Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Let Go and Be Grateful

This month at The Power of Moms, we're focusing on the Power of Acceptance (we'll be focusing on one specific "power of motherhood" each month this year).  So I've been thinking a lot about how I can more fully embrace acceptance in my own life as I've been reading the wonderful stuff that's been posted on the topic (Check out articles on accepting your home, your physical self, your situation, etc on our Deseret News blog HERE and check out tons more on our home page HERE).

A couple years ago,  I was in the middle of a horrible down time when I was desperately wanting and wishing  for my life and some of the people in it to be different, to line up more with my ideals.  I was working hard to make things better for myself and for everyone around me and my desires seemed righteous.  But nothing seemed to be working out and I was miserable.

Anyway, as I struggled with one particularly hard situation and poured out my heart in prayer, the words came into my mind - "Let Go and Be Grateful."  I realized I needed to let go of some of my ideas of how things needed to be.  I needed to trade control for contentment, to trade wishing for what could be for gratitude for what is.  As my mom always says, "you can always change your mind - that's the one thing you can and should control."  I needed to change my attitude and adopt this new mantra - let go and be grateful.

So I knew the answer.  But just like it works with my kids, knowing what you're supposed to do and actually doing it are two separate things.

Since adopting this "mantra," I've sometimes been really good about letting go and being grateful.  Other times, I've struggled with letting go of things that seem so important but just aren't working and I've let frustrations, tiredness, and dumb little annoying things get in the way of seeking out and celebrating the good.

But as I look at my life today, I do think I've progressed.  I have learned to accept and appreciate a lot more readily.  I've let go of some ideas and practices that used to seem important but now seem pretty silly in the grand scheme of things.  I've learned to be a lot more grateful as I've processed my thoughts and actions more through this blog and other means.  I've become somewhat better at looking at the big picture and while I'm still a "recovering control freak," I am learning to mellow out more, to enjoy more, to relax, and to find the peace that comes from accepting and being grateful.

Caring so much about so many things just isn't good for me.  I'm learning to do a much better job with picking my battles. Here are a few examples of things I've let go of - and as I've let go, I've found new freedom.
  • Making sack lunches for all the kids.  I'm pretty into nutrition and the school lunches were pretty woeful in St George (stuff like 5 limp french fries and a floppy fried chicken patty on a roll with the option of a "salad bar" that only had canned fruit cocktail and a some limp iceburg lettuce plus some chocolate milk and a cupcake just didn't seem like a nutritious lunch for my kids). When we moved here and I was feeling TOTALLY overwhelmed, I decided to let go of the bag lunch packing project for a while and maybe just send some supplementary fruits and veggies.  The mornings became SO much less stressful without packing 5 lunches!  Plus we were all pleasantly surprised to find that the school lunches here are much better - much fresher and more healthy food with more variety and fresh fruits and veggies at each meal.
  • Cutting hair.  I've cut Jared's hair and all the kids hair always.  Thanks to some clippers and a how-to video we got for our wedding, I've been the sole barber for Jared and the kids.  And I've actually become a pretty decent hair cutter over the years (my first attempt right after our wedding left Jared with shaved off sideburns - oops...).  I've saved our family a lot of money over the years with my hair cutting and with 5 preschoolers, the logistics of actually taking the kids somewhere for haircuts was way more daunting than just doing it myself.  But with 6 heads of hair to take care of and the mess of hair everywhere in the kitchen and the crying of kids who can't stand having all those itchy bits of hair all over them, I needed to let go.  After the move, the kids were very very shaggy and I couldn't face a whole evening of hair cutting and weeping and wailing.  I saw a newly opened "Great Clips" advertising $6.00 haircuts and we headed on in.  One hour later, everyone had nicely cut hair and life was good.  We'll be heading to Great Clips every couple months now. (But I'm still doing my own hair color - the time and expense  - and trust - involved in having someone else do it just doesn't work for me.)
  • Perfect house.  My house in St George was beautiful.  It was clutter-free.  It was clean.  It was designed and decorated with great care.  Each paint color, each piece of furnishing was chosen with great deliberation and care (and stress) by me.  Our house there started off as a show-house for the design company I hoped to launch and for the contractors who wanted to showcase their work in the Parade of Homes.  But even after I did a couple design jobs and decided to put all that on hold, I kept that place pretty immaculate.  What was I thinking trying to raise 5 preschoolers in an immaculate house?  It was really all about control.  I felt like maybe I couldn't control the diaper explosions or the bickering of my kids and I couldn't control the flailing economy or my husband's worrisome work prospects, but I could control that house.  I could make it be clean and beautiful.  And I'm sure that little element of control did help me sometimes.  But overall, keeping a house beautiful when kids live in it is an exercise in futility.  My new housecleaning goal in this new house is one I got from my partner April: "clean enough to be sanitary, messy enough to be sane."  And thanks in large part to the fact that everything we already had went quite nicely with the paint colors and finishes someone else took care of on this house, I'm able to very happily live with all the art work and furnishings we already had without spending time and stressing out over developing the ideal decor.  This house looks just fine and it's pretty clean and we all feel quite attached to it.  There's some clutter here and there.  We could probably vacuum more.  There are still lots of pieces of baseboard to be finished and places needing paint plus the tons of exterior work to be done.  But you know what?  It'll happen sometime and right now, this place is just perfectly fine and dandy for us.  We live here and living isn't all that neat and tidy.
  • Power of Moms Perfection.  I used to be concerned about making sure every detail of every project on Power of Moms was done just right.  Each web page involved carefully crafting and editing.  I spend tons of time learning more about the psychology of color as we designed the look of the website.  I spent hours putting together "perfect" newsletters to email to all of our people.  But I realized that the difference between 1 hour of work fleshing out an idea on the webiste and 100 hours of work making that idea "perfect" didn't really make that much difference in the end.  If the idea's good and it's written up decently, it'll fly - even if it isn't wordsmithed and presented in an ideal way.  Plus I've learned that when I step back, there are other people who can do things - and do them beautifully.  During several tough times for me and for April, we've seen just the right people step up at just the right times to take over various projects.  As we've passed off projects to capable and wonderful women and trusted them to run with the projects, we've really reduced our stress levels while the end results are generally better than they would have been if we'd continued to be involved in all the little details. 
  • No TV.  We haven't had cable TV for years and it's been a great thing.  When we used to have cable, the kids would always be begging for TV and when we got rid of it they found so many more creative and fun things to do during their down time.  Jared and I watched shows via Hulu once in a while and we got a Netflix movie every Friday night for family movie night.  But after we moved and started getting a regular paycheck again, Jared politely suggested that we get cable so he could watch some Jazz games.  He'd been going to sports bars or following scores on the internet when there was a game he cared about and mostly we were working on Power of Moms stuff in the evenings.  It hadn't occurred to me how much he was giving up by not being able to watch football and basketball.  I mean I don't care about those things so why would anyone else, huh?  Anyway, we got cable and Jared has so enjoyed watching games and it's been a great bonding thing for Ashton and Isaac to watch games with their dad - especially since they're playing basketball this season and Jared is coaching Isaac's team.  TV is a totally fine thing.  Watching sports is great entertainment.  I've even taught myself to enjoy watching basketball - a brand new thing for me.  Relaxing and doing something just for fun in the evening is OK - it really is.  This is new for me.
I could go on but I'll spare you.  You get the idea.  I want to remember that while I've still got a long way to go, I AM becoming less attached to things that don't matter and more attached to things that do.  I'm figuring out what really matters to me and to my family and to those around me - and learning to cast aside the things that really don't matter that much once I think harder about it and weigh out the cost/benefit ratios.  
What can you let go of this year?  What isn't working for you and your family and really doesn't need to be part of your life?   Or what have you fought against that really would be an OK thing to let into your life?

I'm not saying we should throw up our hands and just let things ride.  I think it's so important to figure out and stick with the things that do matter.  But figuring out what those things really are- that's the issue.


Patty Ann said...

Love this one today. My New Year's resolution this year is just one word, that is "release". There are so many things I need to let go of. That is the hardest thing to do. I want so much to be successful and perfect, but it just doesn't happen, so this year, my goal is to do my best and "release" everything else into the hands of God. He is the only perfect person that I know of.

Sweating in the endless heat said...

"clean enough to be sanitary, messy enough to be sane." Thank you for that very sound thought. I think I might want to start integrating that into my life as well:-)

Shumway Family said...
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Shumway Family said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shumway Family said...

Saren - I removed my last two posts. I spelled something wrong and was embarrassed..:)

It's Maureen Shumway from your Boston days. I've silently enjoyed your blog (and the power of Moms) for a long time.

ANyway, I'm learning to let go of the fact that I don't have to do it all. I am not good at everything, and it's ok. I've also learned to give my children opportunities for independence and learn consequences from choices. It doesn't mean I'm not an engaged parent or negligent.

Tiffany said...

Last year my one resolution was to 'Laugh more.' As I reviewed 2010, I realized I didn't laugh as much as I wanted (or should have) and realized that first it is because I have to RELAX! So, guess what this year's efforts are: To relax more and thus ultimately be able to laugh more. Thanks for the ideas--it's funny the things we each get hung up on and need to let go. I'm going to incorporate April's advice "clean enough to be sanitary, but messy enough to be sane!"

April Perry said...

I just love you, Saren!

Sarah said...

Great post Saren!

anna said...

Good one, Saren. I need to let go of comparing my life to the "Sunday" life of other moms. You know what I mean. Comparing my worst to their best and not really seeing what goes on behind their "scenes." Love April's quote. So, so true.

kara jayne said...

saren you are so so wise! i wish you could've moved down south closer to me. thank you so much for all your wisdom and your example!

Eyrealm said...

ABSOLUTELY love this Saren! Well said on every front!

shawni said...

love this sar. and love YOU.

Abby M. said...

I found your blog by googling families with five kids...I had five kids in six years (wrapping things up with a set of twins too)...thank you for this encouraging post...I needed it today, as we are still in the throws of diaper changing, teething, tantrums and everything in between...thank you!


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