“you can always say ‘no.'”

My husband says that to me, when I express even the slightest bit of tiredness with whatever I’m doing as a volunteer. He says it perhaps because he works really hard. If he had the choice to be less tired, he’d probably say “no” to a lot of things.

But I don’t need reminding. I know I can always say “no.” I know I, unlike my husband, have a choice.

Our kids, they love, and I mean LOVE, to be chased around the house, by a grown up who is pretending to be either a ghost, a lion, or a bad guy from Star Wars. They run and run and run, and laugh and laugh and laugh, until somebody, usually the grown-up but often our son, announces: “I’m tired!” They take a break, and move on to the next fun thing, that requires less physical energy.

We don’t suggest to our kids, “You can always play a game that doesn’t make you tired.” That would make no sense whatsoever. They have energy. They should spend it. They have imagination. They should use it.

I could always say “no.” But I don’t want to. I have energy. I have imagination.

It feels so good to use it. To be of use.

To make others happy.

Happy Is As Happy Gives…

Well, isn’t this something? Check out this article in the Pacific Standard: “Do Children Make Us Happy?

They do, especially when parenting in a “child-centric” manner: 

Child-centric parents prioritize their children’s needs and wants over their own. The hallmark of a child-centric parent is self-sacrifice. The researchers define the child-centric mindset as one in which “parents are motivated to maximize their child’s well-being even at a cost to their own and are willing to prioritize the allocation of their emotional, temporal, financial, and attentional resources to their children rather than themselves.” 

And this:

In this study, the researchers again found that… child-centric parents… experienced more positive emotions when they were taking care of their children than when they were doing other things. These parents also experienced less negative emotions when they were taking care of their kids. Child-centric parents also derived more meaning out of their interactions with their kids. When they were not with their kids, these parents experienced less meaning and positive emotions.

I’ll just make the leap: according to these findings, being an at-home parent should yield tremendous happiness.

And if a new purpose in life–a new reason to sacrifice, or give, and transcend what you want for yourself–does not manifest by the time one’s children are grown, one would seem to be set up for unhappiness.

Even regret.



accepting the impotence

This week is awful, overall.

Sunday started with the general unease I usually feel when my husband is flying across world, which is compounded by the tremendous uncertainty we feel about our next geographical move in the next unknown number of months, exacerbated by an only slightly irrational worry about the threatened actions by North Korea (my husband’s flying home through South Korea tonight).

At times like these I turn into quite a mope, and then I rally, and feel ashamed of myself for my self-pity, and I get on with life. It usually takes a couple hours to get through this little process (and it is generally accompanied by vigorous housecleaning. Our house is really clean.).

But then there was Monday afternoon. I found out about the Boston Marathon bombings from a fellow mom at a park. The kids and I got home, and I glued my face to my computer monitor. I called or contacted everybody I knew in the New England area, including my mother-in-law, who was en route from California and rarely hears from me by cell phone (“Hi Mom, just calling to see how you are… couldn’t remember if you’re flying into Boston… Safe and good travels!” ??? She called back and I explained my weirdness. She’s a kind soul.)

And then there was Tuesday, learning about an 8-year-old boy, and a 29-year-old woman, and a graduate student, and reading about emergency room doctors and orthopedic surgeons and first responders.

And then Wednesday, watching a major news organization implode upon itself. Seeing our Senate fail, utterly fail, the nation. Most Senate Republicans and four Senate Democrats, to be exact. And then watching an explosion in Texas (now treated as a crime scene), via a cell phone video of a man with his child. Hearing that child’s reaction.

What am I doing to myself? A more sensible person might tune out a bit, or compartmentalize more, just to be able to get to sleep. But right now, I am drowning in these feelings of… despair? dismay? disgust?

Then I read this:

Processing The Pain « The Dish.

In writing about the Boston Marathon bombings, the Dish reader says:

Your recent post on vengeance prompted this email. My Facebook wall has been telling me that I should “fight darkness with light” (and I agree); that I should use this attack to extend my circle of empathy to overseas massacres occurring against people who are unlike me (I also agree); that I should focus on the people who helped instead of the person who committed the massacre (and I remain in agreement). And yet I don’t just feel “sadness,” I actually feel hate.

That’s it. That’s it exactly. That’s the feeling.

I hate the person(s) responsible for the Boston Marathon bombings. I hate the Senators who blocked simple, wildly supported gun safety assurances (including those who purposefully and stupidly support them for the sake of money or some warped sense of “rights.”). I hate whoever was responsible, through malice or negligence, for the West, TX, fire and subsequent explosion.

And it’s ugly. And far worse, “impotent,” as the writer above notes.

Or maybe not quite.

There are these ugly sides of ourselves, there are feelings in each of us that are tapped under certain mixes of circumstances. They can make you shake with rage, seethe, clench your jaw, cry, and sit in a stupor on your couch as you watch the endless news coverage.

Exhausting you.

I tried this new workout routine yesterday. One part included doing push-ups, military style, to “the point of failure.” I’d never really tried that before; I’ve only recently managed to do as many as Jillian Michaels does in her circuit training workouts… about 15 at a time?… and my chest has never been terribly close to the ground. But I did it yesterday, in as manly a fashion as I could. I stopped counting after 22 because I thought my shoulders would fall out of their sockets. I “failed,”  and then just lay there on my mat. Exhausted. Weakened? But then I got up and finished the rest of the workout.

This week will be over soon. And all the ugliness and impotence of hate will give way to a renewed level of purpose and strength.

It always does, for most of us. For me.