“The best way out is always through.” -Robert Frost
Leaving my preschool boy in his room, I shut the door and wiped away one of my own tears. I just couldn’t believe it. Not only had he spit on his sister, scratched me, said naughty words, and made a mess of lunch, but I caught him peeing in the backyard. Totally naked. My dear husband, in a phone call, responded with, “You know, sweetheart, he’s just a little scientist.” Scientist or terrorist? I wondered. This little guy, number three of four, occupies most of my physical and mental energy. And that day I wanted an out.
So what did I do? I took a “time out” on the Internet looking at daily deals, email, and news. Fifteen minutes quickly turned into forty-five. My head hurt a little and I felt more tired, especially while three meals worth of dishes stared at me from the sink. Mikey emerged from his room, we picked up the girls from school, and the four o’clock madness began. They’ve all got needs and wants–it’s like the seagulls in Finding Nemo chanting “mine, mine, mine!” So what did I do next? I peeked at my phone and checked the Internet again. “In just a minute, honey,” I respond when asked for the snack, the friend, the video, hoping to put the requests off a little longer.
Avoidance. Putting off. Procrastination. Escapism. Many names, but one title–and I am the escape artist! Deep down I know I am mentally “checking out” and creating the very stress I want to avoid. I’m letting a phone app cheat me out of hours of making memories with my children and doing things to become the person I know I can be. I sense my wasting potential. When I think about it, I know I can’t let that happen.
I found some inspiration in the children’s book “Going on a Bear Hunt”. The idea is that in order to complete an adventure, we “can’t go over it, can’t go under it…gotta go through it!” I chant this to my spin class participants who I see watching the clock, waiting for the two-minute sprint or twenty-minute endurance ride to end. I know if they didn’t watch the clock or just “serve time”, they would get much more out of their ride. But what about me? Am I not that same person, watching for the hour my hubby comes home, anxiously waiting to pass off the little ones? Am I “serving time” instead of serving my family? Not to say mothering isn’t hard or that I don’t need breaks–but the escapism I felt inside was more than filling reasonable adult needs. My inner love was shriveling up and I resented my stay-at-home tasks. I could see how escapism was putting weight on my gym participants, but I didn’t realize that it was doing the same thing to me emotionally.
So how do you go on a bear hunt? How do you stop avoiding hard things (Can’t go over it! Can’t go under it!) and confront the difficult ? Gotta go through it!
I began by taking two challenges from the author Laura Vanderkam in her book, 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think. She suggests that we have 168 hours in a week that, if prioritized, can help you reach your greatest desires. First, you need to know that your desires are. So I did it. I wrote out my bucket list, things I want to accomplish and become before I die. This was really exciting. I was able to touch base with what I really want to do, and more importantly be. I wrote a “to be” list. She suggests that we post this list where we can see it daily and remember our dreams.
Second, you need to know where your time goes. The next challenge is to write down (every 5-10 minutes) how you spend your day. Sounds tedious, but it wasn’t. It was educational and shocking! How much time was I really spending on what was important to me? On the Internet? On the phone? Starting into space? At the risk of exposing myself too much, let’s just say the time spent fulfilling my dreams with my children or my deepest inner needs didn’t add up to the time I was peeking on my phone or checking out the latest city deal sites. I was embarrassed by my use of time. Rather than having some direction and organization, I was a like feather being blown about by our schedule or lack thereof. And the kids were blowing about with me.
Instead of being discouraged or crippled by my embarrassment, I decided the next step in overcoming my escapism was a simple plan. I decided to follow Flylady’s admonition, “Just jump in! You’re not behind!” Mentally I decided I am not in a baby-hatching race, clean house race, publish-a-best-seller-before-I’m-forty race. I can just jump in where I am and start.
Vanderkam also suggested that when we trade the phrase, “Not right now” or “I can’t do that” for “It’s not a priority”. Try that one on for size when you child comes to you asking to play a game, do a craft, swing outside, or help with dinner. “Sorry Mikey, it’s not a priority to read to you right now.” That changed my behavior quickly! This phrase helps reset perspective and works in any situation, be it mothering, fitness, or service.
In “Going on a Bear Hunt”, the family goes on the hunt together. We don’t have to shoulder mothering alone. In order to pull myself out of inactivity I recruited my hubby, children, and friends. I celebrate small victories with them, and forgive myself for my falls. Out loud I even tell myself I am doing a great job. I have the kids tell me I’m succeeding. “Good job, mommy, you good girl! You nice!” Mikey chants. Choosing to “go through” difficult tasks is giving me new self respect and power. I feel grown up. I am gaining peace, and that peace is flowing to my children. On our bear hunt we will “go through” the grass, storm, bogs, and cave, and come out better for it . . . together.
QUESTION: What are the difficult things you need to deal with right now in your life, your “bear hunt?” What are some of your escaping behaviors? What would you do if you weren’t afraid?
CHALLENGE: Choose one important situation, that if you faced it, would bring greater peace to your life. Determine why you are avoiding it. What would you do if you weren’t afraid? Do it! And tell a friend about it along the way.