Monday, December 11, 2006

Work In Progress

Today I had lunch with my friend Kristi. Like it or not, Kristi and I have a lot of things in common. I say that bit about "like it or not" because what we mostly have in common are the parts of us which we don't so much care for. Easily irritated or frustrated (in her case, angry), self-critical, and we both struggle with what to do with ourselves as stay-at-home mothers. It's easy when you're the person listening to someone else ranting about something, to think yourself above (or at least distanced from) whatever they struggle with. But that's not the case with Kristi and myself, because a lot of the time, I can definitely relate. We both have lives that are wonderful - loving spouses, beautiful daughters, nice homes and extracurricular activities. What is there to be frustrated and irritated with? Fundamentally, the answer is really... nothing. What we both seem to have going on is an internal mechanism whereby we respond in automatic ways to the things which bother us, and those ways are unhealthy and counterproductive to effective communication with others in our family. So why do we respond this way? As Kristi was explaining earlier to me today, it's almost like a chemical process going on behind the scenes. The quick burst of irritation, frustration or anger releases some chemical that the body is accustomed to feeling, like the adrenaline that comes from fear or excitement. And so it seems we're both slowly trying to pick that response apart and reprogram ourselves to respond differently. So far the mechanisms that have been helping me have been yoga and getting more consistent sleep, and Kristi has been seeing an acupuncturist, chiropractor, and she rides her horse. And recently, has started reading a long list of recommended books to help her become a nicer, more patient and calm wife, mother, and person. In the interests of continual self improvement, I am going to be reading a number of the books she's had recommended to her as well, and am trying my darndest to improve my overall health. The frequent and recurring sinus infections I seem to struggle with (particularly at this time of year) have taken a huge toll on my ability to manage my own frustration level, as well as the ability to let things go which need no comment. To approach life with a sense of curiosity rather than expectation and disappointment. I spent a lot of years as an accomplishment junkie, getting my strokes from the work environment where I found ways to excel and accomplish tangible things. What I do now isn't terribly tangible, but it's the most important thing I could be doing right now, raising Hootie at home. I know that many mothers cannot stay home but would love to. I know many others who couldn't stand being at home, and choose to work so that the time they spend with their children is positive. You don't need a complicated advanced degree to be a stay-at-home-mother, but it's definitely not an easy job, if you put your heart into doing it well. And I, for one, am looking for a way to find all the satisfaction I need within the moment and what I am experiencing right now, without all that expectation hanging around my shoulders.

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