There is Something Good

I believe there is something good in everything. We might not always recognize what goodness is hidden in the moment, but usually we can see it when we allow ourselves to open up to the possibility of hidden nuggets behind our own perceptions, if we can pause to focus and be grateful for what is right despite the injustices that we feel.

Last week at dinner, Charlie was struggling to see the good in his big brother. He kept using BIG words like always, never, every time, and so forth to describe the behaviors that were bugging him. He was rightfully frustrated and kept labeling his experiences with these words. He wasn’t feeling so good and I sensed a downward spiral that I didn’t like.

I wanted to teach him empathy. I wanted to teach him to see the good despite the struggle. I wanted to teach him that things aren’t always as bad as they seem. I wanted to teach him gratitude for all that is good and to recognize the conflict that was creating such frustration for him.  I wanted to protect him as he slung angry words so that he could hear the real, important message and I wanted to validate his feelings despite being frustrated and I didn’t want to react to his negative reactions. I wanted to help manage expectations. This was a complicated challenge and I was thankful for our family dinner time to be together and to work through the conflict so that we could get back to our roots.

At first it was hard to hear each other. Charlie taught me 7-11, the mindfulness technique to slow down and breathe for seven seconds and then blow out for eleven seconds. We practice this together when conversations start to get heated. I like to be as close to neutral as possible with our emotions so that we can hear each other and negotiate a fair solution. Eventually we got there. He was frustrated and expressed his concerns. I listened. And then I shared with him a story about how I used to label people a certain way when they frustrated me. I told him that the more I called someone something mean, the meaner they became. They lived up to my expectation and I was successful at not liking them, but I was sad because I loved them and wanted to like them. I didn’t like creating monsters from my perceptions and I had to fight against the labels to make the monsters go away. I had to see the good in them when I didn’t want to, and I had to keep fighting to see their value instead of what bugged me. I told him instead of seeing what was wrong with the other person, I tried to find 5 things I liked about them despite the things that bugged me. It worked. It works every time with those I wish to have positive relations because I choose to focus on the good so that I can scare the monsters away and catch them being great.  I challenged Charlie.

I asked him to think about what he liked about his big brother and to share with us 5 things. He was mad at me and I pushed him a little harder. He chose sarcasm as his weapon. His first response was that he liked his brother because he was a boy. His second response was that he was tall. I told him that these didn’t count. He had to use his imagination to think of what things his brother did that he really enjoyed. And then he practiced 7-11 and began again, because he knew he had to answer eventually and he really doesn’t like long, drawn out conversations over dinner. As he began, he shared really nice things such as his brother letting him in his room, and how his brother lets him play Minecraft with him, and how he lets him hang out with his friends. And as he shared, his tone began to change. He started to believe himself and he was right. He liked the things that were good more than he didn’t like the things that were wrong. He was able to see that his brother wasn’t always, never, ever and etcetera.  He saw the good. This created a connection and both boys were content.  Apologies were shared for the actions that created the conflict and resolutions were made.

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This took time. It wasn’t easy. Yet we took the time to listen, to validate, to redirect, to be empathetic, to hear each other and to not be defensive. We protected each other and avoided accusations and instead used words such as “I don’t like it when…” and “I feel… when you…” and it was no longer feelings of personal attacks and people feeling like they had to hold on to their positions. It was actually pretty cool. Our family focus is on connections and not conflict and to love one another despite any struggles. We kept bringing the conversation back to the center and the end result was success and we picked up where we left off and cleared the dishes.

So fast forward to today when after school, the boys chose to play basketball together and Charlie let his big brother be the coach that he wanted to be. The two played and enjoyed each other’s company and I was proud of their connection.

Wishing you the power to always find connections despite the conflicts you are faced and the strength to persevere.  There’s always something good.

Namaste.

Day 321: Swirled – Sad and Happy and Thankful

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Goodbye, Miss Minivan! You’ve been all over the world and we’re leaving you behind in Amsterdam.

Continuing on with the process of moving back to the States, today Jeff and I went to the Honda Dealer to dispose of our 2003 Honda Odyssey Minivan.  Now I never really wanted a minivan, and don’t think they’re very sexy, but I just pretended it wasn’t one and enjoyed all of it’s efficiency, practicality and ability to move many people and children all over the world.  It has 125,00 miles on it and on our last trip to Normandy, the transmission light came on and that was the end of the light for her. To repair the transmission would have cost 6300 Euros, which is $8365 USD. The van isn’t worth that much, but we were hoping it would last for our duration in the Netherlands. Sadly, it didn’t and we couldn’t get a rebuilt transmission because this model of vehicle is not made in Holland. We can’t sell the vehicle as is, because of tax reasons and it not having been here for a year yet. So we were stuck with a sour lemon.

For some reason this made me very sad. I didn’t want to let go of it, but I had to. I didn’t want to give it away for nothing, but I had to. I didn’t want to leave it behind in Holland this way, but I had to. I have to let go. I have to not be so attached. I have to not care. But I do. And I did. And I cried. But I think it was just symbolic of having to let go and leave and say goodbye, and I’m not ready yet. I don’t want to. But I have to. And it’s ok. And I have so much to look forward to.  But I’m sad to let go. And so I cried.  Not an ugly cry, but a sad cry, as part of the process of accepting the change. And Jeff probably thought I was crazy. But you and I know, I wasn’t really crying about the car – it was just a good excuse to cry about leaving and hurting a bit, and letting go.

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We took off my roof racks, and emptied the CDs and jackets and wrappers and contents from the glove box. I took down the rearview mirror attachment I used to have eyes in back of my head, looking at my kids while we drove to Thousand Oaks, the Grand Canyon, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Canada, Luxembourg, Belgium, Lichtenstein, Germany, and France just to name a few places.

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And then I said goodbye to my car and the memories it helped me to make, and another tear fell. And I kept saying how stupid I was for crying over a stupid car and that it was really not that big of a deal, and that everything was ok.  And then I took a deep breathe and let go.  Aaahhhhh…..

………………..

I was an hour late to my physio apointment that I thought was at 11, but really was at 10. I’m a bit absent minded these days. I said goodbye to my therapist, since I don’t have time left to visit any more. I didn’t feel too sad about this, but more of a relief.  One less thing to do, one less item to check off my list.  Let’s just hope my headaches stay away.

I stopped by the Kringloop (Salvation Army) store to figure out how to donate any furniture and household goods we  won’t need any more once we’re ready to move next month. Between my limited Dutch and the worker’s limited English, it probably took 20 minutes to set up two appointments. They first want to come to the house to see what we have to donate, and then they schedule another visit to do the pickup. All is set now, I just have to finish deciding what to take and what to leave.

While I was working on this task, I got a text from Jen inviting me to go for a walk or run with her. I was so glad to hear from her, and since I’d accomplished two BIG tasks, I was happy to take a break. I just wanted to enjoy her company and hear about and see her pictures from her BIG trip to Uganda (and selfishly not think about me leaving.) I invited her over for lunch, if she’d bring her computer with her!!  She luckily agreed.  😉 She recently went to Uganda to support one of her best friends, who is helping to build a school and to raise money through sponsorships of the children. She went primarily to take pictures of the children so that people who sponsor them can see the light in their eyes. I am so proud of and inspired by her for making and taking the time to go to support her friend and those in need. You can learn more about Parental Care Ministries Work in Uganda here:  http://www.parentalcareministries.org/wordpress/  Our lunch date was exactly what I needed – quality time with a good friend!  I was content again.  Thanks Jen for our “run”.  It was a perfect afternoon.

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Spontaneous lunch outside with Jen – this is my favorite salad made with beets, balsamic vinegar, toasted pine nuts, arugula, and goat cheese. It was a gorgeous day out!

So remember yesterday I mentioned how I am practicing and learning to let go and to let go of anxiety and to just flow with what comes my way and how uncomfortable this is for me? Phew, that was a long sentence!  Well today I was on one of those anxiety highes and as I breathed and let go, that’s when Jen texted me and then lunch and sharing photos and a bike ride and shopping unfolded from not having a “real” plan.  How could I have planned something that great when I was so sad earlier this morning?  I don’t know how it works, but it does for me and I hope it will for you too.  It’s letting go of fear and control and then accepting what comes your way and adapting every step.  Good things happen that way.

And to add to the list of good things happening today, Patti Beth called me to say she had a gift for me. She’s leaving town in 3 more days, so it’ll be another sad day of goodbyes, that I’m trying not to dwell on, but I’m definitely feeling. The gift she gave me was so touching and meaningful and I’m so thankful for it. She painted a wooden clog for me and the letter she wrote on the bottom of it was even greater and really touched my heart. Now can you see why it’s so hard to leave here? I’ve made really good friends and have new girlfriends for life.  Thank you Patti Beth for your thoughtful gift. I am going to miss you.

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One of the most thoughtful gifts I’ve ever been given.

I felt so drained today from moving between the extremes of being really sad to really happy. After picking up 2 out of 3 of kids from school and socializing with the other mamas, I decided to relax and surprise my little Dutchies and stopped near our house for some of their favorite, unhealthy, Dutch treats – bitterballen and Kaassoufflé – deep fried cheese.   We all loved sitting outside and enjoying our deep-fried snacks that we can only get here (I think!) Enjoying the moments…

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Charlie with his bitterballen

So there you have it… a busy day in the life of a mom, trying to wrap up the end of the school year while saying goodbye to good friends and planning the details of our move back to the States. Life is good… even when it’s sad and bumpy.

Namaste

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Our simple, family dinner… delicious and comforting and much needed.