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No More Polite Lies

I recently heard it said that white lies were the lubricant of society—that everyone lies constantly and that social life would be intolerable if we didn’t. If you go to a dinner party and the conversation was mediocre and the food bland, you say, “It was delicious and I had a wonderful time.” A lie…. But doesn’t society work better when everyone tells that sort of lie? When we smooth out the rough edges of reality for our neighbors, and let them see only what they want to see? 

This is merciful. This is right. Or at the very least, it’s how you have to do things to be liked. Or so we tell ourselves. But this is itself a lie, a deeply destructive one. 

“White lies” rob the hearer

Perhaps white lies take the sting out of failure, but they also take the shine from achievement. 

Let’s suppose I host a dinner party—as all who are able should—and it is an utter failure, but people tell me, “I had such a great time. Your cooking is fabulous.” In their mind, they are sparing me embarrassment, making me feel better, and in general being good, responsible friends. But I am not an idiot. I know if I did a decent job cooking or not. I know if I planned badly and invited an incompatible group of people. Their praise will fall flat.

Worse, if my failures are praised as wonderful, what about when I think I have succeeded? Will I receive the same feedback? Will I be told, “I had such a great time. Your cooking is fabulous?” If I am told I succeeded when I didn’t, how will I know when I have really done something good? There will always be that lingering doubt. “Maybe they’re just saying that to make me feel better?” 

Imagine for a moment how glorious it would be to know that no one would ever tell you a lie about yourself to make you feel better. That any praise you received was the person’s absolutely sincere and convinced opinion.

“White lies” are not the only way to be polite. 

This is not to say that we should say whatever nasty thoughts come to the top of our minds all the time. Telling all of the truth all of the time is hardly the right answer. It would be horribly impolite and possibly even cruel to tell the hostess of a dinner party, “I was bored out of my mind and the roast was dry.” But it’s not as though there are only two options: either be rude or lie. 

Suppose the meal was really terrible. Suppose you were bored out of your mind. Was nothing about the experience good? Maybe as you leave you can tell the hostess, “Thank you so much for inviting us. That was such a lovely bouquet you had on your table.” Or “That pie was good.” If you honestly cannot think of a single truthful compliment—and I think it would have to have been a remarkably bad evening for that—then simply say, “Thank you so much for inviting us.” 

It is not rude. And you have not degraded the truth by saying it. 

“White lies” rob the teller

To go back to our failed dinner party—not that anyone wants to go back to one of those—imagine that you do always fall back on the white lie so that you don’t have to say the unpleasant things in your mind. Then there’s no motivation for you to change the things you notice. It’s not socially unacceptable to have negative thoughts… just to express them. Even if you never express your unpleasant thoughts, they still poison you. You will come home from that lousy dinner party after telling the hostess what a wonderful time you had and how much you enjoyed the food, and your thoughts will be something like this: “Wow. What a waste of an evening. What horrible food. I really can’t stand that one guy who was there telling lame jokes. I should just stay home next time someone invites me out. It would save a lot of trouble. I’m so disappointed in humanity.” 

But now suppose for a moment that you had made a pact with yourself never to say anything you did not honestly think. You would have to search your mind for something positive about the evening. Perhaps there was nice wine, or maybe the hostess set the table in an elegant way. Perhaps you were just grateful to get out of the house and the dinner party was an excuse.

Whatever the case, you are now looking for the positive. Courteous truthfulness is like keeping a gratitude journal. It forces you to look beyond the negative and see the other story you could be telling yourself. 

Let’s start being courteously truthful instead of telling polite lies. It makes everyone’s life better, starting with yours. 

 

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Three surprising ways small children make you better 

Sometimes when you’re in the midst of parenting tiny humans, it’s easy to get caught up in the negative. They scream a lot. They make messes. They keep you from having a sane sleep schedule. Having babies makes you gain weight. They make most adult activities harder. 

All of this is true. Kids can be a pain. But they have their pluses. And I’m not even talking about the obvious things, like their cuteness, their innocence, or their humanness. Though that’s all true too. 

I’m not here to tell you to “enjoy those special moments; they’re only small for awhile.” It’s great when you can take the time to try to notice how cute your kids are…but maybe what you actually need right now is some sleep, or some adult conversation, not a few more toddler cuddles. Take care of yourself. Parenting is a marathon, not a sprint, so you have to pace yourself (wow…could I be more cliche?)

Maybe a better way to put it is that parenting is a lifestyle, and you need to make sure it’s a sustainable lifestyle, not a constant survival mode. If you’re a counselor at a summer camp, it’s okay to push yourself to the limits of your endurance, because the camp will be over in a week or two, and you’ll be able to rest up. Parenting is never really over, so you need to make sure you’re taking care of yourself properly the whole way through. 

Parenting is hard. Your kids take a lot out of you sometimes, and it can be hard to find the time to do necessary self care.

But kids add things besides cuteness now and possible future grandkids down the road. Here’s a few things I’ve noticed my kids do for me–when I let them. (I find that I’m more ready to receive these blessings from my children when I’m not sleep deprived or starving for adult company. So this is absolutely NOT saying that parenting isn’t hard or that you don’t need a break sometimes.) 

Healthy Disruption

 

Routines and habits are vital. Good routines and habits make life possible. But our habits, like our technology or any other thing we use, need to be our servants, not our masters. It’s all too easy to become a slave to our routines and habits when nothing disrupts our patterns now and then. Nothing is so disruptive as having a child around. Every season or so, you have to rethink your household routines, because your child is in a new stage of development. Storing the remotes and pretty glass knicknacks on the coffee table seemed like such a good idea…until the baby started crawling and pulling himself up on things. 

Kids make you rearrange the furniture, rearrange your schedule, and rethink your life choices. This might not sound like a positive, but it is. If you are never forced to examine your choices, routines, and habits, it’s too easy to slide into unintentional living. Children are a constant reminder that you have to keep deciding what’s important to you, and keep choosing it, not just drift. If you’re parenting young kids right now, it might be helpful to try to think of the constant changes and curveballs as an opportunity to consistently reexamine your habits, and not just a toppling of your neatly laid plans. 

Smelling the roses

 

With kids around you’re likely to smell a lot of other things too. But what I’m talking about here is enjoying the unexpected, and observing things you might not otherwise see. 

The other day I was hurrying into the grocery store with two small children in tow. Hurrying not because I was in a hurry, but because I like getting things done quickly so that I can get on to other things that I find more interesting. One of my children asked the standard toddler question, “What’s that?” and I looked. There was a dumpster in the parking lot for a renovation project the grocery store had been doing, and a truck was about to take it away. We stood there next to the grocery store and watched the whole process. And you know what? It was fascinating. I never knew before what a marvelous piece of engineering those dumpster-hauling trucks are! Or the skill their drivers need to have. 

And I would still be unaware of it if my kids hadn’t been with me that day. If I’d been alone I wouldn’t have stood there and watched. Partly because I’d have been embarrassed to. (Why, I’m not sure. It should be socially acceptable for adults to stand around and watch interesting things happening.) And partly because I wouldn’t have noticed it. 

Kids are so good at noticing things and wondering at them. As Chesterton says, “The fascination of children lies in this: that with each of them all things are remade…” And while they remake our worlds in unpleasant ways sometimes, they can also refresh it for us; remind us that the world really is a rather marvelous and wonderful place full of interesting things to see. 

Renewal of hope

 

If children have the power to renew our interest in the outside world simply by being interested in it themselves, they also have the power to renew our hope. A baby is so full of glorious potential. A toddler is constantly learning new skills, new ideas, new abilities. They seem potentially limitless. (Sometimes we wish their energy was not quite so limitless) 

It is strange to think that everyone started out in the same place–as helpless innocent babies. 

Remembering that everyone started out as a tiny baby can be encouraging. If Stalin was once a baby, so was St Therese. There is hope for everyone. Your children are the future, and you have a hand in shaping it. 

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Five strategies for coping with temporary depression

 

It’s been a long time since I posted here. I never wanted to be that blogger, but… life happens. In this case, life handed me some pregnancy depression and then a wonderful charming baby.

I’m finally back, and I’d like to share some of what I learned about dealing with temporary depression. I say “temporary depression” because if depression is your everyday reality and you don’t even know what you are like without it anymore, you should probably get professional help of some sort. If you’re suicidal, you definitely need some expert help. There are non-drug options out there. I personally had a good experience with a homeopath several years ago. Whatever the case, if your depression is permanent or very severe, these tips probably won’t be enough. These are just suggestions for how to get through the occasional rough patch.

Talk to someone about it

This can be incredibly helpful. If you feel hopeless or discouraged, bottling up your negative thoughts inside can make it worse, because you don’t have the energy to challenge them. Sometimes you need to get those hopeless and discouraged thoughts out in front of someone else so that they can tell you how wrong they are. Of course, if you confide in the wrong person this can be the opposite of helpful. You need a person who wants your good, first of all. Next, it helps if the person has some understanding of depression. “Just snap out of it,” is rarely useful advice. Neither is, “You’re not praying enough,” or “Offer it up.” Prayer is good, yes. Prayer can be helpful. And depression is certainly a cross that can be offered to God. But if you’re really down and asking for help, it’s likely you can’t even remember how to pray. You might feel like you hate God, as well as everything else. You might be able to offer up your misery anyway, but you still need help. So try to find an understanding friend who cares about you and is not currently depressed themselves.

Ideally this person will sympathize and then help you strategize.

When you tell someone about your feelings of depression, it’s helpful if you don’t start with, “My life is awful! I hate everyone. Everyone is awful. No one loves me.” This might be how you feel at the moment, but probably not actually true, and it’s very hard for your friends to hear.

You will get better results if you can objectify your feelings. Your feelings are a real thing that you have to deal with. Just because they aren’t themselves an accurate reflection of reality doesn’t mean that they aren’t real. It is objectively true that you are feeling that way, and that you need help managing that experience. So if you can, try saying something like, “I am feeling depressed. It feels like hopelessness and misery. I know there are good things in my life, but I can’t feel that way right now. I know the world is actually colorful, but it feels gray right now. Do you have any idea what I could do that would make me feel better, or manage my feelings better?”

Get out of your head and do pleasant things

When you’re depressed, the last thing you can usually do is get out of your head. So why is it on this list? Because it’s still what you need to do, even though it’s impossible. So maybe this heading should be something like, “do pleasant things that are easy to start and force you to get out of your head.” But that didn’t sound very catchy.

My personal go-to strategy for this one is to text a friend and say something like, “Hey are you busy today? I’m having a bit of a rough spot and I was wondering if you had time to hang out/chat on the phone/go shopping with me.” I might not be able to motivate myself to get off the sofa and do something useful, but I can at least motivate myself to text someone, and they might be able to get me off the sofa. I might not be able to break out of my negative thought pattern, but at least I can call someone and say hi, and they might be able to make me talk and think about something other than how much I hate everything and what a loser I am.

When none of your friends are answering the phone you can try listening to a podcast, reading a book, or doing an easy-to-start hobby activity to help you get past the worst of it. I spent an afternoon laying on the floor listening to multiple episodes of the Art of Manliness podcast (which I do recommend) while my kids played nearby. It was all I could do that day, and the podcast helped me get out of my cycle of negative thoughts.

I also bought a nice grown-up coloring book and used it toward the end of this pregnancy. It really did help. My kids colored their coloring books and I colored mine. I felt a bit silly, but it got me through the day, and was the closest thing to quality time with my kids that I could manage.

One other thing to try, is if you have a to-do list, pick the easiest thing on it (pro tip: always make sure there’s something easy on that list) and do it. Then check it off. Making progress on a project is a great way to increase dopamine and serotonin levels, which will make you feel better.

Leave the past in the past

I talked to a counselor to help me with my depression and discovered through the process that part of what I was struggling with was not just my current emotional challenges, but baggage from my past. I had previously felt depressed and helpless, and the feeling of depression made me feel helpless again, even though I was in a different situation where I had more control over pretty much every aspect of my life and so many more options for helping myself. Just realizing that I was dealing with past challenges as well as present ones when I really only had to deal with present ones was very helpful. So take a step outside your thoughts, if you can, and see if you’re subconsciously assuming things that aren’t true.

Cut yourself some slack

Another thing my counselor told me was to admit that I was actually facing real difficulties and stop telling myself, “I should be able to do more, do better, be better…”

I was pregnant and had two young children to take care of. This is actually a challenging situation. Just because other people might do something harder doesn’t mean that what you’re doing isn’t hard. Who says you should be able to manage that without some extra help? Who says you shouldn’t lay on the floor and cry sometimes? Laying on the floor and crying isn’t a sin, and sometimes it’s all you can do. Don’t make it harder on yourself by telling yourself you’re a loser for doing it. All that will do is make you more depressed, more anxious, and more likely to end up laying on the floor crying.

Sometimes it’s helpful to remind yourself what you did do. I fed my children and kept them safe today. So what if I also spent a couple hours crying? I accomplished something worthwhile today.

Would I rather not have spent two hours crying? Definitely. But it’s more helpful and more healthy to focus on what you did succeed in doing that to beat yourself up about something you might very well have no control over.

Ask for help

You don’t have to be bedridden, having a baby currently, or dying in order to ask for help. Obviously, you should do for yourself what you can, and be ready to help your friends when you can, but sometimes you do need help with physical tasks. Ask for help before you’re so desperate and miserable you can’t do anything.

And if your friends offer to help, do take them up on it if you want help. Don’t be concerned that it’s weak or selfish. It’s not weak to take proper care of yourself, and no one can do life alone. If you have kids, you will need help all the more. Parenting isn’t supposed to be a solo activity. It’s not supposed to just be the parents. Sometimes you need to get other people to help you. Hire someone if you have to and if you can possibly afford it. Consider it an investment in your most valuable asset–your mental health.

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Starting a Clothing Line

News!

Before I became pregnant with my first child, I had a professional wardrobe I was very happy with, and once I was pregnant, I had this strange idea that I would somehow be able to mostly wear the same clothes I had worn before, just a little differently. As you can guess, that didn’t work. It turns out there is a reason they make maternity clothes. I had to be just like everyone else and get new clothes to fit my new body shape. 

But all the options were terrible. The tops were ugly and unflattering. The skirts had these huge pieces of knit sticking off the top, reaching to strangle me. Everything was boxy and unattractive. The only other option was knit skirts, but I’ve never been able to wear those. What I wanted were skirts that felt and looked like the ones I was already wearing, but that didn’t push on my tummy in painful ways. (My first baby had the habit of kicking anything that put pressure on my tummy, and so this was quite important.)

Since the stores didn’t have what I wanted, I made my own. A little trial and error, and I had some cute and comfy skirts that I could wear in the classroom, at home, or even to church. 

I’ve been wearing that design for the last four years now–even when I’m not pregnant!–because they look just like regular skirts, except that they are more comfortable. 

I still haven’t found anything quite like them in stores, and I finally decided that I should share. For the last few months I have been working on finding a manufacturer to produce them for me, and I hope to be selling them here soon.

Once we have the skirts in production, I want to branch out into other pieces as well. Eventually I hope to have a full line of clothing basics that should take ladies through every stage of maternity and nursing, feeling and looking great.

This is pretty exciting for me, and I hope you’ll enjoy seeing the products. 

Because we’ll be adding a store to the site, we decided to update Enjoying Womanhood’s appearance at the same time. So if the site doesn’t look the way you remember, that’s why. We do hope to continue posting about life and ideas and stuff too. So if you subscribe, or are already subscribed to our email list, we’ll continue sending you ideas every so often. I promise we won’t just talk about clothes.

 

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Why I make time for reading in my life

I’m a wife and a mom with a three year old and a one year old. Both children are very active and inquisitive, and enjoy actively inquiring into my cabinets and the fridge, experimenting to see what happens if they pour water on the floor, and if they hit each other. They keep me on my toes. 

I also cook pretty much every meal from scratch–what exactly is scratch anyway? Does anyone know? I bake my own bread, and don’t own a dishwasher. I do the grocery shopping, keep track of endless piles of laundry–or try– and I go on playdates, by which I mean that I try to hang out with other moms while my kids hang out with other kids.

I have a lot on my plate. 

But I make time for reading. I have read at least 2 dozen books since the beginning of the year. Sometimes I use audiobooks, some ebooks, but mostly I check out print books from the library. 

So with so much on my plate, why do I prioritize reading? 

It Keeps Me Sane

When I was pregnant with my first child, I quit my intellectually stimulating job as a middle school history and literature teacher to stay home and take care of the baby. I need intellectual stimulation, and babies, delightful as they are, don’t provide much of that. Reading gives me new things to think about, and is, incidentally, amazingly compatible with breastfeeding. It’s also easier to do with jumping toddlers next to you than just about any other hobby. So basically, reading is a major part of my self care and self-development routine. 

It Gives Me Something to Talk About

There was a period of a few weeks where I had stopped reading, because I thought I was “too busy.” Not only did my brain feel dead, I also discovered that the quality of the conversations I was having with my husband was declining. I had nothing to bring to the table except stories about the kids’ naughtiness, or what I found at the grocery store. I decided this was not ok, and resolved to read something every day, just so that I would have something to bring to the conversation. My husband married a woman who was interested in all sorts of things, presumably because he liked me that way, and I think I should try to keep being that person. 

It’s an Example I Want to Set

When I prioritize reading, this shows my children, young as they are, that books are interesting, and that reading is something that people do. This will make them more likely to be readers and learners when they are old enough. 

I also want them to see that I am a separate person and not just their mom/servant. I think it’s important for my kids to see me doing things that interest me. And for them to see me continuing to learn as an adult. 

How do you fit reading into your life? If you don’t have a lot of time, here’s five books every woman should read. 

Otherwise, here are some of the books I’ve read and enjoyed this year. I hope you enjoy some of them too.

 A guide to natural childbirth inspired by Catholic principles and illustrated with stories of Catholic moms giving birth. Good information, good stories. I was glad I read this one.

 Why yes, I do love science fiction. Timothy Zahn is one of my favorite authors, and this is quite the series. I just re-read it recently.

This is a new one from one of my fellow authors over at Catholicteenbooks.com (Which you should totally check out if you have teenage kids or students, are a teen yourself, or just enjoy YA fiction.) It’s a hard-to-put-down dystopian story about faith, love, martyrdom, and a bunch of other stuff. A lot of fun.

Yes, it’s a kid’s picture book. I thoroughly enjoyed it though. It’s a story about how some young students protect some Jewish children their age during WWII.

Sort of like grown-up Narnia. This is the third book in the series, and I haven’t gotten around to reading the first two, but I did enjoy this one.

The best book on taking control of your digital life that I’ve seen.

Yes, I love science fiction. This is an exciting story of pursuit, compulsion and conversion.

Editing counts as reading, right? I hope you’ll consider checking my book out as well!