Friday, 13 March 2015

On mental discipline

This has been on my mind for a little while after comments from friends who are, let's say surprised, at the way I have embraced motherhood given how it was never something I sought after. (Okay, let's call a spade a spade: I never wanted children.)

At some point in my life, I've learned a few valuable lessons on mental discipline, and I thought I'd share a little about what I've learned.

Choosing to be where I am

Me, age 24, living in VA
on a camping trip (!)
Mental discipline to me is not working hard to try to think differently. It's about finding the love for the situation.

For example, I was single for a long time. All my 20's long. I never had a relationship in my 20's. And most of my friends would say things like, "you don't want to be married, do you." (my standard answer to that one was, I just haven't met anyone I want to marry!) 

In other words, when I was single I poured all my energy into the work I did and lived the single life to the full, rather than looking to change the situation. I embraced it: moving continents, seeing the world. I've never been one of those women who plan their wedding long before they meet the groom. To me, that would have been not only a waste of mental energy but, worse, it would feed a longing I didn't find it helpful to feed at that time. 

And that's the rub. I know that where my mental energy goes, that will be what I long for. So why not want what I have?

People seem to think I'm not open to change, though. In one sense, the oh-she-does-career-not-marriage line was a compliment to me, because it was true at the time; I truly didn't long for what I didn't have, because I had a full life to enjoy. But it wasn't true. I was open to change. And now things have changed, I have fully embraced life as it is now.

No pining

Trying rowing for the first time...
My mother always longed for freedom (from her marriage, from us children...) and all it did was make her miserable. I'm not in her situation, of course - my marriage is wonderful, not a prison - but nevertheless I don't choose to dwell on things I can't do any more, or that aren't helpful.

I am committed to what I do now. I no longer pursue a career outside my home - and I don't pine after one, instead my aspiration now is to be the best mother and wife I can be. I pour my energy into those pursuits. I spend time learning, improving, and working to get better at it just as I used to do at work. Pursuing excellence.

Comparison kills

From the outside looking in, my life looks idyllic. Living on a boat; married to the love of my life; given a baby who is bringing a whole new level of joy to my life. And that is true, and that is what I dwell on

What don't I have? We don't have lots of money - in fact, it's very tight. I don't have a "stimulating" work and career any more. We don't have lots of living space, no outside space obviously. Our lifestyle is simple. 

I consciously don't compare our lives to those of others, though. As the AA slogan puts it, comparing my inside to another's outside is unhelpful; others may have more of the things I want but they also likely struggle with other issues I don't know about.

No peer pressure

Since kindergarten I have refused peer pressure. When I started smoking, I was one of the first - it wasn't peer pressure that got me to do it. Whenever I noticed it, I almost always chose to do the exact opposite - just because! 

May not have much
but we set our priorities
And then I learned that doing the opposite of what peer pressure dictates is still being under it; so these days I just make my own decisions and try, to the best of my ability, to keep any peer pressure out of my decision making altogether. So I might do what everyone does, or I might not, but the point is I'm making my decisions freely.

I'm currently feeling some peer pressure both ways in terms of mothering and work. One group of mums I'm friends with is mostly professionals who expect to go back to work, and who consider the idea of staying home an antiquated and somewhat demeaning concept. Another group of my mother friends thinks staying home and fully embracing motherhood is the highest possible calling. 

My choice is my choice, though. I don't react to peer pressure - I act in my, and my family's, best interests. That is freedom, and that is the kind of mental discipline I work on establishing in my life.

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Thanks so much for sharing!