Personal ponderings from a natural night-owl!

Posts tagged ‘Choices’

Today I Am Perfect

I hate taking pills. In fact, in another lifetime (before I had kids) I declared that I’d better stay healthy when I got old because there was no way I could EVER take a pill a day, let alone several.

Then I had kids. Kids taught me, in so many ways, to never say never. After my second pregnancy, I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism. The treatment? A pill a day.

Treating thyroid conditions requires consistency. The medication is slow to build in the body, so it takes about 3 months to reach peak efficacy. This means that you can skip a day without much negative effect. I tried taking the pills. It would work for a day, a week, maybe even a month. But then I’d forget  for a day. One day became two, then four, then 20. Failure. I’d try again, but inevitably, I would fail at taking my pill consistently, which meant that the pills weren’t really going to help me. They were a mental pain, a sign of weakness and failure. I hated thinking about them every day. I felt demotivated, sick, and old – at age 31.

I did some further research about hypothyroidism, educated myself thoroughly, and decided that my condition wasn’t worth treating. (Or at least, that it wasn’t worth treating if I couldn’t treat it perfectly). My case was mild, my symptoms minor and not at all bothersome, and the pills seemed to be taking over my life. My doctor didn’t understand or agree with my choice, but he acknowledged my autonomy as a patient. I continued to have my TSH levels checked yearly to make sure nothing was changing. I didn’t deny that I had the condition. I just chose not to treat it, because if I couldn’t treat it perfectly, I wasn’t going to treat it at all. And this way, I didn’t have to face the daunting spectre of imminent failure every singe day.

This coping mechanism worked fine for 8 years or so, but then in 2009 early pre-menopause and hypothyroidism became contributing factors in an apparent radical hormone imbalance that resulted in depression. As I got on the road to recovery, it became clear that I really needed to start consistently treating my thyroid condition to maintain good mental and physical health. So I started taking a pill a day.

The first year was on-again, off-again – just like before. But this time, I was also seeing my lovely therapist who helped me examine what I was doing and how I was feeling. Somewhere in our conversations, I had the idea that I could change my definition of “success.” Maybe “success” didn’t need to be synonymous with the “perfection” of  taking a pill a day and never skipping. Maybe I could lower the bar and re-define success as “taking a pill a day until I didn’t – THEN taking a pill a day even after a skip.”

So in January, 2011 I started a chart because I’m a firm believer in the concept that you pay attention to what you track. I made a little calendar that could fit inside my pill box, and I started writing “P” every day that I took my pill. I did pretty well! I went a whole 37 days before I missed a few days from being sick. Ugh. I gritted my teeth and started taking the pill again.

This “failure” was now progress – and success! All of a sudden, the very thing would have made me feel like a failure – missing a few days of pill taking – made me feel successful – all because I’d changed my definition of success and accepted the inevitability of human imperfection.

I went 47 more days without missing, then I missed a day, took pills for two more days, and missed an entire WEEK. Here was a challenge. Could I stick to my new definition of success and start again? I could, I did, and life was good. It was summer of 2011 and I wasn’t perfect, but I felt successful – I WAS successful!

Or was I? Maybe I was cheating. Is changing the definition of “success” to make it less than perfection really succeeding? It sure is. And in a weird way, it enabled perfection. Because you see, I didn’t every give up the notion that taking the pill a day, every day, was the ultimate goal, the perfect goal. I just stopped making it the ONLY goal.

I am a Christian and my Lutheran faith tells me that Jesus died for my sins so that I could be perfect in God’s eyes. God wanted perfect obedience from his creation, but he also wanted it freely given from us, so he gifted us with free will and the ability to choose obedience – or not. Satan is real and Satan is allowed to tempt us, try to part us from our loving creator God. Sadly, from the very first human, we’ve chosen temptation and disobedience over perfection. We are a corrupted creation.

But God changed the definition of success for us through Jesus. Instead of heaven being reserved for beings who never make a bad choice, heaven is now for those who acknowledge their failures, regret them, and come to terms with the inevitability of them. To attain heaven, we must let go of our human lust for pride and power, admit complete defeat, and accept God’s superiority over us by accepting Jesus as savior.  We can’t even do that perfectly, so we have to do it over and over again, never losing faith that through God, our imperfection can be made perfect. In holy communion, I accept Jesus as my savior again. I acknowledge what I have chosen to say and do (and what I have chosen to NOT say or NOT do) that goes against what my omniscient and omnipotent God knows would ultimately make me happiest. My sins are forgiven and I am made perfect.

In other words, when you are a Christian, every day is New Year’s Day.

I continued trying to take my pills. I missed most of April, May, June, and July, 2012. In the past, I would have considered that an EPIC failure. But because of my new definition of success, I instead had the opportunity for epic success. I started taking my pills again on July 26th. And this time, I didn’t stop. So today, December 31, marks the last day of 5 consecutive months of not missing one day of pill taking!

Today I am perfect.

I know that I will fail again. Maybe not tomorrow, but some day. I am human and I simply am not capable of attaining perfection in my present form. But now I know how to shrug off the curse of perfectionism that tells me I will never succeed, change my definition of success, start over, and achieve. I wish you nothing less in 2013.

For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her

If you met me on the street, you’d think I’m a normal run-of-the-mill human being. But don’t be fooled, because sometimes I am two people inside my head. We’ll call them Miss Rational and Miss Emotional.  Well, Miss R and Miss E got into a big ole fight today. I’ll give you a glimpse into the conversation once you have the backstory.

Our 11 year old is in the 6th grade gifted program in our district.  She worked a year and half to get in, usually missing the required standardized test scores by one or two points.  Making it into the program mid-way through the school year last year was a huge accomplishment for her and she was THRILLED.  She was also excited for this quarter’s subject: guided independent research on a topic of her choosing, which was Alaskan Wolves.

The quarter started around November 1st, but by Thanksgiving we got a head’s up from the teacher that 11yo wasn’t turning in stages of the required assignments. We are very hands-off parents with regard to homework, but we stepped in at this point to help guide and coach our chronically disorganized and potentially overwhelmed young student.

Fast forward to today: project and presentation due date when, in the car on the way to school, I discover that the centerpiece of her research, a telephone interview with a gentleman from the Alaskan government who works with wildlife, was omitted from her bibliography.  I was already struggling to keep my mouth shut about the lack of reference to this interview in her presentation, but when I heard it wasn’t even listed in her bibliography of sources, I hit the roof. “Take out the bibliography and WRITE IT IN,” I bellowed.  It was at this inopportune time that she discovered she hadn’t even printed out and included the bibliography, a major requirement of the project.

I cried all the way home, heartsick, while Miss E and Miss R took it to the mat inside my head.

One interpretation of Miss E and Miss R

Miss E: How completely embarrassing.

Miss R: What? Why? It wasn’t YOUR project.

Miss E: It’s incomplete per the rubric, it had PENCIL on the final project info board, it’s uncreative, she’s ill-prepared – and it shows.  It’s a complete DISASTER.

Miss R: It’s not your project.

Miss E: I’m the parent, it reflects on me.  People will think I’m a bad parent who can’t motivate my child to be responsible and follow directions. Worse, I’m a STAY-AT-HOME parent – parenting is my JOB.

Miss R: Every kid goes through this and besides, grades don’t matter.

Miss E: She’s had this organizational “issue” since kindergarten. This isn’t a one-time thing – it’s an ongoing problem. She should have this organizational thing figured out by now.  She has great teachers, involved (but not OVER involved) parents, and all the tools she needs. And grades are only unimportant in theoretical discussions on Twitter. We all know that in the real world, GRADES MATTER.

Miss R: Remember your 5th grade book report and poster on Daniel Boone that you did ENTIRELY the night before? Hmmm? You were the poster child for procrastination. And grades DON’T matter. Learning matters.

Miss E: Demonstrating learning matters.  She didn’t demonstrate it. Don’t tell me grades don’t matter.  Are you saying that 4.0 MBA I have is irrelevant? I worked HARD to earn those grades. And I learned not to procrastinate because the alternative was even more uncomfortable.

Miss R: (amused) So you don’t procrastinate anymore?

Miss E: Shut up.

Miss R: She’s bright, she’s creative, she’s imaginative, she’s kind-hearted, she’s thoughtful, and yes – she’s a bit scattered and disorganized. She sometimes can’t focus because her mind goes in a million directions. Everyone has issues of some sort.

Miss E: (dismissively) Yes, yes – she’s a great kid – but she has FAILED this project.  She did this in some of her regular classes, too, so this will be her worst report card EVER. She’ll never get into the magnet school for the arts to which she is applying with those grades.

Miss R: So what if she fails this project?  The gifted class isn’t graded. Maybe she’ll have learned from it. And a few B’s or lower on the report card aren’t the end of the world.  If she doesn’t get into that school, she doesn’t.  Life goes on.

Miss E: It would have been so much BETTER if I had done the project. It would have been complete and TOTALLY creative and top notch.

Miss R: It’s not your project.  You had your chance.  And what would she learn if you covered for her?

Miss E: The project would have rocked, and I’d’ve felt better about it.

Miss R:  Not in the long run.

Miss E: Nothing is solved.

Miss R: Nothing ever is.  Correct one weakness and another will emerge.

Miss E: Life sucks sometimes.

Miss R: Yep. Sometimes. That’s life.

Ch-ch-ch-Choices

Everything is a choice.  Do you believe that?

Whether you work, or not – and where: choice.  Whether you eat, or not, and what – and why: choice.  What activities you use to fill your time, how busy your life is – or isn’t: all choices.

I hear through space and time your vigorous denials. “But…but…I have to work! I have to go to school. I have to eat. I have to get out of bed.  I have to be president of the PTA!”  But really – you don’t.  You don’t HAVE TO do ANY of those activities – you choose to do them all – every single one. And yes, there will be consequences for every choice (after a while, not eating will cause some problems), but that doesn’t make it any less of a choice.

I think many people live daily lives doing what they think they HAVE TO do, never acknowledging the CHOICES they have, ruling out myriad possibilities of action before they are ever considered.  When your eyes are opened to the vast magnitude of choices we all have every single day, it can be incredibly empowering, uplifting, inspiring, and motivating!  It can also be completely paralyzing, overwhelming, and debilitating.

I was first presented with the reality of choice by a counselor in college while I was facing a pivotal, life-changing decision.  I told her I had no choice in the matter and she pointed out that not only did I have several choices, but that the illusion of lack of choice was in fact a construct of my own unspoken choices.  The box of stress into which I had painted myself was built by my own hand. At the time, this concept of broad choice was empowering, possibly life-saving.

Nearly a year ago, I embraced the extension of reality that EVERYTHING was a choice.  And I stopped doing nearly everything.  I was tired of getting ready for Christmas, so I. just. stopped.  I did laundry only when I ran out of clothes.  I cleaned only when it bothered ME.  I didn’t want to go to work, so I quit my job.  I was tired of helping at the kids’ school, so I stopped going in. Some days, I did not want to get dressed, so I lounged around in pajamas. For days.

At first, I told myself that this was just the usual holiday break, that things would pick up again to the usual frenetic pace come January.  But the “break” lasted for 4 months and eventually I figured out that my “break” was depression.  But that period did remind me that everything – EVERYTHING – is a choice.

As a society, we are also conditioned to blame some mysterious outside force for our perceived lack of choice. “I was so busy…” or “I had no time…” or “I couldn’t get to it…”  We are somehow trained not to own our choices.  And let’s face it – putting the blame on something outside ourselves is easier than admitting that we just didn’t want to do something!  But we all have the same number of hours in a day.  What really happened in each of those situations was that we MADE A CHOICE.

The start of the new year is all about resolutions, but resolutions are really about different choices we’d like to make in our lives.  I’ve read a few thoughtful blog posts since New Year’s Day that also speak to making choices. They are worth your time and thoughtful consideration, should you chose to read them.  Zac Chase blogged about choosing to be vegetarian, but not vegan.  And Kimburly VanderHorst blogged about making purposeful sacrifices on the altar of change in order to accomplish a big goal.

Me? I’m choosing to continue my success at taking the medicines that help me balance my system and be more healthy.  I’m also choosing to keep trying to find and incorporate fun physical activity into my life.  I’m choosing to give myself permission to fail and try again, and again, and again!  And finally, I’m choosing to live a less busy, but more meaningful and joy-full, life. That doesn’t mean there are fewer activities to occupy my life, but it does mean I won’t be trying to do all of them at the same time anymore.  And I won’t apologize for making choices that please me.

What choices – large or small – will YOU make this year?

Choices

Fellow blogger Colleen over at MommieDaze posted about an interesting conversation with a woman she had met just five minutes earlier.  This woman confessed to these strangers that she married a man who reluctantly agreed to one child with her knowing that she wanted more than one, assuming she could “talk him into” having more kids.  Go here to read the details!

Colleen posed some interesting questions at the end of her post, which I was planning to answer in her comments.  But when I saw how long winded and passionate I was getting, and how long it’s been since I’ve blogged, I figured I’d better make it my own blog post.

Q: Did she wait too long to start thinking about a family?  Should she have prioritized that over career sooner?

No one can say that she did or didn’t wait too long, since it’s such a personal decision.  But life is about choices, and when you open some doors, you close others.  That’s reality – and why it’s important to plan for the big stuff.

Q:  If she’d started looking for a husband sooner, would she have found a more compatible Mr. Right?

I don’t know that it’s a timing issue as much as a priority issue.  My parents were both teachers, and nearly all of my grandparents had college degrees, so I was late into high school before I realized that not every kid goes to college.  (Yes, really!)  Therefore, in my head, all my studies were to prepare me for college and the life beyond.

In much the same way, I always assumed I would get married.  Therefore, dating was a way to learn more about people and help me figure out what characteristics I wanted and didn’t want in a man (versus just a way to have fun).

If you don’t get serious about college until senior year, how prepared are you?  If you don’t think about serious relationships and what it takes to have one – and keep one – until you are late into your childbearing years…

Q:  Did she settle by marrying presumably the first guy that came along?

That question assumes a lot.  I don’t know that he was the first guy who came along.  But it DOES look like she focused on her goal of “getting married” without thinking through what it takes to STAY married.


Q:  Should she have waited for the guy who wanted as many children as she, or was it right for her to heed the ticking of her biological clock and cut this deal with him?

She didn’t cut a deal, really; she went into the marriage dishonestly.  She makes it clear that he said one, she agreed on the surface knowing she didn’t agree in her heart, and thought she would or could change him – a sure recipe for disaster.  I see divorce or at least great unhappiness in their future.  I would also venture to say that she is insecure and immature.  Insecure because she didn’t respect herself enough to keep looking for someone with her same goals and immature for thinking she could change someone to be the way she wanted him to be.

Q:  What if she did wait, and never found Mr. Right, and never had a family at all?

There are far more ways to have a family than marrying and having a child.  I honestly believe not everyone who can SHOULD have a child.

Q:  What about her plan to “talk him into more”, which in girl speak usually translates to manipulate?

Yeah, I think I made my feelings on that point perfectly clear. (-:

Q:  I’m not judging her choices…

Sure you are.  We all are.  It’s human.  And we are all judged by OUR choices every day.  Our choices reflect our priorities, and therefore shed honest light on who we are inside.

…I just think it’s an interesting example of what today’s woman is faced with. Do you try to have it all? Do you have to make a choice between career and family? What do you do if your biological clock is a ticking time bomb and you haven’t found Prince Charming yet?

It’s not just today’s women who are faced with those choices.  Women have ALWAYS been faced with those choices throughout history.  It’s just easier to carve one’s own path nowadays. (-:

Yes, I try to have it all.  And I believe I CAN have it all, but not at the same time. (-:  Choices.

Yes, you have to make a choice between career and family.  Sometimes career will win, sometimes family will win.  It’s a balancing act – and truly reflective of what you value most in your life.  I am not comdemning people – men or women – who chose work over family, but I do feel sorry for them.  In trying to have both, they often get neither.  Choices.

And if you have’t found Prince Charming, I think you need to look at YOURSELF.  I know someone who never married, ever, because no one was good enough.  Expecting perfection is unrealistic.  After all, YOU aren’t perfect!  Expecting to find someone “close enough” and change him or her is also unrealistic and selfish. The alternative?  Decide what’s REALLY important to you, focus on those characteristics, and let go of the rest.

Relationships that last take compromise, trust, and mutual growth.  He will change, but not always the way you expect.  And if it’s a strong relationship, YOU will change, too – and love it!

My husband adds a whole other dimension to who I am.  We are alike in some ways and different in others – thank heavens!  After 13 years of marriage, he has become more like me in some respects, and I like him in others.  We balance each other – and he has made me a better person.  I wouldn’t want to raise our children alone, though I am a strong person and could do it if I had to.  He’s not perfect and never will be – neither am or will I.  But he IS my Prince Charming and my knight in shining armor.  And I wouldn’t chose to have it any other way.

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