This past July when I was at a really, REALLY low point and struggling with having all the kids home and trying to work both in and out of the home and feeling hopeless about my marriage and being incredibly stressed out over financial stuff and dealing with this stupid injury in my butt and back that I’ve had for about five months now and is seriously pissing me off because it’s preventing me from running, I kind of had a come to Jesus moment.
I was waking up by 4 a.m. every morning trying to do work for Not Your Average Mom before the kids woke up, leaving the house at 7:30 a.m. to coach one swim practice from 8-9:30 at the Y, rushing home to teach private swim lessons from my pool between 10:30 and 3:00 while the kids kind of occupied themselves for 4 hours, then loading everyone back in the car and going back to the Y to coach another two swim practices from 4 – 6:00, and then, on many days, going to watch Number 3’s travel baseball games, and then getting home around 8:30.
Every day was like that. And then the majority of my weekends were spent at swim meets where I coached between 10 and 30 hours a weekend.
It was an insane summer.
I was way beyond burning the candle at both ends, I was emotional and defensive and accusatory and flying off the handle, and I was completely exhausted. Actually I was beyond exhausted.
At some point in this madness I read this Tony Robbins quote:
If you don’t have ten fucking minutes for your life, you don’t have a life.
And that was my come to Jesus moment.
I did not have a life.
I was so tired and so emotional, that I was doing a shitty job at pretty much everything. I was not the mother or wife or friend or business woman that I wanted to be. Nowhere near it.
I was on the verge of a(nother) nervous breakdown. And if I broke down, my family would fall apart. And then things would really get bad.
I knew I needed to reevaluate and prioritize.
And it was then that I made the decision to finish out the summer swim season, but in the fall, I was going to cut back significantly on my coaching hours.
The loss of income would be significant, so that would be something to address. But it was clear that almost no amount of money was worth what I had allowed my life to become.
And then I went back to basics.
I needed to prioritize exercise. It was a non-negotiable. That’s the best way for me to clear my brain out.
The schedule I had this summer made it difficult to get to the gym, so I started working out at home. I couldn’t run, but we have an elliptical machine at home, and that doesn’t bother my back and butt injury.
So every morning I got on the ellpitical for at least a half hour, and I started listening to business podcasts while I was working out.
That eventually led me to a couple podcasts about the morning routines of the most successful entrepreneurs and business people in the country.
There was one thing in particular they all seemed to have in common.
They practiced gratitude. And they wrote down what they were grateful for. Every day.
I had started writing down three things I was grateful for every day a couple years ago. But then I’d miss a day here or there until eventually that completely by the wayside and I totally stopped.
By the middle of this past July, I realized that I was grateful for pretty much, um… nothing.
I spent all my days being angry and worrying and complaining.
My husband had lost his job, my body wasn’t working they way I wanted it to, there was lots of drama in my professional life, we were in a bad financial position again and my marriage was a fucking disaster.
These were the things I thought about 2 4/7. It was not uncommon for me to burst into tears while talking to people.
I was not fun to be around. And it sure as hell was not fun inside my own head.
I knew my schedule was going to change in the fall and that life would become a little bit more manageable, but something had to change immediately, because the breakdown was approaching. I could feel it.
And if I broke down, my family would be fucked.
Plus it just wasn’t fun. I suppose I got sick and tired of being sick and tired.
So I thought about what all those podcasts had said, and I started practicing being grateful.
And it was definitely a practice. It did not come easily.
Complaining and blaming and finger pointing and stressing and worrying and crying came easily.
Being grateful did not.
I had to force myself to find something to be grateful for. And it wasn’t really genuine gratitude.
I’d write down, I’m grateful to have a house to live in that is no longer under the threat of foreclosure.
And then my next thought would be, yet. Or something along those lines.
So every day I practiced. Every day I wrote three things down.
And then the habit of listening to podcasts while I was working out led me to Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations podcast. I looked at all the episodes, and there was one with Tony Robbins episode entitled entitled “Overcome Suffering and Live in a Beautiful State.”
Obviously I needed to listen to that one since this come to Jesus moment had originally been inspired by a quote from him.
I was supposed to listen to this.
I had like 50 a-ha moments in the 30 minutes I listened to that podcast, but it was in the first few minutes when he said We all get what we tolerate that I was like,
HELLO SUSIE. THIS IS YOUR WAKE UP CALL TO SNAP THE FUCK OUT OF IT.
And then he said, Change your expectation for appreciation.
More messages about gratitude.
More a-ha moments.
I can expect my morning to go a certain way. I can expect the kids to get on the bus and get to school on time and for my morning to run smoothly.
And then when the morning doesn’t go according to my expectations, I can spend the next few hours, or the whole day even, being super pissed about it.
Or I can find something in that morning to appreciate.
That struck a big chord in me.
How many days have I completely wasted being pissed about stuff because the day didn’t meet my expectations? How many times have I spent a whole day so angry because it didn’t follow the blueprint I had laid out in my head?
As parents, our blueprints are hardly ever followed! Shit hardly ever runs exactly as planned.
So the importance of gratitude was solidified for me that day.
I’m not tolerating being pissed off and worried and stressed and scared about everything all the time anymore.
It’s a fucking exhausting way to live.
And it’s not fun.
Once I made that decision, something started to happen. It was very gradual. Like VERY gradual.
But this practice of finding things to be grateful for has started to become a tiny bit natural.
And instead of focusing on all the stuff that is going wrong in my life, I am slowly starting to recognize the good things.
When I don’t recognize the good things and fast forward straight to the negative, I am able to catch myself much earlier than I used to, and I can usually redirect myself before I spin completely out of control.
This has made a huge difference in my life in the past couple of weeks.
It’s made a huge difference in my marriage.
Finding a great therapist was huge.
But so is the fact that I am really, really practicing gratitude with my husband. It’s kind of scary how once you focus on the good things about a person, you start to see more good things about that person.
Because I know it’s the same way in the other direction. The more you focus on the bad stuff, the more you see the bad stuff, and you forget that there ever was any good stuff in the first place.
And your husband becomes a mirror. The more bad shit you focus on about him, the more bad stuff he focuses on about you.
So this gratitude practice is worth it.
Practicing gratitude has made a difference with my children, too.
Being pissed at your kids or because of your kids is draining.
And it creates a chaotic environment where they absorb what you are putting out there.
Just like your husband, they are little mirrors.
If you are stressed, they are stressed. If you are yelling, they are yelling.
If you put anger out there into the Universe, the Universe is gonna give it right back to you.
Being the middle of September, we are still adjusting to the school year. Soccer and swimming has started, and we’ve had four open houses in the last two weeks.
It’s definitely a little crazy.
But since I made that decision to cut way back on the number of hours and days I’m coaching, life has become way more manageable.
And life isn’t just something I’m enduring now.
Life is sometimes even enjoyable.
For the first time in a long time, I have fucking ten minutes.
And I have a life.
Last night I had an enjoyable night with the kids. I wasn’t rushing them and snapping at them and telling anyone to Hurry up!
I lay down in Number 7’s bed with her not in an effort to get her to go to sleep as quickly as possible, but just for the sake of hanging out with her.
Today the kids had no school.
In the past I would have dreaded a day like this.
But it’s 3:18 p.m. as I’m writing this, and my kids have actually been awesome today. They’ve been calm and playing and cooperating with each other for literally the whole day.
I am 100% certain that a lot of this is a direct result of the changes I’ve made with myself.
I have spent so many years not being present for my kids, my husband, and myself.
I could focus on how much time I’ve wasted, but instead I’m going to be grateful that I figured this out while the kids are still relatively young.
Reexamining my life, cutting out stuff that wasn’t making me happy, and practicing gratitude has helped me figure out what’s important to me, what I need, and what my family needs.
If you are overwhelmed with the pace of your life and your schedule, you can change it.
If you are feeling unfulfilled or angry or resentful or frustrated, practice gratitude. Don’t wait until tomorrow. Start right now.
When you are focusing on gratitude, you can’t be angry and you can’t be scared.
You can’t change the stuff going on outside of you.
But you can change the stuff on the inside.
We all get what we tolerate.
And I’ve got no tolerance for suffering anymore.