my life

some thoughts recently

I have been practicing mindfulness lately and as I have been doing it, I have noticed things that I thought I enjoyed actually make me miserable. These include:

  • Eating more than one piece of candy.
  • Watching lots of YouTube videos.
  • Procrastinating cleaning my house.
  • Sitting and doing nothing.
  • Not cooking for dinner.
  • Binge watching Netflix videos.
  • Eating lots of potato chips.

There are things that are a bit addictive, but they don’t really provide any pleasure. I often just click on things because it’s easy, not because I really want to.

I am happier when I work hard, learn, play with my kids, go on adventures, try new things, serve others, talk with people in real life, etc. But those things take effort.

And spending too much time on my computer or eating unhealthy things or not being present in my own life takes little effort at all. It’s easy in a way, but it makes my life incredibly more difficult because I find myself miserable and without motivation to do what I know is right.

The best way I have to deal with this is to plan out my day and get a good start. If I start out the day knowing what I want to do and start working hard and being present at the very beginning, it’s easier to keep doing that throughout the day.

And if I make sure that my house is clean and things are generally put together before I go to bed, I also have an easier time starting my day right.

So this is what I’m working on right now.  I’m feeling a lot happier with myself and a lot more in tune to what brings happiness into my life and what brings misery.

essay

Remembering others in hard times

There have been times when I think about all the hard things that are happening and I feel like I’m alone and abnormal and that so many other people have it better than I do.

Of course, that’s not true. Life is universally hard. We all go through very difficult things: childbirth is hard, death is hard, and all the space in-between can get really difficult too.

So why do we get thinking that things should always be great? Why do we avoid pain so much?

I am never alone in struggle. People struggle. They cry. They yell and scream. They feel awful.

I have found that I have been the most discouraged when I thought that other people have better circumstances than I do–or if they do have hard circumstances, they probably handle it better. But those are both false. No matter how overwhelming my challenges may seem, someone has been there before. And they may not have handled it any better than I am. They struggled too.

So suffering doesn’t need to be lonely. We don’t ever need to think that things should be better. They are what they are, and there are a lot of people who do understand.

When I remember that other people struggle, I feel better able to keep going. Lots of people are worse off than I am. And lots of people struggle to be strong.

But people usually get through it. Even though pain is universal, so is happiness. There is always hope. There is always the next step, and we rarely have to take it alone.

essay

Keeping Calm

Today was an interesting day: when I came out of the shower, there was a strong smell in the air and my daughter was crying. I quickly found her along with half of a bottle of barbecue sauce on the kitchen counter. She was crying because she was covered in barbecue sauce and she kept slipping around in it and didn’t know what to do.

But there was more.

The boys had managed to find a dry erase marker and they had written on lots of things, including my brand-new door that we had just made (and we haven’t painted it yet, so I will have to literally sand out the ink). I thought it was the youngest one, but when I discovered the word Pokemon written on the wall later on in the day, I realized that it was not the youngest one. It was my kindergartner, who had been quite happy to not take the blame for it, but he was perfectly honest when I asked him directly.

And to top things of, the boys had also gotten knives out of the drawer and thought they would make good toys.

It was a moment. But I was calm. I didn’t yell. No one got into trouble, though I made sure to instruct them that we don’t write on the walls or play with knives or leave out the barbecue sauce with the lid off. I cleaned everything up. And that was that.

It didn’t stop there, of course: at dinner time, a bottle of spray cheese ended up breaking and spraying cheese everywhere. And then my son also spilled part of a bowel of cereal on the couch/piano bench/carpet.

I was still calm.

I am sorry to say that I have quite often yelled quite a lot in these situations. I get overwhelmed and think it’s just too much. I’m frustrated and I don’t want to clean up the messes.

But you know what? Messes are usually fairly easy to clean up (thank you, enzyme spray and magic eraser, you are my best friends today).

And the feeling I get when I yell is awful. Yelling doesn’t teach my kids anything, except maybe how to throw tantrums and yell. They listen when I’m calm. And when I’m calm, I feel better.

I feel powerful. If I can stay calm when all this is going on, I can do anything.

I can’t control the messes that have already happened. But I can control me. Because parenting is very first about controlling yourself; it is never about controlling your children.

My kids are going to make a lot of messes. The messes will change from food on the carpet to other struggles, but they will always be making messes. I am still making messes.

But messes can be cleaned up. And I can always love my children, no matter how big the mess.