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I Want Things to Change, Where Do I Start?

So you’ve reached a point in your life where you’re ready for change; where you see that life, and how you feel about it, isn’t working out so well and you’re ready for change. Then what? How do you get from where you are to where you want to be?

Well, it would help to know where it is you want to be.

Allow yourself to dream. Take a few moments to let yourself contemplate how you would like your life to look in a year. What date is it right now as you read this? Look ahead one year and allow yourself to think about how you’d like your life to be: spiritually, psychologically, emotionally, physically. Better yet, if you’re in a position to do so, write it down. 

Three years ago I was feeling too stuck to allow myself to dream, too fragile to begin to look deep. I was feeling stretched; overwhelmed; grieving the impending loss of my dad; experiencing all the heightened emotions within my family of origin that the dynamics around illness and death can bring; nursing my third child, who at the time was just weeks old; I was feeling depleted because I was saying yes to everybody and not taking care of myself. I was losing patience and shouting at my kids, feeling fury bubble up inside me and out would come what I call my ‘Sergeant Major’. I felt like I was scaring my kids and I was deeply unhappy imagining what I must look like in their eyes as I approached them feeling so angry. I could see the glimmer in their eyes fade a little more each time it happened. I didn’t like how I felt or that I behaved like that with my children. It wasn’t all the time but it was a lot more than I was comfortable with. And it was unpredictable, so they were walking on eggshells and here I was repeating a pattern I told myself I never would

I didn’t know what was wrong, though; I didn’t know what to ask for. So I started with what I didn’t want. And I wrote a prayer asking God to help me not to feel so out of control; not to behave so angrily towards the kids; and to feel more connected to my husband. 

If you don’t know what it is you desire, start with what you don’t want to see continuing

Turning what I didn’t want into a prayer would be: “Dear God, please help me learn how to process my emotions in a healthy way. Help me to relate better with my kids. I don’t like how I’m behaving and I want it to change, but I don’t know how. Please guide me. Show me how to be calmer. Show me how to be a better mother. Show me how to be a better wife. Show me how to have a closer marriage.”

Awareness, acceptance, and change - that’s the cycle.” - Melody Beattie

Have courage to look at what is not working. What is causing you pain in life? What deflates you on a daily basis? What is it that you do not want to see continuing? You already know what it is, you perhaps just haven’t named it yet. What is it that you hear yourself complain about? We can turn those complaints into desires and in turn we can express these desires to our loving Father. 

For every one that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened.” - Luke 11:10

Some questions that may help guide you in getting started, beginning with the all important spiritual end of things: What is your ruling passion? Is there a coping mechanism in your life that you feel is precluding you from reaching your potential, but you feel powerless to overcome it? Are there vices occupying your mind and time that you’d like eliminated, or replaced with growing virtue? What is it that you repeatedly hear yourself bringing to confessions but have yet to find a solution for? Are you making time for connection with God? Is He and His will the priority in your life? How would you like this to be in a year?

With regards to your state in life, are you feeling capable and competent with your duties or are you feeling overwhelmed, inadequate, depleted, lost or unsure? Do you have balance daily in God’s designed order: Him first in all things, then you and others? Are you excluding one of these, or are they otherwise disordered in your daily life? Are you taking on too much? Do you feel overly responsible for others who are old enough and able-bodied enough to mind themselves? Do you take time to rest and replenish your energy or do you feel guilt and shame if you put you in the mix at all? How would you like this to be different in a year?

Think of the people in your life. Who are the people you would like to be most involved in your life? Who would you like moved to the background? How would you like your relationships - each one of them - to feel? Would you like to be able to better assert yourself in a gentle but firm manner in any of these relationships? Are there boundaries you would like to put in place but perhaps are unsure how? Are you able to practise prudence across your relationships to ensure they benefit rather than damage your spiritual life? Is there a gap you’d like filled with supportive, encouraging, nurturing friendships and relationships? How would you like this area of your life to be better in a year’s time?

Consider how you feel on a daily basis. Are you feeling in control of your emotions, or often overwhelmed? Are you able to consistently practise self-control? Are you inspired daily or feeling flat? Do you find yourself losing your cool with your children or loved ones and then feeling guilt and shame in the aftermath? Have you slowly allowed yourself to shoulder too much responsibility and you’re ready to hand some of it back? Are the standards you hold for yourself, your house and many other areas making it difficult for you to let go and relax? How differently would you like this to feel and look in a year?

Turning to your physical health. Has it been neglected? Are there elements you would benefit from being tended to? Do you have problems that cannot be pin-pointed because perhaps chronic stress or other covert imbalances are playing a part? Are there things you can introduce to your life to decrease the stress and increase the support? Do you need a diligent practitioner to help you find solutions? What direction do you want your health to take in this next year? 

Take care of your health that it may serve you to serve God” - Saint Francis de Sales

Think, also, of when you last had fun… remember fun?! If you are currently where I was some years ago, fun may feel like a long distant memory. It needn’t be so. What are some things that used to bring you joy in life? Reading? Writing? Creating? Crafting? Painting? Pottery? Puzzles? Singing? Playing music? Playing sports? Planning? Organising? Walking? Running? Roller-skating? Photography? Teaching? Learning a language? Learning a new skill? The beauty of nature? Spending time with friends? Giving your time to those in need? Guiding another where you once struggled? Making new connections with people who inspire you? Where can you sprinkle some elements of these amongst your days? How much would you like fun and light-heartedness to be a part of your future? 

Laugh and grow strong” - Saint Ignatius of Loyola

Open your heart to God. Tell Him what is good and right in your life and thank Him for these. Then tell Him about your pain. Tell Him what you feel is not working and ask Him to help you change what needs to change. We do not need to know what to do. In fact, how change may look in our finite minds will most likely be worlds away from the infinitely more perfect manner in which God will bring it about.

Ask Him and then let go. Leave Him in control. Allow Him to work in your life. Turn your focus to your daily actions, to making progress. Progress doesn’t look perfect. In fact, progress might not even look or feel like progress! Often, it is our failures that are progress. 

Your small act of progress doesn't need to be life-changing today. It just needs to be do-able. Your dreams can be big and your actions can be small. Do what you can and leave the rest to God.

True progress quietly and persistently moves along without notice” - Saint Francis de Sales

Perhaps your one small act of progress on a given day may be…
  • Time alone in silence with God
  • Praying for direction
  • Allowing yourself to laugh or cry
  • Being silly with your children
  • Searching for a local class you can attend
  • Taking a few moments to rest while there are jobs still to do
  • Finding a book you know you’ll enjoy reading
  • Apologising to a loved one you perhaps snapped at
  • Expressing gratitude to your spouse for the things that are good and right in your marriage
  • Saying no when you need to, even though you feel pulled to say yes
  • Reaching out to somebody who understands your struggles, is out the other side and can guide you in a positive way
  • Acknowledging unnecessary guilt and letting it go
  • Finding a daily reader that inspires you (three of my favourites are listed here under ‘Daily Devotionals’)
  • Getting to the end of the day, feeling like you didn’t make any progress and asking God to help you do so tomorrow; because that, too, is progress!

Have patience to walk with short steps until you have wings to fly” - Saint Francis de Sales

Taking an honest look at our lives can be scary. But without doing so, we can miss what is within our control to change. Have courage. Have faith. Have hope. Allow yourself to look. Allow yourself to dream. Allow yourself to ask God for what it is you need and what it is you desire. 

This list of resources may have something in it that addresses an area you’re struggling in. The Empowered Wife, for example, though it is a marriage resource, was an excellent transformative one for self-care in my life. I would highly recommend this content as a starting point if self-care is not easy for you and you also want a happier marriage. 

The Lord delights in every little step you take” - Saint Francis de Sales

Allow God to take control. Give Him permission to work in your life. And watch His perfect plan unfold. Your power comes from Him and it is through Him that you can do great and mighty things in your life here on earth.

Take care of you and Let Truth Bloom.

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