Tag Archives: choices

You need to change your attitude!

Since I am an admitted optimist, I will also admit it drives me crazy being around “perpetual downers.” You know the people I’m talking about. Not the ones that are having the random bad day or might be in a temporary rough patch. We are ALL that person now and then. And, I’m not talking about the person who struggles with mental illness or any other chronic illness. My heart holds a special place for them.  I’m talking about the people who complain about EVERYTHING, seemingly just to hear their own voices. They are the drama queens and kings just looking for a good “drama-gasm.” (I don’t think that needs a definition, but just know it describes a “special excitement” from life’s drama.) They are my complaint.

This morning, I almost joined them. I could list my morning’s complaints, if you really want to hear them, but I doubt you do. And, it wouldn’t help the situation. They’re  the same frustrations faced by any and all of us with truthfully little to complain about. It could be a dirty kitchen, a sick family, or a lack of sleep that starts the day off on the wrong foot. Or, it may be a lousy boss, the guy that cut you off in traffic, or the bills that appear insurmountable that trigger the negativity. And, sometimes, there’s nothing specific–just an itchy feeling under the skin. That itchy, itchy feeling that is very contagious.

Nothing spreads like negativity–I call it “a cancer.”  When I was a  manager in the corporate world, I kept an eye and ear open for any “budding”  negativity and would take immediate action to correct it with both individual and team-wide coaching. Though negativity can spread fast, I believe a good dose of optimism and encouragement is often the best antidote. However, it didn’t matter how good someone’s “numbers” were if they perpetuated negativity; they were cut because of the potential damage to the overall team morale. Easier to replace one than to replace an entire team pulled down by one.  Those were some of the toughest choices I ever made.

Life is often the same way. Around this time of the year, stress levels can skyrocket due to overfull schedules, stretched budgets, and family gatherings that trigger past patterns. The “most wonderful time of the year” can quickly dissolve into “the most angry, negativity-fueled, how soon is this going to be over time of the year.” It could be a friend that keeps pulling us down and the relationship needs to be changed or dropped. Sometimes, it’s a brother, sister or other family member and contact needs to be carefully limited. And, sometimes, it’s the person staring back at us from the mirror. When there is no identifiable reason at all–just that itch that says “I want to crawl out of my own skin”–I start with the person in the mirror.

This morning was one of those times. Last night, as I headed up to bed, I mentally flogged myself for all the work that was left undone. This morning, as I tripped over items left out and snapped at the cats for being too attention-demanding, I itemized the list of things I needed to get done. I even resentfully added “holiday baking” to my stress to-do list. (Baking is something I usually really enjoy but, while grocery shopping yesterday, I listened to a fellow shopper lament about her baking “chores” and her family’s expectations. Like I said, nothing spreads like negativity.) And, that’s when I caught myself.

Living with teen girls is very much like living on a roller coaster. One day they’re up, the next they are down. Sometimes both come in the span of 10 minutes. I am a big believer in helping my children learn to feel, process, and respond appropriately to their emotions. I always say, “We wouldn’t have them if they didn’t have a purpose.” I believe emotions are  life’s best compass, particularly when we get off track. When I feel restless or angry, I’m usually making choices that need to re-evaluated. And, the answer is typically found by asking some simple questions: How much and what I am putting on my to-do list? Where and to/with whom am I devoting my time and energy? What am I getting out of it? Is it/are they healthy and supportive? Am I taking care of myself? And, perhaps most importantly–Am I part of the problem or part of the solution?

Because we all know, “When mama’s not happy, nobody’s happy,” I believe it is important to check myself first. And because I tell my kids that they are not allowed to throw negative emotions around “like M&M’s”, scattering them throughout the house, I must live by the same rules. Sometimes, the answers don’t come easily or right away, and I’ve been known to simply tell them to “change their attitude” when the M&M’s start flying. Exactly what I told myself when I looked in the mirror this morning.

The picture in the upper corner of this post is a close up of a poster I had professionally framed many years ago. It was a cheap poster placed in a good frame because it is the mantra I try to live by. My attitude dictates every choice I make and word I utter. It dictates whether I respond to life or react to life. I may not be able to control others, but I can certainly control myself and the choices I make. And, that makes the biggest difference of all, especially during the hustle and bustle of the holidays.

This morning, I walked away from the dirty dishes stacked in the sink and turned on a favorite Christmas CD. I looked at the lights that twinkled in the dark and gave thanks for my blessings. In the quiet hours before my family awoke, I clarified what wasn’t supporting me, made some decisions about my choices, modified some plans, and changed my attitude all by starting with the woman in the mirror.

Who do you see when you look in the mirror?

©2011 Mary Lanzavecchia/Transitioning Mom

Snaps for mom.

They're always watching.

If you’ve read my posts, you already know I love the early morning. I love the productivity captured before the sun is up and the roosters begin their crowing. I love the ability to move at my pace, without interruption. Yesterday started out no differently.

The first two hours of my day looked something like this:

Out of bed at 4. Teeth brushed, coffee made by 4:20. Email, Facebook and blog stats checked (‘cuz I’m a bit obsessive.) Dog let out, let back in. Cats’ demands for attention met. Quiet reading time, finished. 1/2 hour meditation, done. Espresso prepped for husband, another check. Blog post ready, good. A moment to enjoy the sunrise and “Houston, we had lift off.”

Shortly after 6, I charged up the stairs with the enthusiasm of my girlfriend’s 7-year-old boy in the Lego store. The day was replete with possibility and plenty of work that needed to be done. But, like any woman, I could say that every day.

I walked into C’s room. She was awake, lying still with her eyes open in the dark, not yet ready to greet the day. “Open your curtains,” I insisted. “You have to check out this sunrise!” She complied, reluctantly. “No. Pull back your covers and look to the southeast. It is stunning,” I prodded.

“Oh, uh-huh. That’s nice, Mom. Thanks.” She plopped back against her pillow.

I moved on to her sister’s room where I found another lifeless body, eyes blinking against the light shining in from the hall. “Quick, quick. You’ve got to see the sunrise. It’s gorgeous!” A, like her mama, really enjoys watching the sunrise. Yesterday, I learned she enjoys it most when it doesn’t require throwing back the covers of a warm bed. Nonetheless, she was up and moving.

As I turned to leave her room, I felt it. Someone or something had plunged an ice pick through my right temple and into my eye. Or so it felt. It was sharp enough to knock me off-balance. I grabbed hold of her dresser and waited for the pain to pass. It didn’t. Instead, it settled behind and above my right eye. “Mom, are you OK?” asked A as I headed out her door.

“Uh-huh. Time to get your day going, honey.”

I went into my room, dropped to my knees and held my hands against my eyes. I wanted blackness–dark, dark blackness. I knew what was happening; it was familiar. I struggled against it. I prayed. I used affirmations. I used denial. I used defiance. As I sat there, I mentally created the day’s “to do” list. Nope, no room for a migraine in my day, too much work to be done. I chose denial and defiance as my 2 weapons of choice against my head. I went down the stairs to get to work, with the help of 800mg of Motrin.

My husband encouraged me to “take it easy.” A, who is painfully (no pun intended) familiar with migraines herself, encouraged me to just sit down, and handed me a bowl. C, who had classes outside the home yesterday, wanted to know what she could do. “Just get yourself ready for school. It’s passing.”

Truth is, the aura had passed, but the migraine was just settling in. My brain felt too big for my skull, but the Motrin and the morning’s caffeine had helped dull the pain. It would be a “manageable migraine” and the day would proceed as usual, I decided. C went off to school, A had started her independent lesson work, my husband, who is home on Friday’s, had started his own projects, and I settled into “pulling the day together.”

I began picking up the living room. I rubbed my temples. I responded to emails. I rested my eyes. I cleared the clutter from the dining room table. I checked the clock.

“Are you doing OK, Mom?” A asked.

“I’m OK. Keep working, please.” I responded. I was almost through the day. It was only 11:30. I could push just a bit more.  I set my eyes on the finish line; biology lab. On Friday afternoons, I teach a biology lab in my home to A and another student, a sweet friend. A looks forward to it and so do I; it capstones our week. Last week, we just started one of my favorite units, “The Life of a Cell.” Yesterday’s labs included acids and bases, atoms, electrons, neutrons and protons, and learning about the impact of temperature on an enzyme reaction. Yep, love this unit!

Roughly, 2 hours before lab was to begin, the Motrin began to wear off. It was too soon to take more, and I had nothing else available. I pressed on. I squinted against the contrast of the black letters on the white pages of the Biology text. An internal debate raged in my head: “Cancel” vs. “You can do it!” I gave in and conceded the match.

“I’m canceling biology lab,” I told A. “I can’t do it. I need to rest.” She had just finished reading over the procedure for the day’s lab. She was excited. She looked up and, in the way only children can do, surprised me.

“Snaps for Mom,” she said, “for taking care of herself.” (We have seen the Reese Witherspoon movie, “Legally Blonde” many times in this house. “Snaps” are given in praise for doing something good.) She didn’t mourn the chance to see her friend and play with fire. She celebrated her mother’s choice.

Another movie immediately popped into my head, Monsters, Inc. I heard the nasally voice of Roz; “I’m always watching.”

“They’re always watching,” I thought. They learn from every choice we make. Do I want to raise a daughter that denies what her body is telling her? Have I not always sent A to bed when she has a migraine? Have I not encouraged both girls to listen to what their body tells them? Have I done the same, in example?

Truthfully, no. I haven’t always done the same. But, if I am ever tempted to make a “do as I say, not as I do” choice again, I will remember the snaps I received from A yesterday. I had made a good choice. I snuggled up and went to sleep.

After almost 16 hours of sleep, the world seems brighter today, full of possibility and opportunities to make good choices. And, good choices I will make, because, as I was reminded yesterday, they’re always watching.

What choices (if any) would you make differently knowing they are always watching?