Lessons I’m Learning to Live By // Ep. 30

Today we’re talking about lessons I’m learning to live by. I turned 40 last year, and it’s been my favorite decade so far. Through this season of reflection and growth, I’ve come up with a few lessons I say to myself at least once a day. They are principles to live by if you want to get formal about it, or mantras to remember. I’m excited to share them with you, especially the last one because I guarantee it’s a saying you’ve never heard before but really need in your life. So let’s jump into episode 30 and the lessons I’m learning to live by.

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June 29, episode 30 Lessons I’m Learning to Live By

Hi, friends! This is self-care and soul care for the caregiver, and I’m your host, Sandra Peoples. To us, self-care isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity. We’re abiding caregivers who want to take better care of ourselves so we’re able to care for our loved ones who rely on us.

You’re listening to episode 30! Today we’re talking about lessons I’m learning to live by. I turned 40 last year, and it’s been my favorite decade so far. I’m continuing to learn and to let things go. Through this season of reflection and growth, I’ve come up with a few lessons I say to myself at least once a day. They are principles to live by if you want to get formal about it, or mantras to remember. I’m excited to share them with you today, especially the last one because I guarantee it’s a saying you’ve never heard before, but really need in your life. So let’s jump into episode 30 and the lessons I’m learning to live by.

The first one is actually one of the rules in the #Abiding Caregiver Facebook group! And I made it a rule because I used to be really bad at it. The lesson is: empathy before answers. As an enneagram 1, I’m programed to give answers. When each enneagram personality type walks into a room they often fall into predictable patterns. My pattern: look around for what’s wrong and fix it. We often say men are fixers when women just want someone to listen to them, but my husband I flip the script on that assumption. In conversations with him, I’ve learned to first validate what he’s feeling and then offer suggestions or answers if that’s what he needs. This pattern, empathy before answers, is especially important in conversations with special-needs parents and in online interactions when we can’t hear tone or see facial expressions. That’s why I made it a rule in the Abiding Caregiver group. When someone shares what’s happening in her life, we first respond with empathy. Then we can offer help. We want to make sure the mom in need feels heard and understood before we offer our opinions on solutions.

The second lesson also comes in handy in relationships with other people and in online discussions. And I’ve learned it the hard way as well. Lesson number two is curiosity over judgment. Curiosity over judgment. When I’m not my healthiest self, I can become judgmental. I tend to see things as pretty black and white, and that means there’s also right and wrong. I’m judgmental of myself and others. So I started practicing this on myself. In my head it sounds something like this: You are angry. But anger is bad. You shouldn’t feel that way. Wait. “Should” is a word that means I’m judging. Let’s be curious about this instead. Why am I feeling angry? What’s the trigger for this feeling? Is it really anger, or is it something else? Is there a physical trigger for this anger, like being angry or tired? Instead of judging myself for a strong emotion, I meet it with curiosity. Then I’m able to have compassion.

Here’s how it works in my relationship with other people: That person isn’t doing what I think she should be doing. She should be doing this instead. Oh, there’s that “should” word again. Let’s be curious about this instead of judgmental. I wonder why she is making this decision. Is there a factor I’m not aware of? Does she have a different motivation or a different goal than I have? Her behavior is not what I expected, but I will assume the best of her and know there’s more to the story than what I see.  I can think of dozens of situations I’ve been in over the last few weeks when I had to remind myself “curiosity over judgment!” And it’s always helped me be calm and compassionate.

The third lesson is the saying I’m sure you haven’t heard before. It’s something funny my friend said to me last summer that actually turns out to apply in so many ways. She and I were sitting on the beach chatting while our husbands were watching James in the ocean. (James is my younger son who last level 3 autism and is functionally non-verbal.) James is kinda of a free spirit in water and doesn’t like being told what to do. So he kept moving away from Dad and Mr. Tim. They kept following him, but also talking. I noticed there was a man on a boogie board who was being filmed by his girlfriend or wife. So whatever he was doing seemed more important to me than just hanging out, playing in the waves. James kept getting closer and closer, and I was getting more and more anxious about him being in this guy’s way.

Sarah and I were chatting, but I was very distracted. Finally, I said, “I think James is in that guy’s way.” And Sarah replied with what has now become a lesson I tell myself all the time. She said, “Sandra, this isn’t a kiddie pool. This is the ocean. That guy can move.” Y’all. “This isn’t a kiddie pool!” What a perfect lesson! I remind myself of it when we’re at the grocery store and James gets in someone’s personal space. Or when he screeches as we walk down the hall at church. It means more than just “that guy can move.” It means James has every right to take up space in this world. Our family has every right to show up in public spaces, even if that’s in ways that make other people have to adjust a little. Sarah’s words help me get over the social anxiety I feel in situations that are uncomfortable to me and remember our right to be there and be who we are. “This isn’t a kiddie pool, this is the ocean” may be a lesson you want to remember with me when you’re feeling judged by others or in an uncomfortable situation. I don’t have any tattoos, but if I ever get one, this might be it! Ha!

Those are the three lessons I’m learning to live by: empathy before answers, curiosity over judgment, and this isn’t a kiddie pool. I’m thankful for the opportunities God gives me to live out these lessons, well, kinda thankful. It’s a little like praying for patience and then getting in situations that require you to show patience. But seriously, empathy and curiosity are more in line with the fruit of the Spirit I want to be displaying than pride at my own answers or judgment toward other people. And as someone who is hyper aware of those around me and their judgment of my behavior and my son’s behavior, “this isn’t a kiddie pool” helps me relax and let go of that anxiety.

Let’s pray together like we do at the end of each episode: God, thank You for never leaving us on our own, but that you give us opportunities to grow and learn. We want to love others well. We can do that when we focus on empathy and curiosity. We also want to feel freedom when we are out with our families, knowing that each of us is fearfully and wonderfully made by You, and we can live the life you call us to live without feeling judgment from others. Help us to grow in godliness each day, and to exhibit the fruit of the Spirit! In Jesus’s name we pray, amen.

Friends, thanks for listening to this quick episode. I know we have new listeners who attended Rising Above’s By the Brook retreat over the weekend. It was a blessing to me and so many others! I do want to let you know what to expect this month. We live in Houston, where COVID numbers have reached very high levels. We know people who know people who have tested positive, and chances are, it will be someone we know soon. That of course will affect our routines around here, including my husband’s responsibilities as a pastor and James’s time at therapy. My plan right now is to continue to release new episodes each Monday. But if you wake up one Monday morning and there isn’t a new episode, know that it was a week I needed to focus a little more on my family. I’ll still be interacting in our Facebook group, Abiding Caregiver, so join me there if you haven’t yet. The link is in the show notes for this episode at sandrapeoples.com/thepodcast while you’re checking out the show notes, you can also sign up for my monthly newsletter. It comes out the 1st day of each new month.

I’ll be praying for you this week, as we live out the lessons God is teaching each one of us during this time. Remember, apart from Christ we can do nothing, but with him, we have everything we need as we live out our calling as abiding caregivers.

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