Monday, April 19, 2010

A Vicious Cycle

When it comes to having kids, the thing I've thought about for a long time is how they will absorb many things from us, regardless of good or bad.  The bad plagues me especially and I soberly face the fact that if I don't want my innocent, fresh from God child to display something, then it should be my #1 priority to rid myself of it.  Easier said than done of course, but true nonetheless.

Lately, the thing that has been on my mind is criticism and negativity as a default for casual conversation, especially with family or close friends.  Now, I'll admit this can be a very fine line.  It is healthy and right to evaluate things that happen or ideas we are taught for their truth, value and what-not.  But I know in my life I often do not stop there and instead use it as an opportunity to evaluate the world according to my standards.  The really troubling part is that I've been more conscious of it lately and attempted to stop it - change directions with the conversation ya know? And more often than not, I come up with nothing to say.  And no that doesn't suggest that there is nothing good in the world to talk about anymore! :) What that means, I think, is that I've been in the habit of critically evaluating the world for so long that I'm not sure how to do much else.  Not a good sign.

The other side of this equation for me is that because I might see and talk about someone else's failings, I expect that others are doing the same about me. That fearful expectation breeds insecurity and an overcompensating drive towards perfectionism.  None of which is healthy, productive and, most of all, anywhere near how our families (physical and spiritual) are to behave and interact with each other.  So, what on earth is the point of it all? I guess if there were to be one it all centers around self-preservation.  Our modern society, religious and non-religious folk alike, has taught us to compare with everyone around us, idolize people, status and manufactured ideas, and ultimately, as the capitalistic icing on the cake, use our purchase power to validate our souls.  Negatively analyzing and criticizing those around us, no matter who they are, is just a regular diet of pick me ups reminding  us that we're not so bad b/c everyone around us are so much worse.

I'm good at analysis.  Cause and effect, troubleshooting, and looking for the why this happened in the first place are things my brain ADORES doing.  They are next to breathing sometimes. But, #1 I can use that as a tool for satan just as easily anything good and #2 those are not the skills I want my children to be known for, certainly not in their destructive form.  Negativity in any form just eats away at life.  We all know that deep down don't we? It's just so easy because the world around us is negative.  This week I'm challenging myself to eliminate negative talk that is unproductive and analysis of others that is not solicited or is only to pass time and make me feel better.  Any pointers on practicing positivity and productive conversation?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Whoa, What Was That?

Here in Oklahoma we have a cute but cheesy saying about the weather.  "If you don't like the weather, just wait a while cuz it'll change!" Obviously poking fun at our rapidly changing weather that seems to come out of nowhere sometimes. But it is very true - from one day to the next you can have snow covering the ground and then high in the 70's. What sense does that make, right? Well, I think our lives are more like Oklahoma weather than we give it credit for.  How many times a week have you ever thought about a circumstance, someone else's attitude or attribute, or anything at all and bemoaned and belabored, perhaps just to yourself, how unbearable it was.  "I just can't live like this" or "I can't take it anymore" or any variation on the theme?  I can think of a couple right of the top of my head that I've experienced in the past few weeks.  Certain difficulties Randy has had adapting to cooking dinner for me instead of the other way around, certain 'handicaps' that have come with pregnancy and even my own attitudes.  After a while, it's easy to get to a point where your entire being wants to protest, throw a tantrum, beg for mercy, anything to make it stop.

Forgive my slowness (this baby seems to be sucking up all my mental capacities lately), but it finally crossed my mind that perhaps I was, yet again, just not being patient enough.   From last week to this week, a lot has changed and most of it for the better.  Doesn't life seem unbearable sometimes at night but in the morning suddenly it's not so bad?  Life can change in an instant so why do I assume mine can't or won't if I'll just wait a while?  Logic tells us that learning takes repeated efforts. Repeated efforts takes time. So, it would stand to reason that we can all learn to improve things if we give ourselves some time in which to do it.  It's a simple concept that I've been missing lately.  The Lord says to wait upon him, but sometimes we need to wait on each other just as much.

Completely unrelated - I love the zoo.  I love to go with Randy and wander around just because, taking pictures, having adventures and just being together. I also love to go with kids.  Everything is (usually) a newer or less familiar experience and there is SOO much to learn about animals, nature, geography, you name it! If I could make a living taking kids to the zoo, I would do it in a heartbeat! I'm sure a small part of it is my nostalgic feelings of a paper sack lunch with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, cheetos and a canned drink inside packed for the field trip when I was a kid.  But mostly, I just love animals and going to the zoo feels like I've stepped out of the city and can relax in nature, where I belong. Randy's been after me for a couple of years to just buy a zoo friends pass so I can go whenever I want and this year (since he has a job) I gave in.  So, if anyone wants to go to the zoo sometime, give me a call - I can get one guest in free! :)

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

How Much is Your Time Worth?

Clearly, I've not been as dedicated to posting as when I began this year, but for good reason, I guess.  I'm very blessed to be able to work part-time from home, especially when kids come, but it seems I'm making up for it by being haunted by most-of-the-day sickness.  Anyway, all the things I need to be doing (writing, reading, praying, working out, etc.) and would benefit from, seem to be the last things my self thinks of or is willing to do. Why is that?

Pregnant or not, we're like this all the time, aren't we? Isn't that part of what Paul says - 'I do the things I hate...' Right now I feel sick most of the time and mental energy is fleeting so that explains a lot.  But as a kid, I wanted to play the piano very well. I really did. But I did NOT want to practice.  I didn't want to put in the time or effort.  Maybe that's one of the side effects of our time. Technology has launched us into 'time-saving mania' and suddenly we don't want to spend any time at all on anything!  Don't have time to cook, don't have time to read, don't have time to exercise, etc. We'd all probably do it if we could just push a button.  And then for me, it spills over into relational things.  Forgiveness, unconditional love, service - all things we would like to say are part of our character, but how much do we actually spend time cultivating and doing? Forgiveness, at least for me, isn't something I can push a button and just do, especially when I've been really hurt by someone.  Any aspect of the fruit of the Spirit, at least for me, is something I have to work on over time. And that's the part I hate about it. Why can't I just go to the store and get some forgiveness and be done with it? It would be a lot easier! :)

It really is a fine line we walk though.  Whether you approve of it or not, living life in 2010 is busy and complicated.  We live, work, visit, etc. all over different towns usually so half our time is spent driving. And we go and do more than ever with hobbies and sports and whatever else. So, prioritizing time is mandatory, but you can't push the important, WORTHWHILE things out of your schedule b/c you don't have time either. We live in a quandary, I suppose.

On a nostalgic, happy note, we've been sleeping with the windows open at night and last night needed to pull out the box fan.  For me, the sound of a box fan, especially on the low setting, sounds much like an air conditioner window unit - exactly like the one my grandparents had at their house in Healdton, OK.  Etched in my memory is a hot, summer day as a kid spent at their house, coming inside and sticking my face in the middle of it.  The sound combined with the cool air and the freedom of life is a memory that has yet to leave me. So, last night sleeping with a box fan momentarily convinced my mind that it was summer, no responsibilities and certainly no worries - a thought everyone should begin their day with. :)

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Work is Never Done

Since I've been less than industrious lately, what with the mush for brains and slow motion accomplishment that has overtaken me, I think I'm going to wrap up this extended book review with 3 reasons his joy and passion can die or, as I like to call it, 3 big mistakes I have made regularly! :)

-Leaving His Sidelines: Our we still his biggest fan and supporter? Do we add to our spouses stress by us being at war with his work?  Do we respect him for all of the pressures he handles at work, etc. or do we just berate him for being late or being in meetings all day, unavailable by phone?  Or does he have a hobby or interest that we belittle all the time? Or resent his enjoyment of it and complain until full attention is on us? When Randy and I first got married I hated him leaving every morning. I would whine and do my best to tempt him to stay him, call in sick, be late, whatever. It took me a while (maybe a couple of years?) to understand how that did nothing for our relationship and just added stress to his plate.  I think the moral of this section is that when we understand our mates, we will know that them doing a good job, excelling at a hobby,  feeling good about their work and having a support to do that good work from home accomplishes and fills everyone's needs.

-Comparing Apples to Oranges: This is a two-way street highlighting the danger of comparing your mate with any other man, whether previous boyfriend or friend, and comparing yourself to every other woman in the world.  Neither accomplishes anything good, but breaking down the value of each other and, in a way, sabotaging the growth and improvement that could be.  A common female complaint, myself included, is I feel fat or I hate the way this looks, etc., and when we tell our mate, sure we'd love it if they would come back and say, "You look beautiful! What are you talking about?" with a big goofy grin. But the truth is, the more we talk negatively about ourselves and especially truly dislike ourselves, for some men this can be a nagging thought that, maybe she is too this or yeah I don't like that either about her.  And what good does that do either of you? The way I've learned to look at marriage (maybe you can tell me if this is misguided) is like you're in this ivory castle of sorts, where there is no one else, no comparisons, no better or worse, just the two of you.  It seems like when you can stay focused like that, you begin to find value in so much more than when you throw yourself in the midst of everyone around you.  Granted, its severely difficult to maintain that concept but it helps to return their as often as you can.

-Married to Mrs. (Always) Right: Now, if I were to rank all of the 'mistakes' or 'what not to do items', this one would be my number 1. Number 1 for what i do the most that does the most damage and the first thing I would recommend to implement in your marriage above everything else.  But that's just me. Anyway, if you can't already tell, this concept highlights the mother/teacher syndrome of always having the answer, having the best way, always having to approve of someone else's idea, just a general knowing better than everyone.  If I were to have a tick, I think this would be it. I get caught up in verbally approving or disapproving, agreeing or disagreeing with everything anyone says, like my opinion is king.  Perhaps I'm rambling even now, but the harsh reality is that no matter who you are, your opinion is NOT, I repeat NOT the only and best, above all others, least of all your husbands.  Constantly correcting, especially in public, is belittling, disrespectful and not, AT ALL, filled with the fruits of the Spirit.  I probably sound like I'm preaching now, but it is to myself. I do this without thinking - it is second nature to me - so I need a heavy reminder to do something about it!

As someone shared with me recently, it seems that no matter how old you are, how long you've been married, it is continually a growth process, a journey and a whole lot of work.  I hope that we are always willing to grow, continue to move forward and learn to love this work of being a woman and wife.