the End of the Story?
I know you think this is the end of the story, but this is where it gets real! You probably think it was the music and the dancing that brought the spark to the surface. But it wasn’t. Remember that talk I had with God? I didn’t just complain about loss, age, passing time, etc. I asked what I could do to feel ‘in love.’ Not only “I care” or “I love you,” but ‘in love.” If you’ve been there, then you know what I am talking about.
The thought that came to my mind was to look for every good thing I could see about this man I have spent over fifty years with and then tell him. I did that, many times because his gifts and good qualities aren’t hard to find. But they are easy to take for granted and let pass by unappreciated.
The Great key.
With every kind word and compliment, my heart softened towards this man I care for and love. I changed. Not him and not our relationship. Me! When you add that kind of heart softening to a bit of music and a quick dance around the kitchen, well, you can’t help but get magic.
When we look for the good, when we speak the good, when kindness is at the top of our mind, it makes all the difference. It doesn’t matter if we are talking about a crazy day with kids or a day between two aging souls. The result is the same. Magic and miracles!
When you have children, there is no way to know what’s in store. No way! You can’t know till you get there. If you have a day that isn’t going well with your family, give it a try. Pick the one person you’re feeling the most annoyed or frustrated with or that you feel the most distant from. Look for every good thing and then mention it to them. I can just about guarantee that by the end of the day, your heart will swell with tenderness for this soul that only a few hours before was causing you grief.
Their behavior might not change, but you will. Your heart will soften. Your way of being with that one person will be kinder. You will see differently. It will make a difference.
It’s all about gratitude. Gratitude is the great key to overcoming what is bugging you right now. I have this saying on my bedroom/office wall: “When you complain, you will remain. When you praise, you will be raised.” I know this is true, as I experience it regularly. I experienced it this week in my kitchen while chopping kale. : ) You can experience it too, and practicing this little exercise will not only change you, but it will also improve your whole family. Give it a try.
It has been a few days since the miracle and Don, and I are still connecting in small ways. We are talking more softly and listening more intently. Saturday afternoon, while our granddaughter Maggie watched Mother Goose Playhouse, we held hands and danced in place for just a moment. : ) If I keep focusing on his strengths and gifts and keep thanking him for them, it will last.
But life is busy, crazy, and sometimes overwhelming. We will probably find ourselves moving apart again, but when that happens, I will pull out the ‘practice of gratitude for this one soul’ and have another miracle.
Gratitude is a practice, and so it requires ‘practice.’ Practice it in your home and then let me know what differences it makes. : )
Give this article as a gift to someone else who needs a Gratitude Practice. : )
Recently I was listening to a religious leader speak at a conference. As he talked, it came clearly into my mind that I had a weakness I had never supposed. I was shocked to see myself in this new light. In the past, I would have immediately begun beating myself up for having a weakness. But not today. I have learned a great lesson over the years that has helped me look upon a newfound weakness as a gift.
I have learned that when we recognize a weakness, it is a gift because only then can we do something about it. Only then can we change a behavior, a story we tell ourselves, or a way of being. The weakness I discovered during the conference I attended was unknown to me. There wasn’t any way that I could do anything about it. Now I am pondering it and coming up with a plan to turn it into a strength—what a magnificent gift.
In my spiritual cannon, there is a verse that I cling to when I am working on a weakness, and it is challenging me. “And if men come unto me, I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble, and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.” Ether 12:27
Isn’t that an excellent thought, that God shows us where we are weak, where we need to do some work because he loves us and wants to help us become stronger in that area?
I have often said that our weaknesses are our strengths in embryo. Inside an egg, the embryo doesn’t look like much, but eventually, it becomes a bird and beatifies the world. A seed isn’t very exciting and even when it emerges from the ground it isn’t anything to look at. It takes time for a flower or a tree to grow.
Strengths are Often Disguised as Weakness
We are like that. Our greatest strengths may not be apparent to us yet, but they are there, and often they are disguised as a weakness. So when you come face to face with a weakness – yelling, lack of focus, difficulty getting your family systems to work, being discouraged, feeling overwhelmed, feeling resentment, and a host of others, celebrate. Celebrate God’s greatness in showing you what to do to be happier and grow as a person.
It isn’t always easy. Once I realized that yelling wasn’t the best way to deal with my family, it took me ten years to conquer it. What if I had given up on myself after five years or eight or nine. A couple of years ago, I began anticipating the coming of the New Year. In September, I felt an urgent need to make changes in my way of being and in my life. I didn’t want to enter the New Year in limbo. I wanted to know what one thing I could do to affect the most significant personal growth. I was serious. It wasn’t a passing fancy motivated by a current problem. I wanted my life to feel different, better. I wanted to be better.
I set out to discover the one thing I could work on to take me where I desired to go. I approached the problem in the same way I approach most things: I began seriously pondering and praying. The simple steps I took were to think diligently on the issue and to pray daily. I repeated this process for over three months. Finally, eureka, I struck gold. In December, a thought came clearly to my mind—Stop complaining.I hadn’t considered myself a complaining person, so this was a bit of a shock. Nevertheless, I began monitoring my words, thoughts, and actions over the next few weeks. I could see I had indeed struck gold.
It’s been a few years, and I’m still working on this. It’s a toughie! But the changes I’ve experienced have been astonishing. I’ve grown in areas I didn’t realize my complaining was affecting. I am happier, I feel more successful as a person, my relationships are changing. It has been worth the work, and the knowledge of this weakness has, indeed, been a gift.
Moving Forward When You Discover a Weakness
•When you see a current weakness in yourself, accept that it’s about you and not others’ behavior. Take responsibility.
•Think honestly about the weakness, and then determine small steps to begin making a change.
•Make certain the actions you take are in your control.
•Write the weakness down and then write down the opposite, so you see the weakness in a new light, as your emerging strength.
A friend of mine, April H. has experienced this. She told me, “I’m so grateful you shared with me that I’m the opposite of my weaknesses. This truth has changed how I see my stumbling blocks and how I see and handle both of my sons as well.”
Remember, a weakness is a strength in embryo. When you discover another weakness, celebrate the gift you have been given and then go to work. You will grow, and over time, you will be happier.
Let someone who is struggling with their weakness feel heartened.
I’ve written many articles on the power of accepting that you have control over how your life feels. This control comes from learning to manage your thoughts. I write about it because, for three decades, as a mom, I didn’t believe this was true. I felt hammered and blown about by life. Then one day, I came face to face with the truth – I had control of my life through how I thought about my life.
I didn’t want to accept this truth. It was a heavy burden, too much responsibility. I fought against believing this truth for over a decade. Then one day, I came to know it was true. When I accepted that I was 100% responsible for how my life felt, I discovered that it wasn’t a heavy burden at all but one of the most freeing truths I had every embraced.
One of the earliest books I read that talked about the power of controlling our thoughts was As a Man Thinketh by James Allen.
“Yes, humanity surges with uncontrolled passion, is tumultuous with ungoverned grief, is blown about by anxiety and doubt. Only the wise man, only he whose thoughts are controlled and purified, makes the winds and the storms of the soul obey him.
“The tempest-tossed souls, wherever ye may be, under whatsoever conditions ye may live, know this-in the ocean of life the isles of Blessedness are smiling, and the sunny shore of your ideal awaits your coming. Keep your hand firmly upon the helm of thought. In the bark of your soul reclines the commanding Master; He does but sleep; wake Him. Self-control is strength; Right thought is mastery; Calmness is power. Say unto your heart, “Peace, be still!”
Pretty deep. I was in high school and borrowed the book from my dad, who had gone back to college when I was in 10th grade. I didn’t understand it fully then, but a seed was planted.
One of my favorite quotes is from Viktor E. Frankl, a Holocaust survivor. He said, “When we’re no longer able to change a situation—we’re challenged to change ourselves.” He reminds us in his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, the one thing that can never be taken from a person is their ability to choose how to respond (Frankl). I would add their ability to control their thoughts, which leads to the best response. Isn’t it interesting that I read this book back in those high school days also?
Negative Thought Narrows, Positive Thought Expands
A couple of years ago, I read an article by James Clear in the Huffington Post – “Research has shown … negative emotions narrow your mind and focus your thoughts.”
Your brain shuts everything else off and focuses on the negative emotions of fear, anger, frustration, or stress. You can’t see other options or choices. On the other hand, positive emotions do the opposite.”
From a research study by Barbara Fredrickson, a positive psychology researcher at the University of North Carolina, “When you’re experiencing positive emotions like joy, contentment, and love, you’ll see more possibilities in your life. Positive emotions broaden an individual’s momentary thought-action repertoire: joy sparks the urge to play, interest sparks the urge to explore, contentment sparks the urge to savor and integrate, and love sparks a recurring cycle of each of these urges within safe, close relationships. The broadened mindsets arising from these positive emotions are contrasted to the narrowed mindsets sparked by many negative emotions.”
It is a Daily Practice
I have to work on controlling my thoughts every day. It’s easy to fall back into old patterns of blame and complaint. But I do work on it every day.
The result – I stay in blame and complaint for less time than in the past. Days have become hours, and often hours have become minutes.
If you’re feeling some push back to this idea, I understand. I’ve been there. But if you’re struggling to feel joy in your life, give it a try. Please take responsibility for your thoughts and your responses. Stop blaming. Take responsibility for your words, which are your thoughts in concrete form. You’re in control. Knowing this gives you all the power.
Help Other’s Know that there is a Way to Take Back Their Power. : )
Two years ago was my 50th high school reunion. I didn’t go. Our family was moving into a new home. The reunion was in Greeley, Colorado, a whole different state. I only went to Greeley West High School for my senior year, and I never really connected. I had friends and was involved on the school radio, worked on the yearbook, did a couple of plays, etc. I was involved but hovered in the background. Just my face in the yearbook.
I was voted “most typical girl”. I was anything but typical. I was religious, which most of my friends admired but weren’t. I was not fond of dating, and the girls in my group were homecoming queens and cheerleaders. I didn’t drink or smoke or cruse. I read a lot. My friends thought I was a bit of a geek. I didn’t feel popular in the typical sense of the word, but I was popular. I knew everyone, and they knew me. I was well-liked.
Nevertheless, I didn’t feel connected to the school or the people. That Fall, I went off to college, and true to my family’s style, they moved to Wyoming a year later. I never saw any of those school friends again. It was before computers and social media, so the tie was severed.
This summer, I received an email with the link to a video made to celebrate our 50th reunion, two years late. They had some technical difficulties during the class reunion and had to begin again from scratch. I was interested in watching to remind myself what it was like fifty years ago and to see how my friends had aged. Most of the video was of newspaper clippings, music, and events that defined 1968. There were no clips from the actual reunion. Then, close to the end, I began to see photographs of the young people I went to school with. I recognized them all: the cheerleaders, the prom queen, football players, my friends. The photos came from the newspaper and yearbook. But I hadn’t been featured in photographs of groups or activities in the school newspaper and had very few pictures in the yearbook.
As I watched, a feeling of nostalgia come over me. Not for the time itself. I wasn’t fond of the ’60s. Not for the people because we hadn’t been lasting friends. Just school mates. But I felt a desperate need to see myself as part of that time and those people. I needed a closure I hadn’t even been aware of. I knew the chance was next to nothing, but I needed to see myself there, to feel a connection to my youth and my Senior year.
I said a prayer in my heart. “Please, Heavenly Father, I need to see myself. Let me be in a picture in this video.” I knew it was silly. This video had been made over a two-year period. How could saying a prayer now make a bit of difference?
Then it happened. Probably the only other photo of me besides my yearbook photo flashed on the screen. I had forgotten this photo even existed. It was on my graduation day. There I was in the center of a picture of the graduating class. I had to replay it a few times to convince myself that it was me. I hadn’t seen that photo in over fifty years.
How does something like this happen? How does God know in advance what we are going to desperately need in the future? I don’t know, but I know he does. I know he loves me, and he knew I needed closure to that time in my life.
Writing these months later still brings tears to my eyes. I know that no matter our difficulty or genuine need, the resources, people, and help will show up if we ask for it. I have experienced this over and over in my life. I was a mom making lots of mistakes. I faced hardships and trials I was ill-prepared to handle. But, over time, as I asked and searched, and stayed the course, what I needed came. I learned, changed, and grew. You can too.
It has been three weeks, and you haven’t heard from me. “Did Mary Ann fall off the planet,” you may have asked yourself. Well, I did, sort of. It has been a long and busy spring and summer.
My daughter began working, as well as her regular teaching and mentoring. I have taken on the role of caretaker for the grands. It isn’t a challenging job. They are good kids. I clean a bit and break up a fight now and then. I track who is home or where they have gone and with whom. It isn’t a hard job. But it reminded me of what it is like to be responsible for children. There is a weight to that, and I have felt it this summer. And kids take time. They need questions answered, need help finding shoes, getting lunch, and making decisions. The grands need reminding to get off of tech, to do chores, and to do them well. Parenting, even if you aren’t the parent, takes time and energy.
My husband’s health is and poor. Surgery is on hold. His medication has made him grumpy and has messed with his ability to “do.” That makes him grumpier and me busier helping him out.
My mom’s Alzheimer’s is progressing. She has forgotten how to do a few more things. She has had more health issues. Not life-threatening ones. But it has necessitated a morning and evening routine of caring for her legs, face, eyes, and head. It takes 30+ minutes. She doesn’t recognize thirst or hunger and needs constant monitoring.
I work producing a podcast page for a small company, and that has its deadlines. I still write and post consistently. It takes effort and energy to be consistent when life is a bit chaotic and full. I’m still mentoring and that requires focus and presence.
One Saturday in July I couldn’t get up.
The vertigo was overwhelming, and it caused severe nausea. It lasted all day, and I knew what was up. My body had said, “Enough. We are done. We need a rest.” I was bugged with my body. My spirit hadn’t signed on to this plan. As far as I could see, it just put me a day behind. However, I have learned to listen and talk with my body, so we had a heartfelt conversation. I knew that I had to find space in my days for rest. After all, it’s one of the things that I coach moms on when we work together.
So, I took a good look at my schedule, and I asked myself, “What can go for a time. Where can I make space.” I cleared out several things, including writing and all of you. I did, figurately speaking, fall off the planet, at least the social media planet.
I planned to give myself a week, but then I took two. Then I willingly granted myself three, three glorious weeks with few deadlines or commitments. I was still caretaking, and kids don’t go away. I had a garden to care for and harvest. Working didn’t stop. My mom and husband are still here. Here is what stopped – most of my deadlines and commitments. I had cleared space, and it made a HUGE difference!
Parenting doesn’t go away. The need to make a living doesn’t go away. We will always have to do laundry, clean our homes, fix meals, kiss owies, etc. BUT we need to make space. We need to find room to breathe, sit still, think, plan, rest, and meditate.
I have a morning routine that includes quiet time, study time, and meditation. It gears me up for the day. I also have an evening routine that helps me wind down for the night. So, what happened. Why did I find myself in such a crazy mess? I let these management tools slide as we moved into summer, and there is a cost to allowing what works fall by the wayside to make room for busy.
Five Simple Things To Help You Make Space
I know this and my body finally reminded me of what I know. I am back on track. If you find yourself stretched too thin, feeling angry or resentful, or falling ill, you are too busy. Here are a few, simple things you can do to lighten your load and find space to breathe. You will be a better parent for it.
•Even if you need to get up a bit earlier, have a morning routine. It may only last 15 minutes but have one. Some days you won’t get to it because little kids don’t live on a schedule, but you will get it often enough to make a difference.
•Have an evening routine. Set a time to end your workday and then do something you love: sit, color, sew, read, rest, visit with family, watch a movie. Give yourself time every evening for yourself. As I said above, with kids, you won’t get it every day, but what you can get will make a difference, even if it is only 15 minutes. Simple things done consistently make a difference.
•Take a good, hard look at your calendar. What are you doing out of obligation? What can someone else do just as well as you? Let it go, reassign. Make space for family and self.
•Take social media breaks daily, weekly, monthly. Put the phone and computer away. You may think you will miss something important, fall out of the loop. I just took off three weeks, and I am OK. You will be too.
•Get enough sleep. Staying up late to find time for self isn’t wise or successful for most of us. Getting enough rest and using some of the above tools to carve out time will pay dividends in your ability to parent better.
I am back, and I feel much better. Some things that I dropped from my calendar are staying dropped. I liked the social media vacation and will do it again. : ) My morning and evening routines are back in place, and I am ready to rock and roll into the fall. Thanks for still being here, friends!
Do you know someone who needs to ‘fall off the planet for a while?”
She lives across the country, and so we talk regularly on the phone. We enjoy sharing our lives, and we help each other solve problems. Nicole often feels that she is somehow not doing as well as she should be.
Recently we were talking about exercise. We’ve been talking about it for a few months, but Nicole hasn’t been able to find a way to fit it into her busy life. She is a single mom with kids who freelances from home.
She wants to set aside a 30-minute block of time to take a brisk walk. She would ask her mom to watch her boys.
After a month or so of this plan with no result, she decided that she needed to buy the right workout clothes and shoes. She needed motivation, so she did some research and made the order. A few weeks passed and still no follow-through. Her work at home life, because of the pandemic, got busier and busier. It was all she could do to fit the boys in and stay present enough to feel like she was doing a good job.
A couple of weeks ago, she was sharing her struggle with me. Her language was negative. “I’m just so lazy.” Remember that this is a single mom who works from home 40+ hours a week, so we took a bit of time to work on her self-talk.
Then I suggested that she set a time to leave her desk and do a few laps around the back yard. No special clothes. No need to call grandma. And instead of 30 minutes, what about 15?
She gave it a try, and this was her response – “I feel oddly motivated! Walking around the yard is invigorating.” Of course, it is. She is getting that exercise in, and she is feeling much better about herselfand her days.
I suggested that she let that be enough until there was something more that she could do.
My sister, Rozanne, is an empathetic and vigorous woman. She is a certified health coach. She has been teaching the elderly how to keep their bodies in shape. The comments that come from her students have been amazing. She has made a BIG difference in many of their lives. But the comments aren’t just centered on her workouts. They are about her remarks, her empathy, her caring.
After taking a class on how to market her skills, she said, “I’m just not good enough for this field. I don’t have enough certification.” She was seriously taking herself to task for not knowing more than she knows and not doing more than she has been doing. I said, “Rozanne, you have something to give right now. Let that be enough until there is more.” After a pause, she replied, “I am going to remember that. I do make a difference now!”
We would all like to do whatever it is we are doing better. We would all like to know more. We would all like to exercise more consistently, but sometimes the backyard will have to be where we begin. We have to start where we are. We don’t have to stay where we are, but we have to start there.
It’s OK not to be perfect. Of course, you need better life skills to parent better. Many of us need to manage your money more efficiently. Most of us need to exercise more. We should eat better. There is a world of things that require more information, consistency, and practice to do better. BUT it is wise to remember that you have something to give today, as imperfect as it may be. Let that be enough until there is more!
Let others in on the good news that perfection is NOT required!
This article was written by a wonderful woman and friend, Laurisa Paul. She is an RN, a writer, homeschool mother of five, and an aspiring midwife. I felt that the topic hits so close to many women’s hearts and experience that it had to be shared. Read, enjoy, and learn.
“I don’t know how you do it.”
I hear this statement (question?) from women all the time. What I hear them asking is, “how do you live with so much peace and calm and joy?” (while a full-time mom to five kids, wife of an ambitious entrepreneur, committee member of a youth ministry, and taking on the great task of home school). “How do you find time for yourself?”
After thinking about this question for years on end, I have finally got an answer. The answer to how I take care of myself as a woman is easy: I meditate and pray. I assign my youngest out to the care of others so that I can exercise alone. I pursue topics that fascinate me. I set goals for myself and enjoy the challenge of achieving them. I think back to what I did for fun when I was single, and I DO IT!
But there is a real problem here: that answer doesn’t solve the dilemma for anybody. Women, both with and without children, are still perplexed (and sometimes irritated) with the idea of self-love, self-compassion, and self-prioritization, even given my quick and easy solution. The struggle continues because… the wrong question is being asked. It turns out, women don’t need to know how I actually go about doing it.
The more definitive question would be, “why?”
I grew up in the care of a deeply loving mother. She was the product of a broken home where she was not provided a model of parenting that met her standards. And so, when she became a mother herself, she gritted her teeth and gave her all. Quitting her job, giving up her own ambitions and dreams, she became only “Mother”. Even sleep became secondary to adorable birthday cakes, neighborhood preschools, incredible Halloween costumes made to order, Girls Scout cookies and badges, service in the classroom and church, play-dates, sports teams, piano lessons, and hand-sewn matching clothing for the whole family. We, of course, took advantage of all that was offered, leaving in the end, only a shadow of a woman we called Mom. When the door closed at the end of each day, all that was left was a hollow frame. She was exhausted. Unfulfilled. Angry. Overwhelmed. Depressed. Resentful. The mental hospital became the only place she could go for respite. I don’t have a single memory of my mom laughing.
I am grateful for this experience. Deeper-than-words grateful. Because of where I came from, I feel surer than ever that, as a woman, an individual, I matter. Just like every other mother on this earth, I want my children to have a great childhood and grow up to be successful, joyful adults. This is why I prioritize time for myself.
I prioritize time for myself because I know that when I am well-rested, I am more patient and kind.
When I exercise my body first, I have the energy to physically engage in their active lives.
When I prioritize time for connection with God, I open the door for grace to light my way.
When I make time to study my own topics of interest, I am mentally available to hear about theirs.
When I eat what I want to eat, resentment doesn’t follow me to the dinner table.
When I play regularly in a way that feels fun to me, it is easier to play in a way that feels fun to them.
I am the integral part of the livelihood of our family. I am that important.
Our children become who we are. More than anything, I want to raise empowered adults who take ownership of their own happiness. And so, I must teach them about boundaries. I must be a model of someone who says YES to things that matter most and NO to things that don’t. I must teach them that they are ultimately responsible to create the life they dream of. That it is not anyone else’s responsibility to do this, nor is it reasonable to expect that. I must teach that selfless sacrifice is a vital trait of a loving parent, AND that it does not have to be at the expense of one’s own joy. I teach my children these things by clearly setting the example for them. It’s worth carving out time for. It’s worth making a way!
I see nobility in the call to motherhood and I feel great reverence for its importance. With the endless to-do lists that accompany family life, for what sake am I willing to keep honoring me as my top priority? For the sake of the highest aspirations that I hold for myself, and the dreams I have for my children and my grandchildren. For my sake, and for their sake. That is why I do it. It is that important.
I am sure you know a woman who needs this message today. Send her the link. : )
Mary Ann Johnson | Relationship Transformations for Busy Parents, 2017