November 17, 2016

Unrealistic Demands and Expectations

The other day I decided to ask Galen and Kole to join me on my daily jog.  I normally like going solo because my jog time is time.  My time to mentally escape.  I usually go for a nice hour walk, stroll, jog.  I listen to my favorite podcasts, and enjoy escaping in my thoughts. 

On this particular day the boys came along.  They didn't disturb me with the many questions they usually have.  They didn't do much talking with each other either.  They rode their bikes quietly a bit ahead of me. There were a few things that caught my attention during this quiet hour.  

I realized that I tend to get very focused on a task at hand, whatever that task may be...usually household chores or de-cluttering.  I have this thing about wanting everything just right before I can truly enjoy things.  I know it sounds pathetic but I usually play that mind game of when the house is "straightened" or clean then I truly feel a sense of accomplishment and enjoy "life"  There is this perfectionist side of me that controls my emotions but never completely surfaces.  So I'm a free spirit with perfectionist quality. If that is even possible?  

Not to go into a psychological analysis on how my mind works but I can give you a glimpse.  And come on now...we all struggle with some sort of complex.  You might say you don't but you do.  

So anyway...this "perfect woman" lives in a corner of my mind.  She tells me that I have to follow certain agendas in order to feel good about myself. Yes...I struggle with that side of me.  When that "perfect woman" tries to control my emotions, I tend not to enjoy the moments in my life.  I start feeling a little anxiety.  The feeling that I have to quickly get things done.  I feel like life is flying by and I have to get moving and doing!  Just picture White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland and you'll know what I mean.  

If I could only stop and breathe just for a moment. 

Here's the thing though...I'm always good at making mental notes to "stop and smell the roses", to stop, breathe and take in the very existence of the present moment.  But that's just's only for a moment that I do this and quickly jump back to my agenda. God forbid I get behind...the ugly, perfect woman starts to surface.  And that's when I pull out my Kava tea.  And no this isn't an advertisement for Yogi tea.  Well...if they want to send me a few dollars I wouldn't mind it at all.  :)

So back to the other day...

As the boys were ahead of me I stopped right in the middle of my jog and looked around. I stopped to listen.  I heard birds chirping, squirrels rustling through the leaves near the road, and in the boys.  I thought about the ugly perfect woman that gets so caught up in the plans and agenda.  I thought about when we start our travels how that will look like.  Will my location become just another place? Will this ugly perfectionist follow me on my travels?  Or will I truly enjoy my surroundings and the moments.  

The adventurous, care-free, free spirited part of me day dreams about what my travels and adventures will look like.  Will they be like my imagination?  I always like to imagine what it will be like to be in the midst of an amazing place.  I often think of myself exploring Mayan ruins.  Or hiking in and throughout Colorado. Or watching the sunset in Costa Rica while enjoying a glass of wine. 

my imagination
another imagination to become a reality
I snapped out of my imagination to truly take in where I was.  I stopped and looked around at the trees.  I took in what was surrounding me.  I breathed in the air of the beautiful November day in Florida.  I thanked God for where I was that very moment.  I took a deep breath.  Watched my boys on their bikes and thought of their current lives.  

They seemed so relaxed and carefree.  There was nothing that bothered them.  I reflected back to my youth of playing in the cornfields of Iowa hours on end.  Riding my bike to Mr. C's to play Pac Man.  Swimming in our community pool until I could feel my stomach growling because of hunger.  Satisfying that hunger with a peanut butter and strawberry jelly sandwich on white bread.  Those were the days.  

My thoughts then veered off to thinking on kids in general.  I started thinking about children who may be filled with anxieties and stress they don't necessarily need.  I read a book a few months back called Race to Nowhere: Beyond Measure where it discusses the stress our kids are placed under just for the sake of grades, athletic aptitude and after school activities that consume their time. parents we can justify and say these activities are needed to help them in the future.  When in high school the demands become ever more consuming. Their time is spent making sure the grades are sufficient enough to get into a good University, taking the SAT, applying for scholarships. The amount of stress, anxiety and depression some of these kids are experiencing is unreal.  All for what?  Yes..we can say it's for their good and future success but is it really?

There was a paragraph in the book which I can't necessarily quote word for word but it talked about where a study showed that stress and anxiety levels of most children were much greater than their working parents?!  Why is that?  Most kids usually have to follow the schedule dictated by the parent and school.  

There is such a short time to enjoy childhood.  If you truly think about it, it's a mere 14 years.  That's if you consider a child is of age 4, then into the teen years to the age of 18, when they are considered an adult by today's standards.   Once they become independent adults they have years upon years to become "adult like".   Unnecessary stress placed on our kids eats at their very soul.  Demands that shouldn't exist in their daily to do list.  Kids should be stress free and care free.  Enjoying their childhood, riding their bikes and playing with neighborhood friends. 

I then started thinking of these same kids becoming adults.  They become adults molded by what is expected of them.  Most don't know how to take a moment to enjoy their very existence.  I was listening to a young man share his story of how he lived that expected life. He finally realized he was full of stress, anxiety and depression.  He was in his freshman year of college, excelling in his academics as expected but wasn't happy.  He realized he couldn't continue living this way and something had to change.  He went to see a career counselor at his college and she asked him what he wanted to do.  She asked him what his fears were. He answered saying he was afraid of being a beggar on the streets.  She as him what is the best thing that could happen if he took a leap of faith. He said he would meet interesting people and maybe write a book.  He realized that he had to go for it.  Take that leap. This young man quits college, saves a little money and spends months hiking through central America.  The amazing thing that came out of it is a memoir and now is speaking in high schools throughout the country encouraging kids.  This young man has no need to worry about becoming a beggar.

Now why did I even go into all of this.  Oh thoughts.  I think on topics like this almost all the time. I struggle between my "created demands" and enjoying the moments of reality.  I do see my life changing.  I see myself getting rid of those things that take up my moments.  I don't want to be consumed in creating a "perfect environment" because the "perfect environment" is in simple laughter, kisses, cuddles on the couch, going on fun adventures, and just living as simply as possible.  This is the life I want to create while guiding my children to live theirs.

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