I wrote this blog before the worldwide craziness of the coronavirus set in and never published it. When I read through it again just now the things that triggered me of course seem pretty trivial at this point, as compared to what many people in the world are experiencing. I decided to go ahead and publish it anyway, because more than ever, being stuck in quarantine, I think the whole world needs to remember that joy is a mindset. Here is what I wrote:
Today I decided to stay open to joy. My day started off really well. I was able to enjoy a cup of coffee and steal a little time for myself. This motivated me to even squeeze in some yoga. After yoga I was feeling the joy flowing through my body, which inspired me to do a little work on my computer.
The thing is, as a mom, it seems the more I try to tune into myself for a little self-care, the more things start to unravel around me without me even noticing. Oh, how I love my breaks, a chance to stop with all the multi-tasking for awhile, but kids need attention. And when they don’t get what they need things just seem to fall apart.
I can feel in my body when the stress in the house starts to build up. Kids need to be pulled in so they can begin to regulate again. I had filled myself up, but what were the the kids doing during this time? The opposite I guess, because as I fill myself up, they are now running on empty.
I think about my mindset, and instead of getting annoyed, I try to get myself back on track. The sun is shining, but still only 47 degrees. I will tell myself it is a beautiful day outside, although still a bit chilly for my taste. I decide to send all the kids outside.
It’s a solid plan on paper, but my children think it is spring and, surprise, my teens choose to not dress appropriately for the weather. My daughter, along with other neighborhood kids, is wearing just a sweatshirt. I am not impressed, but am able to let it go because I know teens need to try and look cool. My teen son, on the other hand, is wearing just a long sleeve t-shirt. Again, I could have just let this go; it’s his body after all, and sometimes kids do need to learn from experience. If he wants to freeze, it’s his choice.
Still, my mindset quickly changes from calm to annoyed. My children making poor choices is a trigger for me. I know wearing a t-shirt is not a life or death situation, but for some reason my brain tells me it is. I can’t let it go; I open the window and yell at him to put a sweatshirt on. I can’t believe how one little experience closed off my joy and sent me straight to irritated.
Worse, I made the mistake of sending my youngest outside with my teens. I dressed him up in snow pants, coat, hat, mittens. The teens chuckled when they saw him, actually dressed appropriately for the weather. My hope was that they could keep an eye on him outside, but they are too distracted by the other neighborhood kids in the yard and want little to do with a four-year-old when their friends are over.
I decided to be kind and relieve them of this babysitting duty, so I got dressed to go out and get some fresh air and sunshine myself, so they could just hang with their friends. As I walk outside, I see that my son is soaking wet from head to toes, running through deep puddles as the muddy water splashes around him. Of course it’s predictable; since the big kids are ignoring him, he tries to get attention through his dysregulated behavior. My “joy” mindset immediately disappears again!
Thoughts of joy from breathing in some fresh air quickly turn to sadness, when I have to chase down a red-zone kid and carry his soaking-wet body back in the house for a time-in with mom. I peel off the wet snow clothes and take him straight to his room to change and get back in the green zone.
As I look around his room, it looks similar to the typhoon that I just scooped up from outside and carried in. His room is just as messy as he is. How do I get back to a joyful mindset? My brain goes straight to “overwhelm” as I know this is going to be a time-consuming clean-up job that he won’t be able to accomplish alone.
I stop and take some deep breaths, with my son now swaddled in dry clothes on my lap.
I remember joy is a mindset, and I realize that it is my own preferences that are limiting my joy in this moment. I breathe in again, and try to let all my preferences go, as hard as that sometimes can be.
I prefer regulated kids. I prefer kids who make good choices. I prefer kids who clean their rooms. Breathe again. Let my preferences go.
And then, the realization and acceptance. These are my triggers that have nothing to do with my kids. These are small things in life that can steal my joy on a daily basis, if I let them. If I want to stop feeling these difficult emotions of sadness, disappointment, frustration and overwhelm, I am the one who needs to change my mindset. I am the one who needs to get a handle on my triggers; I am the one who needs to choose joy over frustration.
Depending on your life circumstances, this can be easier said than done. However, if you are lucky enough to live in a household that offers up extreme challenges on a daily (even moment-to-moment!) basis, you will have even more opportunities to practice keeping a joyful, positive mindset. And I know that when I do happen to succeed, it is much more likely that the rest of my family will be able to follow.
~Do Better & Shine