#54 Follow through or fold?
This week, I had to ask myself some tough questions after many sleepless nights up with sick babies. As the week went on, my fuse got shorter than short. I complained behind closed doors almost as badly as my flu-ridden loved ones cried. Any yet, I totally missed it. I had the opportunity to give my girls exactly what they needed: a loving mama who cared about them so much that I put everything aside to focus on their needs. And yet, I royally blew it. In the process of blowing it, I learned an invaluable lesson that hopefully will keep me from missing my shot next time and hopefully will encourage you to tackle whatever is on your plate today with purpose and self-less intent.
My life would be meaningless without the people who occasionally inconvenience me or push me into places of growth, pain and discomfort. Those same people give me the very joy, comfort, and love that make life bearable at its worst.
It’s been a bit of a rough week in the Mona household. Business and interviews have been fantastic, but both of my girls have been oscillating in and out of illness, fever, bad belly. You name it, they’ve experienced it. There’s a wicked flu going around Shanghai and kids are missing on average like 8 or 9 days of school.
It’s a rotten, rotten flu. Well, in our house it started with JoJo. Her 2-year-old self doesn’t have loads of words to use for self-expression, so for two weeks it’s been seemingly non-stop whining and tears. Brie was in the clear for a while until about 4 days ago when she spiked a fever and cried of stomach cramps.
No one’s been sleeping well and that always spells disaster for me in particular. So this week, I thankfully experienced an enlightening ah-ha moment in the middle of the night as I woke for the zillionth time to get JoJo a sip of cool water from the bedside table as she fought her fever for the third night in a row. Here is it: this life isn’t simply about me.
Is it really not about me? Yeppers.
Sobering as it was at first pass, as I delved deeper into the meaning of that realization, I actually came to a peace that I’d like to encourage you with today. To be honest, it was really some hard truths to write and record, but I know that with transparency comes healing and freedom so I hope that this impacts you right in the middle of whatever situation you’re facing today.
Til death do we part
As a wife, I inadvertently promised to care more about my husband than I do myself (which I’m pretty sure I had no clue how selfless that actually is in action and it’s still REALLY hard for me at times) and when I agreed to bring babies into this world, I once again unconsciously agreed that my selfish desires would come third to the needs of my family. Again, I had no clue what I was getting myself into. Maybe I should have known, but really my nature is so self-seeking that I still struggle with putting the needs of others over mine every day.
I spent some time reflecting on why I was so put out by my sick children the past few weeks. I mean, how rotten must I be? They’re the sick ones, and I’m mad that I have to make midnight water or Motrin runs. I’m groggy and angry in the morning as if my babies were intentionally trying to ruin my night’s sleep. When they stayed home for the day, it was a nuisance to me and my schedule instead of it being a welcome break and an opportunity to serve them and fill their needs. Needless to say, this sort of reflection, to honestly write and say those words, is really tough and a real wake up call. This life isn’t about me.
Taking discomfort out of the life equation
I had lunch with a friend in the people service business the other week. She had had a rough week with hard-to-handle clients and needed to bend an ear. As I listened, she unfolded a really pertinent question. She asked, “When did we lose the ability to endure any hardship, any level of pain or discomfort as first world human beings?” She has a valid point. Especially as expats, boy can our lives be materially cushy. We can be picky. Really picky on how we set up our lives here. The things and the people we surround ourselves with. And it makes sense: there are enough adjustment issues for expats and companies know money can at least spread a bit of a soothing balm on what used to be considered a hardship assignment. Heaven knows, some places in China are still very much hardship assignments (and often without the cushy-ness!).
So from her frustrated question of, “When did we lose the ability to endure a bit of hardship or discomfort,” I asked myself, “When did I lose the ability to endure a bit of hardship or discomfort when it comes to fulfilling the commitments I make as a wife, mom, friend, or business owner?” Think about it, our commitments to spouses or families should be obvious (although I clearly needed the reminder) but it extends even further.
Follow through or fold?
Every time we make a new friend overseas and choose to intentionally invest in their lives. Every time we commit volunteer hours to a project. Every time we put our word out there as commitment for anything, our comfort is potentially on the line. Have you ever committed to something, and then come D-day totally regretted it? You aren’t feeling like socializing or serving, or you would much rather joins friends at lunch, or maybe even just lie in bed because you’re tired. I know I have, especially in my first few years of serious over-commitment issues!
In that moment of decision, to go or not to go, we have two choices. Follow through, or fold. At least in Shanghai, commitments are too easily broken. Maybe we’re too easily forgiving. Maybe we don’t hold people accountable because we don’t want to be held accountable ourselves. I don’t know what it is, but I do know, when I find someone who is committed and shows up despite waiting in the rain for 20 minutes looking for a cab, despite the argument with her husband, despite not getting a good night’s sleep, despite, despite, despite all of the things that make others fold. Wow! What a gem.
Signs of trouble
I strive to be that sort of gem and I know I’m over-committed and overstretched when I find myself folding. When I say I’ll get you that email and I let it slip my mind. When I tell you I want to get together this week, and I don’t call because traveling to your house would put me out. When I promise my kids a treat from the store but then am too tired to go out of my way to get it. When I need to sleep more than I feel the need to answer the 102 unread messages piling in my inbox from the last two weeks. That’s my cue that something needs to give and I need to readjust some pieces of my life so that it stops being about me and my comfort, and becomes more about keeping my commitment and us using my gifts to serve those around me.
My life would be meaningless without the people who occasionally inconvenience me or push me into places of growth, pain and discomfort. Those same people give me the very joy, comfort, and love that make life bearable at it’s worst.
So my question for you this week is the next time you find yourself choosing between follow through and fold, will you endure a bit of hardship and discomfort, possibly even pain, to keep your word? Maybe it’ll help you to remind yourself this: This life isn’t simply about me. It’s about us.