I often feel like my experience with motherhood and life is like a big game of Tetris. With geometric shapes falling out of the sky, it’s my responsibility to make sure they land in their proper place and stack in the most efficient manner. It’s fun in the beginner levels: rarely are any shapes misplaced and it’s easy to “clear a line,” making sure the matrix never even fills half-way. But, as the levels begin to advance, the game gets harder. More and more shapes fall unguided and soon they stack up, out of place. Those neglected shapes are soon outweighing, by far, the ones I am able to place intentionally.
Some of the labels I give my Tetris shapes could be routines, teaching moments, family dinner, housework, uplifting others, education, and the list can go on. When too many shapes begin to pile up, the stack can quickly get too close to the top. Sometimes I feel like I may as well just quit trying, because I will lose no matter what I do. When I have an optimistic mindset, I remember that the game can change with just a couple right moves. Before I know it, I “clear a line” and things are manageable again.
Depression is growing among our society at a high rate. Even children are being affected by depression like never before. Dr. Martin Seligman, author of Learned Optimism and The Optimistic Child, has found the most often cause of depression is a pessimistic thought pattern. He suggests that optimism is the key component in fighting off depression. Optimism begins with our beliefs about ourselves and the world around us. It can be learned.
Optimism is stifled when we see everything in life through eyes of “permanence.” Things change, often for the better. Dr. Seligman’s research shows that when thinking of less-than-perfect situations in life, using words like “today”, “sometimes”, and “lately” instead of “always” and “never” set up a platform for positive thinking. It also provides the motivation to begin moving in a more desirable direction to improve your life. Looking at less-than-ideal factors in life as changeable can give us motivation to do and to try.
When I got pregnant with my third child, I decided that I wanted to have an all-natural birth. To help me through my birthing time, I learned to use self-hypnosis. In my training program there was a particular article that stuck with me through my baby’s birth and in life ever since. The article cautioned that many people question whether they will be “prepared enough” or if the “hypnosis will be strong enough” when things progress to the most difficult point. The article advised that when those doubts creep in, instead of asking the pessimistic question, “What if I didn’t prepare enough? or “What if I’m not really in hypnosis?” ask yourself this more optimistic question, “What if I HAVE done enough?”
In the back of my mind I constantly have questions like these: Do I have enough “I love you rituals” with my children? Will the responsibilities I have given my children be enough to teach them to be workers and take ownership in their lives? Am I providing my children with the experiences they need to grow in all facets of life? What if I’m not seeing an opportunity or a need in one of my children? Do I allow too much time for things of lesser priorities? Sometimes, all I can see are the Tetris blocks piling up too close to the top. Of course, there is always room for improvement. But, I can spiral into a feeling of hopelessness if I permit myself to answer these questions negatively, believing that I am failing.
Instead I combat these thoughts with the one question, “What if the things I am doing ARE enough?” Then I begin thinking of my efforts, my feelings for my children, the few Tetris shapes that I AM able to get a solid hold of and put in place before they fall. I cling to hope. As I do this, I find myself taking courage and refusing to let myself get discouraged and overwhelmed.
Motherhood is very demanding but I believe that every effort counts. No mother is perfect. Each of us can only give what we know to be our very best and we must hold to the idea that our efforts WILL be enough.
QUESTION: What are some strategies you use to facilitate positive thinking in your life?
CHALLENGE: The next time you feel overwhelmed and unable keep up with the demands of your life, try to see all the good you contribute to your family and the world around you. Ask yourself the question, “What if what I am doing is enough?”