Over the summer I ran and online Bible study group. It was mostly made up of doctors wives from a study I did in the last town we lived in. The goal was to help me not to fee so isolated during the move and it might have worked had it not been for the whole road thing. I choose the book Walking with God in the Season of Motherhood by Melissa Kruger. It was perfect for where I was and when we got near to the ﬁnish I knew that I wanted to do this again. So I picked the book Wonderstruck: Awaken to the Nearness of God by Margaret Feinberg. I loved the idea behind this book. Being wonderstruck. This was another girl out there who was looking for the magic. Preparing to lead this book, I did a little research on Margaret Feinberg and easily found her website and social media channels. After snooping those I came upon one of the most exciting revelations I have had in a long time.
Now remember, I was poised to change the trajectory of my mental hygiene and embark upon a life among the upward spirals. Positive thinking is where a newbie starts to spiral up, but to be honest after my recent experiences I was a bit timid with it. But the reason positive thinking is such a good place to start is that it does not mean that you are super excited and jumping around like Pinkie Pie. No no no. Positive thinking is just approaching an unpleasant situation in a more productive or positive way. And we all know that more means slightly better than last time, which is something I can start with.
So I discovered that Margaret Feinberg was hosting a writers conference for people who wanted to learn how to write a book. What the what?! That is my life goal! I was pretty much ridiculously excited. I say “pretty much” instead of “way out of my mind” because the reality of the situation was that I would never be able to go. Seriously. How was I suppose to get three days off during the week? My parents are not into taking on the babysitter role and my husband has a full time job. I am the stay at home mom… which means, I am supposed to stay at home! There was no way it was going to happen. And yet I was really, really, really wanting to go.
Stretching my little wings of positivity, I brought it up to my husband after the kids went to bed. It went something like this:
Me: You know that Bible study I’ve been doing?
Me: Well I picked another book so that I could keep it going and guess what? Brian: What?
Me: The author of that book is having a writers conference!
Brian: You should go.
Me: – silent Brian: If you can ﬁgure out how to get the time off you can go.
Me: How am I going to do that?
Brian: Well, you would need babysitter coverage from 6-6 every day you want to be gone plus longer if I’m on call.
Me: How and I going to do that? Brian: I’m sure you can ﬁgure it out. You should deﬁantly go. Me: – silent –
My husband clearly had the whole positive thinking thing WAY much more under control than I did. It was disgusting – I mean inspiring – although slightly unrealistically irritating. And so I did what everyone does when they are experiencing an exciting emotion… I put it out there on Facebook.
“There is an awesome writers conference coming up in November that I really want to go to, but I have no idea how I would get the time off.”
—> I got a few likes.
—> A friend asked me what the conference was about.
—> A friend from our new town commented that it might not be impossible.
What did she mean? I asked her and then she offered to watch my kids so I could go. Was she kidding?! Clare, the pastor’s wife of the church we started attending when we moved, was offering to watch my girls so I could go live my dream. I was ﬂoored. I was excited. I asked myself for about two seconds if I could really leave my kiddos without their momma for three days and then I decided YES, because I have always wanted to write. So I met with Clare and we ironed out the details and I was really going. Like really going. Like I bought plane tickets.
Registration day came for Writers Boot Camp: Atlanta and I jumped at the chance. I registered the second it opened and was literally dancing around the house. My dreams of becoming a writer were one step closer. My husband said I could go, my new friend would watch my kids. Maybe this was going to get real? I was so hopeful and excited and about to be completely deﬂated by what came next. Because life is rarely completely easy and straightforward and that is exactly WHY good mental hygiene is crucial to our lives.
I had just about considered my self master level at positive thinking with how things were going when I got a text message from Brian, my husband. He was going to need to go to Florida to be on a committee for work. Yay! We had just moved to a new position in a new town and it was great to see people needing my hubby for things. I was proud of him. And then he told me the dates. He would need to be gone the ﬁrst week of November. But I needed to be gone the ﬁrst week of November! We couldn’t BOTH be gone the ﬁrst week of November! Could we? I was still happy for my husband but now I was sad for me. I felt like my dreams had been punched in the face and incidentally knocked off my newly acquired master level crown.
This time I texted my friend Tracy instead of posting on Facebook, because we all know that while you put happy things on Facebook it is not the place to whine about things that make you sad. I told this friend what had happened and she was equally happy for Brian and sad for me. How could I ask Clare to watch the kids 24/7. I told her that I didn’t think the kids could handle it and I couldn’t even bring myself to ask for more help after how nice she had been already. How could I ask her to do even more? Tracy asked me what Brian thought and of course he still thought I should go if I could ﬁgure out how. Tracy said if he was behind me going then I should press on and ﬁgure this out. It was my dream. I had to go after it.
I sat with this advice for days. See positive thinking was a new and developing skill for me. I was much more comfortable with magical solutions that were bestowed on me by fairy godmothers. I asked my mom if there was any way she could step in with this unforeseen change but she was planning to be out of town. Stink. What was I going to do? I just couldn’t ask Clare. I couldn’t.
Tracy texted me the next day and told me this: If I would bring the kids with me to Atlanta she would watch them for me during the conference. Tracy lived about 30 minutes from where the conference was being held (pixie dust moment for sure). I think I gasped. Maybe I would be going? But then I thought that if I was up with them at night, which I would inevitably be, I would never be able to get my stuff done for the conference. It was boot camp style and very work-intensive. It was a 50% solution. Better than nothing but I wasn’t sure I could make it work.
But then I got brave. Have you ever had that happen. There is an obstacle in front of you that is WAY to big to get over and you give up. But then someone lifts you up half way and you get the courage to try to climb the rest. If you had the courage from the ground up you probably could have gotten over it to begin with, but that boost gave you to courage to try. Yeah, that was me. And I got brave.
I called Clare and told her what had happened. I told her that Brian was being sent out of town for business and that I was going to need 24/7 coverage with the girls for three whole days. And she said that was ﬁne. She would just spend the night at our house for those days. Wait what?! She said it was ﬁne? Clare had already taken the days off work and had things arranged to help out, so it really wasn’t that much more trouble. She was serious. And I was ﬂoored.
I was going to the conference. I had the support of my friends. I had the support of my husband. I was going to the conference. And the interesting thing is that even with all this support I could have screwed it up. When unpleasantness poked into the situation in the form of needing help I had to be more productive and positive than felt innately comfortable. But by doing that I was spiraling myself upward instead of downward, growing and changing along the way.
Paul wrote a letter to the Philippians in the New Testament of the Bible exhorting them towards positive thinking. He said:
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:4-7 ESV)
Could it be that no one actually gets a fairy godmother and the magic had to come from the inside? Maybe the peace that Paul talking about comes from the reasonableness and lack of anxiety with which we think through our days. Positive thinking is a baby step that can sprong you from a downward spiral to an upward one. And the exciting thing is you just have to try. You have to be brave with your dreams instead of keeping them hidden. And sometimes you need to accept help, because you are worthy of it. If this seems like a lot remember that you only need to try a little more than you did yesterday. Positive thinking is not a skill that works only at 100% – it works at any level you are ready to test it out. Remember that downward spirals are things you fall into rather naturally, and upward spirals take a little bit of work. But the results are happiness and success and hope and peace which are completely lacking from the inner turmoil of the downward spirals. You can make your own pixie dust if you apply a little mental hygiene to your days. Try it – you’ll be ﬂying in no time.