One morning I received a grief-stricken text from my daughter attending high school that a peer she was fond of is not in her classroom because he died last night. I could hardly bear the news. I have met the boy’s mother and the grief that overcame me for all those affected by this sad news was overwhelming. How does a friend and parent ever endure the hardship and pain of that? It seems like curling up in a ball and only isolation would ever conquer that reality.
Pardon the immediate emotional contrast, as the night before I had stumbled across a TED talk based on a study of 75 years that followed a select group of men from their teens and later included woman, some of them up into their 90’s that helped researchers understand what made these people happy. (What Makes a Good Life? Lessons From the Longest Study On Happiness; Robert Waldinger) One of the key components from this study that struck me was connection with others and its relationship to ones happiness. The opposite of connection would be isolation leading one to feel loneliness which caused all sorts of health problems.
In the context of a mother’s influence and her happiness having an effect on others in the situation of her son; it seems to me that isolation for a time would be good for meditation and healing as an obligation to self for grieving. Subsequently, honoring loving relationships with those so eager to share their love and concern by connecting with them. In this initial phase of torment for a mother, it also seems to me that receiving helping hands and communion with loved ones to grasp the sensual aspects of life would be challenging. Yet, on the other hand, how could one ever cope without the love from others?
You and I both know that everyone experiences a life-time of “roller coaster” emotions. And these emotions, high (happy) and low (sad) are experienced at different levels depending on circumstances. It may be safe to say that feelings of happiness don’t lend to a feeling of “longing” for something like a feeling of sadness may. Take a moment to imagine a happy moment. Now compare that to a sad moment. Notice the difference? When we are happy we don’t have the desire so much that triggers the “longing” for something effect. That feeling of “longing,” my friend, is the feeling of desire. Not only do you feel that, but your children do to. When we don’t have an understanding of what that “longing” is or what the feeling of desire or perhaps a heartfelt void is, feelings of anguish or anxiety prevail. When does this reality cease? How can we stop it and what do we do? The first step is acknowledging its existence.
Havoc on the heart felt. Structure of the soul crushed. Grasp for peace revealed. ~Susan Husa
By acknowledging our discomfort we take the first step in overcoming our circumstances. For example, you may ask yourself questions like, “Why did my friend die?” “Why am I so frustrated?” “Why do I even exist?” “Why?” “Why?” “Why?” When we live in this turmoil, it is hard to connect with others. When we isolate and fixate on these questions without a way to go about getting answers, we can make ourselves ill. And when children especially wrestle with these insecurities, they, like us need tools to overcome. If fear is the unknown and this theory is applied to a myriad of situations, knowing that we need to acknowledge this discomfort to overcome, we can then move on to the next step of education. This is a time to explore the answer to your question to stop the wondering. Your research and/or counsel will help you identify what it is you don’t know or understand. Now you know what to do and you choose to accept (or not) and take action or start the whole process over again.
For just a moment, let me give you a glimpse of what I have discovered about connection and happiness. We can be happy connected in healthy relationships and involved in different activities. But happiness is not a constant. There is a song by Jonny Lee titled, Looking For Love In All the Wrong Places which reminds me of a major reality check I had when I discovered what true love is. The ultimate feeling of happiness that I have discovered and have come to know through experience is my personal relationship with Jesus. I have sought counsel in many ways and my most number one “go-to” now is, The Holy Bible. One of my resources is the Life Application Study Bible, New Living Translation (NLT). I love finding resolve by referencing subjects in the index or simply basking in the stories told long ago for direction and leadership in living out this life for eternity.
These are some truths I have come to know and believe: Jesus is the Creator of all things and by choice we accept Him into our lives. A personal relationship with Christ is the ultimate relationship through the Holy Spirit which transforms and levels our state of mind to peace and tranquility. Through faith (belief in Christ) we assume the role of being sanctified (made Holy) for the sake of our salvation (being delivered from the power of sin; desire of the flesh) to be overcome with righteousness (morality). Since experiencing a relationship with Christ, I have come to understand and know what it means to have transformation of the mind.
Transformation of the mind is powerful. As a mother, my influence has a tremendous impact on my children. My values are shown by my actions. If you are experiencing hardship and you don’t feel equipped to deal with your own issues or feel you can’t help your children with theirs, seek counsel. Happiness is something we all experience and want. And I agree with the study that was done, that when we engage in healthy relationships with others, we are happy. When we question and isolate and don’t have a way to come to know our unrest, feelings of loneliness can devour our soul. Don’t let that happen to you or anyone you know.
Over the years I slowly came to know what parenting with truth and grace meant. I love the book shown in this picture as you can see, it had many years of use.
Since I have taken the time to build a relationship with Christ and I know who he is and what he promises I am much more at peace. Do yourself a favor and understand what the fruit of the Spirit is (read Galatians 5:22). When we are not led by the Holy Spirit we are works of the flesh (read Galatians 5:19).
As I folded laundry that day I couldn’t help but grieve the loss of a precious young man in our community. I was entranced in my thoughts when all of a sudden the cat swiped at the string that turns on the lamp next to me and caused it to fall onto a potted plant, turning it on it’s side spreading dirt everywhere! I caught the lamp mid-air, placed it back on the floor and resumed folding laundry. The site of the mess was overwhelming in my state of grief and I refused to react by cleaning it up immediately. From the actions of one, I am left to clean up the mess.
My attitude was in check here even though I was disappointed in the circumstances. Disaster in all shapes and forms surrounds us at times. Shielding ourselves from pain is inevitable. Sometimes we can’t even feel ourselves breathe because the pain or reality is too much to bear. Just stop and think about the meaning of these few words: Grace. Serenity. Love.
What’s all this have to do with a mother’s influence? Mothers have so much to accomplish in a day and this reality can be overwhelming. When we do things intentionally it is because we “want” to. “I want” to do the laundry so that we all have clean clothes to wear. Or rather, “I want” to leave the laundry alone today so I can focus on having lunch with my spouse. I don’t “have” to do anything. But I do “want” to do “x” because it will serve a purpose of “y.” These tools will guide you with purposeful and well-thought-out reasons for doing “why” you do what you do.
If you “have” to do something it will be done grudgingly and without a thankful heart. Think of the example of the mess the cat made. With all I had going on that day, I “wanted” to leave it until I was ready to clean it up. Give yourself permission to leave things alone if it does not serve the purpose you need it to or it interrupts in such a way that something else will suffer because of making that the priority. The task becomes too arduous and especially when you already have a full plate. When I cleaned it up at a time I wasn’t stressed out, it felt way better than had I cleaned it up with angst. Only to lead to perhaps more stress.
Chilling out on the idea that it had to be cleaned up in an instant allowed me to focus on what mattered in the moment and what I had anticipated as a plan for the day. I was able to move on into the evening and embrace those I had planned on being with in a much more peaceful state and my choice allowed me to make preparations so my family was equipped to carry out their evening and their plans with the things they relied on me for before I left. What you choose to do will impact the influence you have on maintaining your happiness and extending that to others.
For me, my only hope is in Jesus and His promise of everlasting life.
What makes you happy and your connections with others has a big influence. When we identify with that statement, we are able to examine the source of happiness and the impact that has on our thoughts and our actions. If you have a hard time grasping that explore the opposite. Embrace the relationships you have and reach out to others in your community building relationships outside of your inner circle of friends. Make time to visit clubs, join a class, reach out to someone you have not spoken to in six months or more. Write a note to a friend or an acquaintance or business in your area thanking them for a special service or memory of days gone by. Just as we inquire about the well-being of others, encourage your children to do the same. Follow-up with them if things aren’t so well and find out if they found any resolve. Hopefully our outreach can help those choosing to isolate mentally or physically.
You are lovely and you give so much of yourself. Embrace the new day by helping your kids define what they like to do. Help them realize what they need to do in order to accomplish what they dream of doing. Listen to them so they can hear themselves talk and sort out their thoughts. Zip the lip and don’t give advice unless they ask. (Hint: It will be a question.) Actively listening, you will help them learn how to figure out what they want to do by giving them the opportunity to sort out their thoughts. This is a great way to build trust and they may ask you for help on how to take action. Whatever the case, pay attention to their cues and be thankful for the relationship you have built in helping them or a friend engage into meaningful actions.
Small achievements bring happiness just as much as larger ones do. When you find yourself smiling and filled with joy, cherish that and embrace it. Stop what you are doing when you are feeling insecure or agitated. Evaluate your intention. If your intention is to stay at peace then meditate until you are centered again. A relationship with Christ has helped me overcome many emotions that needed leveled out over the years. I am thankful for the security I feel.
When you’re young, pain = the absence of pleasure. When you’re old, pleasure = absence of pain. When you’re wise, you know facing pain leads to pleasure. – Dr Henry Cloud
When we acknowledge the existence of desire, it is then we can act on overcoming obstacles and identify with an outcome. As a mother I feel a great responsibility to educate myself on a myriad of topics for the sake of my influence on myself, husband, children and in community. What shields you from the unexpected? How do you cope with pain and fear, loneliness and uncertainty? Is your reaction something you want to change? Through the years, seeking knowledge on these questions, then putting those ideas into practice has brought much peace in the midst of what seems like disaster. Happiness prevails.
As a mother, connecting with others truly is an important piece to our health, happiness and survival amid the chaos. Not such a profound statement here but being solo does not exist – we live on a planet where each relies on the other directly or indirectly. Think about where you are right now. Imagine what it took to develop the place you are currently. How about the shaping of your thoughts? The support from your friendships and family. Without connection, where does that leave one? In isolation. With Jesus we are never alone and if you come to know Him, you will understand the importance on a whole different level of why connecting with others is part of our key to happiness. Seeking out places to get acquainted, having conversation with others on any given subject can only enhance joy and especially in times of turmoil. When you lead with joyful confidence, you will inspire those around you with your influence. You will come to know how a mother’s influence truly contributes to more than you will ever know.
Joy in experiencing another’s thoughts and they giving yours attention, truly grounds each in a myriad of emotions. ~Susan Husa