So in today’s excerpt of Dates with God, which is Chapter 6, Part 4: Lauren’s Letter #6, we see Lauren delve into why she hates being wrong. She mulls over her attitude towards her husband and her family’s emotional history, so that she can use her eternal warrior principles as a parent.
Lauren Week #6
Oh, how I hate being wrong. Somehow it’s tied up with one of one of my Achilles’ heel emotions. Is it embarrassment? Is it fear of shame? Is it pride? I am not sure. I just know that I hate it. What is with that God? In high school, I earned state in Lincoln-Douglas debate and went to nationals. I just love to argue and win! It has carried over into my marriage. I graduated from law school, passed the bar, and earned the income for our family while James trained to get his general contractor’s license. He was earning money the whole time working for his dad while he trained but I didn’t think it was enough to live on so I kept working. I didn’t want him to have a job handed to him by his dad. I wanted him to go outside his family and get a real job. But lately I have been wondering if maybe I was wrong to do that. Maybe that gave him the wrong impression from the very beginning of our marriage of what I thought he was capable of, which I admit now, wasn’t much. Hmmm.
This past week’s lesson was on drills so I have been thinking a lot about them. And what drills to create for me. I’ve been failing at my goals and I hate that. I’ve been hitting the bedtime reading aloud one OK but I am missing the others about half the time. Today is class day and I’m thinking of changing some of my goals.
So here they are, newly revised:
1. Read 15 minutes to Austin, as much as he will let me, since he’s 13, and then 15 minutes with the girls together, before I turn out their light.
2. Say something positive to James every day and refrain from saying anything negative about James to him or to anyone else. Having my attack out of the blue last week when he rescued me as my knight in shining armor has definitely helped me feel positive towards him.
3. Only get on the Internet in the morning, for one hour, after I’m done with getting the kids off to school, taking care of prenatal exams and paperwork in the morning. I’ve decided that this limit includes any time on my phone. I took the Facebook app off my phone because it was way too tempting and distracting to be looking at it so easily and frequently during the day when I heard the notification tone. I also took all of the email notification sounds off my phone.
I will have no more lost battles this week! Kate got her 28 days last week and I so want to get there. Kate is not the kind of person who would impress me at first. She’s obese and quiet, at first, and not flashy. She’s really rather quite beautiful, she just needs some glamor and to lose the weight. Oh how I would love to get my hands on her and give her a makeover! As well as Emma! That naturally red curly hair is to die for! But the more I learn from Kate in class, the more I like her. The four of us in the class who live close by decided to have a Couples’ Night Out so we would meet the husbands. Kate’s husband, David, was so attentive to her. I loved watching them together. He held her hand during some of the dinner. Then he offered to go back to the car when she realized she wanted her lip balm from her purse that she left in the car. He hung on her every word and looked at her like he worshiped her. He obviously utterly adores her. This love they have between them fascinates me.
I want to somehow have that love in our marriage. Later that week, in class, I asked her about it. Then she told me about the Lost Classical Womanly Arts. I burst out laughing! I read that book for our book club and absolutely hated it. It was so antiquated! One of the main points of the book was that you must not even attempt to change your husband, or let your husband know that you are thinking about it. That immediately made me think of when we were first married. It really bugged me how he changed how he did his hair. He looked like such a dweeb! I finally insisted that he change it back and he did, thankfully. That’s just one of the many things I’ve told him to do. From the beginning of our relationship, I have felt superior to him. I am the oldest in my family, he is the youngest. I had lived for 6 years on my own before we got married. He never did, except for his mission, if you can count that, since he wasn’t really fully in charge of maintaining a place. I knew everything about living on your own: housekeeping, plumbing, appliance repair, money management, insurance, taxes, and car maintenance and repair. He knew nothing about those things. I’ve had to teach him all of it. Not to mention how to deal with kids.
So from the very beginning, I have felt the need to teach him, well, OK, yes, even to boss him. I have to admit I have criticized him every day, and yes, I have not made him the most important thing in my life, next to Thee, God. I have treated him like something in my life that I can have at my leisure, that I can have and let go as I please. I certainly haven’t depended on him. Ever, well, except for last week. That was the first time.
I don’t know what to do about all of this. I ask Thee to please help me somehow. I am willing to learn.
I’ve discovered that I can use the principles of this class with my kids. Taylor, my youngest, has a hard time sometimes even wanting to do easy, simple stuff like get dressed for school, eat breakfast, or put her clothes away so she can get to school on time. I ask her to go do it and she stares at me blankly. I used to yell at her all the time. But awhile ago I felt the Spirit whisper to me, when I was about to yell at her again, “Go ask her what she is feeling.” So I asked her and she didn’t know. It’s taken me a long time since then, but the gears are clicking into place in my mind, as to how to change this habitual interaction I have with her that ultimately gets us nowhere.
We had a lesson in class about getting in touch with our emotions through the “notice, name it, flip it, find it” method. The mentor suggested we read Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman if we wanted to learn more. So I did, and I had this huge epiphany. I was not raised to be emotionally intelligent, and I have not been raising my kids to be that way either. Goleman claims that emotional intelligence is even more important than IQ. For someone who was incubated in a high intellectual achievement family this was news to me. Then I started thinking more about my family, contrasted to my husband’s. Most of my siblings have relationship problems, and troubling addictions, and financial problems, even though they are all smart and have graduate degrees. My mom was somewhat of a control freak and never even talked about feelings. I feel like she was all business and didn’t really ever listen to us. My husband’s family, on the other hand, have some people with degrees, and some who don’t, but they are all pretty much happy. They all have intact marriages. Their parents were very loving and much more flexible and more into feelings. I started wondering if maybe the reason my kids haven’t inherited my drive is because they got more of James’ side of the family? I don’t know how that works genetically.
I do know that I want to be happier with my kids at home. I’ve realized that it’s important to share and honor our emotions. I found this cute book called How are You Peeling? by Saxton Freymann which shows photos of fruits and vegetables with the stem as the nose, a carving for the mouth, and black-eyed peas for eyes so that they have faces. The author made the carvings and eyes to show emotion. These fruits and vegetables look so adorable, even when they are sad. So I got it for Taylor, to show her that it’s OK to have negative feelings and to get her to talk about them. We read it for Family Home Evening. Then I talked about how important it is to have feelings, because that is how we know we are alive and still have the potential to get back to God, using both the power of the the body and the spirit. (It’s amazing, that thought came to me right before I verbalized it. The Spirit just brought it to my mind.) It’s amazing how the Spirit teaches me when I am actively engaged in teaching. Our emotions also allow us to know what is going on outside us and how to best respond. I also quoted Elder Boyd K. Packer who said that, “In your emotions, the spirit and the body come closest to being one.” (October 1994 General Conference) I noticed a long time ago that Laman and Lemuel in the Book of Mormon had all the problems they had because they were “past feeling.” (1 Nephi 17:45) I can see how satan uses addictions and other self-destructive behaviors to get us to be past feeling so that we shut down all other emotions and just have emotion for the temporary pleasure that comes from the forget-it moment of self-indulgent behavior. That’s Level 5 on the chemical scale. I can see how if I were past feeling, I would stay stuck in the cycle of hitting Level 5 many times a day.
I asked the kids to make some Girl Goals and Man Goals and then I asked them why they wanted to achieve those goals. I kept asking them why after they expressed what they wanted, to get to a deeper level of what they wanted. That was to show them that ultimately, we all want goals because we all want happiness. We talked about emotions that can get in the way of our happiness, like fear, anger, and sadness. We also talked about how those emotions can also be partners in bringing about happiness.
After that FHE, I have been coming home and teaching my family everything I learn in my lessons, every week, so I can help them fight for and achieve their goals. As I teach them that helps me retain what I learn more and it allows the Spirit to whisper to me to teach me specific things I need to know to succeed. When I say it out loud, as I teach them, I own it and internalize it and I am much more likely to actually carry it out. Then they see me do it, like my drills, and then they want to do it. It’s amazing how much of a team we become when we share our goals and I share what I am learning so that we can use the same language.
Now that Taylor has more words to label her emotions, I have been able to connect with her more when she gets in her “shut-down” mode. It struck me that that is her Level 4 where she is somehow having a stupid conversation in her head. She tunes in so much to it that than on the outside, she seems unresponsive and uncooperative or just plain naughty. On the inside though, I think she is being attacked and she just feels helpless. This happens after she feels a chemical spill and then a build-up of strong negative feelings of feeling stupid and fear about going to school to deal with the classwork and the social environment. So in the mornings I have had to force myself to break away from all of my duties and pressures, so that she can come lie on the couch. Then I massage her shoulders and scalp and then brush her hair with lavender essential oil while she talks about her feelings. Then it is like she is a new girl! That physical activity, the expression of her feelings and what’s going on socially with her gets her back to Level 0 where she is relaxed, ready to engage, and cheerful! Then she can go get dressed, put her clothes away from last night, plus her pajamas, eat her breakfast, and get her backpack put together for school, and off she goes.
I am grateful for learning concepts that I can apply to my children to help me have happier, more peaceful interactions with them.I definitely plan on talking about emotions a LOT more with the kids. I think that maybe Thou has been asking me to do certain things, like I’ve been asking Taylor, and I have been mostly in “shut down” mode or Level 4 for years. I thank Thee for being patient with me. I want to be as patient with my daughter as Thou has been with me.
James and I took all the kids to see Inside Out, a Disney Pixar movie. It was wonderful to have a family outing. Even Logan came. It was amazing how so many of the principles I’ve learned in the Mothers Who Know class were in the movie. We went out for Mexican food after the movie and had so much fun talking about it. We discussed the primary emotions in the movie: Fear, Joy, Sadness, Disgust, and Anger. Each of these emotions was an actual character inside a little girl’s head. The movie was about what these characters said to each other, how they got along, and how they controlled the little girl’s brain. So back before Logan was born Disney came out with a movie about what would happen if toys had feelings. Then they had a movie about what if cars had feelings. Then bugs, then airplanes, then robots . Now Disney has a movie about what if your feelings had feelings. It was hilarious. I noticed that, at the beginning, Joy did not want to acknowledge Sadness much, or let Sadness have a say in what happened in the girl’s brain. The little girl hit a crisis when she made a decision that took her out of her frontal lobe and down the chemical scale. That’s the part when Joy and Sadness are missing. Anger, Disgust, and Fear are at the console of her brain and creating havoc, as the girl’s reasoning power, represented by the Train of Thought, crashes, and her values such as honesty and friendship crumble.This was a perfect illustration of what I have read that some therapists call the “amygdala hijacking,” leading up to the Forget-it Moment. Before the girl could completely carry out Level 5 though, some warrior chemistry kicked in with Anger defending himself from insults. It was so funny. Disgust then uses the power of Anger to let Joy and Sadness come to the control of the brain to avert complete disaster. Through the power of Joy and Sadness working together, the movie ends happily, with the little girl getting back to peace and happiness with her family, Level 0. I saw in the story how important it is for emotions to work together as a team as well as a family to work together and be honest with each other about emotions, especially about sadness.
Growing up in my home, sadness was always dismissed or covered up. Everything was always just push, push, push, go, go, go, achieve, achieve, achieve, smile, smile, smile, even at the cost of smothering emotions. I am realizing now how unhealthy that was. I hope to create more openness and emotional honesty in my home. I thank Thee for bringing different media formats into my family’s life with this class, books, and a movie so my kids and I can have the language to talk about our emotions. I’m starting to realize that achievements are not as important as I have always held them up to be. I feel that I have a lot of make-up work to do with my kids to help them feel safe to be emotionally vulnerable. I ask Thee to help me with that.
Respectfully your daughter,
copyright 2015 Celestia Shumway