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My kids will tell you that I am a “tough love” kind of mom.
They’ll probably tell you other things, but you can’t believe everything you hear (unless it’s good stuff. Believe the good stuff).
I don’t play with excuses. Whining is not allowed. Feeling sorry for yourself is not tolerated.
Of course, I do all of this at some time or another, but that’s not the point. I fully believe that you die a little inside every time you allow excuses and self-pity to take root inside a problem that you have the power to change.
It isn’t all or nothing. There are factors to consider, childhood traumas, neglectful parents, abusive relationships, control issues, abandonment issues, learning disabilities, the list goes on. I don’t believe in ignoring important factors that contribute to a problem, but that doesn’t mean use those factors as an excuse to remain stagnant.
Example: School projects are the bane of my existence. I’m not one of those Pinterest-y parents that can pull together a last-minute school project the night before it’s due (no hate here, only respect for you ladies -and gents- who can). Nope. If my child forgets about a project, or puts it off until the last minute after repeated reminders and warnings, it’s on her.
I check her teacher’s website frequently and give her reminders and help as needed. She isn’t expected to do it all alone, but I’m not going to take it over for her.
There are contributing factors to neglecting a project at school. R goes between two households, with divorced parents who are most certainly not friends with each other. There’s a level of stress involved with that kind of arrangement. She is easily distracted and reactionary, so electronics and external stimuli are also pretty intrusive. I have to actively work to limit her exposure to them, as a result, and I’m not always around.
I could go on, but none of the “factors” really matter. R is 10 years old. She’s expected to carry a level of responsibility for herself at this point, and she has all of the tools she needs to make it happen. Sometimes she does, and sometimes she doesn’t. It’s always her responsibility. She knows this, and pretty much accepts it with grace.
Yes, I hold myself and my children to a pretty firm standard. I surround myself with people who will either hold me accountable, or encourage me to be a better person with their own example and love.
This is something that I repeat to myself and my children on a regular basis:
Don’t use factors as excuses.
A lot of change has happened in my life over the past 3 years. I’ve divorced, gained 20 lbs, remarried, lost 20 lbs, sold and bought a house (my husband dealt with most of that, God bless him), and have been to court numerous times for all sorts of fun experiences related to the aforementioned divorce.
I’ve gained about 25 lbs back over the past year, because I completely quit going to the gym and starting eating like crap. It was a slow weight gain, which is the worst kind because it’ll be a slow weight loss. The joys of being 30+ years old.
To be clear: my weight doesn’t define me, and this isn’t a rah-rah weight loss/body image post. What it IS, is a call for accountability.
One of the lessons that I (figuratively!) beat into my children on a daily and even hourly basis is personal responsibility. If you don’t accept your part in a situation, how can you improve or escape it? You’re powerless if you’re a victim, and I don’t believe that any of us are powerless.
I need to make an important distinction here: serious abuse in all forms is a whole other topic, and not one that I am discussing in this post. If you are in an abusive relationship, or even THINK you might be in an abusive relationship, it’s not your fault and please, please reach out for help asap.
There is a difference between factors and excuses. I’ve gained 25 pounds in the past 12 months. My energy level, mood, and other things have suffered as a result. Are there factors surrounding the weight gain that are completely legitimate? Yes. We sold and bought a house. A highly stressful custody battle was going on, complete with harassment and verbal abuse thrown my way on a near-daily basis. Those are pretty big factors, and I basically gave myself a break on the gym and cooking.
Are these excuses, though? No. I would have been much better off emotionally if I had continued with my gym routine. My energy levels and moods would have stayed a lot more level if I hadn’t consumed so much sugar and diet soda and carbs all year. It really, really messes with my hormones and makes me exhausted all the time. Pretty sure I’m not alone there.
I’m not making excuses anymore, and you shouldn’t either.
Lay the Groundwork for Foundational Habits.
This month, I’ve been working on improving my life in very small, measurable ways. These improvements and habits are based on the vision that I have for who I want to be (which for me is the kind of person that God designed me to be). This will look different for you, but you can use my list as a jumping-off point if need be.
For years, I’ve had a pressing on my heart to write a book. I don’t even know what kind of book to write, yet. Still praying. So, I started there.
My first foundational habit: Write 500 words per day.
I don’t have to post or other publicize these words, but they do have to be cohesive enough to count. So far, I’m going alright at this. I’ve missed 2 days, but considering the fact that I was barely writing at all to start, that’s a good run so far. I started this on January 1st.
I also want and need to be physically healthy. It’s nearly impossible for me to be emotionally and mentally healthy when my physical health is bad. When I’m eating junk food and chasing diet soda all day every day, I’m an emotional wreck.
It’s a bit of a chicken-egg situation. Do I feel bad because I’m eating junk, or am I eating junk because I feel bad? It’s a vicious cycle, but the only way I know to stop it is just to STOP it.
My second foundational habit: Eliminate soda and diet soda completely.
When I drink water, green tea, and maybe one coffee per day at the most, my entire outlook on health changes. The sugar cravings and caffeine spikes that come with a constant Coke Zero supply is just too much for me. I started this one just yesterday, and I bought some seltzer water as a backup. So far so good, we’re over 24 hours and I’m somehow not dying from caffeine withdrawal. Woot!
These two habits are enough for me right now. I’ll be adding a strength training routine in a week or so.
It’s tempting to pick 1-2 habits, only do those, and use that as an excuse to stay lazy in other areas of my life. I’m resisting the temptation. Even though these are the 2 must-do habits, there are other things that I am working toward. I’m just not tracking them on a daily basis yet.
What are your foundational habits?
What is your biggest pain point right now? Finances? Health? Your marriage? Your children? Sleep deprivation? I’ll stop there, you get the idea.
Just pick one. I picked two, but I only recently started the second one after a couple of weeks.
You may have tried and failed at numerous “lifestyle changes”. Don’t worry about it. I’m right there with you, I promise. The important thing is to regroup and move forward.
Don’t let the factors that contributed to your “failures” become excuses to remain stuck.
Pick something simple. Don’t overthink it. I chose 500 words per day in January, because I knew that I could easily do that. I just needed it to be a habit. Next month, I may bump it to 1000 words per day to stretch myself a bit more. Whatever it is, make it doable. The idea for now is to get into the habit, not overhaul your entire life at once.
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Hi! I'm Ashley, and my sobriety date is May 6, 2015. I write to share my experience, strength, and hope in recovery. On any given day, you can find me developing websites, writing, or chauffeuring kids around. Read my story...
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