I was on my third trip out to the car, unloading the groceries. The milk, at least, I thought, had to make it into the fridge. Finley was sitting at the table. “Mah-um! Mooooom! I need my milk! Can you get my milk cup please? Mom, mom, mom! Ma-uuuum!” Emery was in the high chair, fussing in dissatisfaction at her still empty tray. The cries of the hungry baby were getting louder, more intense and harder to ignore, even for just a second. I was announcing the litany of things I was trying to manage. “I can only do about 14 things at once, guys. Please wait.” Please wait. Please wait. Tension and pressure were rising inside me. Get the kids inside, don’t let anyone touch anything dangerous or gross in the garage, don’t forget the backpack, get their milks out to tide them over, get Emery contained in the high chair, bring Declan in, make sure he’s set somewhere out of the range of his sisters’ sometimes aggressive affections, convince Finley to sit at the table, bring in the groceries. At least make sure the milk gets into the fridge. This…this is my life, my daily life.
Standing down in the garage, I had to stop and take a breath. “Marina,” I started out loud, “This is it. This is the job. It’s not always fun, but this is the same job that gives you the ability to be here when they need you. Because you get the lunch, because you hold the baby when he cries, because you provide the things they need, you also get to be the one they want to snuggle with at night, the one who gets to rock the sad hearts and kiss the bruised knees. Because of this, you get all that. You get to be the mommy because you are the mommy. This is okay. This is the good stuff, the good life. This is it.”
Deep breath. Yes. This is okay. Yes. This is the good stuff. The good life. Just a moment, just a breath, just a quick reality-check. Perspective. Release. Gratitude. The heat and stress melted away. I jerked the bags of groceries up a bit so they didn’t fall on my way up the stairs into the kitchen, and I took care of my babies, fourteen things at a time.
No matter what your daily life looks like, I am sure that sometimes it kind of sucks. I’ve thrown out wry observations about the dailiness of daily life many times. And yes, that real. It’s true that the every day can feel grinding, can be grinding. Sometimes, I entertain short fantasies about putting my kids into the yard alone, letting them go permanently feral and going to take a nap – for like 3 weeks. There are days when I feel like one more dish smeared with peanut butter might be my undoing. But, like all things, my experience of my daily life is almost completely controlled by the thoughts I use to think about it.
Yep. My life is going to look and be what it will be. Lord knows that with three kids aged three and under, I don’t have nearly as much control as I’d like about what happens in the course of a day. But I have all the control about the way I think about my day. Sometimes things happen so quickly that I have to stop and remind myself that I am even having thoughts, but I am. And so are you.
I’m not talking about brainwashing yourself. I will never stand over the washer and dryer joyfully giggling about laundry, especially not because I tricked myself into with some sort of bizarre thinking gymnastics. I believe I’ve amply documented my distaste for doing laundry. But, I can bemoan the laundry all day or I can just get it done and move on. I can focus my thoughts on any thing. Yes, it’s the stuff of countless cheesy Facebook quote memes, but it’s true – laundry to do means I have people to clothe, I have clothes to wear and, sheesh, I have machines to do the washing and the drying for me. I won’t likely be spending a lot of time on those thoughts, but if I start to feel victimized by the piles of laundry created by five people, I have to remember. I have to grab the negative thoughts before they roll too far down the line and get stuck in my head. With a little practice, it can be a quick and fairly painless process. I just reach up, catch one of those nasty thoughts by the tail and whip that sucker back into oblivion. Goodbye Felicia. Then, and this is a key point, I take my little train of thought and go somewhere else with it. It can be a sunny cursive glittery thought about how good it is to have running water for my laundry (although this is a real practical blessing), or it can be an appreciation for the fact that my sweet husband does way more laundry than I do and doesn’t even mind it. It can be anything. And you can learn what works best for you.
You don’t have to (and shouldn’t) ignore the stressful and anxious and unhappy thoughts in your head. That’s a different danger, but you also don’t have to hop on their backs and let them drive your daily life. Because – hear this – your days become your weeks and your months and then your years and that, my friend, is your life. Gone in a blink. Don’t let a wayward thought process, seeded in darkness, take ownership of your journey, ownership of your joy. We have so little control in our lives. Believe me, I am ever increasingly aware of this fact. But we are not victims – and please be honest, that’s the alternative. You are the boss of your own brain. And if you can’t simply choose to think something different (I know it’s not always that easy), then please pursue the kind of help that you need to learn to do so. I know my counselor and other supports have helped me learn to reframe and rework my own patterns of thought. You don’t have to do it alone. You don’t have to do it well. You definitely don’t have to do it all today. But decide now to get serious about taking ownership of your own thoughts. In doing so, you take the helm of your own life. And this is it. Every day. The good, the stressful and the beautiful. It’s all in there. It’s all yours. Go live it. Be ruthless in your rejection of anything you don’t want to define who you are, and then root it out of your days. You can do this. So start where you are, but start and keep walking. You can change your entire world, one thought at a time.
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