Why Bother To Look Into Mindset?

Why Bother To Look Into Mindset?

I used to worry more than I do now. And when I wasn’t worried, I felt uneasy. Surely, I needed to feel angst in my life otherwise, I just wasn’t normal. Anxiety, fretfulness and waiting for the other shoe to drop, was my conventional mindset. When I thought about going on vacation, I envisioned how I might die in a car accident. If I wanted to strike up a new friendship with a coworker, I was certain they would think I was crazy. When applying for jobs, I assured myself that no one wanted to hire me. In general, I dreaded taking the risks that came with living.

    Where Did We Acquire Our Mindset

I grew up in a dysfunctional home, but I am guessing that many people could say the same thing. The term, dysfunctional, is common and in the most general sense, it means growing up in an environment not conducive to mental or physical wellness. Behaviors that contribute to a family’s dysfunction include; physical or emotional abuse, lack of boundaries, alcohol or drug abuse, playing the blame game or denying that there is an elephant standing in the living room. This is the short list of possible dysfunctional behaviors one might be exposed to while growing up. But, here is the good news. We don’t have to hang on to the dysfunction we inherited. 

Though I observed how my parents denied conflict when it arose between them, I can find a different way to deal with disagreements when they arise in my relationships. When anger showed up loud and clear in their lives, I noticed that disputing its existence did nothing to make it go away. Since I know their pattern did not work for them, why would I think it would work for me?  Considering how the silence was louder than any relational conversations between my folks, it would be wise for me to learn how to communicate.  

Who wants to take a close look at the old ways of thinking we’ve clung to for the sake of ease? Who wants to exert the energy it takes to move out of the comfortable ruts of our lineage? It will take an awareness of our patterns, courage to admit they don’t work and practice finding how to do things differently. But changing a mindset changes everything about life. 

Why bother to look into mindset? It is worth taking an inventory of how we think so that we can do our relationships with a little less dys and a lot more function.

Why Bother Thinking About Your Own Demise?

Why Bother Thinking About Your Own Demise?

My husband made it back safe and sound from his mother’s memorial and from the land of Nebraska where he originated from. With the unpredictability of winter weather, he left on a sunny Monday morning and drove thirteen hours, non-stop, to get home before the next storm. His plan worked and he arrived before the heavens opened up and let down its next heap of snow and ice. 

Getting home at such a late hour, he went straight to bed. But the next day, when I came home from work, I found him standing in the kitchen looking at the three boxes he’d unloaded from his truck. They were filled with items from his mother’s life. 

 Getting Back Everything We’d Ever Sent Plus A Little More

Berniece’s belongings had been whittled down over the years as she’d moved from her home into assisted living. These boxes of odds and ends represented the very last of her ninety-three years. I stood beside my husband as he signed. “The most laborious part of her death is getting back everything we’ve ever sent her.” He was right. One of the boxes was filled with the family photographs we’d sent to her over the years, along with letters and crayon drawings from her grandson. She’d saved everything we’d sent and now it was right back in our laps.

“I guess we can pass these things along to our sons,” I said with a smile. 

“Good idea,” he replied. 

I rolled up my sleeves and made a pile for each one of our sons of their preschool crayon drawings, thank you notes written during their elementary school days and their high school graduations pictures. 

“That was easy,” I said. “One box done and two to go.” 

In the next box, we uncovered a quilt. “A quilt? Who knew she quilted?” I asked my husband. As if I needed evidence, he showed me a picture of his mother tying the quilt.   

Inside the third box, my husband pulled out some old books, two journals and some typed written pages. I opened one of the journals attempting to read the tight and tiny cursive from my mother-in-law’s pen, but it was not easy. Instead I chose the four pages of personal history she’d typed up at some point in her life and began reading it.

“Did you know that your mom had worked as a dental hygienist?” I asked my husband looking up from the pages. 

“Who knew?” he said with a smile. 

“Did you know that the day your dad died, he had made plans to go home for lunch and then cancelled them?”

“Who knew?” my husband asked again. 

In those few typed pages I read how she’d taught school at the age of 16, and later, when she realized she didn’t want to teach, she trained as a dental assistant. Then she fell in love, married and had three sons. Her husband, a truck driver, was on the road more than at home and at times she felt like a failure as a parent and overwhelmed with responsibilities. Like me, she had been a normal, ordinary woman, and yet even her son did not know some of these details of her life.

We’d sorted out her last items, piling up the letters, crayon drawings and pictures for our sons to go through later and putting the quilt over the bed in the guest room. I set the journals and typed pages of her family history on the shelf that holds my journals.   

I sighed looking at my stacks of journals. Unless I burn them, someday my sons and their wives will read them. I imagine their conversations, “Did you know that your mom…?” “Who knew?” “She was more like us than I thought.” 

Why bother thinking about your own demise and what is discovered when someone else uncovers the things you’ve left behind? It might be worth it to imagine them saying, “Who knew? They were so much like us.”

Why Bother With  Christmas Traditions? 

Why Bother With  Christmas Traditions? 

With seven kids, nothing in life would have been easy for my parents, let alone, celebrating Christmas much the same way every year. 

We’d hang our handmade stockings on the backside of our piano. And though we lacked a fireplace and chimney, my parents assured us that Santa could walk through our front door in order to deliver his goods. 

After midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, we’d leave a treat for Santa on a T.V. tray near the front door; a plate of cut out and carefully frosted cookies, along with a glass of milk.  

And though I tried very hard every year to stay awake listening for sleigh bells and reindeer hoofs on the roof, I never could. But, proof of Santa’s visit never failed to come with Christmas morning. Then I’d see for myself, the cookie crumbs Santa had left on the plate, the bulging stockings and the stack of gifts surrounding the tree, each one bearing the unmistakable signature of Santa.  

But, we could never open our gaily wrapped packages until after everyone was dressed, and our family photo was taken in front of the tinseled draped tree.  

Carrying Out The Traditions

I don’t know how my parents pulled Christmas together every year for their crew of kids, but I’m glad they did. 

Hauling all of us to midnight Mass could not have been a picnic for them. Yet, winter weather, whiny kids and slick streets did not hold them back from this tradition. 

I remember how walking into the candle lit sanctuary on Christmas Eve always shut me up. The soft light from the candles  mesmerized my eyes and made me want to be quiet. The choir sang carols in perfect harmony and their music filled me up with the wonder of Mary, Joseph, Jesus, a star, a manger and some wise men. Maybe for my parents, sitting in a pew at midnight Mass was their way to be in awe, wonder, and peace, even if  just for a few brief moments. 

How they afforded our gifts is a bit of a mystery. Visa had not yet been invented, so there was no such thing as “buy now, pay later.” But we did have grandparents and godparents. So perhaps those packages bearing only Santa’s signature, could  have also come from others who were invested in our family. 

Although Mom looked pretty in an apron, she was not domestic. But that did not keep her from finding a creative way for each of us to have our own homemade Christmas stockings complete with our names, spelled correctly, on each one. Her sister, a handier homemaker than herself,  knitted them for all of us. And those cut out cookies for Santa Clause, they came from our Grandmother, a culinary artist whose talents Mom never did inherit. 

About Those Traditions

The traditions my parents created for their crew of kids, represented the story of who they were as a couple; godly, family oriented, creative and caring. Those virtues are not ones that can be bought, sold, packaged or delivered overnight. They can only be remembered as a personal treasure by one who was lucky enough to receive them. 

Why bother with Christmas traditions? You may never know the true value of their worth until you share one and watch the recipient smile with wonder.     

Why bother getting along?




Why bother getting along?

After a girlhood spat with one of my sisters, my mother once told me, “If you can’t learn to get along with your own brothers and sisters, you’ll never get along with anybody else.”

 But it made more sense to my pubescent mind that the offender apologize rather than for me to learn how to get along with them. But I’ve since come to realize the wisdom my mom tried to convey; to get along with someone, you have to get to know them.

I didn’t bother getting to know my brothers and sisters while growing up. They were older, and leaving home to start their own lives while I was still trying to figure out mine. But as we developed our own families and careers we also began connecting as adults. 

My six siblings, though unique, portray universal traits too. There is the  cynic, the eccentric, the peacemaker, the professional, the soft hearted and the broad minded. Though I try to treat them all “equally,” I do have my preferences. 

Through the family grapevine, I heard that my oldest sister’s depression was growing more serious and debilitating. Though not one of my “preferred” sisters, I called her and listened while she told me about her “Black Dog,” the term she used for her depression. 

I thought back to when she was in high school and how she’d played the part of Emily in Thorton Wilder’s play, Our Town. I recalled the times she’d come home to visit from nursing school, knock on the front door dressed as an old bag lady to make Mom laugh. Maybe the “Black Dog” was just something theatrical. 

But it wasn’t. Her melancholy grew worse. Medication, counseling and other treatments helped temporarily, but the “Black Dog” never went away.  

Then, one year when she came to visit, I invited her out for coffee. I wanted to understand her depression instead of continuing to assume. 

“Can I be frank?” I asked her.

“Only if I can be earnest,” she answered, throwing her head back and laughing.  

I shook my head taking a minute to get her joke. 

“I’m sorry, Terese, it was just such a good line.” 

“Yes, it is,” I chuckled.  

Then she listened while I expressed my desire to know her better and I listened as she described the “Black Dog” to me. 

Now, she calls me Ernest and I call her Frank. The “Black Dog” still visits her and will most likely never go away. Getting to know Ernest better, I’ve discovered how brave and courageous she is. She stays alive when her depression makes her think she’d be better off dead. 

Why bother getting along? It is never too late to listen as though you are getting to know someone for the very first time. Because maybe you are.