It has been a COMFY and an unCOMFY few weeks in the Strozer house. We've had some fun times as Joshua turned 5. We've eaten well, learned about saving money on groceries, and found ways to have fun, get the job done, and sometimes be okay with spending money.
But, on the other side of that, we've had some unCOMFY moments. Jeremy chronicled his struggle with pain in last week's post. We are still waiting for some very important milestones in our family life. Joshua has had some challenges feeling secure while things around him are changing so quickly, which has greatly challenged me as a parent.
As all of this accumulates, my self-confidence often turns into self doubt, which, in our interconnected family, only moves forward the cycle of unCOMFY.
Self doubt, I think, is a fact of life. I am often fairly COMFY in my way of getting through the day, in getting through life. So, when self-doubt creeps (or enthusiastically jumps) in, I eventually get to a place where I use it to re-examine how I am functioning. This is, of course, after an initial period of "I'm not doing anything right," "This is all my fault," "Joshua will be scarred for life because I did/said/did not do/did not say X," or "I have absolutely no idea what to do."
How can unCOMFY self-doubt be turned into sometimes unCOMFY and sometimes COMFY self reflection? First, I have come to realize in my long 43 years, that I am never the best or worst at anything. I am never the fastest or the slowest. The list could go on and on. One hundred percent and zero percent are places for which I never strive. Letting myself see things realistically is a COMFY help when trying to work through self doubt. It is not to say that improvement can't be made. It is to say that extreme self talk is just not going to move me forward.
Turning this self-doubt back into COMFY
What is the true situation? Personally, my emotional reaction often convinces my rational brain that the difficult situation is going to last forever. In most things I have encountered in my life, challenges are either temporary or they ebb and flow. It is unusual for a challenge to be at a constant state FOREVER. Does my practical, rational brain know this? Of course! But, when Joshua has a spell of three bad days at school, emotion convinces me they will all be bad. When Jeremy's pain causes him to cry out when he gets out of bed for a few days in a row, fear assures me that he is not going to get out of bed at all someday.
How do I get past this "all or nothing" thinking? These challenges cannot be measured in a fixed period of time. I have to remember that the challenges to Joshua's feeling of security are set in between immense moments of curiosity, adventure, and laughter. I need to keep in mind that the sharpness of Jeremy's pain are flashes in a man whose big ideas, love of life, and sense of humor endear me.
To return myself to my rational self, I keep in mind one or two spots for "normal" things that happened that day. For example, on a day that Joshua had a particularly sad moment, he also had a great time climbing on rocks and playing in the creek. On a day Jeremy was in an unusual amount of pain, he sat in the back seat of the car with Joshua (while I drove) and played excavator, submarine, and countless other games that did not require a lot of movement.
What is my positive impact? In the past few weeks, I have learned that the worst thing I can do is try to fix these situations. First, it is impossible for me to do. Second, if I impose my fix on someone else, that leaves the individual without the skills to figure life out. I can give Joshua all the confidence building talks in the world, but until we came up with a way to externalize his feelings into "Mr. Sad" and figure out ways to get Mr. Sad to go away on his own, I was really no help. Now, we have a vocabulary we can all use to work through his anxiety. My offering to help Jeremy with stuff was also not a lot of help and pretty frustrating on his part. I needed to step back and give him the space to figure out what his needs are and how he can address those needs in a COMFY way...which may or may not include my "help."
My positive impact has been to let the other person take the lead. When Joshua was able to and ready to figure out this Mr. Sad character with us, he just took off with it. He owned the idea. I could not have imposed that on him. When I step back and give Jeremy some space, he can keep control over his pain experience without me butting in.
When those around me are facing challenges, it is natural to take on some of their pain. But, I cannot impose that pain or discomfort back on them by letting my self doubt take over. My positive impact is to give a safe space, trust that person take the lead when he is ready (not when I am ready), and to start my experience with them where they are. That makes me more COMFY and, I would imagine, Jeremy and Joshua are more COMFY, too.