And then Life Happens – Week 17

Time is absolutely flying past me. It seems as though we brought our baby girl home just a few weeks ago, when in fact she is 9 months old already! On top of our normally hectic days, our family has also been occupied with several ongoing projects around the house, including a garage sale that was a couple of years overdue. In addition, we have dealt with a plethora of life’s lemons, ranging from a family emergency that required an out-of-state trip, to botched vacation plans, to hosting out of town company for a week at the spur of the moment with time, space, and a budget that was already limited. And just when we thought our hands couldn’t possibly get any more full, we discovered we are (unexpectedly) expecting our third child this December.

{{{Insert anxiety/depression/panic attack/meltdown here.}}}

Even with the little bit of progress I had started making on this self-imposed journey of mine, the whirlwind of life’s challenges got to me. As much as I love my children and despite how much I craved, planned, hoped and dreamed of becoming a wife and mother, I never expected to have more than 1 or 2. The weight of the responsibility, the financial stress, the dramatic change to our current life plans, the stress of caring for another little person all day, everyday…Learning that I was pregnant again hit me so hard it plumb knocked the wind right out of me. I fell down into the ditch I have become accustomed to lying in when I let the world get the best of me. It’s the ditch I built as a little girl that I use to protect myself when I’m hurt or fearful. When I’m in the ditch, I’m numb – disconnected from most everything around me. I surround myself with fire to stop others from getting in, a fire fueled by my anger, rage and meanness. I let my sadness bury me. I become immobile, barely able to function. I feel hopeless and lose sight of everything I’ve overcome in my past and everything positive I use to see in my future. Until I stop fighting and start getting real.

Sometimes, when you dig into the dark corners of your soul you find things hidden there that you don’t want to see. Things that have been buried for years, pushed out of your consciousness, perhaps even locked away from your memories. It’s hard to imagine these things can have much of an influence on your present day life, but they do. I’m realizing now that in order to truly achieve the life I dream of, I need to face my dark corners head on instead of pretending they don’t exist.

Being the perfectionist that I am, I typically would see this fall off the horse as a failure. But I know that I am not a failure and that life is a journey and not a destination. I’m taking things day by day and giving myself credit where credit is due. I’m slowly pulling myself back out of the ditch, dusting myself off and putting one foot in front of the other. I’m shining light on my dark corners and learning to deal with what I find there. I know it’s going to continue to be difficult, but I also know that if I genuinely want a better life, it’s up to me to make it happen.  

How do you handle life’s lemons and keep the world from getting the best of you? 

From Fluttering to FLYing

Lately I have been working on establishing better routines for myself and my family. While I have had plans for said routines drawn for months, actually implementing them has been another thing altogether. One of my secret weapons for assisting in this area has been FLYLady.

What a discovery – this website is simply amazing! Marla Cilley (aka the FLYLady) and her ingenious team offer a complete system to help you learn to FLY (Finally Love Yourself) while clearing the clutter from your home and your life. FLYLady offers suggested routines, detailed cleaning lists, motivational daily emails and so much more. It  gives tips for simplifying even the most mundane household tasks, from grocery shopping and meal planning to everyday chores like dishes and laundry.

In addition, FLYLady focuses on on taking care of yourself as a woman. It encourages us to take care of ourselves from the inside out. From drinking your water and taking your vitamins each day to finding time to pamper yourself and strengthen your relationships, it seems the FLYLady has really thought of it all!

The best part of the entire system is the refreshing attitude the FLYLady passes on to her members. She encourages us to think of housework not as chores, but as blessing our family. When you start to look at it from this angle, keeping up with routines becomes that much easier.

I am grateful to have this great tool at my fingertips. It has helped me figure out how to take my baby steps on the path to becoming a better wife, mother and woman. What’s more is that I am starting to see this spread to other members of my family (my husband recently decluttered a significant portion of our garage because “the rest of the house is getting so clean, I just had to!”) Not only is my home becoming more organized, my life is becoming simpler and happier as well.

Thank you, FLYLady!

My Merry-Go-Round

Okay, so clearly I have a problem with consistency. I feel like I’m running in circles with my fists tightly gripping the bars of a merry-go-round that I can’t quite get the hang of riding. I know that the goal is not only to be able to ride the merry-go-round without falling off, it’s to be able to enjoy the ride, too. Attaining that goal is not as easy as it sounds. There are more factors at play than meet the eye. First, in order to get the ride moving, you have to put in the effort of getting it started. This requires holding onto the bars, taking a running start and then hopping onto the platform. Then, you get to spin around and around as the circulated wind rushes over your face. Eventually, the ride will stop unless the passenger hops off, runs with the merry-go-round and hops on again. That is, unless a fellow adventure-seeker comes along and then you can either work as a team to gain some serious speed, or take turns enjoying the ride while the other maintains its momentum.

[I can see how a merry-go-round is a metaphor for a lot of things in life.]

The merry-go-round in my life is a metaphor for living a balanced, happy and healthy life. In order to take the ride (or maintain balance in my life) I have to put in the work. For me specifically, this means following the routines it takes to keep up a healthy and happy life. This is what creates a stable and consistent home. My problem is that I did not grow up in the kind of home that want to create for my own family. This raises two issues. First, I never saw a positive example of what I am trying to achieve. It is hard to attain something when you aren’t exactly sure how to get there. Second, since I did see negative examples, I picked up on negative traits that are now deep rooted habits that prevent me from achieving the harmony I seek. Getting back to my metaphor, it’s like trying to learn how to ride the merry-go-round the right way when you’ve only witnessed it being ridden wrong or in ways that resulted in injury to the riders.

If I can create a rhythm of hopping off, running, and hopping on and practice until it becomes natural for me, then perhaps I will be able to maintain the consistency I’ve been attempting to reach. I am learning that I don’t always have to burn myself out trying to keep the merry-go-round moving. Sometimes, I run too fast and become short of breath, quickly wearing myself down. Other times, I am exhausted and barely move for too long , resulting in me growing lazy. Sometimes, I let everyone else crowd the ride and I try to do all the running myself. Even though the load is too large, I often refuse to ask for and/or accept help. Still other times, I stop doing the work and the merry-go-round slows to a complete stop. This is when I feel my life has become dull, lonely, and purposeless.

I am learning the tricks to maximizing my merry-go-round experience.
I’ve learned that “slow is steady and steady is fast” – there is no need to sprint; I need only keep moving. Like the Energizer Bunny I must keep going and going and going and going……. regardless of what life throws my way… rain, shine, snow or hail… just keep moving.
I’ve learned that I am going to have days where I fall off, grow tired, or make mistakes. There are also going to be days when I can run a little longer in place of someone else who needs it, enjoy the serenity of a solo ride on a warm, sunny day or help someone else figure out how to ride their own merry-go-round.
I’ve learned that it is okay to ask for help if it gets too hard to handle alone and to take my own turn at enjoying the ride while others do the running.
I’m learning it’s more fun to ride with others, and family and friends are your best co-riders.
I’m learning that through it all, God has got my back.

Personally, I’ve never been a fan of merry-go-rounds. I have never liked spinning in circles. Maybe it’s vertigo; spinning makes me dizzy and nauseous and faint. I could never figure out what it was about merry-go-rounds that people loved so much. I could not see how people get a rush from the feeling of freedom as they spin around and around. I couldn’t find fun in the hopping and running and hopping, then spinning and spinning and spinning. I couldn’t see past the “work” of it long enough to just enjoy the fun of it.

Lucky for me, I am learning to love the ride.

Teach an old dog new tricks

As I was driving to school today, a quote I had read somewhere resonated in my head: “You are what you repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit.” I read this a while ago but it didn’t really hit too close to home for me. My initial thought was that pretty much the only thing I “repeatedly do” lately is be inconsistent. Not until today did I make the connection.

I am what I repeatedly do. Actions that are repeated again and again form habits. Therefore, in order to be healthy, I have to repeatedly act in healthy ways – form healthy habits. The opposite of this, being unhealthy, obviously means acting in unhealthy ways, thereby forming unhealthy habits. What was not so obvious to me at first is that inconsistent “attempts” at healthy behavior is actually just as hurtful to my cause as blatantly unhealthy behaviors.

It has been easiest for me to see this when I watch the reflection of our parenting skills in our son’s behaviors. For instance, though it was never really “decided” for or against it, after Bug was born, so was the family bed in our house. It was so nice when he was nursing to have him right within arm’s reach, to be able to feed him and resettle us both for the next short stretch of sleep. It certainly had its perks. Now, though, we’ve decided it’s best for our family to have the baby in his own crib at night. Mommy and Daddy need their space back, thank you… especially with our second on the way. This is an issue we’ve been struggling with for a few months now. I have been checking out books from the library and Google-ing various methods of transitioning him. We hate to hear our little boy cry so of course we tried all the “no-cry” methods we came across, with no success. The past couple of nights we have tried the extinction method and he actually has cried less and slept more than with the other methods. The trouble with the no-cry methods is that I would wear down before him, break consistency and give in and bring him back to our bed, thereby reinforcing the same habit we are trying to break. This goes to show how important consistency is to developing healthy behavior patterns.

As for me, the patterns that I have developed in my own life are mostly habits I learned as a child. Clearly, if I am exhibiting unhealthy behavior, then I am repeatedly making unhealthy choices similar to those I made as a youth. What I need to do now is relearn the poor habits I learned when I was younger and turn them into good habits.

Of course, philosophical revelations are lot easier had than done. This is where the trouble starts… Then again, maybe it’s where the fun begins.