20 September 2011

Mindfulness Challenge #2 - Words

For my second task, I wanted to work on the words that I use, both externally with my children, husband and other people and internally with myself. As much as I stress the importance of word usage with others, specifically my children, I felt it as important (if not more important) to address the state of my internal dialogue.

These are words to live by.

First, I decided to start with something seemingly simple: telling my children that I love them more each day.

It's very easy to tell a tiny baby that you love her. She's soft, sleepy and adorable and just oozes cuteness. It is much harder to tell an older toddler or child who has so many "imperfections," or a teenager with so many "annoyances," or a husband with so many "problems," that you still feel that love. I know that the number of times I say "I love you" to anyone during the day has dwindled and I must constantly remind myself that though my actions may speak those feelings, I need to voice them as well.

Somehow, this has proven to be much more of a challenge than I thought it would be. Often, at the end of the day, I try to review how many times I told Heidi and Piper that I love them and find myself falling short of my goal. I have not set a specific number of times I need to say this every day, but I like for it to be more than once. I don't always exceed that number. Obviously, this is a work in progress, but it will always provide a good exercise in being mindful.

I came up with another fabulous idea for this challenge with regards to my internal thinking and "shoulding" on myself. I wanted to create a "should" jar, similar to that of a swear jar except every time I had a "should" thought, I would write it down and place it in the jar. This could be something as simple as "I should have started dinner earlier" or as complex as "I should have gotten a degree in Biology." (Please note that those are merely examples and not necessarily my exact thoughts.) When the jar got full, I decided I would burn the papers inside thereby releasing all of those negative thoughts I had.

I never even made it to the jar.

My desire to stop "shoulding" on myself actually worked itself out on its own. I was so conscious of every 'should' that entered my mind, thinking of later writing it down (and never did) that I all but stopped having those thoughts. Is this to say that the word 'should' never enters my mind anymore? No, certainly not. But I have trained myself to push it out of my thoughts immediately if it happens. I've noticed that I feel significantly better about my inner dialogue and as a result, I think I have been using that word out loud less and less. Benefits for all.

Finally, I want to mention two words I am working on removing from my vocabulary entirely: 'whatever' and 'jealous or jealousy.' Most of us know how the word 'whatever,' when used in certain context, can cause a certain sting. That is, naturally, the context to which I am referring. I'll still say things like, "Whatever works!" or "Whatever option is best for everyone," but I have been holding myself back from using the word with the intention to hurt. In an argument especially, I have found myself in the past saying, "Whatever!" when I could no longer come up with something logical to say or I wanted to cut off the person I was arguing with by saying something snappy and curt. I find that the best way to combat the 'whatever' tendency, for me, is not to say anything at all. In that space, I am able to turn the intended 'whatever' into what I'm really wanting to say, what I really feel. I hope that this change will improve my communication style in general and force me to work harder at putting my thoughts/feelings into words.

He's not jealous of anything. Except maybe your couch.
I've also decided to get rid of jealousy. Why? Because there is no place for jealousy in my life. When you covet your neighbor's wife (which is something I'm sure you all do every day ;)), you aren't really after the wife; you are after everything she represents, her qualities and the marriage she has helped to create with your neighbor. When your friend goes on vacation and you say, "I'm so jealous you got to go on vacation!" what you're really saying is "I want to go on vacation!" This seems pretty obvious, right? But then why add the aspect of jealousy to it? If you want something, want it for yourself, not because someone else has it.  

The person who has it has earned it.

To be jealous of their earnings is, well, (for lack of a better word) childish. It just doesn't make sense to spend your energy being jealous of someone else having something when you could be putting that energy somewhere else, like getting whatever it is that you want. Therefore, I am no longer allowing this word to come out of my mouth (or fingers). I'm happy that you got to go on vacation and I look forward to the day I can as well. I'm so relieved that you married such a wonderful person and you have a wonderful life together. I'm glad you have a great car that can get you where you need to go and whenever I'm ready for it, I will too. See how that changes the tone of things?

Staying true to its title, this post is full of words. A lot of them. I apologize. But I am so pleased that I started this challenge for myself and I am looking forward to continuing. Next I'll be tackling my eating and though I've recently become a vegetarian, that hasn't stopped me from eating late, in front of the TV. This is one of the biggest habits I want to erase and will surely be one of the biggest challenges as well. Here goes nothing...


  1. These are great Amanda - real positive stuff and inspiring...my list of words to work on is endless! What a wonderful process of learning life is! I tell my kids I love them loads everyday but my partner...um can't remember the last time! Think I need to join you on the mindfulness challenge

  2. Thanks Terri :) It is a wonderful thing to work on and I'm really glad I gave myself the chance to do it. Thats what you should have written about for the mindfulness blog carnival! :) There's always next time.