The Situational Paralysis Disease

I read part of the book of Ephesians yesterday and this scripture caught my eye, “”Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love…”  (Ephesians 5:1-2a)

One of my immediate thoughts was, ‘if only I was single, I could live that life of love…you know, just spend my days doing all kinds of nice things for people…wouldn’t that be so great?’  I am embarrassed about how silly that seems, especially written down.  First of all, I was single for 33 years and did not make this my focus and secondly, clearly one can live a life of love no matter where or what stage in life you are.  Sure you may have more discretionary time when single (in some cases), but still taking care of my kids is an act of love…it stretches and forces me to give and be patient like nothing else.

I have a really bad case of what I like to call the “situational paralysis disease”…I’m always waiting for something to change in my situation before I take action towards creating the life I want or getting things done that I would like to.  There is always something about my situation that is holding me back from what I want to do.  For example, when I was single, I felt that I had no time to do the things I needed to do to get healthy (e.g. workout and meal plan) and I blamed church, other people, my work, etc.  I also would think of Paris and be like ‘oh woe is me’ …I cannot go there because I don’t want to be in the ‘city of love’ without a partner…that would just be depressing.

Now as a mother of two (yes, my non-existent audience…I forgot to inform you that I just had another child in September…a son…he is literally the most chillest child I have ever met…haha…hence mommy writing so much these days) and staying with my lovely parents to get some much needed help, I catch myself saying, “Oh I’ll work on getting on a healthy eating plan, once I’m back home on my own since there are so many treats at my parents’ house – hard to exercise self-control here” (let’s not get into the irony of the last statement) or “I’ll start working out when I am back in my condo with such easy access to the gym”  or “I’ll start that project when I have a good hour to myself, undistracted” .  Well you know what?  a mom has only so few precious hours to herself and there are a myriad of things to be done during that time.  

So basically, I  blame my situation for lack of progress and am paralyzed from doing anything to further my goals or intentions.  Such a foolish waste as focusing on the circumstances ignores all the areas and things that are within my control that I can change.  And the most amazing thing is that the more I focus on what I can control, the more I control (does that make sense? Stephen Covey talks about this in his “7 habits of highly effective people”…genius must read by the way.

Every situation and stage in life has its challenges and its positives….the key is to focus on the things I can do and optimize those instead of being mired by the fact that my situation is not perfect for what I would like to accomplish.  It really is another form of procrastination stemming from perfectionism to think of ‘if only’s’ all day long as I have and continue to do….

Also there are unique opportunities that will be wasted in every stage if we continue to focus on what we do not have.  For example, it will be many, many years before I will be able to do a big hiking trip like Machu Pichu because I have tiny children.  Meanwhile when I was single, this was definitely a trip I could have taken even though Paris might have been depressing (although the latter idea is debateable).

Nowadays, I’m trying to practice asking myself “what CAN I do NOW towards that goal or dream?”  when I hear myself saying “if only” or “I wish.”  Hence, I may not be writing the magnum opus about child rearing and all the research around it that I would like to do BUT I am practicing the craft of writing itself through this blog and writing down simple day to day observations in my journal about my days with the kids.  Both will also serve to preserve memories of these busy and tiring but full-of-love days which I am desperate to do.

…also maybe I’m not doing the intense workouts, but I have cut out eating sweet stuff for the last few days and that has helped.  And maybe I cannot have long involved times with God everyday, but I try to spend a few minutes here and there with Him.

…and I am grateful.

Praying for Humility

Today has been a tough day for all my theories of humanity and child rearing.  Things have not gone as planned.  My two year old has a diaper rash and I have had to force some diaper changes (she hates having her diaper changed!) and putting medication on the rash. I know that it is important to have limits and boundaries for children but how do you enforce them in a respectful and loving way with a two year old?  

The primal/continumm concept peeps would say it is important to be the leader; say things one with full and utter confidence that it will be followed or better yet say nothing and let the child just be pulled along by a desire to do what she observes all the others in the tribe are doing….problem is there are so many more requirements of children in our society and not the same cohesive and exclusive community the primal child was privileged to experience.

Neufeld (“Hold onto your Kids” and kohen (“unconditional parenting”)  have a slightly different take of preserving the relationship and letting that relationship pull the child along,

I guess what I am saying is that I want to be kind and loving towards my child and respect her personhood but I also need to establish that I am the gracious leader in her life, that there are certain limits and boundaries that I will not allow her to cross and thus not neglect her (e.g. let her stay in wet diapers to increase the rash)…how exactly to do this?

 ….I know I have stopped making sense but i guess now I’m just making notes for myself for future reference….

…but ARGH!!  none of these ruminations help me in my present troubles…haha…:)

I guess the toughest part of this is my perspective that I need to have this whole thing figured out and niggling fear that I am failing/failing her as a parent.  I think that anxiety coupled with the tossing around in my head trying to find creative solutions is what is tiring me out most of all.  It is so true that the battle is always lost and won in the mind.  

I feel like God is showing me that I cannot be so arrogant to look down on all the parents around and that have gone before me…haha.  A tantrum can cut you down to size quickly…(wry smile)

I just spent a lot of the morning praying in my head for humility and guidance from Him regarding raising my child.  I waver between absolute confidence that I have found the only true way and right way to raise humanity and paralyzing fear that I am going to raise a hellion.  Seriously  it is that extreme.  Hence the need for humility.

The Answer (to everything)

I have come upon an exciting discovery.  I don’t know if I’m crazy (actually I probably am but let’s not get sidetracked…:)  but in a prayer session two weeks ago…I felt like God gave me the answer to what?  EVERYTHING people…everything!

In one word, the answer is: LOVE.  In two words, the answer is:  Unconditional love

I wish I had the time and the eloquence to articulate exactly what I am talking about but you should know that I am certainly not the first person to discover this truth (check out Jesus in the Bible or Victor Frankl in the classic book, “The meaning of life”…)  …but I sorta think God made it so that this truth must be discovered by each of us individually…there is no point in someone trying to explain it to another….for those of us who get brief moments of amazing revelation on this point, I believe it is our duty to demonstrate the truth with our own actions and words and attitudes….there is no preaching this…relationship and example are needed.

But hey it is my blog and I wanted to talk about it.  So in direct contradiction to what I state directly above, here goes.  Basically the two pressing questions that I needed answered was:  How can I grow/progress/change/develop positively in life?  How can I help my child/children to do the same?

I have been stuck because carrots and sticks (e.g. rewards and punishments) have long stopped working in my life and instinctively knew the same would only modify the behaviour of my child but not help their heart to develop.

I realized that that is why God did away with punishment in the body of Jesus Christ – so that we may be free to choose Him.  Now some would argue that hell is punishment but actually the worst thing about hell is simply being away from the presence and love of God….and so you are just receiving what you chose (e.g. choosing not to be with God)

As I have stated in a previous blog post, when I just focus on my relationship and connection with God (e.g. praying, reading His words to hear his thoughts, etc.) my soul hunger is filled in such a way that I no longer need to ‘act out’ in ways that is destructive to me (e.g. overeating).  It is not about controlling my behaviour but instead seeking connection….and that is exactly how God intended it…He never meant for us to earn our way to him.  He gives us the relationship and love freely and limitlessly…all we ever had to do was to accept it….and watch the fruition of that love.

Now for the even more controversial part; I am trying to raise my child in an environment (as much as possible)  where there are not rewards or punishments but instead unconditional love which promotes relationship with me such that she is moved internally to obey and follow me.  (haha, easier said then done)….After all if obedience is not willingly given from the heart is it true obedience?  It is just done out of desire to avoid punishment or to seek reward (like praise).  So again, it is relationship and connection to me (and ultimately God) which prompts her to love and good deeds….that DOES NOT mean I never say no to her…it just means that when I say no I never try to manipulate her by withdrawing love or threaten with punishment.

There is a reason God asks us to call Him Father and calls us His children….because the relationship is supposed to parallel our relationship with our children.  Sadly in our world, the freedom God has provided us has been ransomed and maligned as has the beautiful relationship we are supposed to have with our children.

There is so much more research and details that informs my position but so difficult to spit out because it is so complex.   I would love to write a book about it one day.  Suffice it to say I am undone and inspired.

Perfectionism, my enemy

I think I have written before how perfectionism is something that totally holds me back. Honestly for many years I secretly didn’t get it and thought of it actually as a good thing that I sought to get every detail ‘just so.’  But the more I mingle and observe the healthy, ‘go-getters’ of life, the more I see that they do NOT worry about getting things just so…they focus on action and just getting it done.  Not worrying about being perfect.

 

My husband is a perfect example.  (Actually I consider it a rare privilege to observe him up close as he is frankly the most mentally healthy person I have ever come across….I am learning a lot about my own madness by seeing how he deals with things).  He is never worried about having all the t’s crossed and i’s dotted….he just focuses on getting the task accomplished satisfactorily.  Don’t get me wrong – he does his research and as much due diligence as seems possible at the time…but then he just goes for it.  As our lives our now inextricably tangled, many of those decisions also involve me and I find myself constantly the obstacle or roadblock in our joint decision making.  Having him around, throws into stark relief exactly how stuck I am and how often I refuse to make a decision about ANYTHING because I am so afraid of making the wrong decision….of course we all know that our indecision becomes our decision….and isn’t it better to choose something rather than have something happen to us because we did not have the courage to do the former?

Another part of my husband’s healthy mental habits is his short memory.  Even if he makes a wrong choice or decision, he just focuses on figuring out what the next best course of action is as opposed to beating himself up regarding the past choice(s) – he forgives himself and moves onto the next needed action.  It really is so much better use of mental energies, isn’t it?  I have the memory of an elephant…I’m constantly remembering past mistakes and shames and failures….and it really holds me back from taking any steps forward because I know from experience how long and painfully I choose to remember the missteps.  But the key here is that I am choosing….I have a choice here.

I have been trying to do a ‘meal plan’ for our family for about 1.5 years….You would think I would just DO IT already and then refine as we go along.  But so far I have read lots of cooking websites and books about healthy eating.  I want to make the perfect plan full of healthy foods that are perfect for my daughter and our family as a whole.  Part of the challenge is that I am not sure whether we should could animal proteins, and/or dairy or gluten…etc…etc….There is so much conflicting information about nutrition out there!! argh!  And I want to get it just perfect. Also, I wanted a plan where there were a couple of frozen slow-cooker meals and most of the work done before the week even begins – that sort of things! But you know what?  It has been 1.5 years!!!  And I still have no meal plan and am constantly scrambling regarding what to feed myself, daughter and husband.  It is stressful and such a waste of my day and mental energy (not to mention EXPENSIVE!!) not to have a plan regarding our meals.  We eat out much more than I like because we just don’t have the food at home prepared.  Crazy how I can make ANYTHING and EVERYTHING so complicated.

So today, I am going to make a meal plan.  And it does not have to be perfect.  Wish me luck!

The Importance of Creating

As I get older, I think I’m really starting to buy into this whole creativity thing.  Maybe because as I get older, I have less time for it and thus it gets more precious?  Not sure.

I noticed that I felt a whole lot calmer and more productive last week after getting some time to write and (time off) as well. I recently learned that my Meyers-Briggs personality of ENFP is actually the ‘most creative’ of all the personality types.  Who knew?  I guess that is one thing institutional school has done to me – cut me off from my creative side (there is scads of research which shows that schools negatively reinforce the very things that are indicative of creativity in children….but you didn’t need the research to tell you that did you? haha)

Maybe because I was blessed with a higher than average IQ, I was able to still navigate the treacheries of schooling relatively successfully (from a purely face value perspective) but I know there was damage and it is deep.

Part of the damage that I am seeing is definitely the stunted creativity.  During my years in school, I would never dreamed of referring to myself as creative.  Now I am a bit more comfortable with that label…and even further have progressed to realize a little more the creative genius in all of us.  It is there…in one shape or another in ALL of us.  

To this day it astounds me what people of every type come up with when given the time and space…and maybe even more interestingly without those things…if you know what I mean.

I used to think of creating as very specifically visual art, where there was paint and an old white shirt involved….talk about boxed in….Now I see it in the turn of a phrase, even a glance my way as a thought strikes my friend.  

…and certainly I realize I have grossly undervalued it in my own life.  For now, I guess I will just be content with these blog posts every Wednesday.  It is too overwhelming to think of more right now….:) (I know, I know…if you only had a dollar for every time I use the word overwhelming….;)

Am I mommy snob?

I was spending time with a mom when she pulled out her little boy’s snack….jam on white wonder bread.  She laughed as she gave it to him and said that he just gobbles these sandwiches up and that she makes it for him regularly.  It made me feel a bit faint of heart because I have been reading all about the horrors of sugar and processed foods.  I kept my mouth shout though.  I did not want to come off as a sanctimonious twit….maybe she knew all the research and still made this choice….It is her prerogative right?

Similarly when I heard that another friend feeds her child in front of the television (only educational programming)….never mind that TV for children under 2 is a decided no no (again according to the research) but I was even more concerned about the fact this child was being distracted from discerning their internal satiation cues which cannot bode well.  When I probed just a little about this matter it turns out the mother is really determined to feed the child ‘x’ amount and actually depends on the screen time to do exactly what I feared; distract him so that she could get more into him.  And to that again I reluctantly shook my head (internally) and said nothing.  As someone who continues to struggle to hear AND listen to her body’s fullness and hunger cues, it saddened me to think of this kid’s possible future struggles with obesity.  Let’s hope I’m just being a dramatic doomsayer…

This kind of stuff happens all around me now that I am fully immersed in the world of mommy.  Honestly, I struggle not to feel a tad bit superior to all these moms who just obviously have not done their ‘research’….(sounds horrible right…but it is true…consider this a confession).  I have to remind myself that each parent is doing the best they can considering their knowledge and available resources especially in terms of support.  I don’t what I would do if I did not have a great husband and family and friends that help me to care for my little one….certainly would not have the time nor head space to do research and look down my nose at others (not that the latter is such a good thing…yikes!) I have to also remind myself that there are PLENTY of things I do as a mom that could have others get their judge on too…just to keep me honest AND humble…here’s a list for your judging pleasure:

- she sleeps really late (like sometimes at 11 pm) and wakes up late

- sometimes she goes like 3-4 days without a full bath (we do wash her up at the sink every night)

- I have no regular set meal times or nap times for her….we really just go by the seat of our pants

- I often forget to wash her hands before/after eating AND going potty

- a lot of her clothes are stained (what can I say?  domestic goddess I am not…although I do try to make sure she wears clean clothes out)

…and of course this is just off the top of my head.  Some of it is because of good ole’ research (e.g. I’ve read bathing too much and being too concerned about hygiene is bad for baby skin and immune system…a too sterile environment does not allow her system to develop strongly)…some of it cause I’m just plain lazy or disorganized….so there you have it.  So there you have it….I’m a self-confessed mommy snob but have no right to be….:)  I guess we each focus our limited resources on the things we think our important…as well we should.

Time is the Ultimate Luxury

Maybe the older you get the more you realize this truth about time…that it is limited and oh so precious.  I know when I was young, time seemed to go on forever and I never thought of it as a treasure or the riches that I am beginning to realize it is today.  In fact, time almost stands still when you are young.  Having so little autonomy because parents decided most things meant you were not really so invested in your moments or days.  I know many children just want time to go by quickly so that they can be grown up and then have things ‘their way’.

I think I have squandered YEARS of my life without any consideration to how incredibly valuable time is…I have wished my life to fast forward till I was married or had kids…I have wished for school to be just done…

(I feel like I am just not expressing what I want to here….and we are going to come down to some hokey cliche about how precious every moment is…argh!)

We people spend much too much time being out of the moment, hating or disliking our moments….working long hours at jobs we don’t enjoy, or can’t find a way to enjoy.  How horrible!  It is telling that saying to someone ‘if they only had a month left to live’ should make for such drastic changes in choices about how to spend that time.  

Time to rest, time to play, time to create, time to connect/give in relationships and our community as a whole.  These are the true luxuries in life.  How foolish we are to trade these things for ‘tin luxuries’ like a cool watch or fancy car….(we trade like this when we work ourselves to death to earn money to ‘afford’ these material luxuries)

A sweet friend offered to take my little girl to the park so that I could have a few hours to myself this morning.  I thought a lot about what I would do with these moments.  It seemed like *such* a luxury to have some daytime hours all to myself.   Thus the ruminations on time being the ultimate luxury…I know as a single person I SO took it for granted the hours I had to myself….never planning or scheming like I have for these 2 hours.  

But you know what?  In a few years, I will look back at these (what seems like) endless days of distractions and ‘drudgery’ of having a small child and realize how precious these moments with her were…..because they really were/are the sweetest days of my life (having an adorable, cuddly person love and need you all the time, who gives the best hugs in the world…who smiles at you whenever she sees you)

THus, maybe that is the secret to a life well-lived – to take no moment for granted.