Choose the Good: Taking Back Our Lives One Choice at a Time


So I am trying to make good choices. In my last blog, I talked about my family's mission to "choose the good" in 2016. I know, that seems like kind of an obvious thing to choose, but really, there's more to it.

And, it's easier said than done. I should know. I haven't always been great at it.

In fact, last year, I sucked at it. I was depressed, tired, overworked, running on a self-imposed treadmill, and going nowhere fast. Yes, as a family, we had incredible experiences. Yes, we did a lot. But, I, Mary--mom, writer, employee, wife, sister, friend, was depleted, was sick, was tired.

In short, in my quest to have my family live their lives to the fullest, I destroyed my own.

I wasn't making good choices.

I was eating crap, gaining weight by the minute, drinking wine every night, not exercising regularly, sleeping in spurts, or not at all, watching too much television, and spending way too much time on social media and not nearly time enough writing or reading. I was eating out at lunch, and when I wasn't eating out, I was shopping and spending money I didn't have, because I felt entitled to it. (Hey, I work hard! Hey, I deserve it! Hey, a hot pink scarf and Stella necklace will make it all better!). I was a bit bitter, a bit jealous, a bit angry. (How come other people don't have to work? How come they have money? How come they are skinny? How come they are going to Paris?  How come they don't have to pay for daycare? School loans? Whaaaaaaaa. I know. I even hate me.) I felt under-appreciated at home and at work. I felt used, and in a lot of ways, completely out of control. At work I did what I was told, at home my kids told me to what to do, and when they weren't telling me what to do, I felt my husband and bills dictated the rest of my life's few choices.

The word I used over and over last year in my therapists' offices was hopeless. I felt hopeless, alone, sad, and finished. I felt like this was my lot in life. This is what I get. This is what I deserve. I told myself my time for joy, happiness, health, and fulfillment was over. My life was, and should be, about my kids.

I spent all my money on my kids. I spent all my time on my kids. I spent the time I wasn't with my kids worrying about my kids and worrying about the money I didn't have, but was spending on my kids. At work, I felt powerless too. I was working to support my kids, like all the men in my office were, but I was paid less. They were respected more, believed, revered, listened to in meetings, and rewarded more. On more than one occasion, I felt I was just their "go-fetch" Girl Friday. There were days when I wanted to stand up scream: I have a Masters, twenty years of experience, two published books--buy your own damn coffee and candy! 

Then one day--during one of my unhinged moments where I was railing against my life and my lack of control, my therapist, wisely looked at me, and said, "Well, what can you do about it?"

What can I do about it? Are you kidding me with this, lady! Have you been listening to me for the past six months? What can I do about it? NOTHING. Didn't you just hear my self-pitying, resentful, hopelessly ridiculous story? DUH. Let me spell it out for you: I HAVE NO CONTROL. 

She smiled. "Well, let's start small. Say, with...I don't know...just guessing here...self-care maybe?" (She's a sly one, that trained, certified, psych professional, she is.)

And like that it occurred to me, I did have control. I have a lot of control. I can choose a lot--moment by moment, day by day, week by week, until I have the life I want to live.

Shortly after that meeting, I decided, as did my entire family, that we would make good choices this year. Little by little, choice by choice, we would get our sense of control and balance back. And, I am happy to report, so far it's working:

I don't eat out at lunch every day. (Just once a week with a friend or two.)

I gave up sugar, alcohol, and junk food and planned my meals and lunches on Sunday to be prepared all week.

I gave up most meat, dairy, and processed foods.

I am walking--even in the cold--every single day.

I am going to bed at 10 p.m., waking up at 6:00.

I haven taken on a couple of freelance gigs on to pay down my debt. (So I am practicing my writing daily and getting paid. WOW.)

I stopped shopping. (Except I did get these shoes on Boden. I mean, they were 70 bucks on clearance and I'm not superhuman. I have to screw up somewhere. Leopard prints are my Achilles heel. Literally.)

I turn off the television at night now and read. And since Christmas, I have bought and read a few books that are encouraging my good choices:

  • Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert (Scared of creating? In a rut? This book is beautifully rendered and inspiring!)
  • Design the Life You Love by Ayse Birsel (Ready to live the life you always wanted? Don't know what that even looks like? This book will help. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE IT. It's going to be my go-to gift book now. More on this later.)
  • The Seven Principles that Make Marriage Work by John Gottman, Ph.D. (Phenomenal. Even if your marriage isn't in trouble, or even if you think you have it all figured out (HAH), this book is a Godsend to married couples. I am already finding myself more patient, more accepting, more ready to share, listen--and even joke about our quirks and hang-ups.)
  • War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. (I have always wanted to read this behemoth, and an opportunity to join a local book club came up and I took it. The group is tackling it in sections, so it will allow me to do it at a paced-level over the next several months).

I jokingly laughed at a recent get-together with friends that this year I was getting a "PhD in Me" and I am taking courses in marriage, health, well-being, intellect, parenting, and spirituality. And, though, I laughed, I was dead serious. Because, in reality, it doesn't seem like a joke to me. My life is not a joke. My health is not a joke. The way my kids see me live my life is not a joke. None of this is funny. Being unhealthy isn't funny. Being healthy, whole, and balanced is serious business, and so is this work of self-care. It takes commitment, time, discipline, and intent to come home and do the "work" I need to do to get my life to where I want it to be, where I know it can be. And so that's what I am doing this year--I am trying to choose the good.

Who is with me? If you're making good choices and want me to see, take pics and use the hashtag #choosethegoodwithmary2016 on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. We'll all help each other along.

Look closely at the present you are constructing: it should look like the future you are dreaming.--Alice Walker