Friday, January 13, 2017


"When things change, or when you have to adjust things because of change, it doesn't mean that what you were doing up to that point was wrong --you were doing what was right in the time it was right. But as things shift, and you change to accommodate that shift, the new patterns are also right. It's not about right and wrong, so much as it's about the ability to adjust with life as it continuously changes. Because it will always consistently change." 
That is my poor, poor attempt at quoting my therapist. That was the meaning of what she said, but I can't quote her directly, because it was more of a conversation between the two of us. I wanted to share it, though, because I feel it's imperative to understand what she told me. I need to be reminded, constantly, as I re-wire my brain, that change is okay. 

Life feels like a constant balancing act. That metaphor (simile?) has been used a lot, but I think it's apt and relevant. Shifting direction, thoughts, schedules, actions, plans, opinions, goals, etc. are necessary throughout life because it will always be changing. Those who refuse to allow the change, who hate the change, who fight the change --they are usually very unhappy. But those who embrace the opportunity to grow and welcome adjustments tend to be much happier. 

I want to do well with change, but my mind doesn't like it. Moving is brutally hard for me. Having a baby is also difficult. Choosing to stop having babies was a hundred times harder! I like to plan for things (I really like plans) and it's taken me a few decades to embrace spontaneity and change. Luckily, I married a man who is good at this, and he's helped me understand how much better it is to go with the flow sometimes, rather than stand against the waves (and then be angry I keep falling down). 

However! When my therapist and I were talking about adjustments, her main point (for me, since, you know, she's my therapist and all) wasn't the importance of shifting, but the importance of not feeling guilty for needing to adjust. I have this attitude that if something is true, it needs to always be true. With the gospel of Jesus Christ, it is this way. With my self-worth, it is this way. But for most things in life, truth can shift and change. 

For example, about 8 years ago, I requested that my husband be home from work at 6PM for dinner with the family. It wasn't a hard request and he even agreed to it. But almost every night, he was late. He would walk in after 6pm or even 6:30pm. He always told me when he was on his way home, but by then, dinner was ready. I was so angry for so long! I couldn't believe he was doing this to us! He claimed he got pulled into meetings and emergencies last minute, that he tried to get home on time (and sometimes he did), and I just figured he didn't want to eat with us. Well, I did some praying, and I was inspired to chill out and shift dinner. Who cares when we eat dinner as a family? Isn't the point to be together? The kids could have a snack at 4PM and then we could eat closer to 7PM, or whenever he could get home. Guess what happened, dear reader? He was magically home on time to eat dinner with us every single night. And my anger disappeared. 

Because I chose to adjust, everything worked. I could have dug in my heels, but then I would have continued to be angry all the time. What was more important to me --my husband eating with us, or my idea that it had to be at 6PM? Once I answered that question, the behavior change was easy. 

It's not always that easy, though. 

I have spent years re-wiring my brain to embrace the subtle shifts of change in my life so I might better balance all the responsibilities I have to myself, my family, and loved ones. And guess what, dear reader? It's finally working. Here are some examples of how I have found balance:

*The first thing I would say is that I have included God in everything. I have always done this, although not always well, and although it was hard and I didn't want to. Even when I was at my lowest low, I still prayed. Even when I couldn't feel the Holy Ghost, anymore, I had faith. I have always kept the gospel and my testimony close by, even if I ignored it at times. Yes, it would ebb and flow. But I would fake it until I made it, and dear reader, that was definitely the right choice for me. Choosing to put God first in my life has made the rest of the goodness that followed possible! I don't know why I have been so good at this when others have not (could not?), but I am grateful. I know faith is a gift. I don't take it for granted.

*I've embraced agency. I recognize what an amazing power it is to choose! Even the smallest of choices can bring about good things in my day. I read something a friend wrote about how some days she says the words, "can I just do this?" when she's trying to accomplish something that feels overwhelming. She found that when she did that, it had a snowball effect into other things and the difficult tasks suddenly weren't so hard, anymore. Like, "Can I just get out of bed and go use the bathroom?" goes to "Can I just take a shower?" to "Can I just make my bed/clean up my room?" and before you know it, you're already on your way to having a very productive day. Another example: "Can I just read four verses in my scriptures?" or "Can I just empty the dishwasher?" or "Can I just answer one email?" 

*With the power to choose, I have learned how to identify shame. Shame is what has crippled me and aided to my depression for years and years. Learning I am, in fact, not a bad person, has enabled me to make much healthier choices. Guilt still happens, but it's far less because I used to confuse guilt and shame. Guilt is for sin; guilt is for things I know I should apologize for or change. Shame just blocks me from feeling the Spirit and making good choices. 

*I do not beat myself up over things I have to adjust. If I can't exercise one day, I don't throw in the towel and decide I can never exercise again. If I binge eat sugar one day, I don't berate my lack of self-control --I just choose to eat a good meal next time. If I have to adjust the timing of when I eat a meal, exercise, clean, do laundry, etc, I no longer panic or give up. I just adjust as needed and move on. (Please notice, dear reader, the words, "no longer." This is imperative for you to understand because it means I used to do this. Often.) For example, I have been practicing yoga every morning (2 days last week and 4 days this week). This morning, I really wanted to do yoga, but I had an important meeting. I couldn't do both. So, without guilt or shame, I chose the meeting. Does this mean my body will never recover? Does this mean I should just give up? Of course not! I'll just practice yoga this weekend or start again on Monday. 

*I am learning to forgive myself for the past. This one has been harder than I thought it would be, because for so long, I felt like forgiving myself for the past meant admitting I was a complete failure and nothing I did was right or true. I have held myself hostage with current knowledge and past naivety. I can't judge how I acted then with the knowledge I have now, dear reader. How ridiculous is that? I don't judge my 4 year old the same way I judge my 15 year old, because I know a 4 year old doesn't have the same capacity to understand as a 15 year old. This is why we have juvenile court and adult court. This is why we have age limits. This is why we can plead insanity. But I have deep, deep regrets for how I've treated people (who have probably forgotten all about it) and I care way too much about how people from my past may perceive me now based on what I did then. To move past this, I have to forgive myself. 

*I'm pushing myself to do the things I've always loved; the things that have brought me joy and happiness, but I have neglected because of shame, fear, depression, humiliation, and more fear. The anxiety I would feel at putting myself out there has been reduced, and so I am giving myself permission to feel joy, again. Making an effort to feed my body and soul each day gives me more confidence to face my daily challenges, not to mention how much happier I feel!

*I choose not to be obsessed about my body. I exercise, I try to eat healthy, but it is no longer the main motivation of my life. For years it was all I thought about --even when I was at my heaviest and I wasn't exercising or eating right. When I was focused on weight loss and eating well, I focused on it. When I was heavy and gross, I would focus on it differently --I would ridicule myself with shame. Getting to a point where I recognize that my body is to be used for good things, that it is a gift from God, that a certain shape, size, or way of looking means absolutely nothing to my overall happiness ---oh, dear reader, I wish you could understand that kind of freedom. I still struggle with it, though. I really do, I probably always will, but it's nothing like it was. Now I know that when I feel shame about my body, it's coming from Satan. And then I tell him to go back to hell (I know he's just jealous)! I have a glorious body! I want to take care of it --not obsess about it. Balance.

*I am practicing patience with others. Practice doesn't mean expert, of course, and so I still fail. I have, however, noticed that I am more forgiving and patient with people overall. I'm better at seeing things from different perspectives. I'm making opinions with more information and thinking the best of people more often. It's showing up in every aspect of my life, too --children, marriage, friends, church, online, etc. People who know me may not see a very big difference (maybe not at all?), but I feel it. Practice, practice, practice...

*I have chosen to be okay with imperfection. This also goes along with the point that I don't give up just because I fall down occasionally. Being imperfect means I'm learning. It means I'm growing. It means I actually care to try. Refusing to try means I'll never grow. And dear reader, I'll share a secret with you: sometimes, trying means just getting out of bed. Sometimes, trying means choosing to get off the computer and practice my piano. Sometimes, it's as simple as choosing not to respond to negativity. Sometimes, it's refusing to speak badly about myself. Trying doesn't always have to be something grand. Trying means you're moving forward.

What have you done in your life to find balance?