Expectations…..

I am not sure what adulting and parenting is supposed to really look like, what is ‘normal’ or should be expected, if it’s normal to feel joy and devastation within a 30 second time frame, to feel defeated by kids one day and the next day feeling like super mom….. all while getting 20 minutes away from bedtime to have the ‘super mom’ feeling deflated. Not a pinhole in a balloon deflated, a fork stabbed in a balloon deflated.

Recently I had a day that I did the full blown working mom role, up early, 30 minutes of yoga, made myself a clean breakfast, got ready for work, kids ready for school, off to work early, a full day of work, while running home for lunch to let the puppy out, then running to the store, grabbing kids on the way home, finally getting home at six, making s’more party mix for school birthday treats, shark jello (gummy sharks in blue jello, pretty big deal in this house since the kids never get gummy treats) made a batch of pierogi for ‘childhood favorite food’ Friday potluck at work, load of laundry……. kids to bed.  I loved my day, it was fun, good, accomplished. But then I wonder why I feel so quickly emotionally defeated the moment one little thing goes wrong.

I’m pretty sure it’s normal for many things to not go as planned when you have kids. But, as it turns out, I do not handle that well and I do not handle misbehavior well (not even misbehavior, just kids not being adults, because…. they are not adults), some days I feel like I could go from feeling ecstatic, happy and calm to ready to cry within a matter of seconds.  I can’t really pinpoint when things got to this point, but I feel it came somewhere along the way that my expectations got increasingly high. I have noticed that overall I am a happier, nicer mom since we have made huge life choices; ridding myself of emotional exhaustion and negative influences has been a life changer, but our life changes also come with higher expectations.

What I do handle well is control, I love control… and success. I love being at work and being accomplished at home and having everything done just as I like it to be, on my schedule, so that I can enjoy my kids without having everything else hovering over me. The problem is that it is just not realistic all the time. I know this, I know that my expectations bring disappointment onto myself. And I know that when I’m so stressed and spending my time cleaning and more cleaning rather than playing with my kids or just ‘letting it go’ I am missing opportunities.

The disappointment that comes from expectations is the downside.

Their are however, benefits to expectations. Expectations hold my boys accountable, teach them responsibility and help them to set standards that will help them through school and life. Expectations keep me on my toes, I thrive on goals, standards and accomplishments. Without expectations, ‘accomplishments’ would be merely moments, with less significance, celebrations or feelings of conquer.  Expectations give me standards for my life, for what I am willing to sacrifice and for what value I hold in myself.

It takes balance to gain from expectations without letting expectations wear us down or leading to disappointment. A balance I am working on so that they can continue to help my family to thrive.

 

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Looking Inward

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I wonder how often people look at themselves, not simply in a mirror, at their achievements or what they’ve acquired. Actually, inward, at their beliefs, at their actions, thoughts, personality, character….. I’ve had a post sitting unpublished for about a week now, while in re-reading it I haven’t wanted to publish it. Events that have happened over the past few weeks have led me to reflect and look inward.

What do my writings say about me, what do my words show those around me, what influence am I having on people and what influence do people have on me. A few months ago I was asked why I was seeking a new job opportunity and I was told I gave one of the most thought out responses, which incorporated the thought I put into my goals, my kids, my family, my emotional well being. Over the past several years I have reflected on how my job influenced me and affected my emotional health, which influenced my relationships and my parenting abilities.

Now, where and what do I have left to reflect on? Me, my personality. I have been thinking why do I have the personality and characteristics that I have? What influences me, what am I surrounding myself with?

I have realized down to the words I say how influenced I can be by those around me. I realize how important it is to surround myself with people who will bring out the qualities in myself I most enjoy, the qualities my kids need and the qualities that bring other joy. I don’t like how easily I can be influenced by others. I’m not sure if it’s being easy going, just going with the flow, if it is that I don’t have the confidence in myself that I think I do or thought I did or if I am too much of a people pleaser.

It has been a year since my last ‘one word.’ The one word that started my writing, ‘radiate.’ I am not sure how well I did with that for each of the 365 days. I do know I made a lot of positive changes over the past year and I have more yet to go. I think my ‘one word’ this year will be ‘gentleness.’ My goal is to react with gentleness with my kids, husband and all those around me. To speak with calmness, patience and sincerity. Looking inward, I want to focus on my family, faith and health.

#myoneword ~ Gentleness

To want…

‘It is permissible to want’ ~ David Foster Wallace

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I picked up a book today, ‘If You Left’ and following the dedication to her husband, read the quote ‘it is permissible to want’ ~David Foster Wallace.
To ‘want’ it seems can be quite controversial. What one wants another may find trivial. What one finds trivial another may find a luxury, a blessing, valuable.  What one believes they should want or not want can be based on religion, what they feel they deserve or don’t deserve.  It may be based on their likes and dislikes or trying to fit into what they think they should like or dislike.
Some feel guilt over having nice things when others struggle for the basics. Some define their success on their ‘wants’ and the conquering to achieve and acquire those. Some want, but never achieve it. Each person may want to fill different voids, to validate a feeling, emotion, to compensate, to help others, for success, for pleasure. Some may value work over leisure activities to obtain what they want; while others may long for what they want and sacrifice their own wants for their kids, for their family.
It is not often I hear a quote, phrase or word that stands out to me. This quote did, instantly I liked it. I liked it because I have gotten to a time in my life that I am confident in what I want, sometimes that means sacrifice, sometimes that means forming my own beliefs from what I was taught, sometimes that means re-prioritizing how I spend my days, moving my family, switching jobs, evaluating what I am surrounding myself with. To achieve the things I want I know I need to surround myself with the environment to foster my wants, the people I am around, my surroundings, the attitudes, the vibe, the atmosphere. My personality naturally feeds off others. I can say that I have experienced that ‘negativity feeds negativity.’ I have focused the past few months on molding my life to foster what I want, for me, for us, for them.
It is permissible to want and I fully intent to enjoy it….

Some pursue happiness; you create it.

Some pursue happiness; you create it.

Fortune cookies sometimes have pretty good insight. As I read this one I could quickly say this is true for me. People complain about not following through with their resolutions, being unhappy in general, or searching for happiness. Making and searching for happiness are two very different things. Searching for it is longing for something that may never come. Making it happen is taking life into your own hands. 

Reading this I was especially reflecting on this past year as we were eating Chinese on New Year’s Eve. My husband and I have both noted that this past year was great for us. I think it has been the first year in our lives where we have fully taken every situation and made it what we wanted it to be. Every opportunity, choice, decision, big and small I look at my overall goal and our families core values, that I am sure I have referenced before, ‘comfortable home, education and cultural awareness.’ It has simplified life, if soemthing that comes our way will not promote those things, we chose an alternate path to meet our goals. 

I have never been one for resolutions, which to me probably helps our success. If I am ready to make a change, waiting for one day of the year to do it, will not foster long term results. Making, creating and choosing what fills my life, fosters happiness. 

Why we are minimizing!

I was recently told that we have figured out in our early 30s what most people figure out in their 60s, if at all. This was said to me in a discussion about why we are up and moving to Kalamazoo, only an hour away, but still a significant move for us.  For the past 12 years, since my husband and I first dated we have always talked about living different places, owning businesses, being adventurous. But, their is always one reason or another for why we stay stuck, stuck in one place, stuck in routine, stuck in a radius of close proximity to our home town. It never seemed like a reality that we could move away since we started our family here and have always had somewhat limited income. Married at 19 and 20, starting a family within months and balancing one income while I raised our kids for 6 years did not make it easy to have even a little freedom to move. I realize now I also struggled with self-esteem and the confidence to be successful without close family around for built in support. Living in Sturgis we have built wonderful support for our family, made friends, have a beautiful home, meticulously well kept, clean and picture perfect, on the outside of course. Inside, it doesn’t always feel so perfect. In fact, it rarely does. I can stand back and look at it all and it feels perfect, until the moment it all seems to come crashing down. Which has been more often than not lately. In a split moment I can go from blissfully happy, calm, enjoying my husband and kids to overwhelmed, emotionally spent with no energy to remain calm when a little stressor arises. The kids misbehave a little and I snap, something breaks and it all seems defeating, I have a long day at work and come home with no energy, but yet still need to maintain the perfection. 

I have recently realized how well I hide my stress, people that I’m closest to did not see how much anxiety and stress I hold in. I hide it for multiple reasons, one is that I’m still able to function quite well considering, it’s what I take pride in, one of my strengths, another is that if I don’t put on a good face I will cripple and not function much at all and last it’s the concept of putting on a smile and eventually you’ll feel happier. It does help, if I feel exhausted and then look and present as exhausted it adds to the exhaustion, like wallowing in my stress. Yuck, I hate doing that. Either way the reality is that many things are stressful and time consuming, maintaining a large beautiful home takes so much energy, hours spent each week cleaning, doing yard work, paying bills, grocery shopping. There is only so much time in a day and for me I have a specific standard for my home, maybe unnecessarily high, but I am not comfortable and relaxed if it does not stay clean and meticulous.  After working 40 hours, doing all of the necessary “stuff,” we still need to cook, do homework, spend time with our kids, time as a family and exercise….. I am exhausted. Not even a physical exhaustion, but mentally and emotionally. And no matter what I will still go, go, go and do what I can for everybody else as best as I can. And I still love to do that, it’s who I am, if I didn’t I would have stress from not helping others, not having time for my friends, not socializing. 

So, where does this leave me?

I had to change things, we had to do something different. We had to eliminate stress. I started to look around and hated having space, space I wasted time cleaning, hated having stuff, stuff that had no real purpose and did not bring me true joy, just more to maintain, bills, money we spent on things we didn’t really need that accumulated by living up to what we thought we needed. It all seemed pointless when what really matters is my family. And everything we built was to give our family more “space,” but we don’t need space. We need to be closer together, spend more time together, spend our evenings active together and not apart in different rooms of the house. 

We evaluated our values, which come down to a comfortable home, which means some financial stability to maintain it, education, to provide our children knowledge and possibilities for their future and to teach them cultural awareness so they have empathy for others, care for people and live life without judgement and fear of things a little different than their “normal.” 

We then evaluated our life, what we needed to do to make all of that happen, I was tired of talking about all of the things we want to do and never doing them. 

Reducing our bills, cutting our finances, minimizing our mortgage and square footage and yard size are all things we came up with. Moving to Kalamazoo is a wonderful solution, more affordable housing in smaller sizes, more culture and family activities to educate our children and… bonus… the Kalamazoo Promise will help our kids through college, another check off our list to financial freedom. I prepared for a smaller house by eliminating anything in our home that wouldn’t comfortably fit into our main floor, we cut expenses, paid off debts and had our home listed for sale within 2 weeks of deciding we were moving on to something new. 

We have been told this seems impulsive, that we made the decision quickly. In a way this is true, we are a family of ADD/ADHD, impulsivity is in our nature. But it’s really 12 years coming. We can’t wait to see what this new venture will hold for us, at least for the next 12 years and the boys are all through school. After that, who knows what the next chapter will hold for us. For now we are slowing down, enjoying every minute together and taking every opportunity to enjoy life with our children. 

Successes…

I haven’t posted in some time as I have been processing the stages of grief and I have been consciously aware that my emotions could have gotten the best of me if I let them control my writing. Each week at church I have been contemplating what I would write, but I could not focus on writing a new topic because my thoughts were preoccupied. Until the past few weeks anyway.

Right now has been a several week series titled Home Run Life, where baseball has been a metaphor for scoring in life. Start at home plate, win with God; run to first, win within; run to second, win with others; run to third, success; and score at home, again win with God. We have only gotten to 2nd base as of now reflecting on how we must first win with God and win within ourselves before we can win with others and have success. As I have been reflecting I can say that I have been seeing this play out. This has not been a short journey for me.

I recently received a compliment that I have seemed happy lately. That I am for sure of, it is true; but I of course still contemplated and wondered…what am I putting out there that is different, what are other people seeing that is different from a year, two, three years ago.  I wondered, could it be that I have been focused on my health and exercise; which had really raised my self-esteem? Then I heard the first sermon on Home Run Life, and I went, uh duh, light bulb moment…. I have been back at church for the past year. While God was never absent from my life, this past year I have been “winning with God” and truly focused on myself so that I can have the capacity to love others. To really be the way I want to be with my husband, kids, friends, family. And I can say it has been a progressively great year and it is getting better. Full of promises and the potential to be living the life we really want to have, more simple, secure, family oriented and fun filled. I will admit this reference to a home run life is just one example where I have seen or am seeing this play out, and it is a slightly more materialistic of an example as it does revolve around career success and a little more financial stability. I can truly say though I am at a point in my life that it will not be squandered, underappreciated or taken for granted. I want what to me, seems like basic things to come from financial stability, to not stress over monthly bills, get my kids a college education and give them experiences in different cultures. I want a smaller house not a bigger house, I want less expenses and more of a God filled life, filled with family and friends. To me that is SUCCESS!!

Do you sink in your failures?

Two weeks I ago I sat down at church and during the first prayer I was flooded with blessed emotions. The prayer was reflecting “living like Jesus.”My flood of positive emotions was contentment, joy, humbleness, that I feel I am living like Jesus. Of course not perfectly, but my goal this year has to been to radiate. I can say I feel this working through me, I am happy on the path I am on and I continue to focus on radiating each day. 

The sermon focused on “it’s not fair.” Pastor R challenged us by asking “do you sink in your failures?” I am blanking thinking on this, I do not know what I would even consider failures. To me I don’t feel that I set myself up for failure, I don’t put myself in situations for failure. So maybe that means I don’t take enough risks, maybe it means I play to safe, or maybe it’s that I look at all situations on a constant changing path, with twists and turns, learning moments, but no failures, maybe I have faith that God will lead me where I need to go and without a few falls my path wouldn’t change. I’m thinking it’s most likely the later; actually I know it is.  Even in my past I don’t look at things with regret, I embrace things and how they have made me who I am. They are a part of my journey, my journey of following Jesus. Which means I may be tried, challenged, let down, I may make mistakes, struggle with moving forward at times, but all of those moments are experiences I have had, they affect how I percieve the world, they create empathy for others, they allow me to cherish what I have. So I am confident I can answer no, I don’t think that I sink in my failures, at least not for the significant life events I can think of. But, who knows what the future may hold; hopefully if I find myself sinking, this sermon will flood my memory and lift me up. 

A big part of avoiding the “it’s not fair”trap is accepting our situation, accepting what we can and cannot control and keep our eyes focused on our greater purpose. Pastor R said “what does what somebody else have, have to do with us, we follow Jesus.” Exactly!!! I know that this mentality, belief, perspective, that it may not be easy. It may be easier said than done; in order to live this we may need to reflect on who we are, why we feel and react to things the way we do, we may need some therapy to figure these things out, a friend to bounce ideas off of, a shoulder to cry on. But I cannot stress enough how important it is to get to the place in life that we just don’t care about what others have. I have learned to embrace what I have, cherish it, and to be present in each moment, with my kids, husband, family, friends.