by:Michelle Rouse Fox
I sat down at my computer for two reasons. The first, to generate a thank you note that I could print out for my 9 year old to sign and mail out for his recent birthday bash. The second, to create sight words that can be printed and pasted all around our house for my kindergartner. However, sitting here, listening to my husband talk to me on the phone about the state of our bank account, I am suddenly overwhelmed by my ENTIRE life and the words that I grasp onto are “I hate everything about my life.” Now you need to know what is happening around me that is very likely the culprit in propelling me towards such an extreme ideal. I’m trying to have a phone conversation with my husband who is 800 miles away and has been for the last 3 weeks and will continue to be for the next 4. My children (you should know, there are 4 of them) are running around like the Lost Boys, even though one is a 3 year old girl. I just turned 45 and as much as I tell myself that it’s just a number and I don’t feel more than about 32….it’s just lies. All LIES! I love my hair one day and the next I want to get a bob cut. OK, so this has been going on since I was 17….whatever. Do I even bring up body issues? NO? Fine. But there’s that. I already mentioned the state of our bank account. And well, we sold our house last year, up and sorta moved to GA, moved in with my parents where the 6 to 8 week plan has turned into “the foreseeable future”. We just survived Hurricane Irma. We live in Atlanta, so Irma turned out to be a rain storm for us in our particular location. However, our county called school off for the last two days. Is this a good time to mention that my kids have all of next week off for Fall Break? The constant high volume that surrounds me and the continuous parental instruction is beyond exhausting. I feel lonely, which for me as an extravert, is draining to my soul and to my spirit. Personal joy is scarce. Life highlights are nonexistent. And 6th grade homework…. lord in heaven help me! No really! Please help me! I honestly thought that I was done with these types of homework prayers years ago! This, these….are all the things and they feel too heavy, which brings me back to “I hate everything about my life”.
Life is overwhelming and mine especially not only feels but IS overwhelming in this particular journey that we are on. But I don’t have a corner on this. I’m positive that for most people that do or will or have felt this overwhelmed by their life have found at times that they “hate” it. Now listen, I do not allow my children to use the word “hate”. I don’t like it. It’s too strong and it is ungrateful. Yet, here I am and it’s the word that best describes my feelings. So, I’m gonna do what I tell pretty much every single person who sits with me in therapy sessions…. FEEL IT! Allow yourself to feel every single feel. I also tell them to not hold too tightly to the feelings because just as they come, they will go. Like the ocean tides, our feelings come in and they go out. So unless we want to get swept out to sea, where the depths are unknown and dangerous, we must let our feelings go. Of course there are times when feelings are not a come and go thing. They are like having your feet in cement buckets. This is a whole different beast and needs to be addressed as such with professional care. This is not what I’m talking about right now. What I’m talking about right now is quite akin to one’s first day in their first freshman college class looking at a syllabus for the first time. Oh how that seems like an easy peasy lemon squeezy thing right about now! I mean, can I get a show of hands on who would trade in their life right now and go back to the worry of college papers and who will be in the library because of course it wasn’t really for studying. Or was that just me? College was my carefree time in life, can you tell? Maybe it wasn’t yours. But you get my drift. There are times in our life that we can look back on and think….”sheesh, I didn’t know it, but I had it easy then”.
I keep having this feeling that I will look back on this time in our life as a family and think it really wasn’t that bad. Or I’ll think IT WAS REALLY… that bad but I think I’ll feel grateful for how it grew us, each and every one of us. I’m already seeing this actually. We’ve overcome so many adversities this past year and I know we have a few more, but because I’ve seen what we can do, I’m more sure of what we as a family and as individuals, me as a wife, mother and woman, are capable of and I feel more confident and proud of us than ever before. So the tool that I’m wielding now is gratitude for each overwhelming part of my life.
My husband WILL be home soon, we are halfway through this stretch AND it is the last time that he will be away from us. I’m thankful that I am in a marriage where I deeply miss him when he is gone. I know from up close experience that this is not always the norm. I have 4…FOUR healthy children. This is a big one that humbles me and I try daily to not take it for granted. For you moms who have children who need extra care, you are the strongest of the strong. You are the unsung heroes. YOU are who I admire. My hair and my body as far as I know are healthy. And it’s not cliché to remind ourselves what our bodies are capable of besides gaining weight and changing every time you think you’ve addressed the graying hair, fine lines and …well, let’s just leave it there. We have run races, marathons (oh, not me! Are you crazy?) We have learned things, so many things. We have carried human beings and delivered them to the world. Our minds and bodies multitask better than the average computer. Mine might be more like a Dell, but still. Our bank account… I’m still “feeling” a bit of angst there, let’s just ignore that one for now. Ignoring is a suggestion all clients make to their therapist anyways. We moved to GA to be with our people here. And we are with our people! We are living with my parents, but not many people could, would or are able to do this and it’s been a great time for my kids…and me too. We have support that we’ve never really known but always longed for.
I do not have a positive, grateful antidote for every one of my (or your) negative or overwhelming feelings. I do know that I am not alone in this struggle. I am not the only wife, mother or woman who has grasped on to the wrong ideology or summation of my current state of affairs. So what it comes down to is choice. Do I continue to grasp onto these words that are not the sum of all my life’s parts or do I begin to tell myself what is true and right and good about my world? When I break it down and look at what I have instead of what I think I’ve lost or what I feel is wrong, surprisingly, the pressure of my life begins to lessen, the darkness lifts and the hate fades to something better…gratefulness. I prefer to lay my head down at night feeling grateful and capable. Grateful for what I have instead of hating what I don’t. Capable that I and we can (and will) overcome our hardships. Capable that I can mom the heck out of this family life and my kids will be ok because I don’t have to be 100% all the time and neither do my kids or my husband. They get to have off times and days too where they aren’t happy and may feel like they hate life. I want to give them the space to feel their feelings. I also want to be the someone they can trust those feelings with and I also want to be that someone who will help them grasp onto what is good and right in their world so they can find their way to gratefulness. I can only be this kind of wife, mother and friend when I’m doing the work for myself with my feelings and choices.
Your life may be much more difficult than mine right now or you may be thinking that mine is a complete mess. Making comparisons is NEVER a healthy thing. Like, really NEVER! There will always be others who are worse off and those who are better. What is important to remember is that no matter where we are we always have choices, even if it’s just a choice in our attitude. Feel your feelings, and then make a choice to lead your feelings or allow your feelings to lead you. You’ll be surprised how one good, healthy choice leads to another and then another. Pretty soon, life isn’t that bad, in fact, it’s pretty darn good!