My son said something to me recently that stopped me dead in my tracks. I laughed at some funny comment he made, and he threw his arms around me and said “You laughed! You don’t laugh very much anymore.”
I started to protest, but I realized that he’s right. I used to be silly and goofy and joyful with my kids. That has shifted in the last few years, little by little. The incremental change might be imperceptible, but the overall effect is apparently pretty noticeable.
I guess I know why I’ve changed, but knowing doesn’t help. After I had my gallbladder removed in 2010, I developed a condition called “Sphincter of Oddi Dysfunction.” I’ll give you a second to giggle at the name…
Basically, my digestive fluids are held hostage by this little creeper called the Sphincter of Oddi. He doesn’t let pancreatic juice and bile in and out, and the result is pain, extreme nausea, and fatigue. I’ve had two surgical procedures, 2 endoscopies, 3 colonoscopies and about 2 weeks in the hospital as a result. Imagine having the stomach flu nearly every day to varying degrees.
We’ve also had our share of major life events since we’ve been married. You know how you take those quizzes that tell you how stressed you should be based on which life events you’ve experienced? Divorce, marriage, moving/selling your house, death in the family, illness, job changes–it’s a daunting list. Overachievers that we are, we checked a whole bunch off in the span of a few short years.
In all sincerity, I guess I didn’t realize how much I let the weight of my circumstances affect the lightness of my life.
Since my son made that comment, I have made a concerted effort to rid myself of the thoughts and worry that are stealing my joy. It is not easy. I have literally had to tell my friends and family that certain topics are off-limits and replace triggering thoughts with prayer when they try to sneak in. The stomach stuff is a little trickier, but the longer I live with it, the easier it gets to cope with it. Definitely a work in progress.
I’m trying to be present with my family, letting myself laugh and loosen up a little. I ask the kids every night, on a scale between 1 and 10, what my “Happy Mommy” number is for the day. I joke (in my used-car salesman voice) that “I aim for a 10!” but I want their honest assessment. Since I’ve started consciously trying to find my lost joy and laugh with them the way I used to, I’ve scored pretty high. In fact, I got a unanimous rating of 10 two nights ago. *fist pump* It’s a silly way to keep tabs on a serious concern, but it’s working, and to my surprise, I’m not faking it. I truly feel lighter and more joyful. It feels good.
So what’s your number? Summers can be especially tough with the extra messes, busier schedules and lack of alone time. As you strive to be present and joyful for your family, ask God to remove the triggering thoughts and worries that steal your laughter and to replace them with joy. Praying 10’s for you!
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit, you may abound in hope. –Romans 15:13
If you’ve read my blog before, you are aware that I try to write in a positive light. A funny anecdote here…a poignant little “Life Lesson by Lori” there. Not today. Consider yourself warned, and stop here if you’re looking for a little Mary Poppins/Little Orphan Annie positivity. I am fresh out.
I am three stomach pills and two pain patches into my evening, and right now one child is screeching “everybody haaaaaaaaaates me!” at the top of his/her (okay, her) lungs, while two more deal out their self-imposed righteousness on her, because clearly they are FAR too cool to play with anyone besides each other, and they like cutting her down. They are a very small, very obnoxious little gang. What they fail to remember is that this is my turf and I am the ultimate warlord in this house. Oh, sure—I’ll let them build their little enterprise of snobbery for a short while—give them the false illusion of power. Then I will crush them in true, spectacular warlord style. The whiny one will mistake my annoyance for benevolence and pledge her lifelong allegiance to me. I’ll take it. I could use the spy power, frankly.
The remaining two children are in their room playing a game where the apparent object is to “KILL! KILL! DIE! DIE!” I do not endorse this game. I have vocalized this. Several times. That’s all I will say about that. For now.
Why the fury? That’s the thing—there are some really craptacular things going on (see below), but honestly, they’re all manageable. I just feel like being mad today about all of them at once.
*My dad is back in the hospital with some crazy things going on that no one can explain.
*I was rejected by the Mayo Clinic today for help with my GI stuff, basically because I am only very sick. Not very, very sick.
*I am up to my eyeballs in work projects that are high-visibility and very complicated and SO NUMEROUS.
*I have to present to 175 people in NYC in a few days and I’m a little stressed. When I’m stressed, I can’t stray far from a bathroom.. I can’t find a bathroom that will hold all 175 people to whom I need to present.
*My husband is awaiting a job offer that seems to be forever in the making. For. Eh. Ver. He’s certainly tenser about this line item than I am, but tell that to my intestines. I dare you.
*I am tired. I am so tired. I feel like the demands of work, parenthood and being a human are a Hefty bag over my head and somebody’s cinching that &$@#&! Cinch-Sak a little tighter every day.
I hate myself just a little for being stressed out about all of this. However, I am writing this in case you just feel like being mad too. Here’s the best I can do in the Pollyanna department, friends: if you feel like you could drop kick a kitten and smile about it, you are in good company. Angry high fives all around.
I love kittens.
I love my family more than words.
I trust God and His plan for me.
I love my job.
I am grateful for my life.
I am not terminally ill. I am just miserably ill.
None of that has changed my inability to stop scowling today.
Of course I’ll pray tonight and ask God to help me dial my sassy pants back a notch or two, and I am confident that tomorrow I’ll be better equipped to handle things. Tonight though—TONIGHT– I am going to Hulk it out. Silently, but spectacularly. I don’t yell when I’m mad. I get really, really quiet. Terrifyingly, ominously, atmospheric-pressure-changingly quiet. The pets run away. The birds stop singing. Nary a chirp from a cricket. And then it passes, and the woodland creatures cautiously poke their heads out of their homes and I can “glass half full” it again.
Hulk it out if you want to, friends. The warlord will not judge you.