In the midst of the eleventybillion things we stress over or struggle to accomplish at all each day, we regularly lose sight of what the heck we’re doing and why. Everything is either a dire emergency, a raging fire, or some to-do list item in an ocean of checklists that never gets done and feels like a splinter in our eyes. Instead of the forest, we see the burning tree. Instead of the boundless possibilities of the sea, we see every opportunity to drown.
Mostly, I think, this is because we have no idea what the point is of most of what we do. We can’t see past a small horizon. And we’re angry because we have no idea where we should be headed.
We’re angry because it feels like everything is in our way. We’re angry because we feel like there’s a much better way in which we can help our kids, but no one is telling us what it is. All the bureaucratic nonsense and daily minutiae are an endless supply of kindling for our anger. And perhaps this kind of anger is born of feeling wronged, of being hurt without knowing why, of putting forth so much effort without knowing what the point is.
But only a handful of people are ever going to really tell you much of anything useful about any of this. The world is going to leave most of that up to you and your closest allies. But I’ll at least suggest something that I think may put you on a better path.
The obvious is that the point is to help our children overcome their challenges. Well, of course it is. But what does that actually mean in practice? Even fewer people will help us figure that one out. But I think the path there starts off in a place we all neglect.
Where the Path Starts
While each of us have somewhat differing situations, here’s something I think is true for all of us. It’s the nearest thing I can think of to what we must each claim as our own.
Clear off everything extraneous in your life that doesn’t belong there. Do this so you can bring your entire being to bear on loving your child deeply and doing everything you can to help both them and you. Then, together live each of your lives to the fullest expressions of who you truly and completely are.
It Starts With “No”
First, take care of yourself, your children, your marriage (if applicable), and the cohesive strength of your family. Get rid of everything else for starters. That should eliminate whole giant swaths of your to-dos and outside expectations right there. I know you have to do things like keep the lights on and not lose your home, but beyond that, everything is negotiable.
Then keep digging some more. Look at every expectation placed on you by yourself, your extended family, your friends, your work, your social circles, your church or other organizations you spend time with, and so on. Does time spent with them help you with what I outlined above? If not, strike it off your plate. Be ruthless.
“No” should become your favorite new vocabulary word. Write out scripts you’ll use to say no to people. Yes, you can be both firm and gracious. Practice your scripts. Prepare them for verbal or electronic conversations. But make the message clear: I need to take care of my family and myself, and this is how I’m going to do that.
Saying “No” to Others Is Hard, But You Have To
Will people get mad? Sure. Who cares? They don’t have your best interests at heart. Your allegiance is to your family and yourself. It’s not selfish. Your family has unique, special needs. They need all of you, and you need all of you, too.
You need a way to recharge, regroup, and stay sane. You deserve to have a life and live more fully and completely than you most likely are now. You certainly can’t do that if you have five volunteer positions all over town and a million other things to do.
Does it help me, and does it help me help my family? If yes, great. If not, say no. How you say this doesn’t matter.
It Leads to “Yes”
You now have a concrete litmus test by which to judge everything else in your life. What matters most is to create space in your life. Learning how to do this opens up miraculous possibilities.
Into this space will come many wonderful opportunities. You will be able to concentrate on many more things that stressed you out before. You will be free to make better and healthier decisions. You will begin to have space to create specific goals for yourself, your children, and your family, and where you want to be together. You will begin to see more clearly the path for living out the fullest expression of yourself and your family.
I know this is hard to do. But it’s worth it. Make the commitment. You deserve it.