Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Forgiveness is a powerful Ally....

I have had a lot on my mind lately about the power of forgiveness.  Most people think that things like humility, long-suffering, and forgiveness are traits of the weak and powerless, something to be despised and rejected.  I contend that those qualities are the ones embraced by those who are striving to strengthen and improve themselves, and will often prove how much power one can yield over one's self serving desires.

Recently I have been experiencing a resurgence of problems with my extended family.  Lasting change is a difficult thing to accomplish when you are attempting to bring it about in anyone other than yourself.  All of us require painful learning experiences in order to grow and develop, it is just in our nature.  We rarely receive the motivation to change ourselves unless something painful or traumatic happens to spur us onward.  I have been learning by painful experience the past few months, and have been reminded that I cannot change other people.   No matter how much I love someone, how much I wish I could help them, or how much I try to coax them along, I cannot make someone's decisions for them.  I cannot resolve their issues, or fix whatever may be wrong.  The only thing that I can do is change my behavior and hope that they see me and do the same.  Everybody reacts differently to trials.  No soldier comes out of a war thinking of or viewing it the same as those he served with.  We cannot change how others react to difficult or unfortunate circumstances, but we can choose how we react to them. 

Many of us would like to be able to transfer the responsibility for our actions and feelings onto others.  We say things like "I can't help but feel this way, my ex-husband was awful and he did this to me" or "Well, I just had a terrible childhood and I can't help it. My parents did this to me..."  I know I had used the latter excuse a lot when I was a teen.  My biological father was a terrible, violent man.  When I was a child I would lay in bed at night and listen to my parents scream at each other, an think that if I were to run away then my family would be happy because I was obviously the cause of the contention there (my father liked to get mad at and punish me for things that I didn't do because he knew it would bother my mom.  I ended up thinking that I really was the cause of all my family's problems.).  When my parents got divorced, I had many unresolved anger issues, not just towards my father, but towards men in general.  While all of us did receive counseling after the divorce, it took many years for me to reach the maturity level required to put the things we learned into practice.  I didn't want to let go of my anger towards men.  It made me feel powerful and in control.  I became quite aggressive at times, and would fight with my brothers or any other "guy" that wanted to mess with me.  When I would do things like that my mom obviously had a responsibility to correct me, and one thing she would tell me all the time as she was explaining my punishment was that I had no control over anything that was done to me as a child, and it wasn't my fault that those things happened.  The one thing that I did have control over was how I chose to react to it, and what I chose to do with it.  If I made poor decisions I could not blame them on the abuse that had happened to me, I had to own them myself.  I was never given the opportunity to lay the responsibility for something I had done onto someone or something else, whether it was my daddy issues, or teenage hormones, or lack of sleep, or depressed moods, I was always held accountable  for what I had done.  And rightly so! 

Now you can imagine as a teenager that this type of responsibility didn't go over too well.  But those lessons stuck with me.  As I got older I began to see how I was crippling myself with my anger.  The anger was an easy choice.  It was appealing, it took very little effort, was easy to summon up, and left those around me intimidated and frightened.  No wonder it appealed to my father so much!  But I realized that just because it was easier, didn't mean that it was better.  Forgiveness?  That was hard.  It took constant and active effort.  It meant that I had to learn to control my feelings and not let the anger take control.  I had to ask for forgiveness from others, and I had to forgive myself.  I had to forgive myself for not being able to protect my family.  I knew that I was just a child, but I wanted to protect them none the less.  I had to learn to see differing view points, and recognize that my was was not the only option.  I had to learn to view God differently, to see not just His wrath and judgment, but to focus on His love and mercy.  It took a long time, required a lot of soul searching, but I was eventually able to get myself into a healthy state of mind.  When I finally forgave my father, I released a huge burden off of myself.  I was no longer plagued by the stifling emotions.  I recognized the pain for what it was and did not let it turn itself into anger.  As time has passed, I kept finding new realizations of hurt that needed to be dealt with, hurt that had been hidden for years behind anger and never healed.  The anger kept the wounds fresh and open, constantly oozing and bleeding betrayal behind the scenes.  When I started to forgive those things I was able to let those wounds close up.  I still have the scars.  but they are not bright and painful.  They are old and a shiny glossy white, smoothed down by time.  When I see them it is almost a surprise, I had forgotten they were there.  When I examine them closely I remember what caused them and how they came to be, but I feel no more rush of anger.  They are gentle reminders of what can happen when a person refuses to take responsibility for themselves, and instead tries to thrust it upon others.  I resolved that I would be different from my father.  I would not cause others pain in order to hide my own.

I broke the chains of anger that I tried to hold my father captive with, and when I did, I found that the only person that I had liberated was myself.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Bedrooms, Floors, and Flying!

Okay, as I have said before, I am not perfect with my Fly-Lady stuff, but I am loving it so far!  Even though at the moment my house is pretty thrashed from the work we've been doing on it the past day or so, I don't feel overwhelmed by any of it.  That alone is a pretty huge change!  Normally I look at a mess and freak out because I don't know where to start, and there are so many freaking details to finishing whatever it is I want to finish, that I don't end up doing it.  But with Fly-Lady everything is simplified.  When I'm washing dishes, I don't need to make sure that everything is perfectly sanitized and disinfected, the floor is swept and mopped, and that everything is picture perfect nice and cute, I just need to wash the dishes and wipe out the sink.  If I want and I have time, I can sweep and sanitize everything, but I don't HAVE to every time.  And freeing myself from that actually enables me to do more than I would normally do.

One example of this is sweeping.  I have avoided sweeping much of my house for (literally) months because there are so many construction materials out everywhere, and dust-bunnies get caught on the sub-floor (the floor beneath your floor!  Didn't know you had one, did you?) and it was a big hassle and sometimes more messy than just allowing the dirt to be there.  Between drywall dust, mud and texture remnants, and the grout for the tile in our bathroom, it just wasn't worth it to me.  But about a week and a half ago I decided that I wanted to sweep at least 4 times a week, and preferably every day.  So I started doing it.  I gathered all the construction materials into one small spot (I need to do this again because things are spreading out as we use them!) got everything off the floor that had no business being there, and started sweeping.  I started in our room, and then the bathroom and hall, then moved to the living room, and by the time I was done I had a fairly decent pile of dust and debris gathered up.  I swept it up, threw it out, and for the first time in months, walked from the living room to my bedroom without shoes on, and didn't worry about getting splinters!*  It was pretty encouraging for me.  I have been sweeping every few days since then, and I can really tell the difference.   When I sweep I do the everything from the kitchen on in (I don't do the mudroom every time because my dog and cat just thrash it within 10 minutes!), and it usually only takes me 10 to 15 minutes to do.  Which is another thing that I like.  Fly-Lady says to break your work down into manageable portions, 5,10, 15, or 20 minute segments, and when the time is up you don't have to keep at it.  Only start what you can finish in your selected time period.  Sometimes I have gone over my time- only by a couple of minutes- because I have a bad habit of leaving projects unfinished and I am trying to break my habit.  One time I had my three biggest house cleaning projects done in just under an hour.  It was awesome!  I am feeling a lot more in control of my household now, and I think that the Handsome Boy is liking it too.

In fact, he is liking it so much that he put floor down in our bedroom this week!!!  About a week ago we found a great deal on flooring and we bought enough to put down in our bedroom and our living room (just to get us started, the deal was too awesome to pass up!).  This past Saturday the Handsome Boy spent the whole morning clearing out a space for our vegetable garden, digging out a ditch down the driveway so our back yard wouldn't flood, and then he came in around 2:00 or 3:00 and put the entire floor down in our bedroom.  Watching him go made me feel somewhat paltry and insignificant with what I was doing, it was like watching a freaking tornado go through!  He finished our entire bedroom floor on Saturday, which means that I now have a floor in my room!!!  I love it too, its a nice blonde laminate floor, and it looks beautiful.  I am amazed at how much he did!  He is such a good example to me.  He is one of the hardest working people that I know and I always feel lazy when I'm working with him because he does so much!  He is my biggest motivation to change myself, because I know that he deserves someone much better than the person I currently am, and I want to change that.  I am so excited about my floor though!!  I know that people live in houses under construction for years at a time, and we haven't even been here a full year yet, but I am ready to have this sucker finished!   It will be so beautiful once it is done, and I can't wait to see it.

I know, I'm a dork.  But you love me anyways, don't you?  :-)

*One thing you have to realize about sub-floor is that it is basically particle board.  Its not meant to be used as a real floor, and will start flaking and it will give you splinters.  Not pleasant!  As such we always wear shoes in the house, which I'm not too fond of... :-)

Saturday, March 5, 2011

FlyLady progress...

So I've been slowly working on my FlyLady project for about a month now, and I am slowly starting to see improvement in my house hold.  I still struggle with some of the basic stuff like keeping my kitchen sink shining, and picking out my outfits at night so I don't have to do it in the morning, but all in all, I think I'm actually doing quite well.  As I mentioned before, I de-cluttered quite a bit in my kitchen and it was looking fabulous, but then I got busy and I haven't kept up on it as I should and now clutter is starting to show its ugly face again.  I suppose that it could be a clever strategy on my part:  Get rid of the obvious clutter, open up some nice flat surfaces for clutter to start sneaking out onto, and just when it is starting to get comfortable you nab it all up and get rid of it!!!!!  Bwahahahahahahaaaaaaaaaaa!  Really, the fact that my kitchen is no longer quite so organized is just a clever ploy on my part to trap unsuspecting clutter and rid my life of it.  See, that makes me feel better... 

I have been doing much better though.  In the past 2-3 weeks I have completely filled not only our garbage can, but also several of my in-law's garbage cans as well (we live next door to them so I get to do annoying things like that!) with just sheer rubbish.  I am a bit surprised at how much trash I have been bringing out.  Granted we are remodeling our house so that is so be expected, but I wasn't expecting quite this much.  Take our mud room for example: Every time I clean it out and get it looking all nice and pretty it only seems to take about 3 days and then it is filled with trash again!  Now a lot of this is due to our dog Barley dragging stuff in, but a lot of it is not.  I am surprised every time that I bring several trash bags full of garbage out to the street.  I thought that I just did this...  I could have sworn....  Oh well.  The good thing about all of this is that it is going, and I don't have to deal with it anymore. 

Yesterday I de-cluttered something that I have been avoiding for quite some time out of a sense of moral obligation.  Books.  Allow me to explain.  I have a theory about my family genetic code.  There is something in our genes that compels us to gather and collect massive amounts of books.  My mother literally has hundreds, possibly more than a thousand.  Her cousin (my aunt Kari)  once told me that ALL of her daughters (she has 4 or 5...) collect unholy amounts of books, and that she does that herself.  Why do we have all of these books?  Well, you remember those dooms-day stories about how the world has returned to the dark ages because all books have either been burned, destroyed, or used as toilet paper, and how a few brave souls who kept them hidden safely saved the world from destruction and despotism?  Well if those stories were real then the women in my family would be those brave souls saving the world one hoarded book at a time.  We love them.  Just having them around makes life worth living.  We don't even have to read them all the time, just having them and knowing that they are there when we want them is enough.  Well I have my own decent book collection, no where near as good as my mom's or my cousin's, but a good start.  The problem is that some of those books that I have aren't worth keeping for me.  I do want to have a good variety of books for my children to read (I plan on homeshooling them, but that is a completely different topic!) but I don't think that "In Search of Wallace Whipple" is going to be on my "must read" list.  So why do I have it?  And there were plenty on my shelves like that.  Books that I had been given as gifts or I picked up from thrift stores that I would never read.  So why do I have them?  So yesterday I went through some of my books and made a big stack of ones that I am going to give away.  I don't need them or want them, so I'm getting rid of them. And while part of me has a sense of guilt in throwing away the printed word in any form, part of me feels good too, because I know they will go to someone who really wants them.  Besides, I don't really care if those books get burned... :-)