I don’t downshift very fast, meaning I’m not dumb, but I am a slow processor. I never made the “A” classes in my early schooling and thought I had something missing. I won’t be the first one to pick up spilled milk, or swerve from the squirrel, or really understand my own feelings until a day or two after I have felt them. I forget this a lot too. It hit me the hardest after having children, as soon as I figured out one stage they slipped into the next one. But I did understand rather quickly that I wanted to be a good mother and this meant my needs would come last a good portion of the time. I did also learn that a Mom can’t keep her needs out of the equation completely because then she sucks at her job, but that took me awhile too.
Now it’s me in a different stage, not the kids. And my adjustment time is still slow. For one, I am extremely particular about how I spend my time. I think I learned that at the same time I realized I needed alone time to do the Mom thing. I can be ruthless in editing my time. Apparently I have built a few fences in creating healthy boundaries. My girlfriends call me the “Queen.” “I don’t want to go there, I don’t want to eat that, I’m not listening to her,” are the types of refrains they hear from my personal time and preference editor. My kids just call me stubborn AF, which is also somewhat accurate, but the original skill came from a good place that worked for us all.
I’ve always loved this quote, I believe it was the missionary Jim Elliot, who said, “Wherever you go, there you are.” So the other day, I’m in a work meeting and the boss is going on and on. Seems like my time editor spills over onto others, huh? Anyway, I’m thinking about getting a specific job completed, and when my son needs a ride from work, and what time my paper is due and getting really annoyed about the length of this meeting. I want to point at my watch or roll my eyes or stick my tongue out at the boss. But no, I don’t want to be in the unemployment line again either. So I must learn. Whatever he is going on about, I may not want to hear it at the moment and I may not need to hear it at the moment. But that doesn’t mean I can’t learn something from it. From any fellow human. At anytime. If I’m willing.
Every situation I find myself in can be a boon to my life and mind or it can be a drag. It’s all up to me. Not even technically what is in front of me but how I respond to it all. I think that is what Elliot was getting at, that we take with us our ways of living wherever we go. I genuinely believe there are good and bad aspects to every place we find ourselves in, across the board. In my opinion, life is more about who we are than where we are at any given moment. This attitude curbs the power of circumstance. This curbing also has the effect of decreasing fear in a wonderful way.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve been there, at the bottom when nothing looks like it will ever be good again for any reason. Emotions are valid and have to be processed in all situations as we move in and out of them. Some circumstances may be chronic issues that anyone would need daily courage to learn from. We should never be shamed for our struggles in the places we find ourselves. Yet, that truth does not negate the fact that choosing to adjust our perspectives will work to our benefit at any given time.
I’ll definitely make a disclaimer about boundaries as well. They are an absolute necessity for a healthy life. Knowing who you are and what you prefer and what you will take and what you won’t? Vital. Doesn’t mean the Queen couldn’t learn to ease up a little. She doesn’t have little ones depending on her anymore. My friend (she’ll love that I referred to myself in the third person!) says, “Live and learn, Queen.” And I hope I do. But I’m still not eating at Taco Bell.
I set forth a humble and inglorious life; that does not matter. You can tie up all moral philosophy with a common and private life just as well as with a life of richer stuff. Indeed, that is just what a common and private life is: a life of the richest stuff imaginable.
Michel de Montaigne (Bakewell, Sarah. How to Live: Or A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer)