There are two things I absolutely adore about my husband- okay there are more than two, but for the sake of this post, there are two- the first is he is incredibly patient and laid back. I mean seriously laid back (notice the chaos of the picture above and the man just sat there smiling through 30 minutes of this failed attempt at a family photo with dogs). Which is a good thing because while I can be like that, I’m not always, so it’s nice to know there will be a level head around when mine is on fire. The second thing I love about him is his ability to change and break patterns in his life with seeming ease- bastard- I mean love of my life. I used to think people didn’t change, or rather couldn’t really change their core behaviors and patterns of life, my husband has more than proven me wrong. But even though I have this amazing role model living in my home, I have struggled with the ability myself. I can’t seem to let go of patterns that aren’t working for me in favor of more productive or at least better patterns- even when I know they aren’t working!
Patterns is an interesting word and I suppose it can broadly cover all the areas of letting go I plan to address. It could relate to bad habits, or patterns of shopping, or conversational patterns with family and friends. So if this post seems vague on how to let go of patterns then I apologize, but I think it has to be somewhat broad because it can apply to so many things. What I am primarily talking about are all your life patterns that help you navigate and interact with the word around you. Many of the patterns you do everyday can actually inhibit or outright prevent your happiness even when they seem to be productive on the surface. In addition, many patterns can be hard to let go of because they are comfortable and “known” even if they aren’t healthy or are even self-destructive. Consider the pattern of women who always choose abusive men for relationships. Obviously not good, obviously shouldn’t do it, but it is comfortable and what they know. So no matter how terrible, it is the option they often choose. What you’ve always done is easier to continue doing because there is less fear in the known than the unknown.
I’ll give you an example from my own life. I work from home, and by that I mean I do actual work from home that a company pays me to do, not that I “work” because I am a mom. So essentially, I have two stay at home jobs, I am a mother to two boys ages 3 and almost 2, and I work as a technical writer for a government contractor. When I wake up in the morning I am lucky because I do not have to set an alarm, fix my hair, or put on uncomfortable clothes to then hit the highway and a long commute to the office. I wake up naturally, for the most part, and I stay in my pjs or sweat pants all day too. I’m not ashamed of this fact. But because I work from home there are other pressures I have to contend with that wreak havoc on my brain on a daily basis. When I wake up I am a flurry of activity and multi-tasking. I pride myself on being able to “do it all” and then more even I didn’t know needed doing. If I don’t have a load of laundry in the washer and the dryer, the trash taken out, two kids up and clothed, 5 dogs fed, email answered, and work related issues addressed by 9 am then something is wrong and I am convinced that this will translate into a terrible day where nothing is going to go right. This is my pattern, get everything done in a hurry so I can… do more stuff in a hurry. Seriously, by the time my husband strolls in from work at 6 pm, this house is spotless, clothes are clean, folded, and put away, the gluten free made from scratch dinner is ready to eat and on the table, my work is usually complete with deadlines met, the children are alive and more or less unscathed, the bills are paid, and I am still in my pajamas.
Now, some of you might be applauding me for my super woman capabilities, others might be skeptical that I am lying, but there are a few of you who already see where this is going… that pattern of behavior is not good, it isn’t working for me half as well as I think it is and empty laundry bins are not as important as engaging with my children and truly enjoying my day. If you go back up and read the list of things I got done, you will see that not one of the items was truly for me, not one of the items directly benefited my children beyond alive and unscathed, and at the end of it all I never feel accomplished or content or peaceful or even happy. I usually feel harried, resentful, angry, annoyed, and frustrated. Yet the very next morning I will do the exact same pattern of behaviors because there is something broken inside my head that equates the number of chores completed with my self-worth. I’d like to let go of this pattern. I’d like to un-stick myself from this ridiculous self-imposed rat race that has my children frightened of me and my husband binge feeding me ice cream in a failed attempt at soothing the savage beast that has become his wife.Off Topic- the ice cream diet does not work- even if you skip dinner in preparation. It will only leave you with the sugar drop twitchy eye, and a muffin top.
So how do you let go of patterns in your life when most of them derive from real world needs or assimilations? I mean clearly my laundry needs to be done at some point, though clearly it doesn’t need to be done daily, or before 9 am or arguably even by me. Letting go of patterns and getting un-stuck is something best attacked in small bites. It takes time to find new patterns and to discover what actually works best and creates peace in your life. Remember the goal isn’t to just find a different pattern, the goal is be happier and find a place of contentment. The goal is find patterns that increase your enjoyment of life, so you don’t want to hastily adopt new drastic changes because those might be just as useless as the ones you are trying to stop. If I just stopped doing everything I do at home then I can tell you with absolute certainty my house would fall apart, I’m not joking. But if I adjust things a little at a time and find new patterns to address the underlying issues then I can change the pattern and replace it with a healthier more useful model.
If the hubs can do it, so can you! Though remember he is remarkable, just ask him and he will be happy to tell you all the reasons why.
For me the morning pattern sets the tone for the whole day, and the tone wasn’t working. So I made a deal with myself that I would change just one thing each week to see how it felt and whether or not the house actually fell through a sink hole because I didn’t wash bottles right away. The first week I started getting up 30 minutes earlier than usual so I had time to check in with work and address issues there before my kids were even up. This allowed me to not only feel less hurried but I was able to get a few small tasks done and feel instantly accomplished (I will likely always crave a sense of accomplishment). Once this is taken care of I can get my boys up, change diapers, make yummy carrot muffins (I tell them are cupcakes) and read them a book. That’s right, the second week I started sitting my flannel clad butt on the couch and read to them. It turned out to be a really nice way to start the day. They munch on their food making adorable eating noises only people under the age of 4 should make, and I get to connect with them first thing in the morning so they KNOW they are important and rank high on my to do list (instead of somewhere beneath laundry and trash). Once the book is done, I will often read a second one(living la vida loca over here) or I will get their help in rounding up laundry. Now they feel important and I still get my clothes clean. Since we do this every morning it means 1 load a day and no piles of clothes or daunting days of load after load. They help with the trash and even feeding the dogs (which I could argue isn’t helpful, but I won’t).
By the time my mother arrives to watch them so I can get in my real work of the day (that which I get a paycheck for) I feel relaxed and connected to my kids. I don’t feel frazzled or anxious and they don’t feel ignored and unimportant. Its 9 am and maybe I can’t say I got everything done, but I can say I didn’t have to yell at anyone. Hm… better, right?
By changing the pattern of the morning, and how I approached the tasks I wanted to accomplish, I was able to change my whole day and still get the majority of stuff done in a timely manner. One of my Intentional Identifiers was to be a better mother, more connected, less easily frayed. I changed the way I feel about my kids and they changed their interaction with me. There is a lot more thank you mommy and way less spitting than before- for those of you without kids, 3 year olds spit a lot, I mean like a lot a lot. I didn’t just do it all at once, and I didn’t even really make a plan. I just changed a little bit at a time and I kept making minor adjustments until the new pattern worked better. I have let go of my old morning routine and I think it is safe to say no one around here misses it.
Bottom line is change is hard, even change that creates something better or grander or more spectacular. Anytime you let go of something you are really saying “this no longer works for me” and that is a scary thing to admit. You risk your sanity, your happiness, and sometimes your relationships with others when you make the leap of faith involved in letting go. I think letting go of patterns can be easy because you can do it just a little bit at a time, see how it feels, marinate in it if you need to before adopting it as a new pattern. If you do it slowly enough, you probably won’t even notice the growing pains involved in changing your core life patterns. The balance is taking your time and massaging the details around to fit but not going so slowly that you really aren’t making progress and you slip back into the old pattern. Or worse you make abrupt changes and you can’t stick with them because your hardwiring never had a chance to catch up.
There is a lot of peace and contentment to be found with letting go of useless patterns. Things you probably don’t even think about or take for granted that it is just “the way things are” can have a profound effect on your mood, your happiness, and your life. If you are stuck in a pattern that isn’t working for you, maybe never did work for you, I encourage you to adjust the pattern until a new one fits. After all, my husband can’t be wrong! (or so he tells me)