I’m not quite sure what I’m setting out to say but I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how we have so much more control in our lives than we might think. Yes, things “happen to us,” but how our life goes is really about how we react to situations.
I can’t help but notice how I’ve changed as I get older. I remember the life-or-death and end-all-be-all days of middle school and high school, and the range of emotions I might have felt during any given week. (I was lucky enough to have steady, fairly drama-free friendships, so I think my mom got the brunt of my teenage years’ angst.) As I’ve gotten older, things seem to bother me less and things don’t seem as dire as they once might have.
I got married at twenty-three and had a five month long engagement – soon after those reality wedding and bridezilla shows came out- and remember making a concerted effort to keep my cool during that time. I remember being shocked at how these truly normal people acted so differently because they were planning a wedding. It’s weirdly fascinating to me. It’s like this free pass or something. Anyway, as I went about planning my wedding, I was so aware of this bridal phenomenon that I tried really hard to keep myself in check and not turn into a raging bridezilla. I can’t be the judge of how my attempt actually turned out but can say that I really enjoyed the process and had fun planning & making decisions. (I am so happy pinterest didn’t exist at the time btw!!) Dave & I were a team and we got everything done pretty quickly & efficiently. (So much so that I know certain family members even felt left out because we’d done everything and made all of the decisions on our own. Sorry about those flowers ma!) I remember crying once- and think now how silly it was- just before the wedding at some hidden expense that had popped up because I was feeling so strapped.
A year after we were married, we found out we were unexpectedly-expecting our first child. I was 24 and was shocked. We’d thought we had things all planned out and would start having kids around 28 or 30, but in hindsight I can absolutely say that having Christian then was the best thing that ever happened to us. There were moments when I felt a complete lack of control and it was awful. (Christian was colicky and would cry for hours on end sometimes… I’ll never forget his first round of shots… After trying to feed him, walk him, comfort him and doing anything I could to do get him to stop crying or fall asleep, I sat on the couch and cuddled him and just cried along with him. I was feeling so sorry for myself. My mom got a call shortly after that and came over to fix things. 😉 It took a lot of adjusting and somehow in that complete turnover of our plans, we adapted and it worked. As first-time parents we did our best and through the exhaustion and change, we realized we were pretty relaxed parents. We didn’t plan to be that way, but found we had to be that way to be happy and to stay sane.
Soon after we had our first son, we sold our home-which was grossly depreciating- and got out just in time. We went to live in my parents’ basement where we were able to save and get the design business really going. We did not want to be there – AT ALL- but really ended up enjoying ourselves. We were so lucky to have had the option but we felt like we’d failed. Although we longed for our own place again, we tried not to wish the time away. It was definitely a lesson in trying to keep our heads up and deal. We look back so fondly on that time now. It was another time when we made a concerted effort to be “happy” even though we weren’t where we wanted to be. As crazy as it sounds, telling ourselves that we were okay made us okay.
As we’ve gone through buying a house, and then selling it and buying another, growing our business, having a few more kids… there have been high-feeling times and low-feeling times. I have a lot of respect for emotional strength. There are certain people I can think of that I refer to as having a “steel core,” They’re sweet, kind, loving people and on the outside they might seem all warm and fuzzy, but they have an inner strength that is unbelievable. (My mother grandmother, and mother-in-law all have steel cores.) It’s funny, but when I look back through the past and remember the few moments when I cried – the moments where I feel like I “broke”- in parts of my life, I can look back now and see that it was such a small fleeting thing. At the time, my situations felt so big, so difficult, so hard… yet they never really were. It was all about my mindset and emotional state at the time. Of course there were a lot of exterior factors at play, but ultimately, I felt a lack of control and such an extreme level of stress and exhaustion – usually to the point that I was physically ill- that I cried. They were what people refer to as a “good cry” and, though I feel embarrassed that I cried about such silly things, I look back at all of those times as turning points too. It made me realize I needed fix something and find a solution. (FYI- I’m not a frequent crier for myself- maybe every couple of years or so- but can cry on a dime for a touching commercial or a beautiful song… seriously some of those Super Bowl commercials!!)
About a year ago, I read a book, People Can’t Drive You Crazy if You Don’t Give them the Keys, and while it’s not my favorite book ever, I did appreciate its general philosophy and tried to take it to heart. The book, and other things, have helped me more consciously realize that we have a choice in how we react to life, how we view life, what “color” glasses we have on. (And to be clear here, I’m very fortunate to not be touched by personal tragedy and am really talking about day-to-day ups and downs.)
The other day, I was thinking about all of this and got weirdly excited about aging. Because aging does make you better. As sacred as youth seems to be to our society these days, I think we all value the wisdom that only age and true, life experience can give to our characters. We come to learn that “this too shall pass” (my husband’s favorite saying) and that we are the ones who control our emotions and our outlook on life. I never want to lose my excitement for life and for the little things, and think that somehow that’s got to be an important part of aging gracefully. Optimism and wisdom together.
So, apologies for the long, rambling, non-design post, but just wanted to share in case it helps anyone. There are only 11 weeks left until our new baby’s due date and we’ve got more going on at work than ever to complete before then, but I feel really good. There are moments when I feel the tinges of stress trying to get in, but being conscious of it has made it possible for me to accept situations more easily, problem solve, and not let my emotions be affected more than they should be. I’m not saying there aren’t good cries in my future because I know they’re inevitable, but just that I can affect my own life and feelings more than anything else.
I’ve realized that we choose what color our glasses are going to be on any given day or in any moment. We make the choice to be steel or to be glass.