Sunday, November 23, 2008

Food for Thought

Any time you spend away from your family MUST be spent in the company of those who will encourage you as a mother and wife. You will never gain anything but resentment from the council of those who encourage you to seek self. Learn to enjoy being home with your family. Learn to live sacrificially. Learn contentment in serving others. Learn to be happy being you--right where God placed you.
--Raising Arrows blog
Read more here.

Further comments from the author:
I am also not saying I don't think a mother should go somewhere by herself. What I am saying is that this alone time should not be a frantic NEED. We should not spend our days trying to get away from the children. We should find ways to make our time w/ our children and husband satisfying, so that when opportunities arise to go for coffee w/ a friend or to a baby shower or some such thing, we don't see it as something we HAVE to have in order to continue to function. We all know the disappointment of thinking we HAVE to do something and then not being able to. Wouldn't it be nice to see those "outside" things as something extra and not something we DESERVE?

I think sort of the same as the above, with a smidge more fleshing out: If parents don't already have an identity and an established ability to find ways to "get needs met" concurrently with being mom/dad, wife/husband, daughter/son, friend, doesn't this say something about our own maturity? Having SO been there, done that (with toddlers), I can say that for me it absolutely did. If I'm acting out or cranky because I'm not getting what I want or need, how can I hold myself up as an example of anything to my kids? If I can't effect it myself -- and as an adult that is my responsibility -- how dare I take energy away from my family by focusing on stuff that has no relevance to our daily lives? Life can be full of frustrations, yes, but handling disappointment well, even with humor and graciousness, provides our children a viaduct which allows them to circumvent most of the tantrums and longing we've experienced throughout our lives when we've bought into the "grass is greener" myth. I'd contend that such perpetual disappointment is absolutely a lack of maturity. Or at least, that's exactly how I experienced it. I may well not be done with it, but these days I spend zero time thinking I deserve something "better" or "different." Well. I long for that intact nuclear family thing, but that's a whole other topic.

So here's my bottom line on the topic: Dive in where you are. Apply the best of what you've got to those closest to you. Be the sweetest, kindest, funniest, lustiest, organiziest human you can be right now.

Having been in Family Court recently I can tell you this: If every single one of those families I watched interrupt their days of work, school, family endeavors, to come argue the (perceived) deficits of their (ex)spouse and legitimize their own efforts above all else, if those people were putting that same amount of actual effort, measured in Joules or calories expended, you pick, into lifting up the other parent, into acknowledging and honoring the good stuff and deserving the respect they're demanding instead of being afraid all. the. time. that something is about to be snatched from them? Family Court would be needed only for extreme cases and Guardianships or Special Needs Trusts. Which would be fine with me. With most of us, really. The planet at large would certainly experience an immediate shift.

That persistent fear thing rules us more frequently than we admit. It ought not. I believe that if you focus on fear you will get more of it. Eventually, it will be all you're able to see or experience. If you're waiting for someone to cut you off in traffic or otherwise offend you, you won't need to wait long -- as nature abhors a vacuum, you'll see that space filled with whatever it is you require to confirm your worldview that people are crumbs, that they're all out to get you, that you're not loved or cherished as you should be even if there is overwhelming objective evidence to the contrary. Adopting an "attitude of gratitude" seems to be the inverse of the above.

Unless your relationship meets certain criteria (violence, etc.) the first place you must look when hashing out difficulties is to yourself. Have you forgiven seventy times seven? Times seven? Have you done literally every single thing you could? No? (Shocking, what with you being human and all.) Then do it. You are a great big person with resources and a magnificent brain. Drop the hubris like it's on fire and get counseling, read, find meds, a mentor, or go for a good, head-clearing hike.

But do not blow the people who love you to heck, through heck, and back again by being a jerk. On any level. It doesn't have to be infidelity to wreak havoc -- though that certainly produces an unequaled mushroom cloud. Persistent pettiness, jealousy, or complaining will do just as well to undermine your beloveds. Choose to be present, to be honest and earnest and if you can't, GET HELP.

Or you might instead just spend a day in the halls of divorce court, a place which could just as easily be called The House of Dread. The people who show up there are scared, worried, sick, often lying (even "getting their stories straight" at a shocking decibel level right outside the doors of the courtroom), and rarely capable of rising above much of anything at that moment. If they were, they wouldn't be there. Harsh? Yes. Accurate? Afraid so. Putting the people who love you first means that you don't allow addiction or impulse to drive you. (And if you're struggling, I'll say it again until I'm blue, you must get help.) Instead you make your choices based on the long-term, what will best benefit the sweet little souls who depend upon you. And you make sure that you've created a balance in all this, so that they know you respect and value yourself enough to persist in the challenges of life and get what you want and need, while you're loving them with everything you are. Herein lie many of the quietest, bravest acts ever undertaken.

When your day is done, think about whether or not your family deserves every drop of effort you've got. I can assure you that they do. As Ghandi said: Be the change you wish to see in the world.

You have no time to waste.

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