Month: September 2019

fractured

Good Enough

Sometimes we accept the worst solution because we can’t have the best. But the better thing is available and right in front of us.

  • You decline $40,000 because you can’t have $80,000.
  • Because you can’t save $20, you end up spending $30.
  • You might stay up too late, and instead of going to bed, you stay up even later.
  • You might be hungry, and instead of eating something adequate, you stay hungry.
  • You refuse to eat a chocolate chip cookie because you really wanted ice cream.
  • You might need to exercise, but because you don’t have time for a two-mile jog, you do nothing.
  • Because you can’t solve a complete problem, you don’t solve any part of it.
  • Because you can’t get an A, you might fail a class instead of getting a C.
  • You don’t write anything instead of writing something that’s not quite right yet.
  • You don’t help someone because you’re afraid that you can’t do enough.
  • Or in an attempt to find the perfect place to live, you end up miserable living where you are at.

Just do the better thing in the first place instead of waiting for something perfect to come along.

And sometimes when you go forward with what is good enough, then the best option becomes available.

 

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Humor in Misfortunes

Recently, I’ve been learning how to laugh at myself and my life.

A few weeks ago, I hit a deer. While on a deer hunt. In a new-to-us minivan that we had literally just replaced the brakes and tires in a few days before. It was so completely unfortunate that I found it hilarious.

A lot of misfortunates are just sort of funny.

The populations of the towns I live in have been decreasing for a while. We lived in a town of 5,000 people. And then in a town of 200 people. And right now I don’t even live in a town at all. If you discount temporary and seasonal residents, then there is a population of about ten where we live, and my family is six of that.

A few years ago, on my daughter’s birthday, I took a wrong turn and ended up driving an hour in the wrong direction, adding two hours to our trip. I will probably never mess up a birthday quite as badly as that. Only up from there.

Sometimes it’s good to laugh instead of worry. Laugh when you have no idea what you’re doing. Laugh when you fall over. Laugh when you are sick. Laugh when you accidentally ruin things. Laugh when you get lost. Laugh at your ineptitude. Laugh when you are afraid. Laugh when you’re confused.

***

My kids have had the weirdest journey through schooling. My daughter had seven kids in her kindergarten class and about 14 in her first grade class. She went to three months of second grade in public school. She is currently reading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and she will finish two weeks after starting it. I go to the library and she gets ten or more books, and in a few days, she’s read them all.

My son has gone to three months of half-day kindergarten and some preschool. He reads small chapter books now. He is learning third grade math, and he basically has a calculator in his brain.

And I thought that I wasn’t good at homeschooling. My kids love worksheets (they do them for fun sometimes). I got them handwriting books to improve their handwriting, and they not only finished them, but they keep asking me to get new ones.  They engage in their own science experiments. They read and read and read. They love puzzle books. They explore outside, make lists, and ask really good questions. The fact that I thought I wasn’t very good at homeschool is sort of hilarious because my kids have learned so much.

And I’m currently enrolled in public school (online college classes) while I homeschool my kids, which is also sort of funny.

***

I can worry about things and feel guilty and cry. Or sometimes I can just laugh.

The other night, I wanted to sleep well, so at 1:30 in the morning, I tried to find my daughter’s special blanket so that she would stop waking up. Well, it took me over a half hour to find it, and then she kept waking up anyway, and I ended up losing quite a bit of sleep. Because I wanted to sleep well in the first place. It would have been better if I would have done nothing.

I am reminded of this quote:

I remember loading up our children in a station wagon and driving to Los Angeles. There were at least nine of us in the car, and we would invariably get lost. Instead of getting angry, we laughed. Every time we made a wrong turn, we laughed harder.

Getting lost was not an unusual occurrence for us. Once while heading south to Cedar City, Utah, we took a wrong turn and didn’t realize it until two hours later when we saw the “Welcome to Nevada” signs. We didn’t get angry. We laughed, and as a result, anger and resentment rarely resulted. Our laughter created cherished memories for us. (from “Come What May and Love it” by Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin.)

Instead of being annoyed at my husband, I can usually laugh instead. I can laugh when ever I accuse someone of being cranky, because that inevitably means that I’m the cranky one. I can laugh instead of fight, laugh instead of blame, laugh instead of wallow in my misery.

Life is messy and chaotic and unexpected and it’s good to just laugh at the absurdity of it all sometimes.

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Guilt and Apology: Letting Go of Unrealistic Expectations

Have you ever said that you were sorry when you didn’t actually do anything wrong?

I have. Sometimes I find myself constantly apologize for myself, as if I was a constant inconvenience and never doing as well I need to.

Apologizing can be necessary and a really good thing to do. Saying I’m sorry when I have hurt someone is meaningful. But have said it too much, to the point where my existence almost became an apology. But I don’t have to apologize for existing, or for having weaknesses, or for never always doing everything quite right.

I’ve heard from a few different places that you can substitute “I’m sorry” for “Thank you.” We say things like this: I’m sorry I’m late. I’m sorry for not doing better. I’m sorry for not getting it done. I’m sorry that I talk so much. I’m sorry for having emotions. I’m sorry I’m not perfect. But we can say this instead: Thank you for waiting for me. Thank you for being patient with me. Thank you for listening to me. Thank you for loving me. Thank you for spending time with me.

When we are always apologizing, we just end up sticking shame on ourselves and clinging on to unrealistic expectations. It makes other people feel incredibly uncomfortable sometimes, because they often want to help and be with you and they don’t mind the inconvenience because they like you.

Sometimes apologizing is simply a reflection of our own insecurities.

I have been trying really hard lately to let go of unnecessary guilt just like I’m letting go of unnecessary apologies. They are the same thing, really. We can’t ever change what happened, but we can know that change is possible now and in the future.

So I have to let go of what happened and look forward to doing better. I am so glad I get to keep trying. There is so much hope in the world.

I’m not going to apologize for not being perfect, because no one is. But I can be grateful that I can keep trying. I’m grateful for hope. I’m grateful for letting go of expectations and knowing that I am worthwhile and being okay with myself while still striving to improve.

essay, my life

Progress

The first year of homeschooling was difficult for me. It did not always go well. We had some amazing days, but at the end of it, I just felt like a failure. (I wasn’t a failure, though. My sister challenged me about why I felt I had failed, and I had to reframe it in my mind. Failure is just a framing device anyway, a way of labeling what happened even when the label doesn’t fit.)

We had some good moments and my kids were actually learning, even if we lacked consistency. But I was also learning how to do it better. And I wanted to keep trying.

This year, I’ve been trying to completely eliminate that failure label. We won’t fail at homeschool. We’re going to keep trying through rough days. I’m going to keep adjusting expectations, changing things up, and becoming better.

I feel like I do a really good job some days. I love learning, and that filters down to my kids. They read so many books. Their handwriting has improved. Their spelling has somewhat improved.

I’m also improved at being a teacher. I had no idea what I was doing at first, and I’ve practiced and I’ve made mistakes and I’ve persevered even when I didn’t want to. There was a lot of complaining and I still don’t want to do this long term.

But I’m glad I kept trying. I was not that good at being a homeschool mom. But now I do okay. Progress can be slow and seem impossible, but it does happen.

essay, everything

Challenge the voices you hear

I read a few articles lately about people leaving their 9-to-5 jobs in order to live the life of their dreams. And it sounds like a good story. It makes me question for a minute: would I be happy if we were financially independent and self-employed in some creative task?

I think the answer is no. I enjoy having my husband’s predictable income, sending him to work five days a week, and having the safety of good benefits.

Some people like to take risks, but I don’t enjoy it much. I’m not afraid of it and I’m not limiting myself through my fear; I just prefer stability. It’s like when I go to a theme park and I feel pressured to ride the intense ride. Sometimes I do. And it’s okay, but I don’t enjoy it enough to actually pay money to go get motion sick.

I always wanted to be a writer, but in my adult life, I realized that I despise promoting myself. Which means that I would also hate being a successful writer.

I get caught up in what other people think is successful. It might be nice to go to nice schools and get high-paying jobs. It might be nice to travel all over the world. It might be nice to get a homestead and work from home. But just because someone else loves their life doesn’t mean I would love their life.

I have to be careful: I asked myself the other day if I wanted to pursue graduate school because I actually wanted to be in that environment or because I felt it would be prestigious. Did I want to tell other people I had a specific degree, or did I really want to actually get that degree?

I really enjoyed working as a legal secretary, even though it was a low-paying job that didn’t require many qualifications. I have to look at myself and what I want to do instead of just copying someone else’s success.

Being true to yourself sometimes that means abandoning dreams. Sometimes that means being completely normal and boring and eating vanilla ice cream because you like vanilla.

There are things that I know about myself: Money does not motivate me. I never want to be famous. I don’t enjoy taking huge risks. I like working on computers. I like spreadsheets and math and paperwork. I like being told what to do. I like teaching and I like creating as well.

Ultimately, I want to live in a way that helps other people in small and simple ways.

If that means my life is boring, then I’ll live a boring life.

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Balance of shame and pride

I’ve been happier lately, and part of the reason is because I stopped shaming myself for not being perfect. I dealt with a lot of shame in my life, feeling that I was never quite good enough: I never did enough when I was homeschooling. I never kept my house clean enough. I never balanced my computer time right. I watched too many videos. I didn’t go outside enough. I needed to get in better shape.

You know those voices. I’m getting better about not listening.

Because I realized that if I listened, then I wouldn’t improve at all. I would actually get worse. If I shamed myself for yelling, I would yell more. If I shamed myself for wasting time, I would often waste even more time. I would punish myself by continuing to do the activity that was causing me pain. It’s not helpful.

I still make many mistakes every day. But improvement does not come from shame; improvement comes when I look ahead and when I focus on the good things I can do and keep pressing forward. If I spend a day yelling and wasting time and hurting other people, then the best thing I can do is apologize, let it go, and do better.

Whenever my kids hurt each other, I don’t make them go sit in a corner so they feel bad. I tell them to make it right by hugging the other person and saying they are sorry. I don’t need them to feel ashamed of what they did; I just want them to learn how to do it right the next time.

In a way, we define what enough is. And enough for me is that I keep on trying, no matter how many mistakes I make. Being enough means that I’m not going to listen to the voices that say I always need to more; instead, I’m going to know that my messy efforts are worthwhile.

***

On the other hand, I tend to get really proud sometimes. I’ve been very privileged in some ways: I can learn quickly. I understand well. I can do a lot in a day.

But that doesn’t mean that I’m better than anyone else, or that the way I live is superior. I like to be on time; I like to keep my house clean; I like to have clean closets and minimal stuff. I like to plan in advance.

There are other people who are always late. They have messy closets and bursting schedules. They make quick decisions and they enjoy taking risks. And that’s awesome.

There are many different types of people and they are all important. I’m not better than someone else just because I know what derivatives are or I’ve read lots of books or whatever.

And someone isn’t better than me if they can run five miles or make homemade bread or they run their own business.

***

There is a balancing act in all of this: don’t be ashamed of who you are. Be confident, but don’t be proud. Celebrate others, give to them and love them. Don’t worry if you aren’t enough. Don’t be complacent and content without moving forward and improving.

I won’t ever be perfect. But I will keep trying.

my life

The important things on your to do list.

Sometimes I feel silly putting things like time with my husband and kids on my to-do list. It’s important. But it’s not urgent. And it’s not something that I just check off and I’m done with it. It’s important and ongoing.

But when I start putting the important things on my to do list, I do them better. I spend more time with my family. I remember to spend time with other people. I remember that I should be serving instead of selfishly focusing on my own goals.

The important things really should be on the top of the list. Instead of cleaning my house first, I would much prefer to spend time with my kids. Instead of finishing my work on the computer, I would much rather talk with my husband.

So I’m going to leave the really important things on my list, and try to prioritize them above everything else.

my life

Selfishness and Happiness

Today I was a bit angry and I said, “I never get time for myself!”

That is a lie. I get plenty of time for myself. I take classes, I exercise, I read a lot, I go to book club. I enjoy cooking and hiking and I get to watch the movies I like. I have a lot of time for myself.

But I get selfish, thinking that it’s never enough. And the crazy thing is that time for myself doesn’t really make me happy at all. I am a lot happier when I with other people, teaching my kids and spending time with my husband and other family members and friends.

It’s selfish to think that I need more time for myself. I already have plenty. Happiness doesn’t come in self-fulfillment, but in giving your life to others and helping and serving them.