Stop trying and start doing

A counselor once told us, “Try to get up out of your chairs.” We gave each other and him puzzled looks. “Excuse me? What?”

“Try to get up, but don’t get up. Just try to.”

I said, “Well, that’s stupid. We’d just wear ourselves out, being halfway up out of the chair.”

“Exactly. So don’t ever ‘try’ to do something again. Just do it.”

For decades now, I’ve been in the habit of waiting around for the guy to do something. Yeah, yeah, it’s the way I was raised. It’s the example I saw forever. There’s a lovely word for it:

Codependency

It’s frustrating.

It wastes so much time.

It leads to anger (at the person you’re waiting on, and at yourself for waiting on someone who is probably never going to change, but wait, there’s a chance he might…).

There is also a hidden benefit to codependency, to dealing with passive aggression. Do what? There can’t possibly be any benefit to waiting around for someone to get off his tail and do something. Can there be?

Sure, there can be. It’s a dark, nasty truth none of us wants to face when we’re the one doing the codependent waiting. If we’re pacing back and forth, wringing our hands, waiting and begging and pleading for our spouse to do something… If we’re motivating and cheerleading and manipulating, and putting all our energy into pushing and trying to get the person to do the right thing… That keeps us pretty busy, doesn’t it? It takes up a lot of our time, right? It also takes all of our energy.

Why put up with passive aggression?

It’s a sneaky way for our subconscious brains to keep us from doing things on our own. It helps us avoid taking risks, and putting ourselves and our ideas out there. It keeps us safe from failing, too.

Because, as you probably know, we’ve been taught from birth that women shouldn’t do things on their own. We should be dependent. We should each ask our husband’s permission first. Especially if we were raised to be Christians, we’ve been told those kinds of things.

That kind of garbage has kept us in bondage for far too long. It is scripture that has been twisted and used to abuse us, like so much of it is, and has been for generations.

He will never change

Say it out loud. Repeat it until you come to accept it. That might be 10 times; it might be 100. It might lead you through a trail of emotions – anger, defeat, and despair, for instance, before you get to acceptance. Just because you accept it, that doesn’t mean you like it. You don’t even have to be okay with it. It is wrong that he’s being a lazy butt. It is wrong that he’s expecting you to do more than what’s fair. But, it is what it is. He’s never going to change.

Are you?

Make changes

I had an unpleasant little talk with myself, and it went something like this:

He is never going to change. He is never going to make a move. He doesn’t care. He has everything exactly the way he wants it. If you want something done, you are going to have to do it yourself. Are you going to grow up and do what needs to be done?”

Shocked silence from myself.

Yes, I said, “Grow up.”

Screw you.

Either grow up and start doing things on your own, or shut up and let the passive-aggressive person control your life.

Do it myself

So apparently I decided to start doing things on my own. I had a series of conversations with the Deacon, so I knew I had the church’s go-ahead on this. And then I found myself just doing things. Usually something little, but it was something that, before, I would have waited on him for days or weeks, getting plenty frustrated, before getting all exasperated and doing it myself. I stopped wasting that time, and the energy getting frustrated. I just did it.

Things started getting done! So I started doing more things.

Is it fair? Of course not. So what?

Does this change the fact that he’s still not doing anything? No.

Did it inspire him to follow my example and start doing things, too? Only in the movies.

Do I care? Not anymore. Why not? Because I took my power back. I wouldn’t trade this new feeling for the old one, ever again.

One day recently, I got several things done that had been he had been promising me he’d do for MONTHS. I just got in the car and went and did them, one right after another. And man, did I ever feel GREAT! It’s like the opening line of a techno dance song (by SNAP).


The huge smile on my face at the end of that day put a big smile on the Deacon’s face, too. He approved. I enjoy those smiles and his approval. 😀

So that, ladies and gentlemen, is how I went from trying to doing. It’s still a journey. I didn’t suddenly become 100% independent overnight, and won’t–we are to be interdependent, after all. But when something needs to be done that we’ve discussed, and he’s not making any moves to do it, I don’t sit around tugging on him anymore. I know how to drive and use the phone and handle some cool power tools all by myself. I can get things done on my own.

 

Clicking into place

I feel like things are clicking into place in my brain/composition. They are mostly things that my parents should have taught me when I was a child, but didn’t. I guess they were too busy with their drama ever to think about teaching us anything.

Personal development

Every time something falls into place, I am a different person–just a bit usually, but sometimes it changes me substantially. I’m not the same as I was several months ago when we moved and lost internet access. I’m certainly not the same person I was over a year ago when I started attending an Orthodox Church. In some ways, I don’t recognize myself, but that’s okay.

Sometimes I can feel it happen in the middle of a sermon. Shift. Slide. Click.

Sometimes it’s during an interaction with my children or husband. Sometimes, I don’t know when it happened, but I know something recently did.

Orthodoxy changes us

Sometimes it feels like I’m supposed to pass through a cut-out of a certain shape, but my shoulder is too wide in this spot here, and the passage sands away that part of me. Sometimes it hurts, and sometimes not so much. At first, I objected loudly. What?! You’re going to reshape me? Rebuild me, redesign me?! I like who I am just fine, thankyouverymuch. I would cease to be me if you did that. No.

But they were right. Not only am I still me, as the people in my parish said, but I am more whole, more integrated than before. And when I say that, yes, I do mean it in the psychological sense with a dissociative disorder.

Inner peace

I feel at peace, and to realize just how huge that is, you have to understand something about me: my life, from the womb on, was chaos. I didn’t know where “home” was going to be at the end of any given day, for example, or if I’d have anything for dinner that night. I never knew any peace. I had only an intellectual understanding of the word’s definition. It was like a street urchin hearing about a feast at the palace. Yeah, riiiiight. Like that’s attainable for me.

To experience peace, calm, serenity… my soul and even my body let out the proverbial Ahhhh! After, that is, I got used to it. At first, I was so accustomed to turmoil that if there wasn’t already some in my life, I’d subconsciously find a way to create some. It took a while to get used to the idea, and even longer to get used to feeling it.

Sure, there will be times of stressful happenings, but I will never again revert to that previous state of chaos, tension, fear, and stress. I will never again lose my peace, Lord willing. Now, I welcome these “sanding” moments. At least a little. I know I’ll be in better shape when I’m through that doorway.

Poverty, contentment, and getting out

We as a country are spoiled. I never wanted to believe that I was–after all, I had pretty much nothing my whole life, and almost everything I had was someone else’s castoffs. I had to scramble and scrimp and scavenge to get anything. Poverty was all I ever knew. And still, I say that we are spoiled. We expect so much. We feel deprived if we don’t have gadgets and things that go beyond necessities. We feel deprived if we don’t have luxuries, and the media sure fuel that envy.

I used my tax “refunds” (which are wealth redistribution disbursements, really) to buy either necessities (such as cheap used cars) or things that would help me climb the rope out of poverty (capacity builders). I’d see poor people in the stores buying tons of “toys” and junk with theirs, like they had been gifted the right to waste money, and I thought then as I do now, that it’s such an irresponsible use of that money. What we do is supposed to glorify God, and I just couldn’t see how buying huge flat screen TVs and gaming consoles and carts full of beer could be good. I want to use our tax refunds to free us financially–to start raising most of our own food, make us less dependent upon grocery stores and food manufacturers.

Living in poverty and getting out

I thought I had it hard–and I did in many ways–from childhood on. But even though I was at the bottom of America, I still had a cushion of sorts under me. I always found or created a job of some kind (even though with my disabilities, I could never keep one for long). I never went more than four days without food (except when I was a child). I usually had access to medical care (although not dental). I had enough to stay alive. That’s more than what some people have, even in America. I also usually had a phone, and in the last several years, often had internet at home.

An aside: Many people say that having access to the internet is a luxury, but it’s not for me. The only work I can do is on the computer, and I am pretty much housebound, so without access to the internet, I can’t make any money. Saying I don’t need internet is like someone telling you that you don’t need a vehicle. How else will you get to work?!

I’m doing what I can to get out of poverty, one step and one day at a time. My “how” is via computer and home economics.

Contentment

I’m content in a sense. Does that mean I will stay where I am, and give up the climb out of the pit, because I could have it worse? No. But I will stop putting all that energy into complaining! Instead, I will calmly and quietly take a step forward, content with where I am at any given moment–content in the sense that I’m grateful that where I am is better than some positions would be, and better than where I was before.

I plan to keep moving forward, to keep improving my situation. I can be content, and yet, at the same time, not plan to stay there.

Less stress and making progress

A healthy discontent is how every advancement, invention and improvement happens. I’m okay with my situation in the sense that it no longer stresses me out or steals my peace like it once did. Things are somewhat better now than before. And, at the same time, I’m going to keep moving forward, doing things that might make a difference.

This lack of striving–of no longer grunting with effort while I jump to reach higher on the rope of poverty escape–this quiet resolve to put whatever amount of energy I have (which is not much with disabilities and three kids to homeschool) into doing something toward launching a venture instead. This, I expect, will yield much better results. This approach, I hear, is Orthodox. 🙂

Quitting bad habits – drink less soda

Sometimes, to do less of something, we have to stop doing it completely for a while. Trying to cut back a little, while still doing it, just doesn’t work. I think we all know this down deep, even if we never consciously think of it this way.

Drinking soda is a bad habit

Cut back on soda, I told myself. It’s a bad habit, I told myself. I even wrote it in my nightly notebook as a goal.

Trying to consume fewer cans of soda in a day just resulted in my having more of them. Then my husband quit his second job, plunging us past “We can’t really afford anything” right up to “There isn’t one red cent in the bank, so there will be no soda (or anything else).”

So there was no soda at home. What my husband did at work is another story, irrelevant to my growth here. No soda at home. I did that for a while. Then one day my daughter found one lone can of diet soda (the only kind I’m “supposed to” have), hiding under a shelf. Oh, joy! SODA!

Changing a habit

Bet you think I guzzled it, right? I fully expected to do exactly that. But no. I actually shared it with my daughter. The part that I drank, though, I relished. And I didn’t chug it, I took my time with it. I let the rush of orange goodness pulse over my tongue while my taste buds cavorted in ecstasy. I could almost taste it for days after that, whenever I thought of that soda. When it was gone, instead of wanting another can, I was satisfied. Part of one can was enough. Ordinarily, I’d drink an entire can without stopping, then grab a second one for the slower, “sitting down to work, with a soda on my desk” kind of drinking. So right there was a 75% reduction in that bad habit. If you count the others I would have had during the day (another two to four), it’s an even steeper improvement in the habit.

This example might be enough in and of itself, or it may seem trivial to you if you’ve never struggled with addictions or excess. But it also points to something greater, to that truth in many areas of life.

Striving is a bad habit

I was trying so hard to find a way to increase our income, and not just because we love soda in this family. Of course I was getting nowhere. All I succeeded in doing was stressing myself out and making my kids feel less of my love for them and more tension.

So the Onion Slicer in my life (then our lay pastor, now he’s our Deacon) told me I had to knock it off. Of course I freaked out when he said that. Stop trying to survive? You’ve gotta be kidding me.

Only it wasn’t survival that was at stake. I mean, really–we had a mortgage-free home coming to us, and a paid-for vehicle. We had no payments except student loans. My husband had some money coming in. Even if we ate only beans and rice for days on end (and there have been some times), we’d have enough food to stay alive. So what my brain was terming “surviving” was really more than that.

It would be more accurate to say that my dreams and desires were at stake. Give up what I want? Those deeply-rooted things, the struggle I’m so used to (decades of that habit), the drive that makes me who (I think) I am?

Come to terms with it

So once I got it through my thick head, accepted that we would have to cope with only my husband’s current and insufficient income, that the church would bring us food if necessary, and my world wasn’t going to come crashing down, my stress level dropped. I stopped trying. I stopped striving. I accepted that I would be “just” a mom and would “just” take care of the kids and the house the best I could (as for the house, disabilities keep me from doing that the way I’d like). At first I hated it, hated my family, and was really torqued off at our pastor for it. That was several months ago.

And then, one day, instead of trying and striving and pushing and getting nowhere, which I had done for pretty much my entire life…

I found that I had very peacefully and quietly started doing things. There was no more striving, no stress, no feeling that I was pushing my entire family up a hill. Much less effort, and yet, I started getting some things done.

Stop trying, and start doing.