I was talking to a dietician the other day about my eating habits. The conversation then touched on my pregnancies. When I was pregnant I always lost a lot of weight in the beginning and delivered at my pre-pregnancy weight, or just above it. Pregnancy is a time when I eat healthy foods because not doing so means puke would be an improvement. Then we talked about the pregnancies themselves. People ask how many kids I have and I have 3, but I’ve give birth to seven. The first three, mine, were easy enough. My firstborn was early and underweight and had a hard time regulating his blood sugars. The other two were easy and even boring. The two after mine were surrogate boys born in 2008 and 2010. Other than trying to go into labor a little early and needing bed rest, they were slightly more difficult because they gave me back labor. The last one was a surrogate pregnancy with twin girls. It was rough. I was hospitalized at 25 weeks and spent a week in the Trendelenburg position – upside down at a 45 degree angle to try to keep them in. They were born at 29 weeks by c-section. I told her about pulmonary embolisms in 2014 and the gallbladder removal I just had and how the pain meds sucked, so I stopped taking them less than a week out of surgery (because I can’t handle feeling high). Through this I was smiling and happy and she was floored and encouraged by my outlook.
I didn’t realise I had an outlook. I had life happen. We all do.
There has been both good and bad in my life. I can acknowledge both, but they do not make me who I am any more than I would allow them to. I am not what has happened to my body. I can’t control that for the most part. I am who I choose to be in spite of what comes my way. You don’t wear your strength, you embody it.
Control of self:
I’m sure I’ve shared the poop analogy before but I can’t remember everything I write, so I won’t expect you to. I heard from an amazing teacher, Jorge in a leadership training I LOVED in the summer of last year:
When you have raging diarrhea, you can’t control it. You hope you can make it to the bathroom on time, but accidents happen. You’ve seen poopy painting artistry in unkempt public restrooms. We all have. And when you’re constipated, you can sit and try, but you can’t make it happen until your body is ready. In this way, you can’t even control the shit in your body. You can’t control shit in life.
When you binge drink, you intentionally drink alcohol. At a certain point your body takes your choice away and you black out or vomit. You can’t even control your own inebriation if your body thinks you want it dead. It will fight your silly dehydrated brain and you can’t control what it does.
Control of others:
When I was younger, (like most women) I had this idea that I could make a man change behaviors for me. If he was a smoker, I could make him stop. If he was stinky, I could affect his hygiene. If he was grouchy I could make him be patient. I only learned how not to trigger rage, or how to coax it out if I was in that mood. I couldn’t control it.
I’ve learned that the only one that can make a person change is the person that chooses to make a change in their life. I can’t make a person gain or lose weight. I tried with my family. I can’t force feed a person, or withhold something, or make them exercise. I don’t have that kind of power over anyone but myself.
You can exert control over your kids, parents do it all the time. Unless they internalise your ideals, there will be a backlash lived out in every unsupervised opportunity. Their behaviors will say what your control won’t allow them to. The first time a parent learns this lesson is during potty training. If poop is all they can control, they’ll make the most of that. When my sons started spending most of their waking hours at school, I knew policing their words would only incite rebellion and cursing for the sake of taboo as opposed to creatively expressing how they feel. It took a while to learn to cooperate with the teachers that are co-parenting and influencing my kids. Teachers teach what the school board tells them to, but they nurture social skills and empathy. They guide our children in ways parents can’t, but at the end of the day, our kids take what they are given and make a choice.
Control of our reactions:
We can control our reactions to what life gives us.
Being a victim to someone else’s greed or violence doesn’t mean you have to live there. You are not what someone else wants you to be unless you choose to be that person. You can control what you do with the life you are given and how you react and respond to what is given to you.
Yesterday I was attacked by text. It still happens. Kid2 threw me under the bus for a wardrobe choice he made. I could have attacked back. I started to. I chose to end the conversation with “Have a nice day,” when it stopped being about the kids we share and other parts of my life that are my choices. I reminded myself that my son lied because he knows I have thicker skin than he does, and I can take more than he can. I tell them this. I simply put my phone on “do not disturb” and continued finessing my way through creating pivot tables.
This week Kid3 asked to get his ear pierced. I could have done it. I knew his Dad would have been angry and I told him we’d have to ask. Of course his Dad said no. This same man freaked out over toddler boys playing in mom’s nail polish and heels and currently has a problem with our boys wanting their long hair (it’s great hair). Kid3 begged me to do it anyway and I reminded him that I could take his Dad’s yelling but he shouldn’t have to. Past situations have thickened my skin and made me the badass powerhouse I am, but that’s because of the lesson I chose to walk away with, and not the victimhood I once felt forced into.
It’s not what we are given, but how we choose to react to it.
I have burned myself with countless curling irons that I still can’t figure out how to use properly. I’ve stopped trying, but I don’t whine and lament my burned forehead every time I look at someone’s curls or the curling iron I still haven’t parted with. This isn’t the same as true trauma and posttraumatic stress, but living with it instead of seeking help to get through it are choices we make. These are choices in your own hands that we are often so eager to surrender to others who won’t always have our best interests in mind.
When you wake up in the morning, intentionally or not, you are in control of the kind of day you will have. If you wake up in a foul mood, every horrible thing that happens will be sought after and amplified by your perspective. If you wake up in a great mood, all things that happen will have meaning and you’ll seek out serendipity. Choose the perspective you want, and you’ll see things fall into place in the ways you anticipate, good or bad. And always remember you made that choice.
How will you react to the next big wave that life tries to drown you with?