"I should not talk so much about myself if there were any body else whom I knew as well."
-Henry David Thoreau

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Just Kidding

I posted no more than an hour ago.  I thought I was done, but I’m not.  It would seem that the thought of so many acts of kindness has me pumped up.  Just thinking about it has given me some energy.  I’ve played my guitar until my fingers hurt and my voice started making funny noises (it’s been a while since I’ve played much).  I’m switched the laundry and contemplated taking out the trash.  Yes, I only contemplated that.  Trash doesn’t run until tomorrow morning, but if I wait to take it out then there’s a good chance that I will forget again. 

I hounded Christin about not posting on her blog for a few weeks.  She pretty well told me to read a book instead! 

I’m always reading something, whether it’s a book (or two or three), or a magazine or an article on line.  In fact, I read an article this morning about Mommy Guilt.  You moms know what I’m talking about.  You feel guilty for working too much or losing your temper with the kids.  There’s an entire list of things that could make you feel guilty.  I’ve been there.  Sometimes I’m still there.  Mostly I feel guilt for feeling bored, like I should be more grateful for the privilege of staying home with my child.  This article had multiple suggestions, but I think it left out the most important advice.  Here’s my advice: Forgiveness.  This goes several ways. 

1.  Forgive yourself.  You aren’t perfect.  Cut yourself some slack. 

2.  Ask your children for forgiveness.  I’ve done this more times than I can count and I feel that it is invaluable.  You lose your temper and throw a tantrum that could rival any 3 year old?  Apologize.  We expect our children to learn to say, “I’m sorry”, so why would we expect anything different of ourselves?  They are often difficult words to say, but I deeply believe that there is no better way to teach your children than by example.  Why on Earth would we feel shame in apologizing to our children?  It’s simple, really.  “I’m sorry that I lost my temper and yelled.  I was feeling frustrated and I didn’t deal with it very well.  Please forgive me.”  Really people, how many times would you have appreciated your parent, spouse or anyone to say these words to you?  They mean a lot and when a child sees that Mommy (or Daddy) can do it then they just might be more inclined to adopt such actions. 

P.S. This is important.  Forgiving yourself or asking another person to forgive you requires that you actually try to do better next time.  Feeling frustrated?  Annoyed?  Overwhelmed?  Exhausted?  Give yourself a time out.  I firmly believe that time outs should not be punishment, but instead should be a form of self control.  I didn’t put my kids in time out to punish them, I gave them time out so that they could collect themselves and start fresh.  Sometimes we need that, too.  Take a break.  Walk outside, go sit on your bed, retreat to another room.  Just a few minutes.  Long enough to some deep breaths, collect yourself and start fresh.  I do this often.  I started this with Alex when she was a toddler and prone to meltdowns.  I would say, “It’s okay to be upset, but it’s not okay to be ugly.  If you need to be ugly then go to your room and come back out when you can be nice.”  When she was little she would even ask to go to her room.  I remember multiple times when we were out and about and she would get upset over something.  She amazed me when, though tears of frustration or overload, she would say, “I need to go to my room.”  She knew she needed a break.  Take a lesson from Alex and give yourself a moment to calm down.  If you don’t do this (or if you do and get overwhelmed anyway) then forgive yourself and apologize to another if necessary.  Then… try again next time.  Forgiveness isn’t a one time event.  It is a ongoing process of letting go of the bad and focusing on the good.  It means putting down the ugly, judgmental, guilty feelings and making room for positive things in your life.  Do it.  Do it for you.  Do it because God does it for you every day.  Do it because your children deserve to have this example.  Just do it. 

How’s that for advice?  I should seriously have my own column.  Ha ha. 

Now, let me divulge that this is something I have to work on every day.  My current need for forgiveness is for myself.  It’s not really mommy guilt, it’s just Mandy guilt.  You already know how much I’ve been struggling with my body image.  I’ve come to the conclusion that expectation and comparison are the two evils that stand in my way. 

Expectation can be evil in many ways.  Giving, for example, can be ruined if you attach expectation.  We should not give with expectation, but with love and selflessness.  Giving a gift is not about you, it is about the person you are giving to.  The same could be said of body image.  Why, oh why, do I give myself the gift of exercise and healthy food with the expectation of a certain result?  What I’m trying to do right now is be thankful for the changes I am seeing/feeling and not be upset over the things that are falling short of my expectations.  I think the frustration over unfulfilled expectations is holding me back from greater things. 

Comparison.  Evil, evil, evil.  Yes, three evils.  I’ve had this conversation with myself for a long time, but I’m having it again.  I need constant reminder.  I am me.  I am not anyone else.  Comparing my body (or life or anything else) to someone else’s is wasted energy.  Dear Mandy, be the best Mandy and that is all! 

Sometimes expectation and comparison team up on me.  I used to be thin.  As a teenager I was thin.  Even when I put on some weight in college, I was thin.  In my mind I am still thin, so when I look in the mirror or see a photo of myself, I am always surprised at what I.  I am comparing my 32 year old body with my 20 year old body and expecting them to be the same.  That’s just ridiculous.  I know it is, but the knowledge doesn’t always translate to reality.  Do you do this?  Do you expect something out of yourself because of comparison to an earlier version of you or any version of someone else?  How do we overcome this mental road block?  I think that the answer must be something like the serenity prayer:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.  Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time, accepting hardship as a pathway to peace.  Taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is and not as I would have it.  Knowing that you will make all things right if I surrender to your will, so that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with your forever in the next.  Amen. 

I typed that from memory, so forgive me if there are any discrepancies from the original version.  Still, the sentiment and hope is the same.  I pray this prayer often at times and fully believe in the power of honest prayer.  I find that this prayer speaks differently depending on the trials I am experiencing or the things that are weighing on my heart.  Today I am praying it in relation to acceptance of myself.  The words, “Taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is and not as I would have it…” mean something different to me than they have before.  “This sinful world” could very well mean the images that media and culture tell us are beautiful.  My goodness, it makes so much sense sometimes.  I am guilty of accepting those images as beauty instead of accepting Christ’s image as beauty.  It is all coming together… God does that for me often… allows me the ability to connect the dots and find new understanding.  Just an hour or two ago I posted about random acts of kindness, then about extending forgiveness to ourselves & others, then about how to let go of expectation and comparison.  People, those things ARE the beauty of Christ. Good golly, sometimes God teaches me lessons in such beautiful ways.  Today, realizing those lessons happened through, what I though, was random writing for my blog. 

Soak it in people, God is moving, waiting, forgiving, loving and teaching.  He doesn’t compare you to ANYONE else.  He doesn’t expect you to be anyone but you.  He forgive you when you screw up.  He loves you no matter what.  That is beauty.  That is the sort of beautiful that I want to be. 

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