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Can a missing shoe change your life?

June 5, 2012 - Betsy Bethel
As a habitual procrastinator, I struggle with being proactive about organizing my home life. Often, I know what I SHOULD be doing to help my life and my family's lives run more smoothly, but I don't always do it. This leads to ugly domestic debacles, such as the frantic search in the morning for the missing shoe (made all the more difficult by a shoe-snatching puppy).

The whole time I'm searching for that blasted shoe, I'm muttering to myself, "Why didn't I make sure I put my shoes (or my daughter put her shoes) in the closet or on the shelf by the back door?" Or, "Why do I perpetuate the existence of a 'shoe black hole' in my closet?" (Or, "%#*& dog!")

I once read that the definition of stress is living your life out of sync with your values. I've never forgotten that definition ... and trust this woman who never remembers the ending of a book or movie, that's saying something! (I admit, it's quite handy to forget story endings ... I can see a movie or read a book over and over and still be surprised at the end!)

But back to that definition of stress. For me and the case of the missing shoe, it translates to this: If you value stress-free mornings and you don't proactively work to ensure they are stress-free, then you are setting yourself up to be stressed out.

Now switch gears from housekeeping to child-rearing. If, for example, you place a high value on having children who are well-behaved, athletic, intelligent and/or creative, but you don't teach them manners or expose them to math and Monet, you are going to end up disappointed, unhappy, maybe even angry. This leads to a stress-filled existence for you and most likely for your poor child who has to live with you.

It's the old adage: You can't plant seeds and expect them to grow without nurturing them. Children need guidance, attention, loving care, boundaries, good examples to follow.

So why do many of us resist doing the things that are good for us and our kids? Why do we neglect to regularly prepare healthy meals and sit down as a family to eat, even though we know the myriad of reasons it is so important? Why do we continue exhibiting angry outbursts? Making snarky comments? Overspending? Neglecting our children by being glued to our smartphones 24-7?

Why do I resist organizing my shoes?

Of course, I don't resist EVERY good thing when it comes to our daughter. For example, Emma has a regular bedtime; we have limits on sweets and screen time; we read every day; and, she is expected to behave in a civilized manner and if she doesn't, there are consequences. These are not easy tasks. They take effort. They take consistency. They can be heartbreaking when the standards aren't met.

My purpose here isn't to whine about how hard being a parent is. It's what we signed up for. Yes, it's hard. Yes, we want to do our best. No, we don't always do our best ... or sometimes our best doesn't quite cut it.

But when there IS a problem, when stress is overwhelming you, what's the first thing you do? Look for others to blame? Beat yourself up with self-pity, neglect, work or substances (food, tobacco, alcohol, drugs)?

I'll admit, if circumstances permit, I sometimes turn to a DQ hot fudge sundae or a margarita for initial comfort. But the next thing I do is ask myself: What could I have done to prevent this from happening again? What can I learn from this, and what needs to change so that our lives are in sync with the way we want to live, the way God wants us to live? Maybe there was nothing you could have done differently. Sometimes life just happens ... and you have to learn to cope with it as best you can and move on.

But I think we can all be proactive about reducing stress in all our lives. It starts with a simple goal. Just one. I don't suggest we try to change everything at once. I'm positive that would create more stress than it would eliminate!

So, what the heck, I'm going to start by organizing shoes tonight. I'll let you know how the story ends (if I remember!).


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