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My blog is a mirror

standard June 10, 2014 3 responses

Twice now, in the last few weeks, I have written a blog post about something going on in my life, something I thought I’d share because I know, for a fact, that many people could and would relate to what I had to say. Then, as I am sometimes wont to do, I left the posts in draft and went about my business for a day or two to see if I still wanted to push them live.

Neither post has seen the light of day. Instead, they’ve pushed me to take a long hard look at how I was behaving. Instead of hitting publish, I’ve chosen to change my ways.

The first post was actually written just over a month ago and was about yelling. Because we all yell, right? I know we do, I talk about it with my friends. Parenting is stressful and often frustrating, and there are times when we yell. It’s a fact of parenthood.

The post was an almost tongue in cheek look at the way a morning had gone from fine to not fine at all in the short span of time between me getting up and all of us getting out the door. I didn’t share it right away because even writing it made me feel uncomfortable.

Why exactly did I feel the need to yell that morning? Because Little L took 30 minutes to eat breakfast and another 20 to put on a dress, two socks, and two shoes? Because she needed to be reminded, again, to brush her teeth? Because we were maybe going to be five minutes late for school?

That night I reread that post and realized just how damaging our near-regular morning routine must be on my shy kid with low self-esteem. The next morning I didn’t yell.

The morning after that I didn’t yell.

I haven’t yelled in the morning since that day.

We still haven’t been late for school. And a couple days ago, my shy retiring kid struck up a conversation with a cashier at the grocery store. Her sister and I looked at each other in utter shock.

Last week I wrote another post about another one of my failings. This time about my near obsessive addiction to television series and the way I seem to be unable to stop chain watching episode after episode until I have blessedly reached the end of the series and can finally get on with my day to day life.

That night, as I went to bed, having once again left the post in draft because I truly didn’t like my conclusions, I asked myself what, of the things I do day in and day out, the things that take up all of my time, with the kids, when I’m alone, when I’m working, and when I’m not, what makes me happy, what makes me feel fulfilled.

Watching TV wasn’t on the list.

I enjoy a well written show. I like knitting in front of the TV. I like a good story probably more than the average person. But, at the end of the day, if I’ve spent my time writing, reading, playing with the kids, spending time with friends, walking the dog, laughing with my husband, I feel fulfilled. If I’ve spent my time watching episode after episode of a TV show, no matter how great a show it might be, I feel antsy and a bit empty.

That post was never published.

I haven’t watched a TV show during the day since I wrote it.

I’ve been tempted. I’ve rationalized that I could stream something while answering emails, while doing research, while editing photos. But I’ve turned on Pandora instead and let the music fill the silence in my office.

I’ve been blogging for a very, very long time now and I’ve never quite realized just how much of a mirror this blog has been for me. It’s helped me see how I parent. It’s helped me discern patterns in my life, which in turn has helped me better recognize and manage any ups and downs that I might face.

I am grateful to this space and to those that visit it for not only helping me become a better writer over the years, but a better person along the way.

Do more of what makes you happy. Carmel McConnell

Here’s what not posting about gratitude looks like

standard November 11, 2013 Leave a response

So, yeah.

It’s November 11th.

I’ve posted exactly one gratitude post.

On November 1st.

It’s not that I’m not grateful. I am. Overwhelmingly so. For so many things. It’s just that I posted ever day in October, and I decided it would be a hoot and a half to attempt doing NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) for the second time ever (first time I got pregnant and slept my way through November instead of writing… whoops), and I have a couple amazing clients clamoring for my attention, and, frankly, my knitting was lonely (Knitting can get very lonely, and then it clamors for attention. Also, yarn begs to be bought. Totally. It’s all the yarn’s fault.). So I started worrying on November 2nd because I hadn’t posted yet, and then I gave myself permission to just… let go.

You can do that, you know. It’s amazingly liberating. So’s not blogging for 10 days. Which isn’t to say I haven’t written , I just haven’t blogged here. (Here, and here, but not here, here. Know what I mean?)

So, instead of blogging each day of gratitude, I’m living each day of gratitude. I’m not sharing it on Facebook, I’m not sharing it here, but I am spending some time every day thinking about the things I’m grateful to have in my life. The kids, the awesome husband, the sweet personable cat, the incredible friends, the house I love so much… all of it. I’m reveling in everything I have, and I’m being insanely selfish and keeping it all to myself.

I’m sorry.

But you understand, right?

And if you’re lucky I night do a stream of consciousness, “100 Things I’m Grateful For” post closer to Thanksgiving. Or not. We’ll see.

Tears on the last day of school

standard June 12, 2013 Leave a response

This morning I cried.

I didn’t want to, but I had a hunch I would.

Tears came to my eye as I saw the kids dressed nicely for their last day of school.

Tears came to my eyes as I watched the kids give their teachers their end of year gifts.

Tears came to my eyes as I held my sobbing Kindergartner when she was overwhelmed with emotion as it came time to say goodbye to her beloved teacher.

Tears came to my eyes as that teacher promised us that she’d keep an eye out for Little L next year so she doesn’t “get lost in the crowd” because she’s so well behaved at school. 

Tears came to my eyes as I watched the entire school create a ‘tunnel of love’ for the exiting 6th graders.

My hunch was right. Though, to be fair, the tears did more than just come to my eyes as as I held Little L tight while she sobbed, little face tucked into my neck, arms and legs wrapped tightly around me. We had to take a little moment to collect ourselves before we could leave the classroom.

Last year, on the last day of school, I hightailed it off campus, drye eyed and anxious to be gone, to be free of the school and its people.

Today when I look back at our morning and try to compare the two events I find that I really just can’t.

We were in such a bad place last year. So worn down by two cripling years. So disenchanted by the school and its community. So ready to move on and get on with a new version of our lives. I had some misgivings about having the kids home with me all summer, but I had an almost primal need to keep them close, to hunker down for a few months, just us, alone, so we could heal and gather our strength.

And it worked.

Even though I wasn’t quite sure what the school year would bring, by the time August rolled around we were ready to face it with a smile.

It was an amazing year. Little L learned to read, C came out of her shell, both girls thrived in their classrooms, made friends, and grew in every way imaginable. 

This morning Little L and I aren’t the only ones who cried. C cried too as we said goodbye to her teacher.

Despite the tears it was a beautiful morning. I left feeling loved and cared for. I left knowing that next year will be just as amazing. There were so many hugs, so many summer playdate plans made, so many gleeful “see you next year!” exchanged.

It’s a good place to be. A better place. I’m glad we’re in it.

From Gratitude to Happiness

standard September 25, 2012 Leave a response

Information about happiness always catches my attention. Why wouldn’t it? Don’t we all want to be happy? Isn’t that the point of all the running around, the doing that we all do all the time?

We watch little kids run and laugh and wish we could be as happy and carefree as them, even for just one moment, but then we think about the mortgage, the health issues, the kitchen that needs cleaning, and all the other grown-up “shoulds” that clutter our lives.

Here’s the thing. Happy isn’t contingent on the cleanliness of your kitchen or on how much you owe (or don’t owe) the bank. Happy isn’t even contingent on chocolate. Happy is just contingent on how we look a the world.

No, seriously. I know it sounds hoakie, but it’s true. Many studies have been conducted on the matter.

This past week a friend introduced me to Shawn Achor’s work. He’s the guy who’s teaching a class on happiness at Harvard based on his body of research on the subject. He thought a handful of undergrads would take a hit on their transcripts to see what he had to say, instead over 1000 came to hear him speak.

People are hungry for happy.

And you know what Shawn’s discovered? That it really is just a question of mindset.If you take 30 seconds in the morning to think of 5 things you’re grateful for, you’ll have improved your happiness levels for the next 24 hours. Do it every day for 21 days and you’ve improved those levels for 6 months. 30 seconds. That’s less time than it takes to rinse shampoo out of your hair.

There’s a fun quote bouncing around on Pinterest that says that happy people aren’t really more happy, they’re just better able to deal with the curve-balls that life likes to throw our way.

I so fully believe that. And even before seeing Shawn Achor’s many videos I already was a firm believer in the power of gratitude. I just didn’t expect to see it in action the very week it was so top of mind.

On Thursday, having concluded a short, but good, business meeting held at a coffee shop a couple towns over, I prepared to sit back and get an hour or two of work done before having to pick up Little L from Kindergarten.

Wouldn’t you know it, the one day I’m not working from home a mere 5 minutes away from school is the day I get the call that C has fallen off the monkey bars? (Yes, again, for those following along.) This time the nurse seemed pretty sure she’d broken her arm. I had to pack up in a hurry and dash through traffic to go take her to the ER.

“What does that have to do with happiness?” you ask.

Well, there’s this:

Yeah. So, that’s my kid, at the hospital, broken arm, and it is broken, x-rays confirmed the nurse’s hunch, at lunch-time, waiting to be seen by the doctor.

That smile? Wasn’t posed for the camera.

We were at the hospital for almost three hours. It was long and tedious. And yet, other than the three minutes when they manipulated her wrist for the x-rays, she remained pretty smiley and upbeat.

Shawn Achor confirms what I’d already heard. Focusing on gratitude doesn’t make you happy all the time in that goofy “I just smoked silly things all day” way, but it does raise your median level of happiness.  And it makes you more resilient when it comes to stress.

I take time every morning to think of things I’m grateful for. I take time when I’m feeling down or stressed to think of a few things that make me happy. And with the family, at dinner, we always talk about what we’re grateful for that day.

Until this week I wasn’t sure it was having a real impact on anyone. Now I know. It might not keep arms from getting broken, but it will keep a smile on your face when it does happen.