Tuesday, August 6, 2013

What's getting in YOUR way?

How often throughout the day do you think to yourself, "Life sucks" or "Why me?" or "This isn't how I expected my life to turnout." If you feel this way then know that you're not alone, because I used to be that person. I walked around complaining about anything that wasn't the way I wanted, judging others as well as myself, and worrying about things I had no control over. I had a steady job, a nice home, nice car, a wonderful husband, and family support. But for various reasons I was always unhappy and this was before my husband's injury when life was smooth sailing. I felt like something was missing in my life, but it wasn't until I started consciously monitoring my thoughts that I was able to turn my negative emotions around. I didn't change overnight, but rather I evolved over the past few years. I'm not saying that negative thoughts will never cross your mind, but when you speak them out loud then you're bringing them to life. What if you took just a handful of your negative thoughts and turned them around? You might find that your perspective begins to change. So, what's getting in YOUR way?

Assume innocence: Let's start with something easy. How often do you get upset when someone cuts you off in traffic or when someone gets in your way while you're in a hurry?  I know that sometimes people are simply rude, but consider the fact that sometimes that person may not realize what they did. Maybe they received bad news right before they got in their car and they're distracted. Maybe they have a lot on their mind or they're exhausted. Can you relate to this? As caregivers of wounded warriors we can all relate to receiving bad news and I think most of us have a lot on our minds. So, try not to take things personally and assume innocence.

Being busy vs. productive: Stop trying to be everything to everybody! How many responsibilities have you taken on recently that have no meaning to you? Did you say "yes" to please someone else even though you really don't have any extra time in your crammed social calendar? I personally have a tendency to take on too much. When I thought about why I do this I realized it's because I want to feel needed and valued. However, you can only do so much for others before you wear yourself out. I know that as caregivers we want to make things easier for our veterans, but ask yourself if he is capable of doing it himself or are you doing it for him to make your life easier? It's more important to do the things that really mean something to you and are productive than simply staying busy.   Cut out the busy work and carve out time for yourself.

Forgiveness: This is a tough one. Who's in your life now or from the past that you haven't forgiven? Better yet, is there something that you haven't forgiven yourself for? After my husband's injury, I was angry at a lot of people for various reasons. Guess what? None of those people cared nor were they affected by my hurt. They had all moved on while I was left stewing and unable to forgive. I also had to forgive myself for not handling my husband's injury as well as I thought I should have. I'm not sure which was harder, forgiving myself or the other people. Forgiveness is not condoning someone's behavior, but rather making the choice to not be a victim, acknowledging your hurt and gaining control over your feelings. Like I said, this isn't easy but if you start by forgiving the little things (like the person in traffic) then after a while you'll be able to move on to bigger situations.

Stop trying to change others: Ouch! I really struggle with this one and think I will for the rest of my life.  I remember when we first got married and I spent 75% of my energy trying to change him and it didn't work. People are who they are, just like you and I are the way we are. I have to remind myself that other people's behaviors are not a reflection on me and that just because I think something should be done a certain way doesn't mean everyone else does. It was a big let down when I realized the world didn't revolve around me!

Comparing your life to others: It's human nature to look at other people's lives and wonder why they have more than we do when it comes to money, happiness, toys, friends, etc. How often do you look at the people that have less than you do and ask "Why have I been blessed with so much, while they haven't?" Did you have a nice hot shower this morning? Do you have a roof over your head? Do you have food in your pantry? I'll be the first one to admit that it's hard being a caregiver, but I try not to focus on the negatives or what other people have. It's so easy to forget about the basic things that we take for granted. Try to stop and think about others, because you may be surprised by how many people would be thrilled to trade places with you.

Passion: What makes you lose track of time or gives you a sense of accomplishment? Do you enjoy writing, drawing, gardening, reading or serving others?  We all need something that motivates us to move forward. For the longest time I had stopped writing, because I didn't think what I had to say was relevant. Then several caregivers encouraged me to tell my story and I took the risk. It paid off when I realized that being vulnerable and sharing my story was helpful to others while at the same time validating their feelings or thoughts. Ask yourself, "What did I enjoy doing before I became a caregiver?" and start doing it again.

Once you start consciously thinking about some of the items on this list then hopefully you'll see a shift in how you filter the things that happen in your world. Don't expect your feelings to change overnight. It's a gradual shift in your perspective and soon you'll be saying to yourself, "Life is good." Don't focus on the past, but rather learn from it and let your troubles transform you.

So, what's getting in your way now?

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