A few years ago, a beautiful friend explained to me how she made the tough decision to ease her doggie-child’s suffering and put her to sleep. She kept two jars – one for good days and one for bad days – and would then put a bead in the appropriate jar depending on how the day went for the dog. When there was an abundance of beads in the “tough day” jar, she knew she needed to make a tough decision.
She was telling me this story at the perfect time because I had been so engrossed in reliving every tough moment of each day during my divorce, with anyone that would listen, that it seemed that every day was getting worse by the minute. So I decided to employ her tool and pulled two jars and beads out of my craft bins.
I found out two interesting things: I was forced to reflect on every moment of the day not just the bad days and that my days really weren’t as bad as they seemed. I discovered that I was making the once or twice-a-day bad moments much bigger than they really were.
At the time, being a single mom to two boys that had activities out the wazoo was really hard and dealing with my ex was at the pinnacle of rough. When I started using a tough-day jar and an awesome-day jar, I realized that my boys were really cool and much more entertaining and fun than they were draining and that my friendships were helping me focus on other things than just my ex’s tantrum of the day.
What I had previously thought was the toughest day ever because my oldest threw a huge fit about doing homework was really only a blip on my radar because I started seeing the awesome-day jar fill up much faster than I expected. Having that visual reminder of really how great my days were, kept me going and with a better attitude.
Since then I’ve used this technique for a few different things like losing weight (which I did) and trying to decide if I needed to change jobs (which I did). It’s become so engrained in my head to first ask myself “was it really that bad or was it something small” that I now do it subconsciously in my head with almost every tough moment that I run into.
Earlier this week, my oldest acted like big brothers do sometimes and picked on his little brother so epic-ly that I threatened that he wasn’t going to leave the house EVER again. (And then I thought about what life would be like with a 38 yr old son in my house and realized that may not be the best punishment.)
Then two days later, this same 9 yr old woke up early, got his brother and 3 yr old cousin up, got his cousin dressed, apparently taught his cousin how to wipe himself (I can only hope they washed their hands) and then was getting things set up to feed the three of them breakfast when he woke me up. If you knew this kid, you’d know this is completely different from his norm of “please do everything for me” attitude. He later told me the reason he did that was because he knew he had extra punishments and because it was almost Mothers Day. That morning has put me on cloud nine so much that my mental awesome-day jar is likely to be full for weeks. That full jar will help me keep my head out of the “sucky-day” blues for a while to come.
So my challenge to you, especially single parents, is that when there are tough moments, try not to focus on just that one event. Look at the day in full, at the end of the day, to reflect and keep the good stuff at the front of your memory and the bad stuff at the back. Try the jar idea or make a list…anything that will draw you out of that one rough moment and help you focus on all of the wonderful moments in your life.