Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Overcoming a struggle

Today is a struggle day. At least it started that way. It began as one of those days where nothing is going particularly wrong, just the normal minor disasters, but today I didn't seem to be handling them very well. The postpartum hormone thing has definitely been tough this time around.

On the way to the grocery store to pick up the one item I forgot to get yesterday but is essential for the supper tonight, I kept telling myself over and over again, "Life is not hard. Your life is not hard. You have so many comforts and conveniences available to you. You have a beautiful home and family. Life is not hard." I continued this all through the grocery store and on the way home. But, it really did not seem to be helping any. In fact, the more I told myself these things, the worse I felt and by the time we got home I was ready to cry. After getting both kids and the groceries in the house, I made myself stop and think for a minute. Obviously, this self talk was not helping any. So, I changed tactics.

"OK, you do have a good life, but today is hard. For whatever reason, whether it's in your control or not, today is hard. You're very emotional and feeling overwhelmed. So, what can you do right now to make it better?" So, looking around my house at the piles of laundry that needed to be folded, the toys scattered absolutely everywhere and the stacks of dirty dishes, I decided that getting the sacks of groceries put away would make me feel better. Once that was complete, I decided to put away various things that had been left out on the counter; a box of cereal, the jar of peanut butter, the salt and pepper, some pot holders and various dishes. By then, Gustin was crying and demanding to be fed, but that was alright because I really felt better. I had taken just a couple of moments to complete a few simple tasks and now caring for the screaming baby didn't seem like such a daunting chore. Life didn't feel as hard.

I'm sharing all of this because I think many women probably have similar struggles. I know that I was always taught that if things are tough you suck it up, remind yourself about how blessed you are and about all the poor children that are starving in Africa, etc. and you go and take care of business. While this approach may be appropriate at times, at others it can belittle the feelings I am having and make me feel selfish and weak. The more I am reminded of my faults and weaknesses, inevitably, the less productive and cheerful I become and my day gets worse instead of better.

But this morning I learned something about myself. I cannot push my feelings aside and pretend to ignore them. It's self defeating and self destructive. Nope, I need to openly acknowledge whatever negative feelings I am experiencing and then give myself the time and space to identify what would be best for me to do to try to relieve them. For me, it's amazing what just being able to complete a simple task from start to finish without being interrupted can do for my stress level. The rest of the house may be a complete wreck, but at least one task was completed that can't be undone. I accomplished something that wasn't getting done while I was spending all my energy trying to convince myself that I was not struggling.

And, now I've finished this post. Aaahhh, I'm feeling better and better all the time.


Emily said...

Well put, Colleen. I think I'm going to refer to this frequently!

Colleen said...

Thanks, Emily. I need to do the same to remind myself!

Lillian said...

I hope your week is going better. I think you're right on about just picking a task and completing it. Anything that helps you to regroup and start all over is good.

Colleen said...

Thanks, Lillian. It has been better. I just keep trying to focus on one thing at a time. I think getting a little more sleep will help, too. I look forward to sleeping in tomorrow, if the kids will allow it!

Jill said...

I can totally relate. I remind myself every day of people who have it harder than I do. (Much harder!) But, in those moments when four kids are all demanding attention and you are tired from a new baby... it just doesn't feel like it.
I enjoy your honesty.

Colleen said...


It feels so good to have you say that. I'm so glad that I'm not the only one that feels that way at times.