Mar 13, 2015
I am totally option gal. I hoard options like it is my given right as a free person. I love choices, love to multitask, and am multi-talented. I am also a child of the media generation. Homework with the radio and/or the TV on at the same time? No problem.
But as an adult with a multitude of mandatory jobs as a parent and a wife, and many other creative endeavors I aspire to experience and learn, I have long been overwhelmed by my possibilities.
I write again and again about my brimming to do lists. And have gotten to the point where I long to have a good long crafting day without worrying about how dirty the toilets are. Because they are dirty right now. And how could I possibly think of doing anything fun when I have a potential health safety issues to take care of in my bathrooms.
When possibilities become a problem, it’s time to take a hard look at why you’ve collected them and what it is that you need to let go of or embrace to make a how to move on plan.
If you can, separate them into different categories after you spill them. Perhaps you see a pattern of visits with people and cards to write. You could be in need of people intouch-ness. Crafting projects galore? You may need some creative time. Cleaning and fixing? You need a space that’s in order and unbroken. There’s nothing at all wrong with any of your needs. They’re asking for your compassionate attention.
Somehow, I have an unwritten rule book in my head about which things can happen before the other things happen. It’s a conscious unquestionable choice that I must have my kitchen cleaned before I get on with the rest of the day. Dirty bathrooms would make my Virgoan Grandmother roll over in her grave. But I can call myself on it and choose differently today. Because I am actually in charge of this vehicle called family and life. Don’t anyone try to tell me different. I can also say no thank you to anyone else trying to throw stuff down on my to do list without me choosing to put it there.
Now is the only time you’ll ever have. Make it possible to have the things that are most important happen in a “now” coming soon to you. Schedules and lives and priorities change. If the time isn’t now, do not however doubt that there will probably be a time in your future when you’ll be able to sit and knit. Or write your novel or just read a book. Mine. Sigh. A little faith here on the knowing-there-will-be-a-time will allow for the release of the anxiety of not being able to do so now. You may find that this perspective change will shift you into a place of permission to do it sooner. Or you’ll revel in the knowledge that you are not giving up, just allowing this to be a two-year from now goal.
Plop that bad boy right into you schedule. My husband says it’s harder to make an appointment than break it. When you get to that moment in your life, that day with that activity scheduled, it may be entirely possible that you may have to cancel. But it’s equally possible that you’ll have opened up a door to make progress.
Even the smallest activities can be scheduled as opposed to waiting for the “right time”. On your phone calendar or your wall calendar, you can write tasks in at 30 minute intervals. A half hour to clean/clear a closet. A half hour to wash all the fan blades in the house. A half hour to read. Keep your expectation about that task at that time and you may surprise yourself with your progress with this method.
I find when you are not actively involved in any of your possibilities, it can make you feel anxious. Take one action step towards any of your goals/activities, and you’ll feel so much better. Even one work-out always makes me feel proud. A half hour with some paper, glue, and markers to work on making a card for a friend and I’m invigorated.
When there’s too many important tasks, nothing’s important. When you overwhelmed by your options, or your obligations, you lose your priorities and your clarity. Perhaps it’s partly about the permission we give ourselves to move on. And maybe it’s also about our lousy methods to organize our thoughts and our time around what we feel we want to do and what we must do. I do think we can outsmart ourselves and using the above mentioned tasks as guides and inspiration, there’s more than a little chance that our possibilities can become the probabilities we want them to become.
Feb 13, 2015
I got to thinking about our human tendency to not want to be told what to do. Those who trust in their lives and make choices easily were lucky enough to have their caregivers make the right choices for them. So that they were then able to make the right choices for themselves.
The two year-old refuses to do what I ask. She has no self-control and she’s frightened of that. She needs my control, wants me to prove she’s worth it. Even if she doesn’t seem to be scared, she is still a wild beast in need of help taming herself. She needs my commands to be unquestionable. Some are sometimes negotiable but in the end, the adults are always driving. She is always a little better when she comes out of the Thinking Chair.
The ten year-old doesn’t want to eat his breakfast. Or his lunch. Or his dinner. Wants to show he has power over his choices and his body. He pretends he doesn’t hear you. He seems lazy, making bad choices. He still wants/needs me to make it clear that there are no other choices. Because once he just accepts life’s necessities, he can get on to the more important choices he needs to make about his happiness and success and love. He is still hoping he means enough to me for me to reprimand him.
The teen, the one who doesn’t have a parent in his face continuing to create boundaries for him? He’s now sure he’s not worth it. He makes his contrary choices just to see what authorities will do. To see if they can disprove what he already knows. That he sucks and is still not worth being cared for, taught self-restraint and self-care, being made to believe he matters. He has now become the world’s problem. His dance with questioning authority may eventually be everyone’s problem.
Now as parents to ourselves, we do have a choice. To take it easy or to go work on it. Refusing to do what we need to do, what we know is right for us, isn’t really a choice though. Our inner child is watching how we treat them. For instance, going to the grocery store lets our inner child know their basic needs are worth caring for. Ignoring our mental and physical needs to be healthy says we are not worth loving. Sometimes we have to do stuff we don’t like. Like limiting our calorie intake. But we are also smart enough parents to reward ourselves for a job well done. A reward means so much more when it’s earned. We get to choose that too.
Every choice is really easier when we think of a bigger picture of love and care. One that takes care of us, those we love, and then the greater world. When our true choices appear to us, we are happier and clearer people who raise happy clear little people.
Dec 27, 2014
We called her The Napkin Lady. She’d come into the restaurant during off hours like after lunch. She’s order something small from the swing shift waitress. And then, when she was in the empty-ish dining room, she’d grab all the napkins from the settings of the neighboring tables and head for the bathroom. The toilets in the lady’s room would always be stopped up after her visits.
I’d like to tell you that we all felt sorry for her. We kinda did but that toilet situation made it difficult for those of us who had to clean up the overflow. And eventually she was given a warning. I don’t know if she was banned. But I do know that she was also a “cat collector” and lived right down the street so that I would walk by her house occasionally. She was weird but sweet. And no one wanted her shame to rub off on them.
We distance ourselves from people who seem needy or less fortunate. As if shame and misfortune and self-loathing may be contagious. Who wants to serve the homeless food at the holidays when it reminds people of where they never want to be? Let’s go the mall instead where everything is OK, shiny, and perfect. Why bring the holiday mood down by taking a hard look at where we could go but for the grace of God.
Sure I find myself frustrated when I am confronted with homeless men at every stop light in downtown Baltimore holding cardboard signs claiming their shameful plight. I don’t ever remember there being this many of them. And I am very tempted to take the beltway round next time. Because I don’t want that poverty and need in my face. Somehow it reflects badly of society or the city and of me.
But what if we didn’t cause it and we came from a place of compassion for the people who are whacked and downtrodden. What if we disengaged from all the judgements and defenses and panic and just sat with the idea that world cooks up lots and lots of recipes for people and not all of them are good. But there they are and deserve to be seen but not necessarily fixed by you or me. If we didn’t make it about us then maybe we sometimes could make it about them. And show our humanity every once in a while.
Jul 16, 2014
If you listen to your internal voice, sometimes you may hear yourself use the ” ould” words, should and could. When these words star in my mental dialogue, it’s a sign I’m feeling conflicted whether I am supposed to do something or not. Ould words foreshadow wiggly thoughts.
So I’m sorting out my yard sale stuff in the attic and it occurs to me, any time I say “could”, that is a project of indeterminate limits. As in, I could use this item at a possible future date which is unsure and might happen. And that was a red flag for me to throw it out. Because if it was worth doing, it would already have gotten done.
As for the appearance of the “should“, I was talking with a fellow baby mama about how to dodge the baby blues. And I realized that we’re all trying to do the best by our babies, not always for ourselves, but we’re not letting go of the rest. So when that should pops into our brains, it’s a warning sign of overachieving. I am so tired but I should have all that laundry done before the school bus comes so that I can make dinner for the family to eat well and save money from going out. Shoulda, coulda, woulda.
Yes it would be ideal to be able to clean the house, breast feed to whatever point you believe is socially acceptable to stop, make money with an online shop, or even allow the crazy relatives to hold the baby. But in reality, there’s reality. Sometimes we have to let go of our expectations of ourselves as super achieving, earning powered, proprietary, and fortune-telling adults. Or not. If it doesn’t cause a load of stress for you, keep doing what you’re doing.
We do have choices. Funny how we absolutely believe we don’t. If you don’t think you do, you do a disservice to the women who starved themselves a hundred years ago to earn women the right to vote in The United Stated of America. The suffragettes didn’t stage their peaceful and painful protests to have you now think that you don’t have the power to choose or unchoose your current obligations/situation/choices.
I am all for delegating. Even though we haven’t two dimes to make a campfire with, I hired someone to weed my garden as I sat under the baby watching the weeds grow. And I used my yard sale money to pay to have the house cleaned. I can sit here and write because my bathrooms and floors are clean. My priorities are as they are but my methods were modified.
If you think that Martha Stewart made all her millions by cleaning her floors the right way herself, you’re deluded. She writes the how-to’s all up and hires others to do all her multitudes of tasks at her multiple manses because she can’t do it all. And apparently, you can make even more money when you get others to do it all for you while your selling the lies that claim you do it all. You need money to make money but you need to let go of control too.
Should you let go of unrealistic expectations of your time and mental energy? Yes. Should you say yes to freeing your muddled mind from the little mundane stuff to see a bigger picture where your back doesn’t hurt all the time? Yes. Should you expect yourself to be Super-Mom/Wife/Friend/Co-worker to gain the world’s approval and recognition that your existence is meaningful? That’s up to you. I say, choose something else, even if it’s wrong, and give that way a try. You may find that allowing for help or less achievement in one area (cleaning) may lead to another boost in esteem in another area (writing).
Feel free to tell me any and every thought you have on your shoulds and coulds. And there between us, we may learn something together.
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Jun 2, 2014
I’ve noticed the theme of proactive versus reactive popping up in my life regularly. I mentioned it a couple posts back in passing. And since I keep noticing it, it’s time to take a harder look at what this means.
Every action that’s taken is proactive or reactive. Let me show you what reactive looks like. In finances, you can just pay the minimum balances, wait until you’re threatened with legal action, and checks are bouncing before you take care of your financial obligations. This causes a lot of stress and I’ve been there. It’s no fun crying in the bank. Reactive financial management isn’t a good thing and tends to make one feel bad.
You can wait until your family looks at you with hungry eyes to start thinking about dinner. Or until you are wearing your last pair of clean underwear before you do the laundry. Or wait for the call from the neighborhood association to ask you to move your dead bus from the place it has sat in front of your house festering in the sun for over 10 years.
When I haven’t acknowledged my power in my life then I’ve spent a lot of time waiting for others to make decisions for me. And probably resenting them for it. Sometimes letting it happen to us is passive aggressive and sometimes it’s just the lack of true understanding that we have the power to choose.
I love to quote Rush, a band from the 90’s. “If you choose not to decide you still have made a choice”. We are never truly victims to the world when we have so many many choices and options at our disposal in our modern, and my North American, society. What works and feels better for me is to start being conscious of being proactive.
Proactive involves a little extra effort and always pays off with less stress, provided you want less stress. It feels like winning a scratch off lottery ticket to be happier, more productive, and a better mother. All good. Esteem boosting is just a to-do list and pro-action away.
I do understand that sometimes the way you always have done things is hard to change. Resistance comes from inside and outside. My low self-esteem had me a victim of a lot of people, places, and things people. When I recognized my ability to make a choice, I flipped a switch. And another. And another. And another.
Then, as I’m perusing my email this afternoon, I read this gem from a creative website I receive emails from and I immediately knew I needed to write something. ”Essentially, reading emails first thing in the morning triggers your reactive self. Instead, we need to get that proactive side of you turned on more often to see great things happen in your business.”
Before this year, I never wrote out life or career goals. Because I guess I always figured life was something that just happened to me. I do write budgets sometimes but since the baby’s arrival, I’ve had a harder time keeping up with bills and certainly not ahead of them. That’s about to change. Because every day is another chance to start over, that’s why.
Pro-activity starts with wanting something better. And I’m finally allowed to have that.
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