I find human nature amusing at times, don’t you? The first scene of the movie He’s Just Not That Into You is a perfect example. It shows a little girl being bullied at the park by a little boy. The little girl then goes up to her Mom to explain the events and the Mom’s response is, “That means the boy likes you.” Wait, what? Being mean is an indication of liking someone?! I recall, in my own youth, being told that if a kid was being mean to me it’s a sign that they are jealous of me. This brings me back to my first statement that us humans can be an odd bunch sometimes.
My examples above are that of kids, but some of our backwards behavior carries on into our adulthood. Are you ready for my true confession of discordant thinking? I take you back to the first year of my marriage. This is when a disturbing behavior of mine was brought to my attention. I don’t exactly recall the specifics of how it came about, but I quickly gained the nickname “Red Pen” from my husband. The name was an indication of my constantly correcting everything he did. You may recall the orange slicing incident from my previous post Celebrating Differences? He’d also respond to some of my remarks with a simple, “Put the gavel down.” This was his delicate way of saying I needed to quit unrighteously judging him or the circumstances around me. In short, I was being unkind as well as a micro-manager. The latter being an annoying habit for sure, but harmless for the most part. Or is it?
It turns out that I was increasing the frequency of my “Red Pen” behavior when I was feeling a lack of control over myself. I didn’t really make the correlation until I was sitting in a therapy session a few years back. I was confessing to my therapist that I tend to point out all of my husband’s faults and short-comings. She, being a therapist, immediately recognized this behavior as a sign of my own insecurities. My insecure nature had already been recognized as the root of a large portion of my struggles so I’m sure this behavior came as no surprise to her. Then she pulled a typical therapist move on me. She went and said something I had heard a million times before, but had never internalized or applied it to myself. Her response to my confession was simple, “You can’t fix yourself by breaking someone else.” Wait, what? You can’t? Because somewhere along the way I subconsciously made this a truth. If I wasn’t able to feel good about myself, then surely I could make my husband feel worse or bring him down and that would somehow put me up higher, right? Wrong.
Oh, how sad of a way to behave. How terrible I felt when I realized that I had been breaking my husband down in a failed attempt to lift myself up. I took the therapy session to heart and began trying to right my wrongs immediately. It must have worked successfully because I was just telling my husband about the topic of this post being that you can’t fix yourself by breaking someone else and he promptly responded with, “You don’t do that.” I had to remind him of our first years of marriage and then he said, “Oh yeah, that happened.” Unfortunately, the micro-managing sneaks back in to our relationship when I am feeling less than optimal about myself. Thankfully, it doesn’t escalate in to me trying to break him down or point out all of his flaws, as I’ve learned to reel myself in and see the situation for what it is.
It’s tough to redirect ourselves from these unhealthy behavior patterns that somehow get ingrained in us. Obviously, nobody taught me this behavior specifically. I was not pulled aside as a child and told, “You know what would make you feel better about yourself? Bringing others down.” But I did have to be directly told to NOT act in that manner. And what about the other behaviors I mentioned above? A kid who bullies being an indication that he likes you? Or is jealous of you? Huh? That is an odd way to show your admiration or affection for someone. What happens to the person that buys in to that way of thinking and ends up in a harmful relationship with someone who treats them in such a manner?
This brings me to my final thought, which leaves me recalling a line from the movie French Kiss. The main character, Kate, is frustrated with the manner in which the French share their emotions in an opposite fashion to their true feelings and exclaims, “Happy, smile. Sad, frown. Use the corresponding face with the corresponding emotion.” My final thought echoes that of Kate’s: Let’s use the corresponding behavior for the corresponding results. If you want to feel better, be kinder and better. If you want to feel love, show love. Let’s strive to lift one another up in an effort to make the world a happier place rather than bring someone down under the falsehood that we will somehow be lifted higher. Let us compliment people and magnify their strengths, not their weaknesses.
I learned that bringing my husband down did not make me feel any better about myself. I must have been disillusioned into thinking so, as I had made a habit of it, but it was not the reality. I often felt worse about myself, as I was bringing unnecessary contention into our home. However, lifting him up and lifting others up around me actually does make me feel better about myself. Joy begets more joy. I know this to be true because there is more joy, understanding and compassion found in our marriage now than when I was trying to fix myself by breaking him.
May we each begin to recognize the true happiness that is felt within when we lift others rather than break them down.
Don’t you love those times in life when you somehow feel more upbeat or at peace no matter what life is throwing at you? I’m in one of those happy places right now and I’m trying to analyze every little aspect of my daily actions to see what is making the difference. I think I’ve deduced that there are three things contributing to my happier demeanor – focusing less on myself, tidying up, and the joy of sunshine!
The second thing that just made life a little brighter was tidying up some odds and ends around the house. I still have seven weeks to go in this pregnancy, but my husband is convinced the nesting period has begun. Last night, as I busily cleaned up clutter and messes that I had let fall by the wayside for too long, my husband was literally chirping and singing some made-up song about what types of twigs and such do I put in my nest. Just sharing that makes me giggle all over again, which makes me think that perhaps the goodness of my husband ought to be on this list of things that have been bringing sunshine in to my soul. I say it often, “I married up.” But, back to the topic at hand, a tidier home just makes for a happier home, does it not? I’m not saying perfectly tidy, because lets be honest, I am a mother of three. I have learned that each child produces more clutter and mess. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous about the added mess of yet another kiddo. Comedian, Jim Gaffigan’s, line from his stand-up show Mr. Universe is in the forefront of my mind often these days, “You want to know what it’s like having a fourth kid? Imagine you’re drowning. Then someone hands you a baby.” He goes on to say how happy he actually is to have four (now five kids), but that doesn’t take away from the reality that more kids = more chaos. Perhaps that’s why my efforts to get our current level of chaos better under control helped calm my nerves a little bit.
Lastly, I truly believe my soul just needed some literal sunshine. While I love the varying seasons here in Oregon, I can certainly tell how my mood responds to a few days of good ol’ sunshine. The best part is that it rarely gets too hot here. So the days filled with sunshine are days that seem almost too perfectly beautiful and comfortable to be real. Yesterday just happened to be one of those days. We headed down to the river as a family and met up with some friends. The kids rode their bikes all over the place and threw rocks in the river, while we visited and took in the beautiful sunshine and scenery. Taking time to enjoy the beauty of the world in which we live and spending time with loved ones just warms the soul. It’s truly that simple.
So, if for whatever reason, you are having a difficult time feeling the sunshine in your soul, perhaps one of these three pieces of revelation will help brighten your spirit and your day!
I’m a little late writing a post this week, but it is for a good reason. I had the pleasure of celebrating my eldest’s 8th birthday and throwing her a wild animal party with her friends this week. Note to Self: Hosting a birthday party with 20 kids will physically and emotionally drain you as a six-month pregnant woman. Whew. Survival was only made possible due to my better half being there to help every step of the way. Hooray for helpful husbands!
Each time one of my children turns a year older, I reflect on life as it was around their birth. Birthdays have a tendency of making us reflective that way. Particularly when it comes to children, we think about growth and development. I saw this quote by author and artist, Doe Zantamata, that seemed fitting to share this week, in which our family celebrated my beautiful daughter’s birthday. Zantamata wrote on her blog The HIYLife, “If your parents ever measured you as a child, they had you stand against a wall, and made a little pencil mark on the wall to show your growth. They did not measure you against your brother, or the neighbor’s kids, or kids on TV. When you measure your growth, make sure to only measure your today self by your past self.” I needed this reminder as much for myself as for the healthy raising of my children.
Just this week, as I was attempting to make my daughter’s party cupcake tops look like zebra stripes using chocolate sprinkles on top of white frosting, I stood there comparing myself to others. To be precise, I said out loud to my husband, “If my Mom could see how poorly I was doing this, she would be rolling over in her grave.” My husband, in his kindness said, “If your Mom was here she would be playing with the kids or dipping these strawberries in chocolate and would not be fussing over your cupcakes.” I smiled at the idea of my Mom actually being there and how she would be too busy helping to critique. Don’t get me wrong, my Mom had her thoughts on such matters, but she was never one to compare. Of course, my self-bashing still continued as each cupcake seemed to get worst and worst. I began mumbling negative thoughts under my breath and starting to plot my submission to the Pinterest Fails, as surely another woman out there had done this better than me. They really looked nothing like zebra stripes. The chocolate sprinkles were just too big to pull off the idea I had in mind. My husband suggested that I just skip the striped plan and make them black and white. Done. They actually looked much better after his suggestion. But the thought occurred to me, would I have been so hard on myself had I not thought of what my Mom was capable of in the kitchen or the myriad of amazing results I’ve seen on Pinterest? The cupcakes somehow became more acceptable when I just looked at them as my personal offering to the party guests versus the end product of all marvelous things created by others in the kitchen. It was amazing how much better I felt once I let go of my urge to compare myself to others.
Unfortunately, that’s what the natural part of me does. It’s the same with this blog. As I’ve mentioned before, I struggled to start such a blog based on the mere fact that others out there write better than me. My logic told me, “what’s the point in writing at all, if others can do it so exceptionally well?”. Even worse, I’m certain I do it with my kids too. I make a conscience effort not to do it, but if I can get caught up in a cupcake decorating frenzy, I have got to be doing this to my kids without even knowing. My two girls, with only two years between them, seem to constantly be in a struggle with what each of them has and does not have. I fear I may be adding to it. While my husband and I are constantly telling them that it’s most important to be themselves, as Everyone Else is Already Taken, I may very well be comparing them merely in just how I discipline them. I cringe at how many times I have said to my eldest, “How is it that your sister who is two years younger can listen and follow directions, but you can’t?” Ugh. It’s embarrassing to even type such things, but I’m an impatient and an imperfect woman and these things happen in our home. I don’t condone them, but still they happen. I would never let my girls speak to themselves the way I sometimes speak to myself. Nor would I let them compare themselves to any other kid. Yet I seem to do comparisons naturally. Any chance I can place some blame on being taught how to do Venn Diagrams as a kid?
All joking aside, comparing yourself with another is an ugly habit and it begets ugly feelings. I find that most all of my moments of discouragement and disappointment are rooted with my actions of comparisons. Not comparing my today self with my past self, but comparing myself with others. Come to think of it, the last time I had a good cry-fest (these happen more frequently while I’m pregnant) was last week when I was sitting comparing my life without having my Mom around with others who still get to have their Moms around. I even wrote a post on Over The Big Moon entitled Because of Him about working through the process and letting go of my “have not” attitude. Oh vey, Readers. I think we may have a bigger beast on our hands than I realized. This issue really is just as Theodore Roosevelt stated, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”
I don’t want to rob myself nor my children of such joy. I’m praying that my heightened awareness of this matter within myself and in our home will help me to eradicate it. As always, I invite you to share your insights and suggestions in the comments section. Obviously, I have much to learn. I see and understand all the drawbacks that come from comparing ourselves to others. That part I know. But how do you stop from comparing yourself to others and comparing your children with other children when it seems to come naturally? Is it as simple as Bob Newhart says in one of the most hilarious bits I’ve seen regarding therapy? Do I just STOP IT?!
The first time I heard the quote, “The grass is greener where you water it,” was from my husband. He was saying it in regards to relationships, which was even more inspiring to me. I had already known that I married a selfless man, but even after all the crud he has endured being married to a less-than-selfless woman, here he was still championing the idea of “watering our lawn.” This is the type of man you want to marry and I’m so glad I did.
Since I heard that quote, it has resonated in my heart. It’s a much more optimistic take than it’s “original” counterpart, “the grass is always greener on the other side.” The biggest difference between the two quotes, as I see it, is accountability. This matter of accountability is among the top lessons I want my children to learn.
COMMERCIAL BREAK: Writing that last sentence actually makes me wonder – if I had to choose five, or even ten, principles I want my children to learn, what would they be? And, am I doing my part to make sure they’re learning those principles at home? Hmmm…something I should ponder. Also, I would love to hear your insight on the most crucial principles our children need to learn. NOW BACK TO OUR REGULAR PROGRAMMING.
I think the main reason accountability is such a big deal to me is the mere fact that it seems to be a lost principle in our society. I recall the lyrics of a Jack Johnson song called Cookie Jar released back in 2003 where the blame is continually placed on another. Certainly, there are outside influences in our lives that play a role but we also need to take accountability for our part.
I have read countless stories of heartbreaking and horrific things that have happened in the news. The thing that fascinates me the most is how people choose to move on from their given point. The story of the Coble Family’s tragic event in 2007 haunts me as much today as it did back then when I was only a mother to one. A mother to three then, Lori Coble, had taken her kids to a local mall that I myself attended frequently. Lori’s own mother joined them on the venture. Nap time approached and it was time to drive home. Lori and her mom were in the front seat of her minivan while her three kids, ages five and under, were strapped safely in the back. Traffic had come to an abrupt stop on the freeway, a freeway I often drove myself, and the big rig behind them was not able to stop in time. All three children were killed. The story is heart-wrenching, but I recall the touching remarks made by Lori and her husband, Chris, exemplifying their faith during the aftermath of their unimaginable trial. While they were uncertain how they would even move forward from such a tragedy, I marveled at how well they did move forward. Shortly after their loss, Lori became pregnant with TRIPLETS! The Coble couple had lost a little boy and two girls in the car accident and here they were, just months later, expecting a little baby boy and two baby girls. The triplets were born around the year anniversary of the death of the eldest three Coble children. I wish I knew more of how this family was doing today. My prayer is that the faith that it took for them to move forward in any manner is still a strong impact in their home.
This is just ONE of numerous stories where the victims chose to water their own grass. I will add, and I hope this does not contradict my point, that they did sue those parties whom they felt were at fault for the loss of their children. The action of accountability in this instance, in my mind, is that they did not, to the best of my knowledge, throw in the towel and become bitter and hopeless about their loss. They did not use this tragic event as an excuse to lose their faith or give up on life completely. They went forward trying to re-create the life they loved in the best manner they knew how. They made an effort to replant their grass and water it accordingly.
Perhaps I can offer up a better illustration, and far less tragic, of what I’m trying to say. There are parts of my childhood that I do not believe were healthy for a child to have to experience. While I was not at fault for those circumstances, I would have been at fault for letting them define me or for allowing them to somehow excuse any poor decisions I made in my adulthood. Had I allowed myself to place the blame on my childhood misfortunes for all my wrong doings, I feel I would have been doing myself an injustice. Instead, I chose to seek help. Perhaps I sought it later than I should have, but I did nonetheless and I’m grateful for it. In attending counseling, I was able to make sense of the reality of my childhood. While there are parts that I still deem to have been unhealthy, I feel no benefit comes from blaming. I actually feel stronger having not placed blame.
Obviously, my own story pales in comparison to the horrific one that the Coble family experienced. That’s not the point. The point is that we have two options in life when a trial, of any magnitude, hits us. We can choose to sit on our side and complain about our own lawn and feel resentment for the prettier (or perceived to be easier maintained) lawn on the other side or we can stand as proudly as possible and water our own lawn.
Whatever phase your “grass” is currently facing, it can become green again. It may take some replanting on your part or merely some watering, but it can be done. And, heck, if you find yourself in the fortunate circumstance of enjoying your own lush grass, perhaps shoot some water over to the other lawns that can use some refreshing. A little “water” goes a long way and how beautiful the world could be if we all enjoyed the blessings of green grass.
This past weekend was quite a memorable one for me. A date night is always a treat, but my husband and I actually managed to have two date nights in a row. Both evenings were awesome, but the second night had an unusual twist to it that I would like to share.
We went on a double date with our friends to celebrate a birthday milestone. We started our night off with some delicious Mediterranean Food and then walked over to a tiny independent theater in our downtown area. We had never been before and the place had such a fun vibe. It only seats 24 people and the refreshment bar is in the same room as the theater. They serve Coca-Cola in the vintage bottles, popcorn in a big silver tin and dish up candy in a white paper sack. We were seated in the front row and ready to watch a series of Oscar Nominated Live Action Short Films. I have a soft spot for Short Films, but that’s a post for another day.
The first movie was a touching film from Denmark, the second was a thought-provoking short from the UK, the third was a suspense-thriller from France, and the fourth was just horrific. I’m of the opinion that you do not have to explicitly show something to get the general idea of the subject matter. Clearly, the Writer/Director of this Spanish short film does not feel the same as I do. I like how the review on CraveOnline puts it in regards to That Wasn’t Me, “the film’s flagrant messaging and shock tactics leave it feeling sleazy, and coated with a discomforting goo. Not the kind of grotesque veneer you’d expect and want from a film about the horrors of child soldiers in Africa…” In the middle of one of the more disturbing scenes, my husband got up and left the theater. My friend’s husband immediately followed him. Then, my friend and I followed as well. We all knew why my husband got up and left and I think we were all a little upset at ourselves for not walking out sooner. We agreed that we needed to go find something upbeat to do in an effort to recover from what we had all just witnessed on the screen. The night ended with some fascinating people-watching in a local restaurant while dining on churros and ice-cream. All was well in the end.
Now, I told you all of that, to tell you this. The images from that movie did not leave my mind. I tried to inundate myself with scripture reading, Facebook, praying, Pinterest delights and the like to dull the memory of the graphic scenes I watched. My methods helped, but I slept awful the first night and spent most of the second day trying to redirect my thoughts onto something positive. As I was working so hard to bring peace back in to my mind, I got to thinking about people that can’t just walk out of the movie theater and seek out light.
Some people are not as fortunate as I am to live in a home that has joy and peace. Many have to live in dark circumstances with constant negative influences. This reminded me of a story I read by Susan Wyman where she was sharing her struggle with family discord. Then, she had this thought about being in complete darkness and imagined herself lighting a tiny birthday candle. Wyman says, “It seemed so insignificant, yet the power of that minuscule light was enough to displace the blackness…The quantity of darkness surrounding us in the world simply does not matter. Light is eternal and is vastly more powerful than darkness.” Her words ring true to me.
All these thoughts reminded me of my New Year’s Resolution for a Bright New Year. I’m blessed to live in a healthy environment, but that doesn’t mean I cannot make it brighter. Or perhaps strive to bring more light to those that are not as fortunate? I think more than anything this week, I wanted readers to reflect on whether or not they are living among the light or darkness? If the light, share it with those around you and cherish the gift that you hold. If you find yourself walking in darkness, have faith that your own light is ‘enough to displace the blackness.’ And, if possible, do as my husband did and walk out of the darkness and seek the light.
This is not a recent find for me, but it is a pertinent find for this month and may be new for our readers. Years ago, I read this excellent idea about using Love Journals in place of greeting cards with your spouse or loved ones. The idea was ingenious in my eyes!
I started to implement it right away with my husband for Valentine’s Day. I got my hands on a notebook that had an extra slot on the inside. In the slot, I gathered all of my past love notes to him. Now all of our notes are in one convenient location. Then I kicked off the notebook with Valentine’s stickers and a love note. My husband appreciated the sentiment and, shortly thereafter, he got me a Love Journal in which he leaves me sweet messages as we come upon each holiday. Sometimes, we even give surprise notes of appreciation and adoration between holidays. It’s fun to have all of our love notes in one spot and the convenience is a definite perk!
Being a Mother to young children, I rarely get the chance to peruse a card aisle anymore nor do I enjoy the high price tags for the cards worth sending. I guess I’ve become a bit of a curmudgeon that way. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy sending a note out of the blue or finding the perfect card for someone, but this expectation that we need to buy cards to express our love each holiday sort of rubs me the wrong way. It feels like one more To-Do on my list. Ever since we got these journals, all I need to find time for is expressing my heartfelt feelings. Plus, when it comes to the love I have for my husband, in particular, there has yet to be a greeting card that can express how I feel better than I can.
We’ve had our journals for a few years now and I honestly have no idea where we purchased them. I’m including a couple links for notebooks that I thought would serve as cool Love Journals. BookFactory® Notebook sells one in multiple colors. This one is very similar to the one my husband bought for me. We prefer blank pages, but I also found this really cool lined page journal you could use called Red Embossed Heart Writing Journal. Both of these are fairly priced and would be a great way to ignite a loving tradition.
Hopefully, you will find Love Journals as beneficial as we have in our home. We’ve saved money, we’ve saved time sneaking off to the card aisle, we’ve centralized all of our notes for one another, and we’ve let our love flow more sincerely. Basically, Love Journals have been a blessing to us. I hope they become a treasured gift in your home as well!