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To My Single Mom, Here’s What I Want To Tell You For So Long

To My Single Mom, Here’s What I Want To Tell You For So Long

Dear Mom,

This is my last winter break at home before I go back to school for my final semester. Things are going to change a lot next year. I will have a real that will most likely be out of town, and I won’t be coming home for all of the breaks.

Both of our lives are going to change. For one thing, your finances are going to improve. Also, I will be much more on my own, unless you keep sending me those “care” packages you have for all of my college years.

I’ve had some time over this break to really think about all of my growing years, and I want to tell you about some things you may have totally forgotten, but things that have stuck in my mind all of these years.

They say more about who you are than your career success, degrees, or leadership of that food pantry you have made so successful. They speak to your unfailing courage, your stamina, and your commitment for setting priorities and always making me a part of those priorities. I know being a single mom was tough. So here it goes.

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Do you remember?

When I was six, I was invited to Lillian’s house for a sleepover.

This was one of many sleepovers, of course, but here’s why this one stands out for me. At about 5 p.m., you were getting my bag ready. I was really upset because my favorite pajamas were in the dirty clothes. You stopped everything, took those pajamas, and put them in the wash.

Some might think this was spoiling me, but you got it right, mom. You knew that I was nervous about leaving home overnight and you wanted me to have every bit of comfort possible. Having those pajamas was important in that moment.

When the divorce was final, we had to move.

Even though it was only a few blocks over from the house I grew up in, you knew that it was like the other side of the planet for me. You walked me back and forth from our former house to our apartment and back again, over and over, until I understood that it was not so far away. On top of that, and I don’t know how you did this, you found that same wallpaper and re-created the same bedroom I had at the old house. It might have been a small thing to you at the time, but it was one of the most important things in my little selfish world.

I never understood that you were exhausted most of the time.

You went to work every day. You came home and cooked my favorite meals. You sat with me while I did my homework. You packed my lunches and through all of that, you found time to go back to school, so you could get your Master’s and make a better life for me. You scheduled your classes on nights I was at dad’s, so you wouldn’t take away time from “us.” I want you to know that I understand this now, though I did not then.

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You always made bedtime special.

That story was never skipped, and I still did not understand how much you had to do after I went to bed – studying, laundry, cleaning. You were just amazing, and this little girl didn’t have a clue.

I went to dads every other weekend. I can only imagine what you did during that time.

I know that I always came home to a spotless house, all of my clothes washed, my favorite foods in the pantry, and I never figured out how things got that way.

As I grew older, I was able to do more for myself, but the demands on you didn’t lighten up – they just changed.

You were my chauffeur, in charge of entertainment for my friends who always seemed to gather at our apartment, and always the mom who said “yes” when we wanted a ride to the mall or to go to the skating rink. You always said “yes” when I wanted 2-3 friends for a sleepover. You made the popcorn and the pizzas. You made sure there was plenty of soda, you were up and cooking breakfast for all of us. At the same time, I never felt like there was too much parental control and you allowed me to decide what to do and when to do it.

You were the mom who drove us to that concert 40 miles away.

Do you remember that evening? We piled out of the car, as you pointed out exactly where you would pick us up in 3 hours. What you did for 3 hours we never even considered. But when we did get picked up, you had a CD in the player of the band we had just gone to see. That’s when Cheri leaned over and told me, “You have the coolest mom ever.” I don’t think I ever told you that.

Not all times were great.

We had our differences and our squabbles, like the time I came home to find Familoop parental control has been installed on all of the devices in the house. I screamed and yelled about my privacy and freedom. You just remained calm, and I knew that battle was lost. How you could stay so calm always amazed me.

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Remember when I joined the swimming team and decided to quit after three weeks? You put your foot down big time then.

And you made the stakes pretty high. If I quit the team, I could expect no chauffeuring that summer to anywhere else. No concerts, no nothing.

The truth is, other moms were not willing to drive us around like you. Other moms didn’t sing in the car with us. Other moms didn’t listen to our gripes and moans about teachers and “first loves” and give us words of wisdom. I stuck it out with the swim team and was actually pretty proud of the blue ribbon I took in the 100-yard butterfly. You obviously were too, because there you were in the bleachers, cheering and whistling.

Here’s the thing, mom. You were never a quitter, not even once.

When money was tight, you always found a way. When you probably couldn’t go one step further, you took that step anyway. And you taught me these same things.

Living with me as a teenager couldn’t have been much fun at times. When things were bad at school or with a boyfriend, I always managed to take it out on you.

And there you were, knowing that you were not the reason for my anger. Always, your response was, “Why don’t you tell me about your day?”

You knew if I got it out, things would be better. And do you remember the two phrases you said to me always? I do. “This, too, shall pass away,” and “If it will matter 5 years from now, then it is something you should get upset about.” I will take those two phrases to my grave after I have used them on my own kids.

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Have I ever told you what a good listener you have been?

I don’t think so, but I need to tell you that now. Without your listening ear, life would have been so much harder.

Do you remember when I got my first speeding ticket? You had to go to court with me. I remember the judge asking you, “Does Dianna realize the seriousness of speeding?” And I remember you saying, “She understands that I will pull her license long before you do.” The judge chuckled, but your words stuck. I knew you meant what you said and that you would follow through. I knew that because, in all of our years, when you said you would do something – get the treats for the school party, take my friends and me to that movie, save up for a big blast vacation to the beach when I graduated from high school – you did it. Not once have you ever let me down, mom, though I have let you down many times.

One of my best memories, though it wasn’t at the time, was when you found pot stuffed in my underwear drawer. You didn’t say anything – you just took it. Of course I was panicked looking for it – tearing my drawer apart. After all, I was going to a party that night. You just sat on the deck, calmly looking out over the yard, enjoying my distress. When I came out onto the deck, probably looking very unhappy, you told me that you had taken my pot for a little experiment. You had heard that birds sang much prettier when they ate it, so you put it all in the bird feeder and mixed it up with the seeds already in there. You were waiting to see if that were true. It is on moments like these that I look back and realize what a great parental control example you were for me.

You always had the best way of letting me know I had been caught – no screaming or yelling, just taking action and then explaining to me what would happen if I repeated that mistake.

So, now we’ve made it. You have a successful career, and I will soon have that degree. You have been my teacher, my confidante, my biggest cheerleader, and my hero.

You have taught me by example, even when those lessons were hard to learn. You pushed me. You said “no” when you had to and “yes” whenever you could; you did and did and did for me. But most of all you have loved me more than anything else in this world. I am safe, confident, and ready to meet any challenge this world may throw at me because of you, mom. You did good!

From the daughter who doesn’t say thank you and I love you enough,

Dianna

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Last Updated on August 6, 2020

How to Train Your Brain to Be Optimistic

How to Train Your Brain to Be Optimistic

Let’s be honest. When you’re going through a difficult time in life, doesn’t it drive you crazy when someone says, “just be optimistic”?

Everyone has that one overly-optimistic “Positive Pam” friend who sees the good in everything. Trying to find anything to be happy about when you’re struggling feels unrealistic.

The question remains: “Why is it difficult to pull upon happy thoughts when everything in life feels like it’s falling apart?”

Well, the root of the problem lies in the brain. Your brain isn’t designed for happiness because its focus has always been on promoting survival, it saves the happy chemicals (dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin) for opportunities to meet a survival need.[1]

While all of this is true, it is still possible to train your brain to be optimistic so that you can find the silver lining amidst life’s greatest adversities.

You Can’t Be Positive All the Time

Before I talk about how you can do this, you must realize that you aren’t expected to be positive 100% of the time. You’re human and life happens.

Have you ever had a solid plan in place, and then life comes along and says, “Let’s explore rock bottom for a while instead?!” You’re allowed to feel sad, angry, or negative sometimes.

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However, the trick is making sure that you don’t live in this place for too long. Disempowering emotions serve their purpose in the short-term but can become destructive to your overall quality of life in the long-term.

When it comes to thinking positively, I think a lot of people have a skewed understanding of what positivity should look like. You don’t have to sing in the rain or smile 24/7 to be deemed a positive person.

Appreciating the smallest of things can work wonders for your mindset, such that, over time, you start wiring your brain to seek out and expect more positives. This speaks to the power of having an attitude of gratitude.

Research has shown that gratitude can improve general well-being, increase resilience, strengthen social relationships, and reduce stress and depression.[2]

The more grateful you are, the happier you are.

So, what does all of this mean? Well, happiness won’t always be your automatic response. Rather, it’s a choice that you have to make every single day.

3 Ways You Can Train Your Brain to Be Positive

Similar to any habit, your brain conditions itself to think and behave in certain ways through repetition. Thus, if you engage in daily rituals that enhance your positive thinking, over time you will rewire and train your brain to become more positive.

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Let’s talk about 3 ways that you can train your brain to be positive:

1. Challenge Negative Thoughts

Your mind is a powerful tool – you can either fill it with positive thoughts or negative ones. The average person has thousands of thoughts per day, 80% of which are negative, and 95% of which are exactly the same thoughts as the day before.[3]

If you’re like most people, you probably spend a lot of time in your head. This is where your inner critic loves to hang out and try to convince you of all the reasons why you’re not good enough or why things won’t work out.

Not surprisingly, if you play this disempowering record over and over again in your head, eventually you will start believing it.

People get into trouble when they define who they are based on how they think. You are not your thoughts, so don’t believe everything that you think. This is why it’s so important to practice challenging your negative thoughts.

The next time that you have a thought that doesn’t serve you, stop and reflect upon whether or not that thought is accurate. Once you determine where the fallacy is in your thinking lies, step back and ask yourself, “Is this thought building me up or tearing me down?” If it’s the latter, reframe the negative thought to a more empowering one.

The fastest way to change your life is to change your narrative. Small shifts in your mindset can trigger a massive shift in how you perceive yourself, others, and the world.

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2. Surround Yourself With Positive People

Your success in life is determined, in large part, by your environment. If you want to be an optimistic person, you have to surround yourself with optimistic people. End of story.

As Jim Rohn once said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

Take a moment and think about your close circle of friends. Are they inspiring and driven people who uplift and empower you? Or are they lazy, negative, and toxic?

If it’s the latter, I hate to break it to you, but it’s time to find new friends.

When you surround yourself with positive people, you’re more likely to adopt empowering beliefs and see life as happening for you instead of to you.[4]

Decide who you want to be and find people who embody those traits. When you raise your standards, your circle will change and so, too, will your life.

3. Make Your Mental Health and Well-Being a Priority

The COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to a drastic increase in mental health issues. The isolation, fear, uncertainty, and economic turmoil that people are facing around the world is a breeding ground for psychological distress.[5]

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Given the current state of our world, there has never been a more important time for us to make our mental health and well-being a priority.

The question remains, “How do you stay positive when everything sucks?”

It’s all a matter of perspective.

We know that the mind and body are connected. If you ignore one, the other one suffers equally as much. Research has found that taking care of ourselves physically and mentally can influence our happiness and train our brains over time to be more positive.[6]

Looking after your mind and body means creating a daily self-care ritual, consisting of eating healthy foods, exercising, meditating, doing yoga, staying connected with friends, journaling, reading, and practicing affirmations, to name a few.

Anything that helps you manage your stress and connect with the present moment is key. Even in the most challenging of times, it is always possible to find something to be grateful for. By choosing to focus on what is good in your life and what makes you happy, you will grow stronger in the face of adversity.

Now Is the Time to Train Your Brain to Be Optimistic

Your mindset is everything. Thinking positively is as important as your skills or talents. We cannot always control our outer world, which is why it’s imperative to cultivate a strong inner world.

How you respond to adversity will determine your success in life. Have faith, trust in yourself, and believe in what is possible. When you think positively, positive things will happen.

More Tips on How to Be Optimistic

Featured photo credit: Dayne Topkin via unsplash.com

Reference

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