Some days, waking up on the wrong side of the bed would seem like a good start. On the worst of the worst, I’m waking up on the other side of the planet, nay, the cosmos is more apt.
I’m tired. I mean, really tired. My body is aching and I’m not sure why because I spent most of my evening lying next to my two-year-old and nodding off because she took so friggin’ long to go to sleep.
As I prise my eyes open at 6:30am, I realise several truths:
- It’s morning. Crap.
- The really stressful dream I woke up from, which involved us being sued for 12K by family members because we didn’t help them paint a room and we lost their child briefly, was really, definitely, not true.
- I have to get up and walk the dog.
- Five years ago, we decided to have a child.
- Three years ago we decided to have another one.
- I’m solely responsible for them for most of the day.
- Preschool has some silly policy about having obligatory summer holidays.
- I didn’t make any plans today because I was too busy snoring next to my toddler last evening.
Cue a mammoth groan that leaves the neighbours wondering if someone is giving birth in our home. I get up and get dressed, berating myself for not going to bed at 6:30pm the night before, for getting a dog, and for generally poor life choices. The resounding thought in my head is:
TODAY WILL NOT BE GOOD.
I post a lot of photos from my morning dog walks on Instagram. This is because it’s such a crucial element of my morning routine. Before I head out for what I have now labelled my Pray and Pep Talk, I remind myself of this important opportunity – I have some time to myself to get out of ungrateful-troll-mode – and I need this most days if I’ve any hope of treating my kids with the patience and respect they deserve.
I’ve come to realise that the pep talk is just as important as the pray. I have found that begging for help is not entirely productive on its own, I also need to speak truth to myself. This is a biblical concept, not just a self-help, mindfulness-type technique.
Here’s how it goes…
I tell myself all the things I am grateful for… then I start to feel grateful.
I tell myself all the things that are lovely about the world around me… then I start to feel the joy of it all.
The best thing I tell myself is what I am (a good and capable mother, a loved wife/daughter/friend, someone who can be happy and positive, and make the choice to enjoy life, and most importantly, someone who can trust in and look to a divine being who is completely other to me, who does not tire or get grumpy, and who likes to help me simply because He loves me).
Finally, I argue with myself that, in fact…
TODAY WILL BE GOOD!
The day is still crap because that’s life sometimes. I’m still tired and it’s progressed into a headache. The kids are still nut-cases for a large portion of the day and the dog just destroyed a sticker chart that was stuck to the fridge. I can’t control how they all impact me, for better or for worse.
So, then I tell myself, so what? It’s just one day. Overall, it may have been tough but some bits have been good:
- Hearing my son tell his sister that he loved her, while they were fiercely wrestling on the trampoline. He followed it up by sitting on her.
- Hearing my daughter announce “Dusty Crapper” (instead of Crophopper).
- My brother Facetiming us.
- My son and the dog cuddling. He followed it up by pinching the dog’s private parts (sigh).
I can rejoice that I got through it, rather than live with the unhealthy and unrealistic expectation that every day COULD be amazing if I made it so (with positive-thinking, handling everything perfectly, enough prayer etc). That’s just not how it works.
I’ve come to realise that my problem is I don’t always see the benefit of difficulties. We all think we want an easy life, but do we really?
Having kids is one big difficulty. The reason it’s so fulfilling is mainly because of that difficulty. The good little moments when they are sweet and nice to you don’t just ‘make up’ for the rubbish bits. It’s all part and parcel of a beautiful, messy package that does you good.
In one of her blog posts, Sarah Wilson (founder of I Quit Sugar) discusses the place of difficulty in a fulfilling life and the thoughts of the philosopher Martha Nussbaum:
I found this thought worth pondering: [Nussbaum] believes the point of life – a good life – is to not just accept difficulty (and grow/learn etc from it), but to actively seek it out. Indeed, she writes that if she notices herself feeling too satisfied, she begins to feel discontent.
“To be a good human being,” she says, “is to have a kind of openness to the world, the ability to trust uncertain things beyond your own control that can lead you to be shattered.”
The dog has been going through his “terrible two’s” phase recently. We have been taking him to training but because he’s seemingly “naughtier” than ever it’s frustrating because we’re thinking the training is having zero impact. I decided to take a different approach in terms of how I viewed it. My mantra has not been: “this too shall pass”. Though it will and that’s not exactly a bad thing.
Instead, my mantra has been: “difficulty is good for me.”
This has made it all much easier and despite the destruction of many things, I have felt more able to enjoy the damn dog. Do you know why? Thinking that way makes me live in the present, no matter what is happening. To just wait for the next phase, and the next phase, and the next phase, can result in perpetual disappointment at life as it just throws a new challenge your way. Perhaps a challenge completely unexpected and unrelated to the thing you were hoping would get easier, like a bereavement or job loss.
I can’t wait for teething to be over… Oh, but now they’re having tantrums… I can’t wait for them to be able to talk so then they won’t just cry and squawk at me… Oh my, I wish they’d pipe down, they don’t stop asking me questions, why Mummy, why, why, why?… I can’t wait until they are playing together… Gosh, will they ever stop fighting?
Any of this sound familiar?
New stages, new challenges, new difficulties.
It’s life and it’s good for us.