Seeking Flowers and Rainbows!

Photo Jan 28, 7 00 42 AMI used to make New Year’s resolutions, but now I’m resolved to the fact that they don’t work for me. Since I don’t like failure, it would just be a downer to attempt to stop eating chocolate anyway, and besides, it is good for women (potassium and anti-depressant, and good for your heart too), so I’ve heard!

I recently started a new book called SUPERCOACH: 10 Secrets to Transform Anyone’s Life, by Michael Neill, a renowned success coach.

I was somehow seduced by Amazon’s description of the book which promised that in a “fun and easy-to-read way,” I would learn:

“secrets of transforming your life and the lives of the people you care about most—your family, friends, colleagues, and clients.

Inside, you will learn:

· How to stop thinking like a victim

· The secret to financial security in any economy

· Proven techniques to produce dramatic changes in yourself and others

· Simple ways to create lasting relationships

· The key to lifelong happiness

· Strategies for increasing productivity, energy, well-being . . . and more!”

I haven’t read that much of the book yet, so I decided that I would chronicle some of my lessons learned here for your amusement, but as my NY’s resolutions have historically gone astray, so may this adventure…

In the first of the 10 Chapters, entitled The Art and Science of Make-Believe, I was introduced to the radical idea that:

“The world is what you think it is!”

One of the exercises that he had us do was to look around our surroundings and make note of everything that is green. After I did that, he wanted us to close our eyes and then make note of everything we remember that was brown in the room. Of course, I wasn’t looking at the brown things.

Translated to my life right now, I see mainly the things that I’m looking for. I see the cold of this harsh winter and the isolation that it makes me feel. I see the difficulty I’ve had landing a job and the wagon-full of bitterness and disappointments that have come from not being chosen each time. I see the accumulation of stress from maintaining three kids and their busy schedules while juggling the responsibilities of our home and my resulting short temper. I see the relationship I have with my wife and the challenges and strains we face with her weekly absence as her ever-increasing responsibilities for an aging parent take their toll. I rarely see the other things because so many negative things fill my screen.

Since my big girls were young, we’ve exposed all of the kids to poetry by Shel Silverstein. One of my favorite poems in his book, Falling Up! is called “Complainin’ Jack”, and it goes like this:

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“This morning my old jack-in-the-box
Popped out– – and wouldn’t get back-in-the-box.
He cried, “Hey, there’s a tack-in-the-box,
And it’s cutting me through and through.“There also is a crack-in-the-box,
And I never find a snack-in-the-box,
And sometimes I hear a quack-in-the-box,
‘Cause a duck lives in here too.”Complain, complain is all he did– –
I finally had to close the lid.”

Last night, around the dinner table, I told my family about the book I’m reading, and about an exercise in it that I was going to start trying to do the next day, today. I let them know that I’d need their help.

“My exercise will be hard, I know, but it is something that I’d like to try to do. I am going to try to stop complaining for a week,” I said.

“If I complain about something and go on and on about it, I want you to just say, ‘complaining!’  I  don’t want to have a discussion about it. I just want you to call it to my attention.”

I explained that every time I became aware that I was complaining, I’d have to start over again.The author of the book said it took him a better part of a year to go a week! I’m guessing it might take me that long, as well, but if I can ever accomplish it for real, I’m thinking that it will help me drastically improve my outlook on life, right?! Because instead of seeing piles of shit everywhere, I should be seeing flowers and rainbows, right?! We’ll see.

My 11-year old daughter asked, “What if you complain when you’re alone?”

“Like what? In my head?” I asked “No, I don’t count that.”

“No, like if you’re alone and you are talking to yourself out loud,” she said.

“Well, luckily, I don’t do that, but if I did, and no one was there to hear it, I wouldn’t count it.”

I’m still stuck on that one, though, because negative thinking is still negative. I just know that I can’t count everything or I’ll never even get to a day without complaining! For crying out loud, I probably complain in my dreams too!

So, ends day one. I have to start over again. I’m in bed typing this and my back is killing me from shoveling and sanding almost my entire 300 yard driveway because my car wouldn’t get up it and the plow guy didn’t come until 5 minutes ago! I’m going to start again tomorrow. One day at a time!

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Changing Tides and Good Tidings!

My youngest children, my twins, turned 10 last week. I don’t believe that I’d thoroughly prepared for that milestone as it had gotten shuffled between the craziness of life, sports, school schedules and the harried holiday season. Sure, I’d remembered presents but it has always been a flurry of gift-buying at this time anyway for the large family and extended family, so it wasn’t like I was totally unprepared. It was more an emotional wake-up to no longer having kids under 10, which put me in a different parent category. It may just be in my paranoid mind, but there seems to be less sympathy for parents who have older kids vs. younger. It’s as if other parents think that we somehow lose our memory of how hard those years were and that we can’t possibly “really know” what parents of toddlers are going through. Again, maybe just my imagination,but as a parent of twins, let me tell you that those young years are indelibly etched in my mind!

At ten years old, the gifts have moved quite a ways from crafts and toys, to clothes  and whatever’s new in electronics. When we had the family birthday party, minus both of the older sisters for the first time in their lives, it was different, for sure. There were 4 minor things for them to each open, one after another of mostly clothes that they had picked out themselves. Before they had received their main present, my wife decided to play a bit of what seemed like emotional torture on them as she asked our daughter if she had a nice birthday. “Yes,” she beamed, which made me even more uncomfortable for her. What if she was secretly hoping for something she hadn’t gotten but was afraid to seem disappointed? I could wait no longer and instructed their 12 yr. old sister to fetch their surprises. I had worked hard to find them both gently used iPod touches on eBay, outfitted them with new cases, and wrapped them up tightly and repeatedly so that the suspense would be prolonged. The excitement and surprise were beyond my imagination and their thankfulness made me proud. Of course they were from both my wife and I, but I also knew that electronics aren’t her thing, so the blissful time then (in my mind) would probably not last long(in hers)!

Several days later and we’ve got app addicts. After we give them a week to work out their excitement, they will need them confiscated every day before school, before meals, and before bed. They may even go to a reward system sign-out sheet if after a week this drug-like desire does not wane. “No, I do not want to FaceTime with you while I’m making dinner.” “Yes, I’m an adult, when you get to be an adult you can take your itouch into the bathroom with you too, but right now, it stays out here!” And, “yes, I’m coming up to put you to bed soon but just let me finish down here before you text me again!!” We’ve created monsters. A new generation of soon-to-be adults who will no longer be able to communicate without abbreviating!

Ten years ago, on the day that my wife gave birth to our twins, the most vivid memory that I have was in the pre-dawn hours when she woke me to say that her water had broken and she was in labor. We were ready with a bag packed and contingency plans in place for our then 2.5 yr-old who was asleep upstairs, but we had not planned on a snowstorm that night. I got up like a flash, ascertained that my wife was capable of getting ready to leave by herself, and dressed to go out and get the car warmed up. At no time the previous day were there warnings of an impending snowfall, so imagine my surprise when I opened the garage door to see at least 8 inches of white stuff blocking our exit. I quickly ran back into the house to tell my wife, call the neighbors for help, and to quiet my panic. No answer across the street. No other friends would be able to get to the house to assist unless they had a plow. Did we have a plow company to call? I didn’t handle that job, my wife did. I didn’t want to panic her… “Honey, I’m just going to go back out and shovel us out a bit.” “No, it’s not bad. I’ll be done lickedy split!”

I returned to the task, which seemed insurmountable at the time, but resigned myself to making quick work and getting to the hospital safely. I surely didn’t want to deliver them at home and knowing that a C-section was pending gave even more fury to my shoveling!

As I looked down the street, my eyes seemed to be playing tricks on me. I saw one golden light haloed by the falling snow. It was moving towards me ever so slowly, quietly, but coming nearer until I could see the outline of some sort of tractor. It was our new plow person, a farmer, apparently, who my wife had just the day before arranged to plow us that winter! I didn’t know him then, but he will be forever known as our angel who guided us by plowing the entire 2 miles to the main road. We still don’t know how and why he was there at that time with that singular purpose, but we are grateful that our treasured spirits were watching out for us and got the message to him!

We attended the annual family Christmas at my in-laws the other night. It has been a zoo every year for 16 of the years I’ve attended as the 8 children, 24 grandchildren(probably more…) and increasing numbers of grand kids and great nieces/nephews under 3 were underfoot in the small house. It seems that every year at this festivity, we mark the day with the memory of one who is no longer with us. It is a reminder to me of my own pending mortality as I imagine the day when these new parents will be seasoned parents and maybe even grandparents, mourning the passing of us middle-agers.

New babies arrive, older relatives die, and the cycle goes on. At the other end of the spectrum, my wife’s dad, who in his mid-eighties is the oldest and the patriarch of the family. He has been spiralling downhill in the last year and will likely be the next to go. The loss of a friend or relative near a special holiday or occasion seems to leave a permanent damper on one’s soul. I/we could use to get through this season with no more sorrow to add to an already emotion-filled time.

As the Christian holiday approaches, and those who are religious as well as those of us who either practice another religion or cling to the residual effects of an upbringing laden with spiritual overtones, I hope that we can all remember the joy as well as the memory of those who have passed and who will forever be in our hearts!

Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanza, Mele Kalikimaka!

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