Do Better December 5th 2014 Finding Your Happy Place

5 Dec

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Someone posted on Facebook the other day that they always feel like Christmas comes up short on their expectations and that when they are supposed to be the happiest, they find themselves stressed and unhappy. They see others posting pictures and share about the wonderful times they are having and it leaves that person feeling like they are failing somehow. I get that because I think we all do that in so many ways. We have expectations of perfection and when they don’t pan out, we feel cheated in some way. I have done that so many times with big and little things, but sometimes a little time and distance can give you perspective on that; so can reading a book. Many years ago, I read a book that made a lasting impression on me. I wish I could remember the name of the book or even its author or maybe even the whole plot, but it escapes me. What I do remember is that a man who had been a ghost for some time and a woman who had recently become a ghost were talking. In the book, ghosts could travel in time to any point in their lives that they chose, although the man warned the woman not to do it. She, of course, ignored his advice and decided to revisit her best memory, which was her eighth birthday. She remembered how special she felt in her fancy party dress and how much fun she had being the center of attention. When she revisited the day, though, she saw herself trying to get the attention of her mother and father, while they were busy preparing for the party. She saw herself asking and then begging for someone to look at her, to see her. She felt the sorrow of her eight year old self as she realized the focus of the day was her party and not her. She came back feeling rejected, dejected and so very sad.

Memories can do that to us. They can make us feel like something was better or worse than, perhaps it really was. Ask children who were born into the same family about their past and you will get completely different answers from them. In my husband’s family where he is the youngest of nine children, he definitely sees his childhood differently than his older siblings do. His memories of being picked on are very different than his siblings’ memories of how spoiled he was. My father was a middle child, and he also remembered things differently than his siblings, and I am the oldest child and remember things differently than my younger brother. It seems to be the same in most families I know and might be why I love the quote that says that we don’t see the world as it is; we see the world as we are.

For many years, and still on occasion, I lived in judgment of others. It seemed like the only way I could feel good about myself was to put others down. If someone was prettier than me, I would look for other flaws. If someone was wealthier than me, I would imagine them in an unhappy relationship. If someone drove a nicer car, I would console myself with the thought that they probably had a huge car payment, and I was so much smarter for buying a more economical car. It was an exhausting way to live, and it was a Christmas movie that changed my thinking on that. My favorite Christmas movie of all time is “It’s a Wonderful Life”. I watch it nearly every year and cry like mad. I know it seems simple and trite to some, but it is profound to me. It shows me that everyone’s life matters. It shows me that I can take every supposedly negative thing in my life and see what a blessing it was in the long run. It helps me get through some of the tougher times, knowing there are those who are better just for having me in their lives, and I aspire to be that person every day. Does it work? For me it does and if I’m slightly delusional about it, aren’t we all slightly delusional about something?

It always seems to come down to choices for me. I don’t always feel good, but I always try to put good into this world, and perhaps the most difficult thing I ever had to learn was to see my own brilliance. Everyone shines, but so few see their own light. We have become a culture of put downs and the person we most attack is ourselves. I’ve decided to stop that as much as I can because it’s self-destructive, and as I type that I realized how much I’ve been doing it lately. When things go wrong, I automatically blame myself and when I talk to my husband about changing something, he does the same. We have to consciously tell one another that we aren’t blaming each other; we just want to discuss a situation we can improve. We’ve gently learned to call each other out on beating ourselves up because when we go into blaming mode, whether of ourselves or others, no progress is made. When we demand that someone think or live like us so that we can be happy, we set ourselves up for failure. When we compare our circumstances to those of anyone else, we’re doomed to a skewed version of life because we don’t have a clear view of anyone else’s life, thoughts or feelings. I got a complete understanding of that when I read the book Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert. I had read Eat, Pray, Love and enjoyed it, so I was excited to read the next book and was enjoying it too until I read a section that bashed motherhood as a soul sucking endeavor, and I got angry, really angry. I was disappointed and hurt that, once again, my chosen life path was being maligned by someone who had no idea of what motherhood was, and then it hit me. Elizabeth Gilbert didn’t know what she was talking about. She had never given birth. She had never held a piece of her soul in her arms and known the thrill of bringing a new soul onto this Earth, a soul that could change the world for the better. Elizabeth Gilbert was wrong.

Have you ever had a moment when you knew how right you were? When I read that part of the book Committed and I thought it through, I knew in the deepest part of my soul how much I was meant to be a mother. I’d been through job after job, always getting bored after a few years and having to look for something better and more fun. Motherhood changed that. I have been a mom for almost 21 years now and in addition to being a wife, it is the most fulfilling thing I have ever done. Not every moment has been filled with joy, but every day I’ve spent with my family is better than any day I EVER had at work. By the way, Ms. Gilbert has since said that some women were born to be mothers, some were born to be aunties and some should never be allowed around children ever, or something to that effect. Great save Elizabeth Gilbert; great save.

So, after years of looking, I found my happy place in motherhood and marriage. I fully understand that my path is not for everyone, but I also understand that others’ paths are not for me. I know my chosen profession is changing rapidly as my children grow and prepare to live extraordinary lives of their own, which allows me to pursue different avenues of fun. I will not be pining for grandchildren, although I’ll welcome them with open arms and heart when they arrive, hopefully to financially, emotionally and spiritually stable parents. I will instead write and coach and support others in their journey. I will continue to wake up each day with a plan for the best day I can have, and I’ll laugh along with God as much as I can when those plans are wrecked. I’ll watch as others lose loved ones and remind myself how precious and fragile each life can be. I’ll tell my children and husband I love them every day, even when they don’t respond, because if the unthinkable happens, I want those to be the last words they ever hear or read from me. I will live in gratitude, faith and love because it feels better than living in fear. I will continue to refrain from watching the news because it’s just another show with unhappy endings every day. I will continue to do things every day that bring joy into my life, like writing, meditating and meeting friends for lunch. Do I live a privileged life? In many regards, yes. I know it, and I am grateful for it on a conscious level almost every day, especially on Fridays when I know I’ll be seeing my family more for a couple of days.

For those following the Do Better December steps, today is the day to prepare for the weekend. Look at your calendar if you have one. Plan your time, your meals and your activities. Give your home a shining, but spend no more than an hour. That might sound crazy, but an hour of focused time can make a huge difference. Make sure you get plenty of rest and drink plenty of water. Both of those will give you energy to make the push for the next few weeks. You can do this and you are worth it. I will be taking the weekend off to spend with my family, so we’ll crank it back up on Monday. Thanks for being you and have a great weekend everyone.


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