Last year at this time, I was working on completing the “Love Dare” out of the movie Fireproof. Not because my marriage was over. But because it was in need of maintenance. Mainly preventative. (All marriages, as all relationships, need continual maintenance.) Actually, I’d decided I would do it on my whole family. I’d decided to go through the study for Lent. I’d thought it would be a good thing to do yearly, but as Lent came around this year, I didn’t really feel it necessary. I think I just didn’t want to have to DO it. Last year, it took me longer than the 40 days to finish, because I made sure that my heart accompanied my eyes along with each page, and each lesson. Sometimes each day’s readings and challenges would take me numerous days to complete. The last week I have been overtired, and it’s leaving me overly emotional. By the end of the day I’m so tired that every time I feel a body jump on me, or arms grab my hands away from what I need to be doing to coerce them into doing what they want to do… it’s all I can do not to just run to the bathroom and lock the door. I’m sure it has a good deal to do with it being the end of winter, the time of year everyone’s chomping at the bit to enjoy some sunshine and warmth, while still being trapped indoors. I had a conversation with hubbyman the other day where he said mentioned he thinks he has grown to be more patient, as a husband and a father. And I agreed; he has. I replied with, I think I’ve gotten more impatient. And, sadly, he agreed.
And then my tablet, my e-reader, my device with my Love Dare on it has died. I haven’t officially started it again (I could just download a kindle to my computer and do it there), but I may do a summary. Or I may just put on my big girl panties and do it.
I’ve been rereading some of my first posts, from last year. And as I read through some of the ones I wrote during the time I first started The Love Dare, this one struck me the most. So instead of trying to find another way to say what I’ve already said, I’m just going to include some parts that I feel show the truth of my heart.
I have a confession… while in general, I love big, give freely, and have so much empathy that it’s almost a problem… sometimes I get spent. I forget to do things just for me, or to at least take a “time out” myself. And then I become…selfish. (*insert collective gasp here*) I know, right?! It’s awful and I’m not proud of it. It is, however, true. I start to feel taken for granted which leads to feelings of discontentment. And discontentment (for me) breeds anger. In the midst of my feelings I get so caught up in how things are affecting me that I fail to see the effect I’m having on my family. And lately I’ve been a bit caught up in this cycle. Because my daily life is so entirely about “the little things,” My days pretty much revolve around the dishes, the laundry, the meals…and I can very easily get caught up in the feelings of I do it all and nobody cares. Which if I were to be introspective at all, would leave me admitting that I’m really feeling inconsequential. Instead, I stick with anger. Like a long lost friend, there is some strange sort of comfort in being angry. It’s such a familial-feeling friend to fall in with. It whispers in your ear, “You deserve some appreciation, way more than you’re getting. Nobody else does what you want. You’re always doing what they want…” You know anger and anger knows you. This cycle has a lot to do with why I started the Love Dare to begin with. As old of a friend as anger is, I’d like to get reacquainted with some others, like the patience and kindness I’ve been saying I’m working on.
And so the dare continues and I read and I do what it says, but I’m not sure I’ve actually been working on my patience…or my kindness. Maybe on the surface, but not so much in the heart. In fact, I found myself growing MORE angry. And the more I read and the more the lessons said, “you may be feeling this way… try choosing to behave like this…” the more angry I felt. What if my anger is valid? (insert thought bubble: of course my anger is valid!) What if I had some major injustice done to me? (insert thought bubble: of course I’m justified in my feelings!) Surely this justifies some anger and discontent. Nonetheless, I kept reading and then came…maybe day 8? It talked about two rooms. One is where we put the praises of those we care for (spouse, children, friends, etc and the wonderful things they’ve done and said to/for/about us and our positive feelings about them) and the other is where we put the negatives (he said, “blah, blah, blah…” she said, “blah, blah, blah…” they did this to me, they said that to me…) And while compartmentalizing some things can be healthy…moving into a room of discontentment, of course, isn’t. The day’s pages were filled with things like, when you spend a lot of time in this room you may go there to pick your fights, to be reminded of why you’re mad, even to prepare yourself for battle. And I have to admit, I do this. I go over the list of transgressions that I’m so worked up over and prepare what I would say, or what I think I should say, or what I feel is deserved to be said… over and over. It can become compulsive, even. Yuck. And can I just say it’s a little bit maddening when the very thing (the day’s love dare lesson) that’s making me mad, totally has me pegged. Crap. But just to show it who’s boss I thought I’d wait a couple days before acknowledging that the words on the pages were real in my heart. Ridiculous, right?! Of course it is, but it’s honest.
And so I confessed some of the feelings of my heart to my husband. And instead of the dialogue I’d perfected in my head, back in that room, I found the opposite taking place. Instead of my anger spewing forth, my insecurities, my fears, and my real emotions came out in a way that was open, honest, and non-accusatory (maybe some of those lessons were sinking in after all!). And my husband…instead of the words my head had heard him responding with, well, he responded in…SHOCK. He had NO IDEA that I was feeling the way I was feeling. It turns out the anger I’d been carefully polishing and protecting, like a prized trophy, is hard to hold on to when someone is so surprised by the fact that you don’t think everything is wonderful, because THEY are really thinking things are (truly) wonderful, and that I knew how wonderful he thought it all was. I mean, it’s almost laughable. Here I was, stewing in the discontentment that I was sewing into my own life… and there was my husband, looking at me with eyes that spoke volumes of love, compassion, and concern…along with some confusion. And of course, the negativity began to fall away… and so here I am sitting in another room. A room with warm, compassionate, thankful words on the walls. Walls that show examples of my children having patience with me. Words that show my husband making an effort to let me know he appreciate all the little things he does. Words and memories of all the wonderful, thoughtful things my family and friends do and have done. Some, even on a regular basis. So while I’m fighting the urge to roll my eyes at the sappy, corniness of some of the things this room has to say… I am humbled and appreciative that I have all these things to say about those that are closest to my heart. And I’m reminded of a phrase I was often told growing up, and have often repeated, “You cannot change others, you can only change yourself.” And while any life is going to have ups and downs and cycles that are forever repeated, today I am CHOOSING to think positive thoughts about those around me along with myself. I work hard to keep everyone clean, clothed, fed, and happy. Hubbyman works hard to provide the means for all of that. And the kids work hard to be…kids! Learning and living, and really, trying to be good. And while it may not be true of everyone, today I am going to CHOSE to be motivated with kindness and patience towards everyone I come in contact with.
I cannot promise that I have already let go of all the emotions and moved myself back into that room (you know, the good one). I can tell you, that I am clinging to those truths, and that outlook. We all have things in our lives, whether big problems, or small children, that get the best of us. And in the end, it’s our decision how we move forward. Our decision. Our choice. Our life. When I stop and let all those things fall into their proper places, letting the lessons take hold, only then can I really see the bigger picture. The picture where someday I will look back at the trivialness of arguing over who did the dishes, and wish longingly for the chubby little hands I once held to encircle my neck once more. The picture were I have a life well lived, and a life well-loved. A life I hope to continue living with intention. Treating those I love in a way I would always intend to, at least as much as humanly possible.