My homeschool (my life) depends on it.

I haven’t been following my own advice, and I haven’t set real goals in weeks. And I’ve been getting a lot of these sideways glances.

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Day 4: Yes, You Need an Incentive.

Video: Just a few minutes a day, doing something you love, can motivate you and make all the difference.

Workbook: List practical rewards for continuing on the path that is moving forward. Write out the external motivators (simple things like a great cup of coffee or lighting a candle) and the internal motivators (the deeper things like preparing for the day allows me to better align with my purpose in life).

I go through lots of cycles with motivation. From hyper-motivated and set out to change the course of my entire life to woefully under-motivated and barely able to make my own coffee in the morning before the kids come downstairs.

Underneath motivation is a drive, and sometimes – quite frankly – I have zero drive for life. I mean I live, I eat, I maintain the most basic of tasks around the house, but I have absolutely no motivation to do anything more than just survive. And when I feel like this, homeschooling seems nebulous and impossible. Failure becomes my companion rather than my enemy.

My kids are old enough now that they know the difference in my demeanor. They can tell what kind of day we are going to have based on whether or not I care if they watch PBS Kids first thing in the morning or not. Now, I don’t think it’s life-altering to allow them to watch Wild Kratts every morning, but the sad fact is that any show (no matter how educational) makes an imprint on how they will go about their day.

So, I survived a major slump in December. I wanted desperately to start January with fresh motivation. Pregnancy aside, I know the difference between physical limitations and mental blocks. I’ve been through the homeschool year cycle 3 full turns now, and for this fourth cycle I want to make sure I’m continuing to put more of myself into the success of our year than the year before.

Isn’t lack motivation usually the first domino to fall?

Which leads me back to the Make Over Your Mornings course (yes, I’m talking about it again because I’m working through it again – I’m not afraid to come right out and say that I need to re-makeover). As I wrote out my homework for Day 4, I realized I have some really great motivators already in place (the ones that worked really well before the day I saw the 2 pinks lines) if I would only rise and shine for my life. I felt a renewed sense of purpose. Finishing Day 4 was easy, and I felt accomplished.

Until the moment the alarm went off the next day. And the next.

I completely bombed. Like, getting out of bed an hour later than planned, bombed.

And with this failure came the bullying feeling of shame.

Emily Freeman describes it this way:

When fear bullies my soul, I know it because I spend lots of time wishing I was someplace else.

  • I become obsessed with building my life
  • I am frantic to catch up.
  • I feel like I’m missing out.
  • I search but don’t have hope of finding.
  • I build but don’t have a vision for finishing.
  • I strive but don’t believe I have what it takes.
  • I compete.
  • I compare.
  • I hide.
  • I feel ashamed but I don’t know why.
  • I refuse to move toward others.
  • I dread small beginnings.
  • I look at other people’s eight-foot assignments. (That only makes sense if you’ve read chapter 5.)

The solution to this soul-bullying is love. (You’ll have to read the rest of the chapter for yourself because I’ll get in trouble if I copy any more of it here.)

And when I woke up on my own this morning, 35 minutes before my alarm feeling well rested, I knew it was for love that I am awake. It’s for love that I’m alive.

When I live without love, I lack motivation every-single-time.

When I live without love, I don’t care about PBS Kids watching in the morning.

When I live without love, I hit snooze 3 times.

When I live without love, I slump and our homeschool routine slides later and later into the day.

When I live without love, I get dreadfully close to wanting to give up all the good things in my life that I have had to work so hard for.

So, Crystal is right: You need an incentive. And I believe there are rewards for hard work. I must enjoy the incentives for what they are, but I can’t cling to them when the motivation runs out. Because I’m not Pavlov’s dog and I can’t truly be conditioned to behave a certain way indefinitely, so I must stay in better tune with my heart and soul. I must recognize my need for living in tune with love.

My homeschool (my life) depends on it.

Links to what’s helping me right now:

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I’m in my thirties and I still use coping mechanisms.

I'm in my thirties and I still use coping mechanisms 3

While riding in the back of a golf cart, holding my toddler in my lap, and bouncing through the rows of trees in the apple orchard a thought confronted me: I am enjoying myself.

Before we arrived at the orchard, precautions had been taken to make sure each person was wearing layers, gloves, hats, and boots. But preparation isn’t everything, I’ve prepared for things like this before and still hated the experience all the way through. Every minute felt like pain, and none of it seemed worth all the effort. I love my family, and lots of times the experience we are aiming for was my idea. So I don’t know why I have grudged through so many should-be-good times.

But this morning, as we were bumping along in the golf cart – the confrontation of my thought startled me. I could feel that I was in the moment. I wasn’t worried about finding the right apple variety. I wasn’t anxious about holding my toddler while not in a seat buckle. I knew the whole excursion would be exercise (not my favorite thing). I accepted that this was going to be work.

I'm in my thirties and I still use coping mechanisms 5

 

I breathed in and knew that it was good. I thought, this is good – no matter what happens, no matter how much it costs, no matter how much my kids appreciate it – this is good.

So good that I was giddy, fully alive with joy.

I breathed in and knew that I wasn’t afraid. I looked at the sky, clouds threatening to block out blue and sun, and felt the energy of the day. I embraced the strength that was available to me in that moment. And that’s when I knew I was changing my habits. I was focused on breathing so I couldn’t be fixated on trying to control the outcome of the experience.

I'm in my thirties and I still use coping mechanisms 4

It’s the outcome that fools me into thinking that I can control the experience. Like a mathematical equation: We are here to pick apples. I will pick apples, pay for them, leave with them, and eat them. Money and time out – apples in. Whenever I get caught up in this sort of mentality, I get fooled into thinking that the life in between making the plan and acting on the plan should be easy and controllable.

It never is.

I'm in my thirties and I still use coping mechanisms 6

I’m still learning this whole hard work thing. I’m a slow learner, so I’m not the most exciting member of our family to be around when the going gets tough. I’ve missed out on the joy of so many fun family activities simply because I was trying to control the outcome so much that I wanted to fast forward through the moments that seemed like filler just to get to the point.

If I had been in this mindset, I would have missed the golf cart ride.

I would have held my breath through the filler part. I would have stressed about all the things I could not control and missed the moment. But instead, I took a deep breath and thanked God for that very moment – the bumpy, exciting, unknown, beautiful moment. And that’s when I realized that my problem hasn’t been that I’m just a grumpy person with a bent toward complaining. My problem is I’m a fearful person who simply needs to learn to breathe again. I’m learning that pain has created a lot of bad habits in my life, some that have nothing to do with other people and everything to do with how I experience my own life.

Confession: I’m in my thirties and I still use coping mechanisms. I hold my breath when I’m scared.

I'm in my thirties and I still use coping mechanisms 1

I know there isn’t any logic in holding my breath. Like the analogy of bitterness: drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die. I fear the lack of control in my experiences and hold my breath, waiting for someone or something to hand me back the reigns.

I don’t hold my breath consciously, but I do remember the first time I consciously took in a full breath and practiced that over and over. I realized that I had been making my daily life more difficult because of my coping. I started to recognize – like waking up and seeing objects come into focus – I was holding my breath all the time. I just did it automatically whenever I found myself in new situations or in fear inducing circumstances.

I didn’t know that all my breath-holding was a means of grasping for control. I didn’t connect that my grasping was actually robbing me of the freedom to enjoy my own life’s experiences. But learning to breathe – the simple full breath in, full exhale out – in the midst of new or scary experiences has taught me the beauty and joy of letting go of the things that are unknown.

I'm in my thirties and I still use coping mechanisms 2

So when the thought I am enjoying myself jolted me – I took a full breath, thanked God, and told myself that no matter what happens in this orchard I will breathe. I will choose to remember this moment of pure joy and be grateful for this life and this experience. I won’t worry about the outcome or about whether I have enough strength for the hard work. I will choose to rest in my spirit and trust God for my next breath.

And that’s exactly what happened. I kept breathing, and I enjoyed myself all the way through the experience. One small victory over fear, one giant amount of joy, one breath at a time.

The question that masks a deeper more confronting question.

The question that masks a deeper more confronting question. 1

I’ve already told you that I’m prone to panic. I had to learn through so much failure and struggle that the first few years of home education proved to be more for educating me on self-control and discipline than about what curricula is best suited for my children and their learning styles.

Even after 4 years of studying home education, I still ask other home educating friends on a regular basis, “how do you do this?

The truth is that while things do become more routine the longer you do them, there isn’t a magical answer to “how” they should be done.

I have spent so much time trying to answer this question before actually putting any action into home schooling. Reading books, blogs, studying development and researching the best tools for the right ages. Figuring out the “how” is difficult and no doubt daunting when I admit that the whole of the child in my care is resting on how well I do this.

While searching for answers to how, a fear rises and begins to tell me that I will never have enough information, tools, or understanding to do a good enough job for my child. And in response to this fear I put in even more effort, endlessly asking myself, how do I do this? The fear that maybe I can’t do this as well as I should begins to turn the question of how into an illusive thing. As I learn more about the best how, I lose sight of how to begin, how to be faithful in today, how to be content. I believe the lie that if I can’t match someone else’s “how” then mine isn’t good enough and I shouldn’t even try.

That was until this thinking was confronted.

You see, it doesn’t matter the subject of the “this” in the question how do I do this? If I’m not careful, this question masks a deeper more confronting question. One that has changed the very nature of how I view everything that is difficult in my life.

On May 10, 2015, I was sitting in church listening to a sermon on spreading the gospel. The series was titled Ignite, and the message was titled Spreading the Fire. As a church, we were studying what it means to be disciple-making-disciples.

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The subject of evangelism has always been a difficult one for me because I don’t come to the command with a personality that can quickly embrace the implications of spreading the name and fame of Jesus easily. For me, talking about the gospel and bringing the name of Jesus into every conversation is a challenge because I’d rather not have to talk to anyone at all. But that doesn’t mean that I’m not commanded to do so just as much as one who enjoys conversation and can readily share the gospel with others.

So when I was listening to this important message on the imperative command, I was suddenly confronted to my core when my pastor said:

Asking “how do I do this?” is really asking if there is an easier way to do it.

I knew that this was true for me in wanting to learn more about how to share the gospel. How do I start a conversation? How do I know what to say? How do I follow up with people outside my normal context? All of these additional questions are legitimate but they serve to distance me from obedience because I begin to believe that if I don’t have the answer to the “how” questions then I don’t have to start obeying. If I don’t know how, then I’m not accountable to the what.

Thinking this way is wrong. The conviction that I’ve been distancing myself from obedience has had a ripple effect in every category of my life.

In my heart, I knew that wanting things to be easy was my secret desire. For all my learning about faith, marriage, home education, and building friendships I came to the conclusion that anything worth doing requires sacrifice. And in order to begin and commit to following through I consistently came to the place where I stopped moving forward when things became costly all because I fooled myself by wanting to know “how.”

In my foolishness, I thought my wanting to know how was wise when really it was a cover up for wanting obedience to be easy.

So here are some practical suggestions if you find yourself burdened under the question of how:

  • Accept that hard work is hard. If someone else makes home education or life in general just look easy – it’s a fact that they work hard, and have worked hard for so long that doing so has become natural. Nothing in life was meant to be free from work. Own your work and commit to getting started today by just doing what you already know to do.
  • Stop comparing your how to someone else’s how. There is fear in learning something new like how to home educate. I fell into the trap quickly of wanting my day with my little people to look like the ideal – I wanted all the boxes checked, all the books read, and all the clutter cleared. I didn’t want to have to give space for learning curves and growing pains. But when I began to value my life simply because it is mine, that’s when I could actually own my how and let go of someone else’s.
  • Start in layers. Just do one thing and commit to doing it well. Discipline is grown best over time and with patience. I was tangled up in the “how can I do it all” mess when I first started home education. I wanted to give my children the best of me 24 hours a day which led me to a point of utter exhaustion. Exhaustion led me to resentment, and resentment led me to the point of missing my own life. I had to start all over and just choose 1-thing to commit to be disciplined in, to be patient to watch that one thing grow, and to be content with the time I was spending to guard and be faithful to this process.
  • Ask yourself what is easy for you. Be honest about the things you are good at and don’t miss out on the joy to life these easy things bring. These easy things are different for each person, so enjoy seeing where they can balance out the things that are difficult.
  • Talk it out. Whether in your own self-talk or with a friend, spell out the areas of home life and home education that are too hard to even begin. Discuss with your spouse whether certain ideals are even worth pursuing in the season of life you are in right now. Write out the balance of responsibilities and weigh out the easy and difficult things. It is okay to take non-essentials off the list for a season.
  • Be resolved to not measure yourself by an impossible standard. Own the gifts you’ve been given and commit to do your best. End the struggle between being a good mom and a bad mom because the best answer to “how” cannot guarantee you won’t make any more mistakes.

As I wrestle with the hard things in my life, now I am confronted whenever I start asking myself the wrong question: how can I do this? I now know that I am really asking: isn’t there an easier way to do this? And if the answer is no, there isn’t an easy way, I’m learning to own the work and just get started. I don’t want to waste my life waiting for an easier way. The how do I do this question is answered easily: start.

Curricula: What We Use, Part 1: Preschool and Kindergarten

Curricula What We Use PreS and K Part 1There are times when I am overwhelmed by fear because of the pressure I put on myself to make sure that our lifestyle choice – to homeschool – is always successful. I try to hyper manage all the details of our outward expression of home to comfort myself that my children are learning, thriving, and growing in the right direction.

Until I try something for myself or see it in person, I think I have a fear of failure that I won’t be doing the best or the most I can for my children. I know that’s an elephant I bring into the room when I ask what someone else is using with their kids.

One huge point of growth for me each year is in the process of choosing a curriculum. It takes so much faith to put off the desire to have something “packaged and perfect” that guarantees my child’s success in order to put on prayer and faith that God will lead me every single day in teaching and training the persons He’s gifted to me for this season of motherhood.

So I grow in baby steps.

This year I wanted to know more about educational theories and the “why” behind the “what.” There are so many philosophies out there that it can feel burdensome to try to find the best one for your family.

Curricula What We Use PreS and K Part 1 3

Let me be quick to say 2 things before I even share what resources we used for preschool and kindergarten:

First, even if you never purchase an official curriculum – God will provide all you need to teach your children at every age.

Second, if a curriculum feels too expensive or too strict – then it probably is. Don’t get caught in the trap that you need to have an impressive curriculum to prove you’re doing the right thing for your family.

And I want to be clear that I’m not sharing what we’ve done as a prescription, but rather for review and as a history of our family’s growth in owning this homeschool lifestyle. I started out wanted all the impressive packages and gold-stars; I didn’t even know I was operating from the Traditional theory. I’ve had to change a lot of my behavior to align with our philosophy and I hope you will too.

Curricula we used for preschool and kindergarten:

  • Ages: 2-5 – We did the PreS and the PreK of Sonlight, a literature-based curriculum that is known for having some of the best reading lists.
    • For the PreS I just bought the Instructor’s Guide (IG) and picked up the rest of the books as we went along. We bought some and we borrowed some. The Harper Collin’s Treasure of Picture Book Classics was our family’s favorite.
      Since we knew early on that we were going to homeschool, this curriculum was a great way to build our children’s literature library. On my own, I didn’t know the best books to read at these ages. I really enjoyed the IG for the PreS package because it was filled with fun, easy activities to do with young children.
    • For the PreK we purchased the whole package new. We didn’t like the schedule for the reading portions in the IG (really choppy and too many books going on at once). So around October I scrapped the IG and just read through the books on our own. The down side of that was that we didn’t get through all of the books because we lost interest or just forgot. Also, we missed out on the overlapping effect of having the subjects line up across multiple categories of stories. Overall, we had polar feeling about this package – some books were amazing (Robert Wells books, all the History & Geography books, and Uncle Wiggily’s Story book) and some were duds (A Treasury of Mother Goose Rhymes, The Lion Storyteller Bedtime Book, and Stories from Around the World). For us, we felt like the dud books taught a underlining principle that we didn’t agree with. Curricula What We Use PreS and K Part 1 2
  • Supplements: because I struggled to feel like I was “doing enough” just reading to my children I spent a lot of time and money on printing and following 1+1+1=1 resources. We purchased the PowerPoint and set up the whole system for the Raising Rock Stars Preschool – complete with poster board for changing weekly units. (Side note: I now see that my feeling like a constant failure was due to simply trying to do all the “good” things and not being content to just stick to the best. Burden lifted.)
  • Ages: 4-6 – We moved over to My Father’s World for Kindergarten.
    • My oldest thought this curriculum was boring and monotonous, but that’s mainly because at this point she was completely sick of worksheets (again, here’s where I saw I was operating out of the Traditional theory). The style of this package is unit studies that focus on an animal or something in creation (sun, moon, water) and a character quality that can be seen in that animal or created thing that points to God. The student worksheets in this package are good and it is not meant to be a worksheet driven curriculum. They are included in order to round out the materials and to create a notebook for memory.  My daughter (at age 6) reproduced the whole sequence of units just for fun, drawing the picture and writing the character sentence. I think she did enjoy it. My son (5yrs at the time) loved the worksheets and looked forward to each day’s work. Curricula What We Use PreS and K Part 1 4

In the spring of 2014, I was really thinking we were going to do Sonlight’s Core B for “1st grade” for both kids and supplement material for my daughter (7yrs) to be classified as “2nd grade.”

But while we (my husband and I) were at The Great Homeschool Convention we didn’t like the Sonlight science when we saw it in person. They use mainly “Usborne” books – which are beautiful and informational – and we own many books by Usborne already, but they do not hold to a “young earth” philosophy. And we felt like that was a deal breaker for us. I didn’t want to have to “unteach” what the book said about dinosaurs living billions of years ago.

SO we prayed a lot and trusted God’s leading – and He was so good to us! We are loving this year’s resources – and we had to piece it together ourselves (something I thought I would never be able to do)…To Be Continued

Further reading and resources:

2016-HOMESCHOOL-CONVENTION-DATES

 

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My Loneliness Story (Self-Destructing and Frustrated) :: Warning Signs of Loneliness in Kids, Part 6

No one would want to play with me anyway. I don’t have any friends. No one likes me, I’m dumb.

Or:

Why do you always… why can’t I ever… you never let me…

And it may be that both have been said by the same child. I know I said both.

People mean well when they want to help or fix these bad feelings. But it isn’t as easy as choosing not to be grumpy by putting on a smile. When the root of the matter isn’t being addressed the bad feelings grow and it becomes a habit. The struggling child expresses self-pity or disrespect consistently.

It is heartbreaking when adults ignore these signs because they label the child as “pitying themselves” or “rebelling against authority.” While both of those labels may be true and trained through with the child –it is feedback behavior.

Again, heavily focusing on these words and the feelings behind them are not going to produce the desired result. The words or the attitude isn’t the primary issue. The root of the issue isn’t that the child needs better self-esteem or deeper submission. Spending energy trying to train a child to put on a better attitude or to quiet their expressions will not stick. It’s like putting a Band-Aid on a wound that needs stitches.

The pain from loneliness has been internalized and the child believes that they are wrong or broken for having needs that are going unmet. It causes a reaction of distrust and resentment toward parents for not knowing or helping the child.

In young children, this can also create a sense of panic or fear.

Fear and pain have a way of motivating us. I was a little powerhouse of words, attitudes, and emotions growing up. I would speak up to anyone: anytime, anywhere. Collecting labels that only grew more burdensome as I grew older. As my feedback behavior was being disciplined, punished, quieted – the pain grew and my fight with it. I tried every wrong way to force others to notice me and meet my needs for support and companionship, but very few adults could tolerate me.

This was true for me: hurt people, hurt people. And anyone close to me was hurt by me.

If only I could go back to my teen years and take back the awful things I said to my parents. The ongoing frustration I felt toward them was simply caused by misunderstandings and lack of communication. We addressed the surface issues, labeling actions and emotions as character flaws. But on my own, I didn’t have the tools to change my character – who I was becoming felt like a freight train that had lost its brakes.

Like a self-fulfilling prophecy, I became who we all feared I would become. The labels and the troubles crushed me.

It took me years to unravel the pain and fear. After the social stages of schooling, I was on my own and alone, and that’s when I began to understand how loneliness had been at the root of so much of my destructive behavior.

And after more than a decade of healing I am able to share and learn from this painful part of myself.

My Loneliness Story

Learning to work through pain and to help others is the motive behind writing this series. The amount of compassion I have for kids who are hurting is beyond my physical reach. That’s why I’m writing. If you’re reading this, anything you can gain from these observations can be used to heal and help provide support and companionship.

Also, lest I close the series leading anyone to believe I no longer struggle with loneliness allow me to reveal how I recognize red flags as an adult: I act is some counter intuitive ways. I put on personalities that aren’t mine, and they don’t fit. And it looks like one or more of these:

  • Suddenly becoming bubbly and outgoing, with a strong desire to be the life of the party
  • Spending money impulsively and a ravenous desire to have something I’ve been saying “no” to for a long time
  • Gradually becoming isolated: ignoring phone calls from close friends and family because I just don’t feel like being with anyone
  • Feeling panicky when I don’t know where my phone is – checking social media compulsively
  • Mismanaging time and emotions – becoming angry and frustrated with myself for an overall lack of discipline
  • Speaking negatively about myself to others and rejecting encouragement

Why is there an ongoing struggle with loneliness? Because it’s hard to ask for support when I feel unsupported. It looks weak, it feels vulnerable, and it requires reflection and work to resolve. Often, I don’t know where to start, I’m overwhelmed. Guilt lies to me.

Moving forward, I look at my core needs and work up from there: security, identity, and then belonging. And like Dr. Kathy Koch taught me: Belonging is “who wants me” not “who needs me.” Belonging is a need, and healthy relationships are possible.

If you’ve missed any of the other posts in this series, you can check out the titles here.

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Alone and Afraid :: Warning Signs of Loneliness in Kids, Part 4

Joe Butterfly

I’m not going to pick on introverts. I have a special love for them.

I am them.

But even though I’m in a special, happy place when I’m alone – I don’t like who I become when I’ve been alone too much.

The same is true for my daughter. It has been difficult, balancing her alone time. She has a brother who is an extrovert and enjoys talking with someone all-the-time. And so on the rare occasions when she can be outside his vocal range, she has done things that were destructive and compulsive and she doesn’t know why.

She would not say that she was lonely or that she wanted to be with someone, just that something didn’t feel right.

She would say something I remember saying when I was her age: “Just leave me alone.”

Oh, how those words hurt me. Saying them and hearing them.

At over thirty, I’ve grown out of this some. Or maybe I can just see it whereas before I was blind.

Before kids I worked outside the home and I liked the accountability. But my “off time” was “free time,” and alone time wasn’t always good for me. I was unsupported, my companions weren’t always there for me, and I was lonely. Instead of reaching out, I retreated in. I wasn’t confident in my identity and I wasn’t a safe place for myself.

The more lonely I became, the more I wanted alone time. And the more alone I was, the more fearful I was of social engagements. I’m pretty sure I was suffering from a chemical imbalance of some sort, but I can only see that in hindsight.*

And that’s when fear became an untamable beast in my world. Every social engagement became an exercise in controldo-not-panic I would preach to myself. I shied away from more and more places. I didn’t want to engage in small talk anywhere. I was afraid to run into people I knew in the store. I would hide.

(If you ever saw me turn, run, and hide – I apologize. It’s not you, it was me.)

My husband would say, “but you don’t look scared of being around them – you’re smiling!” And I could smile. That was all a part of the grasp on control. I knew I shouldn’t feel so fearful of others, somewhere inside I knew that what I truly needed was more people not less.

Then add in small children.

I knew I needed to get out of the house with them. We would go to the park, the store, the library. Those places only pacified our need for relationship by putting us around people. We weren’t with any of them. We didn’t belong to them. We weren’t supported by them.

It wasn’t until my oldest was nearly 6-years-old that I realized that I had to change our social habits or she would never gain the companionship she needs.

Joe Butterfly with friends

And me? I’m amazed at how much different I feel toward people since embracing how I’m wired. I was designed to share, encourage, and support. Fear taught me that people don’t need that from me. I believed they wanted wit, humor, and surface. But love has taught me that I’m free from the expectations I thought others had of me.

Now I still don’t jump at every chance to be in a group, and neither does my daughter, but I strive for a better balance in our overall routine. I pursue investing in others on purpose because loneliness will never be cured by spending more time alone.

*One thing I must encourage strongly is the need for healthy companionship. If you feel like you can relate deeply to the feelings I explained here, please open up to someone trustworthy.

This is Part 4 in the series, to catch up on the other posts click here for the Index.

Redeeming Excitement

The rush. The sudden burst of feeling that combines both physical and emotional. It’s electric.

I was very excitable as a child. I craved that rush of feeling. I could have been labeled hyper.

But I was also very lonely as a child. When the wave of excitement wore off and the source of the rush went away, I would either become very mopey or I would force it – meaning I wanted to make the feeling last.

It was very immature of me. But I didn’t know better.

As I matured and learned to temper my excitement, I started to realize that some sources of excitement were sinful. Like compulsive spending or staying out way too late at a party. I was burdened by guilt when this excitement wore off.

And that’s when anxiety crept in. Subtly and without an invitation, it whispered to me that excitement would hurt me. I slowly began to fear the very feeling even when there was good cause for it. I was losing my freedom to embrace feeling alive. The anxiety clamped down on all my feelings and attempted to snuff it all out.

This was all before kids.

I remember how I felt after having my firstborn; I didn’t allow myself to freely enjoy all of her littleness. I would pass her off to her dad, grandmas, and friends while holding my breath. I could see that they were able to experience the rush of emotion with joy.

And that’s when I realized that something was wrong with me.

Now I see that this was the beginning of my struggle to own love. I wasn’t sure if I knew how to show love because I was always afraid. I couldn’t base my ability on a feeling because my feelings were currently being held hostage by anxiety. I knew in my head that I loved my newborn daughter more than the air I breathed. But to feel it in my heart and be comforted by that connection of body and soul?

No, I lacked that comfort.

Then, as if anxiety weren’t enough of an opponent, adrenaline made its way into my life. This obnoxious beast forced its rush upon me. At first, I was thrilled to have the strength and vigor to get things done again. I felt satisfied again with myself and the ability to accomplish tasks.

Until I lost sleep.

Adrenaline was exciting but very costly. I didn’t realize that once adrenaline was turned “on” there was no turning it off. And I became scared of this too. I didn’t want to become too tired in fear causing of the forceful power of adrenaline to take me over.

And little by little, all this fear and failure to feel robbed me of all joy. I over analyzed my feelings. Not wanting to be guilty of wrong or suffer because of weakness, I was actually trying to get to a place where I wouldn’t feel anymore.

But, thank God, I have my children because of living with them and their beautiful joy – I am learning to redeem excitement in my life.

It has taken years for me to see that I was living in a prison of fear. And it has required even more strength than time for me to be able to fight back against the thoughts and habits that once ruled my behavior.

One example of how much I have to fight is when I share with my Bible study group. I am filled with excitement because of what I’m learning and yet to open my mouth and speak creates an intense fear that I won’t be understood or that I will say too much, and I tremble (literally). But each week I am thankful for the opportunity to put my fears to the test and find that they don’t have to rule me.

As I regain my emotional strength, I am seeing how I need to aid my children in moderating their feelings. And what a joy it has been for me to see my own childhood excitements through their eyes. I can now look back at myself with compassion and look forward for my children with freedom. I stop myself from projecting my fears and failures onto them, and I can start to see how they process excitement versus fears.

My 5 year old talks when he’s excited. It’s easy to know that something has brought his spirit to life because suddenly he has an extra 1,000 words to share with any listening ear. My 7 year old writes when she’s excited. If she’s been invited to something or received a gift then she’s immediately writing a thank you card or journaling the feelings she has because of it. And my little guy hugs and dances. He can’t contain it and I wouldn’t want him to. It’s the sweetest, purest emotion.

And I can see excitement now for what it is: a right response to a life giving experience. Slowly, little by little, I’ve entered into it and found that my spirit can come back to life too.

Love came down and rescued me, love came down and set me free.

Excitement can be redeemed.

Redeeming Excitement

 

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