Monday, April 25, 2016

You can make your own (bad) decision

An open letter to my precious child:

I love you, and I want to keep you safe.  I know, though, that I can't protect you from every bad thing in the world for your entire life.  Some day you're going to fall down and get bruised.  You're going to have your heart broken, if only a little bit.  You're going to fail, get hurt, and struggle.  Everyone does.

Even if I could protect you from every hurt and pain right at this moment, I don't think it would be a loving thing to do.   There are lot of lessons in life you just have to learn the hard way.  You can't learn resilience without failure.  You can't learn to apologize without being wrong.  You can't learn to keep on keeping on to do hard things if you've always had every obstacle removed from your path.  You'll need those skills for the road ahead.

Because of this, my little one, I've decided that you can make your own bad decisions.

I try to be wise as I let you choose.  While I know getting hurt is inevitable, I don't want your body or your spirit to be damaged beyond reasonable repair.  I will ask myself if you will need first aid or the emergency room, and if it's the former, I'll let you decide.

I will use my extensive life experience to help guide you and to inform you of likely consequences.  I will say things like, "If you play there, you might get hit by the swing."  And, "If you buy that, you won't have money for the other thing you want."  And, "She's not nice to you in person, I'm worried what she'll say behind your back if you hang out with her."  Then I will let you go ahead and stand there, buy that, and hang out with her.  Later when you are crying, I will hold you and help you recover.

I will not say, "I told you so."  I will, however, hope you've learned something, and the next time a similar situation arises, you can look back on your own bad decision and make a better one.


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Story I Tell Myself About Myself

We found out there was a problem with the outside wall of our downstairs bathroom in October when we had our windows replaced.  We hired Husband's cousin to come and fix the problem.  The day he came to "open up the wall and see how bad it is," he completely removed the wall, including the studs and the base plate, and took the other three walls, the floor, and the ceiling down to studs.

We started shopping for tile after he finished removing the bathroom from our house.

If you've never shopped for tile before, here's what you need to know: any given tile store has hundreds of options, and tile is expensive.  Husband and I were overwhelmed with choices, and felt immense pressure to make the "right" decision because of the money we'd be sinking into the tile job.  Every evening that husband didn't have a meeting we spent tile shopping, and two weeks in we were both feeling pretty stressed by the whole situation.

I started to tell myself this story: "This remodeling project has me feeling more stressed.  The level of stress I'm experiencing is more than what I should feel.  Clearly I'm not coping."

Sunday morning I was walking to church praying about how overwhelmed I was feeling when I had the sudden realization that the story I was telling myself wasn't helpful, and it wasn't the only story I could tell about the situation.  In psychology, they call changing your internal story cognitive reframing.  Given that reframing fixed our bathroom wall's problem, it seems only fitting that reframing my thinking would fix mine.

Here's the new story: "I feel stressed by this project, but I'm still accomplishing the things I need to accomplish.  Meals are getting cooked, laundry is getting cleaned, and children are being cared for well, despite my feelings of stress.  Clearly I am coping."

I can't tell you the number of times I've counseled someone else on ways to reframe their situation.  Somehow it's more difficult to see the stories you're telling about yourself than to recognize the stories others are telling about themselves.  Recognizing the story, though, is the first step to changing it.  Especially when you can't actually change the situation, changing your perspective can be a huge help.