Three things visiting my in-laws taught me in time for 2020

Over the holiday I visited my in-laws in their memory care and assisted living homes.  They are lucky enough to have purchased long-term care and are well-cared for and have access to everything they need.  My MIL is in a wheel chair but still has her wits about her.  My FIL is in the memory care home and although still talking and recognizing his wife, he said her name loud and clear as we were leaving, I can see that most memories have slipped away from him.

As I go into this new year having procrastinated some things that I really want to do (mostly because I’m scared) seeing them made me realize a few things that I want to take with me as I hopefully embark on some kind of change.

Life is not endless
We only have so much time.  The time is precious and no matter how I spend it, I want to be present.  Even if I am washing the dishes, I want to appreciate warm water running over my hands, having a beautiful family whose dishes need cleaning and the joy that comes from completing a task.  I want to find joy in everyday activities, maintaining a home, raising a family, having a husband who loves me.  It may not make time go any slower but I will at least have the knowledge that I enjoyed it as much as I possibly could.

Appreciate my body no matter it’s state
I may want to be thinner, longer, tanner (more tan?) fitter and a lot of other things but I am not appreciating what I actually have.  I can walk and move with ease.  I can stand up anytime I want, exercise to my heart’s content, drive a car, travel, see my kids, run around, dance, work, garden.  I can do all of those things by myself and anytime I want.  I recognize that may not always be the case.  So I’d like to take advantage of my current state and enjoy it, push it, and see what it can do, take my body out for a test drive.  At the very least, I want to enjoy the simple joy of my imperfect body.

Do things while they are important to me
I have urges to do things.  I want to build with wood, I want to sew a dress, I want to plant a garden, I want to make delicious sauces, I want to travel to foreign countries, I want to draw and paint.  I have urges to do those things now.  But as I get older, other things may take priority and I won’t want to do these things anymore.  The urge may fade and other urges take their place.  So if I don’t do them today, I may never do them because they won’t be important to me anymore.  I may not feel the loss of them in that moment, but I will feel the loss of them as a memory of something I once felt the urge to do but didn’t.

All this is a reflection meant to encourage me to take action, to prevent me from letting time slip by, to live 2020 with purpose.  So thank you, in-laws, for helping me to see.

One question that will stop shame in it’s tracks

Shame is a powerful emotion.  It’s job is to prevent us from hurting others.  But too many times, the same makes us feel like we have no worth or value.  But even if the shame we feel is valid, we always have worth and value simply by being a human living on earth.  It just doesn’t always feel that way.

Many times the feeling of shame comes from inside of me but it can also come from other people criticizing me.  When I feel it coming on, I will try to stop and ask myself:

“Have I done anything wrong?”

If the answer to that question is ‘No’ then I allow myself to let it go and move on.  Easier said than done but the more I do it, the easier it becomes.

If the answer is ‘Yes’, then I figure out what I can do.  Often it’s an apology to someone else and a vow to myself to handle things differently next time.

This is my simple way of stopping shame.  It’s not always easy but at least I have a tool because shame can be a very deep hole and stay with me for a long time.  Over time, I’ve learned to recognize feelings of shame more quickly and get better at apologizing and forgiving myself.

In small ways, it happens with my kids if I yell at them out of frustration about something completely unrelated to them.  In large ways it happens when I behave in a cowardly way.  Thankfully that doesn’t happen that often.  I try to be brave to prevent those instances having learned from making bad decisions in the past!

Doing the brave thing and feeling uncomfortable for a few moments is way better than feeling shame and having to go back later to apologize.  Not only do I not have to feel the same, but I get to feel pride for having done the right thing to begin with and facing my fear.

Courage high!

Photo by Edu Lauton on Unsplash

One way my kids taught me to do what scares me

I jumped off the high dive this weekend. Yes, I was terrified and I almost didn’t do it. I waited until the very last second of adult swim (the 10 minutes of every hour that kids have to get out of the pool). As the clock ticked down I reminded myself that I wanted to live life more fully with my kids. So, I gathered my cojones and started up the ladder, their excited cheers keeping me moving.

When I got up there I realized it was much higher than I expected. I slowly walked to the end of the board, fighting every urge to climb back down. I thought of watching both my kids face this moment and how they stepped off despite their fear.

It’s so easy to watch them jump with an attitude like ‘been there done that, now it’s their turn’. The fact is, when you haven’t done it in years, it becomes new and hard and scary again. I realized I didn’t like the attitude I had, I don’t want to be a smug grown-up.

So, I did it.  I stepped off the edge. And I screamed all the way down. I earned some chuckles from the other adults (a pretty rapt audience since NOBODY else was in the pool) and an impressed nod from another mom. I laughed at my ridiculous scream, embarrassed but also…proud.

I gained a newfound respect for my kids after that dive.

They are braver than me.

I have some catching up to do.

Photo by Jorge Mallo on Unsplash