Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Finding Joy

It was another bad night last night.  Possibly worse than the night before.  Not only was there vomit, but there was also explosive diarrhea that could not be controlled.  So, there were about 5 jammie changes and 3 changes of the sheets.  Poor little Tommy was trying to be such a good sport, but he was miserable.  I felt really badly for him.  He is still suffering through it today.

As I dragged myself down the hallway to Tommy's room for the fifth time last night I glanced out the window and saw this:
Another three inches was deposited in our yard and it has continued to snow all day today.  It might look pretty, but not in March.  And it did nothing to help me feel better this morning after another sleepless night.  I am so sick of this cold, dreary, snowy weather.  I was foolishly thinking that March would bring spring and yet there is no spring in sight.  *sigh*
Just a few short weeks ago this weather combined with sick kiddos would have had me depressed and grumpy.  I would no doubt be moping around the house mumbling to myself about how I had such a hard job, how my kids were driving me crazy, how I just had to have some sleep, how no one seems to care how much work I do, how no one is grateful.  It would have been a downward spiral of negativity. 

I don't know if I was thinking that all those negative thoughts would make me feel better, or if I felt I was just venting, or what.  But what I didn't realize was how it affected the people that meant the most to me.  I thought that if I kept those negative thoughts to myself no one would be affected at all.  But those negative thoughts seeped into my words and actions like thick, black smoke.  My attitude let everyone know that everything was work.  Everything was hard.  Everything was a hassle.  And it did affect my family.  They could feel it. I didn't know how much until Todd and I got into an argument and he told me I was miserable and no one wanted to be around me.  It was a shocker.  But it really woke me up. 

Somwhere in the past few months I had lost my joy. 

At our wedding our priest, and very good friend, read from John 15:9-12.

"As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you."

After the priest read the passage he went on to talk about joy.  He spoke about how important it is to live your life with joy and how he wished for Todd and I to have joy in our lives and in our married life. 

I thought of all of this when I contemplated my recent attitude.  Where had my joy gone?  How had I gone from enjoying my family, my children, my husband to acting like they were bothersome?   And how could I let them feel that from me for even a second of their lives?

I knew I needed to change my attitude immediately.  While I was not speaking to Todd for the day and a half following our little argument I realized something.  I was much more pleasant to be around when I wasn't speaking.  That is not good.  Apparently, I was spewing much more negativity than I thought.  Instead, I began speaking only when absolutely necessary and when I needed to reprimand the kids I did so in a sugar sweet way as if to say to Todd, "See!  I'm so pleasant and the children LOVE to be around me."  In doing that I also saw how much better the kids responded to me.  I realized if I could behave like that for a day and a half to prove a point to Todd then I could certainly do it all the time to be a better mother to my kids.  It really was an eye opener.

But getting out of the negativity takes constant reminders. I needed to constantly remind myself to bite my tongue.  I went online and found a mother and child necklace that I love.  On the back it says, "A mother's arms are made of tenderness."  Yes!  That was exactly the reminder I needed.  I bought that necklace along with a necklace of the Virgin Mary (who could be a better model of a mother?) and when I got them a few days later I wore them both constantly (you can probably see the necklaces in a couple of the pictures from our trip to the museum).  Feeling the necklaces around my neck, and remembering the words engraved on the back, helped to keep me focused. 

It seems to me that everything happens for a reason.  Even that ridiculous argument Todd and I had happened for a reason.  Good came out of it.  The weeks that followed have been a blessing.  Have I been perfect?  No way.  But my attitude has changed.  I feel like I have changed.  I am more myself again. These last few weeks I have definitely liked me more and I think my family has too.  I can see clearly again.

Everyone has bad days.  Everyone gets grumpy and nasty sometimes.  But what bothered me was thinking about the possibility that I could have made my children and my husband feel like they were a burden.  Never, ever, do I want my family to question my love or devotion to them.  They are the best and most precious part of my life, and I know I was not expressing that to them enough. 

I want to be their warm, cozy, nest that they can hide in from the rest of the world.  I want to be the one place they can come to when they need comfort or fun or laughter or rest or energy or help or creativity or warmth or love or tenderness.  I want to show them how to live their lives with joy. 

Motherhood is hard.  It really exposes all of our flaws and our failings.  It forces you to hold a mirror up to yourself and it is not always the picture you thought you'd see.  I am definitely a work in progress.  But what I do realize is that if I want my children to be joyful and loving and compassionate and kind and patient then that is the person I need to be.  I can not make my children behave one way or the other, but I can be a good example for them as to how they should behave.  That is what I am striving to do.  I just want to be better.  And in trying to be better I am finding my way.  I'm finding my joy.

Today is Ash Wednesday.  It is the start of the Lenten season.  Although I was not able to make it to mass this morning as I had planned I was able to think about what I want to get out of these next 40 days.  I want to live with joy and love leading my life.  I want to be the mother that God had intended for my children.  I want to be an example for them.  I want to be calm and compassionate and caring even in the most difficult circumstances.  Instead of giving up sweets or promising not to eat after 8:00 at night, I'm gonna work on me.  I'm going to work on being better.  And living with joy.


ewe are here said...

This post is a good reminder for me as well ... less yelling, more joy.

Perhaps I should give up yelling for a while... or at least try harder than I think I have been lately.

Hope poor little Tommy is feeling better and everybody gets some sleep!

Hilary said...

It's too easy to fall into a negative mood when stressed out. Good for you for recognizing that and for pulling yourself out of it. I hope the kidlet is feeling better before too long.

Karen Deborah said...

Poor Tommy did he get food poisoning? That little guy is really SICK. Poor little fella, tell him your blog friends hope he gets better soon.

We all do what you did. That's why the book I'm reading has me so enchanted. To keep a journal of thanks. Ann makes a practice of freeze framing moments like your pictures and writing them down. Yours would have been something like,
beauty of unwelcome snow in the trees.
wake up call to love,

Check out her website you will love it!!

Kat said...

Ewe are here- I guess we all go through it.

Hilary- Thanks. :)

Karen- No, it isn't food poisoning. He has a stomach virus that has been going around. So many people have had the same nasty thing. Hopefully it is gone soon. Now I'm worried about the rest of my monkeys. Ugh.

Mom24 said...

Thank you Kat. So much to think about here. It is important, and sometimes oh so hard, to keep reminding ourselves who we want to be, how we want to live our lives, what we want to teach our children about love/mothering. You've given me a lot to reflect on.

Hope tonight's a better night.

Rima said...

I recognize so much of myself in what you've written here. It makes me want to be a better mother and live with joy, too.

But for the record, I can tell after reading you for the past few years, that you are a wonderful mom.

Lindsay said...

I love your {new & improved} attitude! I, of course, know exactly what you are talking about. It's SO easy, especially this time of year, to get down in the dumps about the weather - about the sickies - about everything that's yucky about winter. But for me it always goes back to WHO is in control? Thankfully not me!

Hang in there - Spring is just around the corner.


Riahli said...

Wow, this really hits home for me. I want so badly to be a better, less stressed out and grumpy, mommy to my kids. I hate the idea of them feeling like a burden to me... what an eye opener. I'm sure my attitude has made my family feel that way as well. I need a plan. I need to work on me too. It's not easy, I get so caught up in the moment and often forget to take a step back and relax a little bit.

Jill said...

Oh do I relate ... so very very much.

Deborah said...

A wonderfully real post from a very lovely mum, sending much joy your way x

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

You are so right--and sometimes when you feel so overwhelmed, it's really okay to step back and remove your mood from the party. I tell my sons that all the time--it's okay to feel crabby, but then go to your room so you don't infect everyone! It will pass, just take care of yourself, right?
I hope your little guy feels better soon.

Jeni said...

I'm so sorry to hear that you'd had a bit of a rough patch lately. That's hard for anyone to deal with, and especially when, for a person like yourself who is generally very positive and happy, that these things happen and often, we don't even realize what's taking place then either.
Winter is a difficult season for many reasons -we don't get enough sunlight to sustain us and cold, snow-filled days, while often pretty to look at, also bring lots of extra work along with them too -plus the normal deluge of the flu and colds and such.
When my dear neighbor died about 10 years ago of a malignant brain tumor, our minister in his sermon at her funeral, reminded everyone of one of her favorite phrases -"This too shall pass." And we forget, all too often during the wintry weather, that this too will pass and eventually, spring will arrive, grass will turn green, the rains will take the place of the snow, flowers will begin to bloom again and the air will smell much differently then too. I've used those words -"This too will pass." many, many times since my neighbor died and it generally helps to lift my mood and change my attitude as well too. And see, you've already done that so this is in the passing zone now. (Sick kids do make getting things to "pass" really hard and are definitely no help at all though!)

Dawn said...

Thank you for writing this beautiful, honest post. I already wrote a comment, but it seemed to have disappeared...maybe it will show up later and you'll have two from me. ;) I just wanted to let you know how I needed to read this today and what a blessing it was to me.

Kat said...

Thanks everyone. It is helpful to hear that I am not the only mother that struggles with this. And you are right, Jeni, this too shall pass. That is a favorite saying of mine as well. :)

Elaine A. said...

Kat, this is so beautiful. And I love the last part about how you say you are going to work on you and live with joy in mind this Lenten season. We can all learn from that, no matter our religion. You are an inspiration with you words and I think I'll take a cue from you...

I didn't make it to mass either. I was disappointed but I know God understands...

Lisa said...

I hear you. Sometimes it's easy to get bogged down in how hard this "living the dream" can be. It's 24/7, and sometimes you just feel like you can't get enough air. Glad you got through the hump though. Sometimes awareness is the biggest part of the battle. Hugs!

Words To Live By

Be grateful for each new day.
A new day that you have never lived before.
Twenty-four new, fresh, unexplored hours to use usefully and profitably.
We can squander, neglect, or use them.
Life will be richer or poorer by the way we use today.
Finish every day and be done with it.
You have done what you could;
some blunders and absurdities crept in;
forget them as soon as you can.
Tomorrow is a new day.
You shall begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be
encumbered with your old nonsense.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson