One of my goals is to not hate my life.
Inspiring, right? (Watch for my motivational stickers & t-shirts, coming soon!)
When I’m in a good place, I shift the language and ask God to help me enjoy my life. This requires a significant amount of Divine help…and some cooperation by me.
Remember a few weeks back, when I wrote about practicing optimism, and how I look for three good things at the end of each day? Still doing that.
Last night I only had two, but one was a doozy: My niece, Sparkle Girl’s observation that hamsters and corgis are clearly related!
If that doesn’t make you optimistic about the absurd wonder of life, I don’t know what will.
Now I’ll tell you about another practice that helps: Compartmentalization.
Compartmentalization, for me, means that wherever I am in my body, that’s where I am in my mind. I work really hard at this. When I am at the gym, or in the grocery store, or writing a chapter draft, I am not thinking about the power struggle I just had with #2 Cherub. I am not running my brain to devise some new, better parenting strategy. I’m not worrying about the 1,001 ways the future might go sideways.
When I’m at the gym, I’m thinking, How many box jumps I can do? and Wow, I wish that guy wore deodorant. When I’m at the grocery store, I’m calculating the likely ratio of banana ripeness to consumption, and assuming we need more ketchup. When I’m writing a chapter draft, my most frequent thought is, Hmmm, I wonder what’s happening on Instagram?
They say that women are more likely than men to have a bunch of different files up and running in our minds all the time, and that used to be me. But not anymore. I found that once my files grew too complex, some had tentacles that could reach out and corrupt the whole system if I let them interact. So I got disciplined about not letting them interact.
I still search for answers and new possibilities for our family situation. But I contain it. Like yesterday, I had an hour before the Cherubs got home from school. I made a cup of coffee, sat on the couch, and thought & prayed about how to handle a situation that had arisen that morning. I came up with a plan. At then end of the hour? I stopped thinking about it. This wasn’t easy; putting the brakes on something that has the momentum of my analytical mind frantically struggling to make sense of chaos rarely is. But I’ve learned to work the brakes, and keep my foot pushed down until the ride stops and I can get off.
(And in the spirit of adoptive parenting honesty, let me say that this plan I made? It shattered instantly upon impact with reality. But still, I had a plan. Sometimes love looks like trying something new, even if it fails.)
As I compartmentalize, I get to enjoy things I might otherwise miss. For example:
I drove up to Maine this week to see Sparkle Girl. The drive across the bridge was gorgeous, with green leaves, water, and sunshine everywhere. The new sign at the border reads WELCOME HOME, which seemed oddly personalized for those of us who grew up there, but whatever. And she introduced me to her brilliant observation about hamsters and corgis. I’m so glad I didn’t miss it in a swirl of rumination & perseveration.
What I’ve learned is that all those thoughts about what could go/is going/already went wrong? They’ll keep just fine. So I stow them away like last night’s broccoli. I can pull them out later if I need them. Sometimes I decide I’ve had enough broccoli and just throw them out. But for sure I close the fridge and get on with my life. Because the only way to like my life is to be part of it in a real way, and that requires me to stop dragging my broccoli around with me everywhere I go.
Need a mental pep talk this weekend? Remind yourself:
Compartmentalize! STOW THE BROCCOLI!
(T-shirt coming soon…)