Sunday, May 17, 2009

Not Me Did It!

Isn't my mom wonderful? She's really humble too. Because she is amazing!!! Thanks so much for helping me out, Mom! For about the millionth-billionth-bazillionth time. That's a really big number for those of you who don't have a brother that's awesome at math, like I do. And I know she'll help me at least that many times more before I'm as skilled as she is.

And she didn't even mention that I didn't get her so much as a card for Mother's Day this year. Sorry, Mom! I had big plans, but it sort of didn't happen. I'm working on the card thing though.

Anyway, enough of my private conversation with my mom.

Before I move on to explain my title, I just want to continue my plea for guest bloggers. We are shopping for a house and so things will continue to be CR-azy around here for the next while, I'm pretty sure. So, I know that you all have things in your lives that bring you joy. PLEASE share them with us! If you can't bring yourself to write an entire post, feel free to email me short insights that I can incorporate in another post. Or even topic suggestions would help. It's like I always tell HH, I don't mind cooking, I just hate having to choose what to make every night. I can ramble on about pretty much anything, it's just nice to have help deciding what to ramble about.

Okay, onto a normal post at last!

I am one of five children in my family. Oftentimes, my mom would discover a mess or something broken or something else of that nature and would ask, "Who did this?" She then got a chorus of "Not me!" So, the joke was that Not Me was responsible for everything bad that happened in our house.

I always thought that was pretty funny. The sad thing is, I know of a lot of adults who still have that mentality. I know I do from time to time, but I'm trying not to.

I once had an acquaintance who had very little, if any, joy in her life. She began telling me that her whole family blames their problems and trials on her. I felt bad for her and told her that no matter what they said, or thought, they were responsible for their own actions and the following consequences. She accepted that quite readily, but then turned around and began telling me who was to blame for all of the problems in her life. She wasn't interested in listening when I tried to repeat the principle we'd just established.

The other thing that stuck out to me during our conversation was that she kept saying she didn't want to pretend to be happy any more, she wanted real happiness.

And that was when the wheels in my head started turning and I thought about the substantial relationship between accountability and joy.

It's really easy to get caught up in blaming anyone and everyone else for my struggles. I made poor choices because of what someone else did to me or because of something that happened to me. But the truth is, I was still the one making the choices. For a while, I got caught up in thinking that the depression was to blame for all the rottenness in my life. But that wasn't true either.

The thing is, sometimes happiness comes naturally. But a lot of the time it doesn't. You have to choose to be happy. And I think that the only way to do that successfully is to accept that you are responsible for what you do and how you feel. Then it's a simple question of do you truly want to experience happiness and joy in your life? And by "simple" I don't mean that it will always be easy. We are definitely affected by the things that happen to us and around us. But we can still choose to own our actions and our reactions.

What I do mean by "simple", is that in any given situation, you decide if you want to be happy and then you act accordingly. We all make silly choices from time to time that don't lead us to happiness. But the great thing is, knowing that you are responsible for the choices you made makes it that much easier to change and make better choices.

For example, when I get stressed it tends to make HH mad. It's kind of silly from my standpoint because he's mad at me for causing myself stress. It's like he's trying to protect me from me. In a very "male" way. I used to get really upset with him for this. And then we'd have the huge full blown fight that could last (and ruin) all day. Yay.

But we've made a lot of progress during our short marriage and we've figured a lot of things out. One important thing is that I accepted that he responds that way because he loves me. That is a true statement, even though it doesn't make sense to me. And that's not really related to our topic, I just felt I should explain that since I'm using this example.

The thing I've learned that does relate is a couple things, really. One, he's right that sometimes I stress too much. So, I am learning to choose not to stress as much as possible. And the other, is that I can choose my response. When I used to get mad at him for being mad, I blamed him for my anger. But really, I was the one choosing to be angry. Then I'd blame him for causing this fight that ruined the whole day, even though he usually tried to apologize within minutes of the initial offense. But since I was blaming him for making me mad, I couldn't let him off the hook that easy. He had ruined everything, after all.

He's super sick right now and not entirely himself. So, last night he got a little mean. At first, I chose to be hurt and I left. He kept being mean (this is entirely out of character for him, I'm just using this example because for once, I did something right), so I came back and talked to him about what was going on (this isn't where I did something right because I didn't use a very nice tone while doing this).

We started eating dinner in a grumpy silence when I realized that I just really didn't want to spend the time being mad. Whoa. That is HUGE for me. But it was completely true. I was choosing to not care about the things that had been said in order to get things back the way I want, and like, them to be. I told him as much and then let it go.

True to himself, he apologized a short time later and we had a wonderful and happy evening. It was so nice! And I am still super proud of myself.

I picked out the topic for today's post a while ago, but you can guess how thrilled I was to be able to incorporate this little bragging tale into it. Don't judge HH, please. 99.99% of the time, he is the one who says he just wants to make things right and be happy together again. He always apologizes. He really is amazing. Having him in my life makes it a lot easier to choose joy.

Back to choosing. I just realized that I did another post similar to this one when I typed that. I think it was the "Choose Your Own Adventure" post. Hopefully, I said something different this time. I really did feel like this is what I was supposed to post about today.

Maybe I just needed to be reminded of this concept since I'm in a new and challenging situation. One in which I might be inclined to let myself be unhappy because I'm out of my comfort zone and then blame my unhappiness on my circumstances. So far, that hasn't happened. Not Me hasn't wreaked any havoc here. Most of the time I'm really happy here, but it is a challenge.

What do you do to remind yourself that you are in charge of your own happiness? How do you choose happiness even when things (or people) around you make that hard?


Becky said...

Did you notice you posted this at pi time? That's just something my math wizard would have noticed.

Anyway, this morning I read Elder Hales last conference talk where he spoke on this principle. It's human nature to want to blame others, and it's a sign of maturity when we can get past that. It also takes maturity to not let others blame us, particularly as wives and mothers.

One time I had a son come storming in the door saying "I just got a speeding ticket and it's all your fault because you said I had to be home by this time." I started apologizing and then realized that I didn't make him get a ticket. He could have chosen to leave his friend's house earlier. He could have chosen to be late and faced those consequences. Fortunately, he was humble enough to accept instruction and we both learned from the experience.

It's hard, but learning to step back, look forward for solutions, and not play the blame game really does bring greater happiness.

Amy said...

It's amazing to me how I started reading your post with the attitude that at least I had outgrown the use of NOT ME by now. Then I read your marriage example and realized that I do the same thing! I blame my husband too often when my feelings are my own fault, or my own choice. This is something I've been trying to explain to my kids too, and it's hard to get them to understand this! Anyway, when I DO make the choice to be accountable for the way I'm feeling, I feel much more in charge of my whole life and all the different choices I can make about other things, because I feel in control of my own life. Very important.

Meg said...

I feel like you posted this just for me because of our talk when you were visiting. Thanks for writing down all of you advice. I love you big sis! And we're praying for you. Good luck with everything.

Linda said...

I reread your post a few times this week, and each time I gained some new insights. Thanks for sharing a very personal experience and thank your HH for allowing you to do so because most couples can relate to what you shared.

One of my insights was about the rewards of choosing to avoid contention. We know from 3 Nephi 11:29 that the "the devil... is the father of contention...” When we choose to have negative feelings, we reduce our ability to think logically and productively. It can be a downward spiral and as a result we usually feel worse. When we choose to not give in to the temptation to be upset, our rational self is in control, allowing us to think things through and to see the truth and get over those ill feelings more easily. Choosing to avoid contention can be difficult, but it is a habit that we can and should cultivate.

Linda said...

It also keeps us open to the promptings of the Holy Ghost, which is the key to recognizing truth.