A few weeks before I left for Mozambique, I noticed that I had gotten in a bit of a rut with my kids. There were things that they did that always got a rise out of me... I think I was so stressed out after Roo's diagnosis that cetain things just got under my skin and I overreacted to them, and then my brain/body just got in the habit of overreacting to those things. Suddenly it's a year later, I'm not nearly as stressed, but some of those behaviors from the kids would still send me from a perfectly good mood to completely angry in an instant. And of course, we're talking about majorly bad behavior here... honest... you know, like... if they got up early on a Saturday when I wanted to sleep in... Yeah, I was a little out of control.
So while I was away, I became determined to change those bad habits, to not be such a psycho mom over dumb stuff. I knew it would take some time and patience--and it has--but it has been a good thing. The morning after I got home, I was up a little bit early and looking forward to some time to myself... and then Lamb walked in. I immediately felt my blood start to rise--and then I forced myself to stop. I smiled and said, "Good morning, Honey! I'm so glad to see you--I missed you so much while I was gone!" And I gave her a big hug, and I enjoyed spending some quality time with her while everyone else was asleep. It sounds like a little thing... it IS a little thing. But it was a step. I was teaching my brain that just because I was used to reacting a certain way doesn't mean I have to. My new motto became "Retrain your brain." I would repeat this to myself any time I started to get frustrated with the kids over little stuff, and it worked.
In the days that followed I became more and more successful at choosing new, more positive ways of responding to my kids. Now, I know that I gave a pretty silly example about getting up too early, but overall I had just realized that my temper was too short with them. My discipline wass ineffective because I was too over-the-top angry about dumb stuff, and I was getting disproportionately (Come on now, tell me you're not impressed with the use of that word!) frustrated over small accidents or forgetfulness or other silly things that kids do. But I quickly got in the habit of stopping myself from reacting in what had become the "natural" way, and instead choosing better ways of interacting with my kids--and in the process, not just changing my external actions, but changing my internal attitudes as well.
As I really started to get into this idea of "retrain your brain", I also read an article about a book called The Happiness Project. The author, Gretchen Rubin, realized she was just going through life with no real focus, and life was passing her by. She decided that what she really wanted out of life was happiness, so she spent a year making changes to make that happen. Each month she had a new resolution, like singing in the mornings or keeping a gratitude journal. It sounded to me like she was retraining her brain too. ;-)
So, inspired by The Happiness Project and my success of my "retrain your brain" experiment, I have decided to devote a month to making some changes. But here's the thing... my focus isn't really on happiness. Because, well, happiness sounds like a nice thing, but... it's a little more self-focused than what I want to be. Gretchen asked herself what she really wanted out of life--that was how she got started. So what do I really want out of life? Well... I want it to not be about me. I want to be a better servant. I want to show the love of Christ to others. I want to be a better wife, mother, and friend--but not so that my husband, children, and friends will think, "Wow, she's really great!" I want to do it because I want to help them.
At the same time, some of the changes I need to make are completely internal. I need to work on being... maybe not a happier person, but a more content one. That's another thing I want out of life. I want to learn--to borrow from the apostle Paul--"the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want." (Philippians 4:12) Happiness is a feeling, and it's OK to be unhappy sometimes. But I want to learn to be content regardless of my circumstances, my mood, my crazy hormones. ;-)
And so... for the next month, I will have a new resolution each day to help work toward these goals of becoming a better servant of God, servant of others, and a more content person. Some of them will be ongoing--tomorrow, for instance, my goal will be to read my Bible every day for the rest of the month--with the hope/expectation that I will continue to do those things after the month is done. Others will be more... self-contained... like writing a note of encouragement. But again, my hope is that these tasks will become more habitual for me and help me grow into the person I want to be.
Now to me, a project like this is much more effective if it is documented. So for the month of July, I will be blogging each day to journal my progress. I am really excited to share this little journey with you! I will still be blogging about the regular stuff, but I think this will be a fun addition to my regular (or... not-so-regular) posts.
So now I need to name this little project of mine. What on earth do I call it? I'd love to say that it's a month of service, but not all of the things I'm going to do are directly service-related--some of them are just about... well... self-improvement, I guess. But at the same time, "A Month of Self-Improvement" just sounds too... self-ish to me. I liked the sound of "30 Days of Change", but July has 31 days, and that just doesn't have the same ring. What do you think? Thoughts? Suggestions? No really, I'm open to some input here--leave me a comment if you have a good one. :-)
In the meantime, here is my task for the day... It is actually a 2-part task. First, I need to actually make a list of the tasks/resolutions I will be doing this month. And second, I want to write down exactly what my goals are--my life goals. Yeah, these are probably steps that should have been done ahead of time, but... there's no time like the present, right? Anyway, I really want to define my goals because I want this month to be about working toward something. I don't just want to do a bunch of stuff that sounds good. I want to be able to link each task/resolution to a specific goal so that I can make sure I'm focusing on what's important.
Are you ready to embark on this journey with me? Look out, world! And hey, if you are inspired to make some changes, whether it's just some abstract thoughts about things you want to change or you want to do a month-long project with me, will you let me know? Post a comment here, or post on your blog and leave the link here. Let me know we're in this together. ;-)
Thanks for walking alongside me in this. I'm off to make a list. ;-) (Oh, and I really do want a good name for this project...Any ideas?)