Our anger may tell us that we are not addressing an important emotional issue in our lives, or that too much of our self - our beliefs, values, desires, or ambitions - is being compromised in a relationship. Our anger may be a signal that we are doing more and giving more than we can comfortably do or give. (Lerner, 1985 p.1)
I took two important things from this book:
- When seeking solutions, you can't change others. You can only change yourself.
- The theory of 'underperforming' and 'overperforming'.
It seems that some of my frustration with other people in my family could be alleviated if I just allowed myself to 'underperform' a bit. This seems simple, and quite frankly, I don't know why I didn't think of it earlier, but when children are little and you have to do everything for them, it's easy to fall into the trap of continuing that behaviour well past the time when they're old enough to do things for themselves. Years pass quickly when you're busy, and often you're well into the next phase before you've realised it. Looking over my shoulder, I can now see I've let my big kids get into bad habits. Often, they do far too little, and I'm doing them a disservice by underestimating their maturity.
In today's child-indulgent times, we desperately want our children to always be happy, but we've forgotten that in order for that to happen (and always happy is neither desirable nor realistic for any normal person), children need to grow into adults who are independent and able. They must be able to appropriately relate to others in the workplace and in social circumstances. This requires co-operation, kindness, and self-reliance. A dash of humility certainly never goes astray.
By 'overperforming', I am robbing my children of the experiences they need to become functional adults. They need practice at this stuff now in order to save a lot of unnecessary angst as they negotiate the adult world in the future.
And so I am trying hard to 'underperform', though I have to say that 'letting go' isn't easy. The hardest part is accepting that things (household chores, cooking etc.) will get done, but not necessarily to my standards. I have to accept that everyone does things differently.
Last night I woke at 3am - a common thing while on holidays and the days don't tire me out the way they usually do during the working year - and I started thinking. I thought until first light, and by morning I had a few New Year's Resolutions that I thought I would have a crack at this year. Not that I think they're all possible, but I do believe it's important to write them down so at least the process is formalised. If I don't manage to achieve these goals, then I should probably do a bit more soul searching. That done, I can change my tactics and have another go the following year.
Here they are, in no particular order:
- More time for reading
- More time for writing, and this includes...
- Blogging more regularly
- More time to catch up with friends (I see a theme emerging, here)
- Making a decision about the direction my work should take
- Getting my 'paperwork' under control - I feel cluttered in my head otherwise
- Relaxing, letting go, being kinder to myself and to my children
- Remembering we're here for only a short time - how to make it count...!
- Chasing my dreams
- Trying something new
- Being honest with myself - and letting others know of those choices
I know some of this sounds cryptic, but it's difficult to explain it without getting too personal. I'm sure if I read someone else's list I would interpret according to my own experience. The gift I will try to give myself this year is TIME.