Sunday, October 26, 2008

I Choose Your Good

It's funny that my previous post was all about how to juggle computer life versus, you know, life life, because I have been away from my computer since that post. Life life intervened spectacularly this weekend.

It started on Friday with a not-so-chipper phone call with the school principal. Call me crazy, but crying into the phone after hearing the principal tell you they're "at a loss" about where to go with Fiver is not what I think of as a super-fun start to the weekend.

I'm sure a large part of my reaction was exhaustion and stress, since Rob has been gone on a business trip for several days and I have some kind of bad sinus mojo happening. I haven't been sleeping well, so my coping skills are at a lower than normal threshold.

And another large part is a broken heart over the fact that they don't see my child the way I see my child. But I think that's another story for another time.

When Rob goes away, it's always easy for me to see how much I rely on him for respite at the end of the day. When the kids and I are breaking down at four o'clock in the afternoon, I find myself thinking "two more hours until Rob gets home." Just hearing him come in the door lowers my blood pressure because I feel like some of the heat is off of me.

Unfortunately, when Rob is away, instead of thinking with gratitude about my husband who helps me so greatly, I usually take a different tack. Something that's a little less grateful and loving, and a little more, ummm, b*tchtastic.

You would think that I would be an old pro at this whole temporary single parent thing, since Rob and I have been apart many times, but I'm a slow learner. A typical separation might go something like this:

I wake up several times during the night with various children, accompanied by heavy sighs and sleepy mutterings about how nice it must be for my husband in his fancy, quiet hotel room. Then I spend the day huffing and puffing around the house about how apparently I am the only one who can bend at the waist in this house because I am the only one who picks anything up. When one of the children does something typically child-like, like accidentally drop an unopened half gallon of apple juice down the basement stairs, shattering the plastic jug and bathing the entire playroom in juice, I get to stomp around, yelling and muttering about how your father never has to deal with these kinds of things. I'll complain that I never catch a break or a minute to myself, and how all I want to do is sit down for two minutes (to, ahem, blog or read a book). Then I'll usually hustle the children to bed unceremoniously, saying that I have run out of patience and everyone needs to be away from Mommy.

I am a constant joy and balm to my family.

This morning, while the children and I were crammed into our church's tiny detention center sweat lodge cry room, I found myself getting overheated and testy and angry with the kids for squirming and Rob for not being there to help me. Our resident priest got up to do the homily, and since he is an excellent homilist, I tried very hard to hear him over the crummy speaker.

Father talked about love, and how, in his experience, when people talk about love, they talk about how wonderful the other person makes them feel. Then, when he talks with couples whose marriages are in trouble, he often hears something along the lines of, He/she doesn't make me feel like they used to. Our love doesn't feel good anymore.

And that is the moment when God used Fr. A. to club me over the head with The Word.

Father said:

Christ's standard of love is the cross, and nothing about the cross felt
good. And it didn't make other people feel good either. His
disciples ran away, His mother was broken-hearted and sobbing, but He died to
save us from our sins. He loves us so much that he chose our good over his
own life.

When we choose to love someone in marriage, what we are really saying is, I choose your good over myself. For my whole life, until I
die
. Love will not always feel good, and many times it will
feel like a time of great sacrifice. Because it is. And it is counter-cultural in every way.

Well, shoot, when you put it like that.


So I changed my mind. I looked at things in a new light. I was feeling tired and cranky and run-down and just plain put upon, but so what? I chose my family's, and especially my husband's, good over my own today.

And you know what I found out? I'm still tired and run-down and a smidge cranky, but I don't feel angry or slighted. It is really those feelings of self-righteous entitlement that get me in more trouble spiritually and emotionally than any other kind of physical exhaustion. If I center things on me and how badly I feel and how much I deserve a break, everything is shot before I even begin. The resentment mounts and that's never healthy.

I love my husband and my kids dearly, but when I actually tell myself (out loud if I need to): I am doing this because loving them means choosing their good, the love I feel gets translated into action.

Am I still going to complain about housework and how tired I am? I'd say the odds are pretty good that I will. Will I still do things for myself and seek to carve out some mommy time? Sure, because all work and no play makes Aimee a dull girl.

But will I spend my time feeling churlish and entitled? Oh, I hope not. I hope that I can be the kind of wife and mother who loves on God's standard and not my own.

13 comments:

  1. Oh, girl, I could have posted this myself! Except the part where I learned a lesson and saw the good. Because as my children and my husband would testify...I have not been a fun person to be around lately and I definitely have felt all those feelings of frustration, tiredness, and entitlement. It is so hard to find a balance! So, thanks for the words of encouragement today. I will try to remember them when school is not going well, when I take ALL of the children with me and go early vote, when I try to catch up on all I have gotten behind on this weekend and still try to be done in time to get to the dentist, make supper and make it to church for revival services...Hope things go great today and I will be praying with you for little Fiver and his situation at school, I cannot even imagine! God Bless!

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  2. Yay! Great post!!!

    I was sitting here last night cursing my husband for working late and dreading this time we have coming up when he'll be gone a lot. Suddenly something clicked and I vowed to STOP thinking negative thoughts about my hubby. Feeling resentful etc. isn't going to change his work schedule. I've tried the grumpy at the world approach. Now it's time to try something else. My personal plan is to stop entertaining negative thoughts.

    So, yeah. I'm right there and I'm glad I read this today!

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  3. Excellent. Thanks for this, I needed it today.

    :)

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  4. Anonymous10:49 AM

    I also think it's important to remember the power of gratitude. What combats fear? Gratitude. What helps us see things differently? Gratitude. It's easy to focus on what's wrong with the situation, but instead if we think of all the ways we are blessed -- even though it sucks to have a husband who is away, you can still be grateful to have a husband who provides so well for your family.

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  5. Anonymous11:55 AM

    Hey, I hope your life eases into some kind of calm and soon. I know the craziness of which you speak!.
    As for Fiver, once again- if I can do anything- just yell, email, whatever.
    By the way, Happy Halloween!
    Mirabella MOM

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  6. Funny, the Nicole that posted already took the words right out of my mouth! I think we have all been there as busy moms with husbands who work and do their best to provide, even though it messes up family life sometimes. I could so easily fall into resentment, but I'm getting better at pushing those thoughts aside and focusing on the good.

    I'll be praying for the situation with Fiver.

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  7. I am so right there with you. But good for you for rising above it. Our priest had a lovely message as well, but we halfway through we ended up in the cry room, where neither the speakers or the lights were working, so we just kind of hung out in the dark. What's up with cry rooms? It's like being punished for something. You have the right attitude, keep it up!

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  8. Okay, I got my call about Lil P on Friday, too, so clearly Venus was in retrograde.

    And uh, you humble me.

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  9. I know it's the middle of the night when I am reading this...and I know I am sick which makes me emotional anyway..(gross sidenote: my nose is running as I write), but this made me cry.
    So real.
    And right.
    Good stuff.

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  10. "And it is counter-cultural in every way."

    And therein lies much of the problem. No one dies to self in our society. We have been so conditioned to be completely self-motivated that it is a struggle to think otherwise. But it is a breakable habit and just thinking about it is a great start. Most people in our culture wouldn't even consider it.

    I hope you're having a better week.

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  11. Just saw this quote and thought of you:
    True love grows by sacrifice and the more thoroughly the soul rejects natural satisfaction the stronger and more detached its tenderness becomes. St Therese

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  12. Anonymous9:03 AM

    I hope things are getting better!
    -LisaL

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Go ahead and say it. You know you want to.