Can’t Do That In Heels!

This morning I was all dressed and ready for work.  I had on what I call a “sophisticated businesswoman costume” complete with a cute pair of heels.  I was checking on the dog, helping my oldest with her vocabulary, and packing a lunch when I heard a ringing sound.  I looked up to find that my toddler had my phone in his hand and was making a call.  I took a step toward him so that I could grab the phone and avoid disturbing who knows who from my contact list, but as slippery toddlers tend to do, he ran.

Funny how little legs can move so quickly.  Not so funny how I couldn’t keep up with him. I tapped and clopped after him in my high heels, doing my best not to slip on the tile floor and end up in the emergency room.  Guess what?  High heel shoes aren’t made for chasing speedy little boys with impish grins and ringing cell phones in their hands.

Caleb giggled and I kept tapping and clopping, feeling larger and more clumsy with every step.  Around the dining table we went, through the kitchen and into the next room where big sister was working on vocabulary.  Mackenzie stuck out her hand and helped me catch Caleb and I snatched away the phone.  We discovered then with a sigh of relief that he was calling his big sister.  We disconnected the call and I proceeded to finish the morning craziness, inching ever closer to tears.  With a few minutes left before time to leave and a few things left to accomplish, I kicked off the heels so I could function as mom.  And function I did, as I started the dryer, put on some makeup, fixed breakfast, and then, in my last act of motherly bravado, changed the poopy diaper that appeared at the exact moment I should have been walking out the door.

I stepped back into the heels, grabbed all the necessary stuff, loaded the car and backed down the driveway with a sigh.  My heart is always heavy as I end my mommy time and start my professional businesswoman time.  Did I do what I should?  Was I too crabby?  Will they remember how much I love them?  Did I forget the cookie dough fundraiser?  When will I get around to hemming his pants?  Do I have enough diapers?

Tonight, after everyone was in bed, I realized as I squeezed out the last of my contact solution that I forgot, again, to pick up more today.  I also forgot to get the alka seltzer I like to keep on hand, and the orange soda Mackenzie needs for a science experiment.  There are some documents in my purse that need to be scanned and emailed.  They’ve been there 4 days now.  So I’m letting the tears flow at this point.  Sometimes I have to let the spinning plates drop and just cry over my inability to do it all.  Sometimes I have to nurse the blisters that pop up from trying to chase tiny boys while wearing high heel shoes.

Maybe I’ll invent a pair of perfect shoes.  Ones that look sophisticated and gorgeous, but have traction for running after two-year-olds, with comfort that makes standing in the grocery store line a pleasure, and of course they’ll match every outfit.

But there is no such perfect shoe, just like there’s no such perfect me. It’s impossible.  What I’ll do is keep living my life, keep loving my kids, keep working hard, keep learning and growing and chasing, and make the best of the times when I just plain have on the wrong shoes.

And I’ll keep smiling.  I CAN do that in high heels!

 

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Tin Man (Woman)

This little dietary exploration has been fun for me so far.  I’m feeling a little like the Tin Man who just needed some parts oiled and was able to move again.  By simply paying a little attention to what’s going on, I’ve been able to have some little successes.  Yesterday, for example, I noticed a slight hunger sensation and went ahead and had a small snack since I had an appointment that delayed my lunchtime.  That way I wasn’t ravenous at lunch so was able to have a reasonable portion and stop when full.  I’ve also noticed thirst playing a part in the way I feel.  I’m definitely not drinking enough water.

I downloaded a handy period tracker app for my phone (sorry fellas) and it has lots of cool features that help track cravings, moods, and other symptoms.  I played around with that a little and it’s been interesting to note my cravings and moods and their relation to my cycle and stress level.  It’s helpful to notice that how I’m feeling physically and emotionally has a profound effect on my appetite.  A little preparation can go a long way I would imagine, especially when I know a vulnerable time is coming. 

Another drip from the oil can fell on the part of me that knows food isn’t an adequate comfort mechanism.  I suppose it isn’t enough to be aware that I use food for comfort, but I must be further aware that food ISN’T DOING A GOOD JOB.  There is a much more perfect Source of comfort and He (God) is always available in plentiful supply.  That knowledge has made me want to turn to food a little less…  I know God and the glimpses I’ve had of His majesty make food seem like a pretty dumb substitute when I could have Him.

I’m feeling more able to “move” and function in a healthy way, especially since I’ve focused less on the food and more on my rationale.  Another drop from the oil can fell on my brain, I guess.  So I’ve noticed it makes a difference when I’m thinking about what I’m doing rather than making mindless decisions.

I had a stressful phone conversation at work and was startled to notice that my first thought upon hanging up the phone was “I need chocolate.”  Hmmm….  I didn’t refuse myself the chocolate, but I got up and walked around the building outside to breathe some fresh air and clear my head, telling myself I’d get something if I still wanted it after I walked.  The few moments diversion worked and I was onto another task that presented itself when a resident stopped me for conversation.  I forgot about the chocolate, but learned a little lesson from that.

Hmmm…   I’m still not going on a diet.  Still not even setting a weight loss goal.  But I feel like progress is being made.

 

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Never Just One

What’s the snack with the slogan “No one can eat just one.”? I can’t remember at this moment, some kind of potato chip, I think, maybe Pringles. Anyway, that’s issue #2 that I can identify when it comes to my eating habits. I can’t just have one.

Seriously. It’s hard for me to imagine sitting down and having, say, just TWO doublestuf oreos. Nope, I want a minimum of ten. At least til the milk runs out, right? Yesterday my husband took me to lunch and I really slowed down after the first half of my cheeseburger but I felt compelled for some reason to continue eating until it was gone. I knew I should stop, but it BOTHERED me to leave it there.

When I think about it, when I’m using something like an Oreo for comfort or stress release, it makes sense that I would need to eat until the bad feeling temporarily recedes. But there are times of happiness, and other times when I’m just eating a regular meal, that I have trouble stopping at one or two. When it tastes good and I’m having fun eating, I’ll tend to go overboard also. For the record, this also happens exclusively with things that taste good. As in, I’ve never gone crazy eating too many carrot sticks. It seems easier to stop when I’m eating cottage cheese, but not so easy when I’m eating cheesecake.

I’ve tried the “no junk in the house” method, and it works for a while. Then the total deprivation gets to me and a trip to Winn Dixie produces a package of Doublestuf or a bag of chips. Then, said bag of junk doesn’t just sit in the pantry and go stale. It disappears as quickly as possible and calls to me in the night if I take too long to finish it off.

It seems I have an imbalance here. I’m either eating none until I can’t stand it anymore, or I’m eating it ALL until it’s gone. Why don’t I just have a little at a time and stop there? Here are my ideas:

1) I have some unreasonable anxiety that when I return later and want just a little bit more, there won’t be any left. (This probably stems from growing up in a house full of kids that was usually grand central for our friends also. Treats never hung around long. If I didn’t get my share, there very likely would be none later.)

Solution: Remind myself that I’m an adult now. I’m not rich, but I have the ability to get myself another bag of Oreos anytime I want. God Bless America.

2) I often have to eat in a hurry. If I don’t finish right away, it’ll be cold later, or I may not get another chance to stop and take a break. I remember this starting right after I had my first baby and barely had a chance to shower regularly, much less eat a meal uninterrupted. I began noticing that even when I did get a chance to enjoy a leisurely meal, I made it disappear as fast as possible, in the habit of choking it down before the baby needed me again.

Solution: USE A MICROWAVE if it gets cold. Figure out some way to remind myself that I don’t HAVE to rush.

3) (This one might be reaching, but here it is anyway:) There is so little in my life that I can control. So few things that finish up nicely and wrap up neatly. Life is messy, often yucky, and seldom easily tied up with a bow. A bag of Oreos, however, CAN be finished. It can be put away. I have control over it, and I can watch it disappear. I don’t do many things right, but finishing off a bag of Milano cookies is an easy success for me.

Solution: Find something else I can accomplish quickly and easily to give myself a “success” without eating. I just got a used piano. Maybe I’ll try to conquer a new piece of music here and there.

4) I know I shouldn’t be eating the bag of Oreos, so I finish it in order to get rid of it. I then promise myself I won’t get any more, and I feel better because the “bad thing” isn’t in the pantry anymore. This all falls apart, of course, when the deprivation gets me mad enough to go get another bag. It’s like any other forbidden thing, it often is the object of obsession.

Solution: Take away the stigma. Again, I AM AN ADULT. I must stop shaming myself. There is nothing inherently shameful about Oreos. There is no such thing as a perfect diet, so since I can’t possible achieve dietary perfection (who even knows what that IS?) then there is no reason to outlaw something or obsess over it because I see it as a “mistake” food or a “bad grade” on my eating report card. No shame means no rush to get rid of the “forbidden” item. GOD STILL LOVES ME!!!

5) I sometimes eat angry. Overeating when angry is a way of punishing myself or another person.

Solution: Learn to express my anger in healthy ways. Get a punching bag.

Good thing I’m writing this down. I may be onto something here!!

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Bad Drug

I use food for comfort, stress relief, and even expressions of anger. In other words, much like a drug addict turns to drugs for all of the above, I turn to food.

Not just any food, mind you. It has to taste good. In other words, I don’t console or reward myself with plain tuna or unsalted popcorn. (Ewwww) Think chocolate truffles, macaroni and cheese, or Pepperidge Farm Milano cookies. Think Doublestuf Oreos, Ruffles chips and French onion dip, and loaded cheese fries. Think cheeseburgers, chocolate mousse cake, and cookie dough. But, I digress…

Why do I do this? FOOD for thought… (hahaha)

I was raised a VERY good Southern Baptist. We don’t smoke, drink, or chew, or go with boys who do…

But we EAT.

I can give you a very long list of the “don’ts” I was taught as a child, those sins to be avoided at all costs. Funny, but eating isn’t one of them. I’m sure somewhere along the way, some preacher preached against overeating, but it musn’t have been very memorable because I have zero recollection. I have to wonder if overeating had been as taboo as say, smoking weed or premarital sex, would things have been different? If bingeing on junk food were treated like a bad behavior like going to a bar, seeing rated R movies, or getting a tattoo, would I have developed this habit? Now some of the “bad behaviors” I just listed are things I’ve done, some aren’t, but NONE of them are habits of mine. Then again, there are others who experienced a very similar upbringing and they DO struggle with things like drugs, alcohol, gambling, or sex addiction. That would mean I can’t totally blame my upbringing for my dependence upon food. It still wouldn’t change the fact that I use food much in the same way anyone uses a vice for consolation.

There’s one problem with this method of comfort, of soothing my sadness:

It doesn’t work.

Sure it tastes good while it’s going down. But I eat too fast (read more about that later) and so even that part isn’t as enjoyable as it should be. Then afterward comes the guilt, the frustration, and the stomachache, not to mention the extra pounds and sluggishness. Food is no more effective than vodka when it comes to solving one’s problems, and it’s nearly as harmful in the longrun.

OK, so I’m turning to an inadequate outside source for comfort. What can I do about it?

Here are my ideas:

1) Realize that food isn’t doing the job I’ve assigned to it. It isn’t a good enough provider of comfort and solace. I’ve simply given food a task it can’t perform.

2) Find something else to which I turn for comfort. (Hear God going: “ME ME ME!!!”)

3) Figure out what’s bothering me so much and see if I can eliminate or solve any of those issues.

What do ya’ll think???

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What’s in YOUR purse?

Hurry!  What’s in your purse?

Alka Seltzer (the kind for colds AND the kind for stomachaches), an empty checkbook snugly tucked inside a checkbook holder.  Cool wallet my mom got me, 4 pay stubs, car insurance bill, cool bag that holds my makeup, napkins (of course), a nail file, a few cards I wrote to friends and never mailed, a grilled cheese sandwich (not kidding), a couple of pens, 2 business card holders, sunglasses, a cell phone, keys, gum, a mini bottle of tylenol, about 3 slips of scrap paper on which I’ve made various notes and lists, plenty of crumbs in the bottom, a happy meal toy, and an old flight itinerary.

I snickered the other night as I tossed my overly filled, albeit adorable, Vera Bradley onto the passenger seat and headed home.  Long famous for lugging around a purse that I could live out of for extended periods of time, I made a resolution when I purchased my new Vera.  I wanted to keep it nice.

Right.

So I tossed my adorable purse onto the seat and giggled at its ridiculous contents.  A grilled cheese?  I mean, seriously.  I spent a couple of minutes when I got home “resetting” my purse.  Grilled cheese, crumbs, and any used napkins were evicted.  Bills and cards went their appropriate directions, and my Levi was delighted with the happy meal toy.

Truly, I HAVE been pretty good about keeping my new Vera looking lovely.  The grilled cheese wasn’t even stale! My little clean-out got me thinking about how my life is often like my purse in its random clutter and overly full nature.  It only took a quick moment to re-set my purse and get it back in the right order.  I think you’ll agree, many of the items I have in there ARE handy and useful.  Just not when they can’t be found because they’re buried under unmailed cards, old pay stubs or grilled cheese sandwiches.  It only took a short time to clean out the useless items so that the useful ones could actually be used.

As I considered this, I noticed a couple of things:

1) Regular, small clean-outs keep the purse (and the life) clean and functional.  The trick is not to let it get so full that it becomes overwhelming.  I have three still-cluttered purses sitting on my closet floor as proof of the fact that once it reaches a certain point, I’m much less likely to actually clean anything out and I lose functionality.  Same goes for my schedule, my brain, and my to-do list.

2)  Some things aren’t worth keeping and carrying around.  Grilled cheese sandwiches, while they are delicious, do not belong in a purse on a long term basis.  They don’t keep forever, you know, and they tend to get in the way of finding that set of keys or cell phone.  Same goes for my life.  Some unnecessary worries, fears, or even “good” things can seriously get in the way of finding those most important things, like ready smiles for my husband, patient words for my children and clear thinking at work.

I want to be more purposeful about letting go of those nagging things that are of no real use or worth to me, but still get in the way of my life’s functionality.  Some time to pray, to breathe, and to weed out the things that don’t belong in my heart and mind is definitely on the daily must-do list.

If you’re a grilled cheese carrier too, may you find that same time to “re-set” your life today and every day.

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Reason #7 Why I Can’t Say NO

Reason #7 Why I Can’t Say No:  I’ve been so abundantly blessed.

Seriously.  I’m so blessed it’s embarrassing.  Sometimes I feel horrible saying “no” to a request, especially when it’s a “good cause,” because I know I’m so fortunate and I feel bad not pitching in for someone else.  So I say “yes,” feeling guilty for having been blessed beyond what I deserve.

Here’s the problem with that:  it’s based on guilt!  UGH!  Guilt, guilt, guilt!  Seems like so much of my reasoning is based on those horrible feelings of guilt.  Clearly not the way a God of such grace intended for me to live.

But then something happened.

Last weekend I said “yes” to something I didn’t really have time for on paper, but still felt I should do.  Origins is providing a night of care each week to a friend of ours who is an incomplete quadripilegic due to an accident.  We do this so his wife can get one full night’s sleep a week.  I signed up to take a turn and last weekend was mine.  Each time I discussed what I was doing with someone in the group, they raised a suspicious eyebrow and said something like “Are you sure?” or “How will you handle that and take care of the kids?”

I put my family to bed and then made the trip across Lake Ponchartrain to help some acquaintances who, that night, became my friends.  Dwayne had to work early the next day, so Mackenzie, my oldest, pitched in on babysitting duty for an hour or so until I returned home the next morning.  (So really our whole family pitched in to make this happen)  Losing sleep wasn’t a problem since my little one still doesn’t sleep all night and my body is well-acquainted with getting up every few hours during the night.  I dozed in between my every-other-hour cell phone alarms, when I would get up and turn my friend from side to side to avoid bedsores, help with changing bedding, bathroom needs, whatever issues came up.  As I dozed on the couch and my cell would vibrate telling me it’s time to wake up and turn my friend, my eyes would open and invariably fall on a beautiful bronze sculpture by the door.  It’s an artist’s rendering of Lazarus, standing triumphantly, arm overhead as he unravels his grave clothes.  (See John chapter 11 for the whole story)  I thought of Jesus and the many things He did on behalf of others when He walked the Earth.  Nothing like one of Jesus’ most famous miracles right in my face all night to get my mind thinking about the things He did and my reasons for doing the things I do.

I thought, as I completed the very personal, potentially embarrassing tasks for my friend, of Jesus’ words in John 13:

 12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

I had said “yes” to this act of servanthood, not out of guilt this time, but because it is clearly, truly, one of those things that I KNOW Jesus would do.  I love Him, and I want to be like Him, and performing an act of servanthood for another person that night, I knew I WAS being like Him.  THAT’s a whole lot better reason than just “I feel guilty having so much so I’ll agree to do something for someone else.”  Whadya know?  Maybe I got it right, for once?

I have to say, it feels great to have said “yes” to something for the RIGHT reason.  Why don’t I do that all the time?  Why even allow my feelings of guilt into the equation?  Why not simply ask God if this is what He would have me to do, and then proceed according to His instructions?  Doing something as an act of love for Christ and my fellow-man sure created a different feeling than doing something out of a bad feeling of guilt.

Lesson learned:  When I say “yes” for the right reason, it ADDS to my bond with Christ and my bond with those whom I serve.  When I say “yes” for the wrong reason, I notice that the activity normally yields little to no growth in my spiritual life or in my relationship with those receiving services from me.  This alone is reason enough to make SURE my yeses and no’s are based on healthy rationale.

Perhaps with this, Reason #7 Why I Can’t Say NO, and my last entry in the series, I’ve come across a formula or system for checking myself when I’m faced with an opportunity to say “yes” or “no” to a task, commitment, or request.  The activity should be something I can do out of love for God and others.  It should bring me closer to Him and to them.  This is a simple check but it applies in all situations, to all requests whether church, family, work, or socially related, and it rules out unhealthy reasonings such as guilt.  Interestingly, my answer about when to say no, came through a time I said “yes!”

Hope this series has helped someone out there.  It sure has made a difference for me.  So what next?

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Reason #3 Why I Can’t Say No

Reason #3 Why I Can’t Say No: I want people to like me.

I’m blushing just now after typing that.  It’s embarrassing to admit.  First of all, I have been abundantly blessed, as in ridiculously lavished, flooded, showered with friends.  My enemies are few.  Very few.  As in I can count them on one hand… and even some of those I still haven’t given completely over to enemy status.  It’s insane for someone with as many dear friends as I to worry or wonder about being liked.  If I never make another friend, I will most definitely, assuredly have been well-liked in my life already.  But still… it’s a “thing” with me.

I can’t really put my finger on why I feel this way, but I do.  I worry that if I tell someone “no” they won’t care for me anymore.  I worry that if I say “no” someone may not learn to like me in the first place. 

Seeing it typed out on the screen, put into words for the first time, I’m able to quickly identify one major problem with my logic:

If a person stops liking me because I didn’t or couldn’t DO something for them, then they never liked ME in the first place.  If a person decides my likeability based on my ability to accomplish something they want, then they have only judged my ability to perform a service, not me personally.  What they wouldn’t LIKE would be the fact that they didn’t get the service they wanted.

Let’s think about someone I KNOW likes me.  Let’s say my husband.  I haven’t always done what he wanted, yet he STILL likes ME.  (I know not all husbands are kind that way, but I’m blessed with one who is.)  I’m not afraid that he will stop liking me simply because I couldn’t run that extra errand or didn’t make it to that appointment.  What about… say, my sister.  Being close in age, as adults we’re close in heart too.  She likes me.  And hasn’t stopped liking me even though I did the unthinkable and moved 770 miles away from her.  My heart-friend Christy.  I’ve dropped the ball on her more than once.  Guess what?  STILL likes me.

So, what’s the deal?  Clearly I’ve nothing to fear as far as not being liked as a person if I need to say “no” to a request from someone.  What’s underneath the crazy idea that they won’t like me if I deny the request?  Is it something a little more like me not liking myself?  Is it something like me having an insatiable need for approval?  Yep.  I’m pretty sure that’s it.  Only there is a difference in being liked ,loved, and approved of for WHO I AM, and being liked, loved, and approved of for WHAT I DO.

Think about Mary Lou Retton, Olympic gold medal winning gymnast.  Nearly every American girl of my age can picture her face, see her with her hands in the air, back arched as she completes another perfect landing after doing something like a hundred flips in the air.  She looks triumphant, cute, likeable even.  However, I know nothing of MLR personally, only of her cute appearance and awesome accomplishments.  I know I like what she’s DONE, but I’ve never had the chance to find out if I’ll like HER, because I don’t know HER, only what she does. (Even though if I had to venture a guess I think I would like her.  She just seems like fun.)

This brings me to a final conclusion:  People have to know ME in order to know if they like  me or not.  What I do or don’t do for them is a separate issue.  Whether they understand that or not is completely outside of my control.  However, my running around trying to make other people like me because of what I do for them could be a potential cause of damage to my relationships with those who already DO like me for me, because my constant running and people pleasing leaves me little time to cultivate  those important, personal, like-me-for-the-real-me relationships.  And when it comes down to it, I want to be liked as a PERSON.  I want to be known for who I really am, and loved just the way I am.  And I AM liked and loved just the way I am.  By God, my mama, my daddy, my husband, my kids, my sister, my brother, and so many friends.  I already have what I deeply desire.  Even if it were Jesus only, I have that kind of love already.  SO WHAT AM I SO WORRIED ABOUT????

And yet another bogus reason is put out of its misery.  I’m starting to feel lighter.  How about you?

 

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Reason #2

Reason #2 Why I Can’t Say No:  I REALLLLLY want to spoil my kids.

It’s been a long day at work.  Up since 6am, when I hit the ground running, I turn my key in the door and enter the house.  Three of the most beautiful faces in the world come barrelling towards me screaming “MAMA!!”  I get tackled with a three-tiered hug, my thirteen-year-old around my neck, 8-year-old around my middle, and the 1-year old somewhere around my knees.  It’s my favorite moment of the day.  My kids are EXPERTS at the welcome home. 

They must know how absolutely adorable and wonderful they are, because soon after, as I fight the urge to collapse, they begin with the requests.  Can we go to the park?  How about the mall?  Can I get on Facebook?  Can we buy this new toy from the sale paper I got at school?  Can I go to the movies?  Bottle? Juice?  I need new shoes!  Can we ride our bikes?  Can I spend the night with Lauren?  Can we rent a movie?

My weary body and mind are screaming, “NOT TODAY!  NOT NOW!  Could everyone just freeze for a while and not need anything from me?”  But my heart.  My heart says “YES!  YES you adorable little miracles!  You can go to the park and jump up and down and laugh and enjoy every moment to your heart’s content.  You can go have fun with friends, see cool movies, and shop at the mall for all the new stuff.  You can get new shoes AND the toy from the catalog from school.  And yes, I’ll get you a bottle with any kind of juice you please!”

There is a memory seared into my soul of my oldest, Mackenzie, as she spontaneously physically jumped for joy.  The sight literally took my breath away. That look of happiness on my baby’s face is something I will hold dear until I die.  I wish I could see that intensity of joy in all three of them every day.  My big two, especially, have experienced more sadness than I can stand thinking about.  Hurricane Katrina was something I couldn’t help, but the divorce, the moving, the other changes they’ve weathered, I can’t help the deep, awful regret that I caused them that pain.  Not on purpose, of course, and in some ways due to choices I made before they were born, but still if I had done differently, maybe they wouldn’t have hurt so much.  That idea nags me even though I know on my sane days that I did all I could and even when I messed up, my heart always wanted the best for them.  Perhaps I’ll always be making it up to them in some way.  Maybe every divorced or single parent feels this way.  Maybe every parent period who realizes his or her mistakes have hurt the children would be vulnerable to this kind of guilt.

And I know, really I do, that parenting based on guilt is no way to go.  I know that my children need to learn how to cultivate joy in their lives, the kind that doesn’t need to constantly be fed by the newest item or enjoyable activity.  I need to teach them how to be happy, how to choose joy, even when they don’t get what they want.  And I know, looking into the future, that happy, healthy, well-adjusted adults will be a thrill to me as a mom, as much or more than the smiles and giggles produced by giving them whatever little trinket they are begging for at the moment.

I know that they need to learn consideration, that it’s ok for mom to be too tired sometimes, ok to have to wait for things, ok to just hang around the house sometimes.  I know that yeses can be far more damaging than no’s when they produce a spoiled, inconsiderate, selfish, sad individual.

Getting right down to the bottom of things:  It’s so tempting to want to say yes because saying no is the harder work.  Saying no often requires keeping the big picture in mind, digging in for the long haul, enduring frowns that are temporary in the hopes that my children will emerge with adult smiles that don’t easily fade at the slightest difficulty.  I want to say yes because it’s easier, more fun in the moment.  It’s selfishness on my part.  Completely unacceptable as a parenting style. 

And that, my friends, is reason #2 I can’t say no… down for the count.

Moving on….

 

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Why I Can’t Say NO

I can’t stand saying no.  My inability to refuse requests means I wind up in tight squeezes.  Often.  It also means I feel stressed.  Most of the time.

So WHY is it that I can’t (or won’t) say “no” to requests from various sources (kids, family, work, friends, church, self, society in general)?

I’ve decided to figure it out, using a series of posts, especially since I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this!

Reason #1 Why I Hate Saying No:

Somewhere along the way, a scripture verse was implanted in my mind.  Something about not withholding good from another person when it is within your power to do something.  For most of my life, I’ve believed that it’s my responsibility to do good when I’m able.  I still think so, and this verse often goes through my head when I consider a new opportunity or request for my time, services, friendship, etc.  So God wants me to do good every time I have the opportunity, and to never withhold a good deed from someone when I’m able to accomplish it.  Right?

Sounds great, but how would one actually accomplish this?  For example, I saw a man today on the street in New Orleans.  He was holding a sign telling me he’s homeless, needs help.  I had a ten dollar bill in my wallet.  It technically WAS within my power to act.  But I didn’t.  I didn’t roll down my window for this guy, and I didn’t stop the car to let him get in.  I didn’t bring him out to eat or help him find a job, even though technically I do have the ability to do all those things.

Keep going with this and you’ll have a glimpse of the craziness that happens in my head.  How is it possible to NEVER withhold good from a person when it is in my power to act?  Let’s face it:  with technology today, and living in what is still the wealthiest country on earth even in an economic slump, there’s not much that’s outside my ability.  I CAN make a call, find a resource, introduce a person, give a ride, make a meal, have a talk, buy a bag of groceries… it’s almost always within my power to do something.  Oh yeah… except for that whole 24 hour in a day limitation and all.  (But when have I ever let that stop me??)

I decided I’d better look up the verse, so here it is:

Proverbs 3:27
Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act

At first glance I noticed some words I’d failed to remember before:  “Do not withhold good from those TO WHOM IT IS DUE,”

Hmmm…. what does this mean?  Honestly, I’m not totally sure, but I find it interesting that there IS a qualifier in there: to whom it is due.  Does this mean the person receiving the good deed should be deserving?  Does it mean we should not withhold good when we OWE it in some way (as in payment of a bill)?  Is it a reminder that we should fulfill commitments made to do good?  Whatever it means, it’s no doubt significant that a guideline was placed in there.  Up until now, I’d interpreted the verse as a command to do good to EVERYONE, period, no matter what, when it is in your power to act.  Now, I realize there’s a qualifier.

I’m also pondering on the idea of WITHHOLDING good.  I picture myself with a bag of delicious cookies or a box of cupcakes, hogging them all to myself, refusing to share with even the hungriest of my friends or family.  The idea of having something good and refusing to share it is appalling to me.  Clearly unbecoming of a believer in Jesus.  But, if I say “no” to a request when I truly don’t have the time, the expertise, or couldn’t easily get the resources, am I really WITHHOLDING good?  Can you withhold something you don’t already have?

Scripture is also clear in other places about a wife’s responsibility to husband, a mother to children, a daughter to family, and employee to employer.  Often saying “yes” to a request that I technically COULD accomplish means I end up withholding good from those to whom I clearly OWE the responsibility: my husband, children, family, or employer.  So it becomes clear to me that saying “no” could sometimes be a way that I OBEY this command rather than fail to fulfill it, especially when the request I refuse would cost me time and energy that already belongs to my marriage, my children, my family or my job.

If my life (myself, my heart, my emotional energy, friendship, capacity for love and compassion, my time, my intellect, etc.) were a bank account, I gotta be honest with you, I stay overdrawn.  At the very least robbing Peter to pay Paul if you know what I mean.  I recognize the same condition in most of my friends and acquaintances as well, especially those among the believers.  However, I’m not sure our Father meant for us to be out of balance in this way.  Even in the above mentioned scripture verse, I’m not sure He was trying to command me to behave in the way I’ve been trying to.  I’m not sure He meant “Say yes to everything you are asked to do, make everyone your best friend, and take on every unfortunate situation as your own.”

As much as I hate to admit it, I can’t be best friends with everyone.  I can’t be responsible for the welfare and happiness of everyone I come in contact with every day, and trying to do so produces a life spread so thin that no one gets anything good.  So either God has commanded us in the aforementioned verse to do something we can never, ever actually do, OR maybe He was saying something a little more like: “Be careful to share and give good things to those that I’ve given to you to care for. Don’t hold back from those I’ve given you to love, and watch closely for those times when I’ll give you the opportunity to do something that is easily within your power but is an extraordinary work on my behalf for someone else.”

And that, my friends, is reason number one that I can’t say no… only it’s not a reason anymore.  Next?

 

 

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Chiropracticality

So I hurt my back last week.   How I wish I had a heroic story to tell of a brave and wonderful way I got this injury.  But no.

I was brushing my teeth.  Yes, brushing my teeth, and when I bent to spit out the bubbles created by our particular brand of toothpaste, something in my back twisted and jerked, rendering me helpless in the “bent over to spit” pose.

After 24 hours, I still couldn’t straighten.  I was sort of functioning in an “S” shape.  S for SUPERWOMAN, right?  I NEEDED to be superwoman to stand that kind of pain.  I’m talking pain of childbirthing proportions, only childbirth had an END in sight!!  So I ended up at the chiropractor’s office in a desperate attempt to reduce the pain.

My chiropractor has this wonderful thing… it’s a bed/table type thing that you lie down on and it uses jets of hot water to massage your back.  It’s lovely.  But it gets better!  This amazing miracle table is located in a small room with minty aqua walls.  So the doctor gets me all set up on the table and then leaves the room, closing the door behind him.  I was lying there ALL ALONE.  Stuck for the duration of the treatment, there was no way to hurry or try to cut a corner to get it done faster.  There was no one standing outside the door yelling “MAMA!!”  There was nothing to do but lie there and think.  So I thought.

I thought how nice it was to be alone in the quiet for a few moments.  I thought how insane to be enjoying a back injury because it gave me a few quiet moments alone. I thought if not for that pain, I’d be running around in my usual craziness, spinning plates like I always do.   I thought of the guilt I felt for spending money on this doctor visit, but I had no choice since I couldn’t even pick up the baby or do most any of my usual daily tasks.  I thought how thick-headed I must be to have not learned by now that those who are counting on me would be much better off with a calmer, healthier me.  I thought how all my hustling and bustling really isn’t blessing me or my family.

So this weekend, we played in the rain.  We went to bed early.  We had friends over for a simple but yummy dinner WITH dessert.  I let the kids stay up late.  I took a nap when the baby napped.  I wrote my husband a love letter and took him on a date.  With Sunday services canceled due to tropical storm weather, and Labor Day falling on this weekend also, I had a day off from both my jobs. I went for coffee with a friend and talked over some ideas I’ve been having.  We spent time with family and the house was filled with laughing crazy cousins playing together.

I slowed it down and guess what?  TWO stressful situations at work resolved themselves, housework still got done, kids still got bathed, fed and dressed, and life still went on, only I truly LIVED it.  Imagine that!

Sometimes when life gets me stressed and harried, when I’m moving too fast to really even live, that’s when the IMpractical becomes the most practical thing of all.  I had NO TIME to be lying on a chiropractor’s table, but there I was anyway, and it was right where I needed to be.

So I brushed my teeth, bent over to spit, and stood back up (several days later) a little smarter.  I’ll still see ya on the highway, but more often, I hope, in the slow lane.

 

 

 

 

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