Proactive V Reactive

I decided to set myself the challenge of listening to my language and the language of others for seven days.  I wanted to see how much people use reactive language or proactive language and what the result of this was.

Stephen Covey gives us the following examples of reactive languge:

  • There’s nothing I can do.
  • That’s just the way I am.
  • He makes me so mad.
  • They won’t allow that.
  • I have to do that.
  • I can’t.
  • I must.
  • If only.

He gives us the following examples of proactive language:

  • Let’s look at our alternatives.
  • I can choose a different approach.
  • I control my own feelings.
  • I can create an effective presentation.
  • I will choose an appropriate response.
  • I choose.
  • I prefer.
  • I will.

Day 1

A little background.  Daddy as been at the pub all day watching football and drinking so I will be sleeping on the sofa tonight – just so I get a decent sleep.  MLS is currently sleeping in Mummy and Daddy’s bed as he says he is a big boy now and is refusing to sleep in his cot bed (as it’s for babies)!  The sofa is very comfy by the way!

So Day 1 I find myself awake at 2 am!  MLS has woken up and is full of beans.  He climbs under the blanket with me and proceeds to fidget for the next three hours, finally falling asleep at 5am.  So, lucky me gets approximately half hour sleep before my alarm goes off at 5.30!  During the three hours DLP woke up also so I sent her in with her Daddy (it really is ‘musical beds’ in our house).  So, not the best start to the day, but I try to remember that the kids were probably wakeful due to me letting them play on their Leap pads before bed and being over-stimulated, so I can’t blame anyone but myself!

Everyone else in the house is up by about 6.  I try to remain mindful that I am tired and not to snap at anyone.  Then, of course the kids start arguing – I admit, I could of handled it better!  But, I realise and apologise to them for shouting and explain that I didn’t get much sleep, and all is well again.  Daddy managed to go unscathed and I left for work.

It is my first day back at work after a week off so I’m feeling a little ‘meh’ anyway.  On my way to work I decide to think positively about going back and all the good things it entails such as seeing the people I support, my colleagues who are also friends, and all the cake which might be left over from last week as there were four birthdays going on!  I try to remember that I am tired and to pace myself today.

I buy fruit and a healthy lunch on the way (this will make me feel better about eating cake).  I arrive at work on time with a smile on my face and pleased to see everyone (which I am).  We sit around the table for (green) tea and breakfast.  My friend asks about my week off and if I’m glad to be back, I tell her about my week and say that I am.  She then goes on to talk about what’s going on with her.  She has had a fall out with a friend (a work colleague), and it is causing tension for her at work.  I hear slot of ‘she did this’ and ‘she did that’.  I try to offer helpful comments but realise I’m just getting sucked into the negativity.  So I decide to keep quiet and just listen.  And as people always do (given half the chance), she came round to her own solution while my integrity remained intact.

Anyway, so much for pacing myself today.  It turns out to be very busy!  I support my residents to get out of bed, have breakfast etc.  I check on their finances and realise no one did their banking while I was off last week, so none of the residents have any money.  I huff about it a bit to myself and then use it as an opportunity to take one of the residents out to town in the lovely sunshine!  I remember to put my problems in perspective and think about what the people I support have been through.  It really is humbling.

I arrive back at the house after some fresh air and sunshine and have lunch (and cake). After lunch I sort out the rest of the finances.  My boss is in today and requests to see me in the office.  I know already what he wants – he knows that I am on  an office day tomorrow so he will give me some of his work load to complete!  Currently he has me writing staff appraisals (really should be his job – how would you feel if your colleague wrote your appraisal and not your boss?)!  I remember that his job involves crazy amounts of work which he just hasn’t got time to do and that he thinks highly of me and spent the last seven years fighting to get me a pay rise and promotion (achieved last month!).  He also knows I spend far more time with the staff team and know them better than he does so will probably do a better job.  He also knows I’m a paperwork geek and I like to have some days when I do office work.  So he talks me round again.  Which is fine!

I arrive home shattered.  I get the washing done, make the beds and finish the paperwork needed for MLS to start nursery tomorrow.  The grocery order arrives and then the children arrive home from nannies.

MLS is shattered and asleep by 6.15, DLP by 7.30.  Daddy calls to say he’s working late so to eat without him.I eat, write this post and am now off for an early night!  Sorry Writing 101 prompt, you will have to wait!

Considering how tired I was today I think I did pretty well!

Love in 10 Sentences – The Challenge

th-13I have been nominated by the lovely and very funny Edwina of http://edwinasepisodes.com/ to complete the love in 10 sentences challenge.

The Rules:

The challenge is to write a poem about love and title it “Love in Ten Sentences.”

It must have 10 lines, each 4 words long.

Every line must contain the word “love.”

At the end of the poem, you must include a favourite quote about love.

please note that I have not written poetry in about 20 years!

 Love in Ten Sentences

Love is a verb

Love, caress, hold, listen.

Love one and all.

Love is the ruler

Love is a healer

With love comes feelings

Love, sadness, anger, jealousy

Love is a minefield.

But first, love yourself

Before you love another.

My quote is at the top of the page..it’s a life-changer for those who have not realised it.

I nominate anyone who would like to have a go.’

Inside Out…

th-10As we progress through the ‘Seven Habits’, Stephen Covey takes us on a journey from dependence to independence and then on to interdependence.  Covey calls this the ‘Maturity Continuum’.  Dependence deals with the paradigm of ‘You take care of me’.  Independence deals with the paradigm of ‘I take care of myself’.  Interdependence deals with the paradigm of ‘We take care of each other’.  Stephen Covey calls this the ‘inside-out’ approach.  Starting with self.

Habits 1,2 and 3 take us from dependence to independence.

1.  Be Proactive deals with taking control of your life, focusing on the things you can do something about not those things beyond your control and taking responsibility rather than blaming others or your circumstances.

2.  Begin with the end in mind deals with knowing what you want to accomplish in life, organising and preparing in a way that reduces the need to work in crisis mode and beginning each week with a clear plan of what you want to achieve.

3.  Put first things first deals with being disciplined in carrying out plans, not allowing the important activities to be lost in the busy activities of your days and doing things which are meaningful and allow you to accomplish your overall goals.

Congratulations!  If you have managed all that you can officially call yourself independent.

I always thought that on the maturity continuum that I was at the very least independent and perhaps even interdependent in my work environment.  Looking back at the details of the first three habits, I see that I am wrong!

I have somewhat taken control of my life in that I have found myself again and I’m doing the things I enjoy.  I am no longer dependent on my partner and am doing most of the upbringing of the children.  However I do still occasionally worry about things I can do nothing about such as my partner’s alcohol dependency.  It took me a long time to realise that I could do nothing about it so old habits die hard.  I am getting much better at this though.  I do feel like I take more responsibility now but I do still hold quite a lot of resentment towards my partner and how his drinking has affected our lives but I’m trying to be more understanding.

I have real trouble with habit 2.  I just don’t know what I want to accomplish in life.  I never had a dream career and my interests and hobbies are constantly changing.  I can’t seem to settle on one thing for long.  I think about this too much and I think the answer is simple because all I want really is a happy, healthy family.  There, I just answered my own question!  I’m pretty good at organising and planning at work but at home I often feel swamped.  I have a general idea what I want to get done each week but it doesn’t always happen.

Habit 3 – well I procrastinate a lot.  Even my five year old tells me not to ‘crastinate!  Sometimes I’m so busy at home that I never stop and sit and play with the kids.  We definitely don’t spend enough time together as a couple.

Habits 4,5 and 6 take us from independence to interdependence.

4.  Think win – win deals with caring about the success of others as well as your own, cooperating with others and dealing with conflicts by finding solutions which benefit all.

5.  Seek first to understand, then to be understood deals with being sensitive to the needs of others, seeking to understand the viewpoint of others and when listening, seeing things from the other person’s point of view, not your own.

6.  Synergize deals with valuing and seeking out the insights of others, searching for new and better ideas and solutions and encouraging others to express their opinions.

Congratulations!  If you can do all that you are officially interdependent!

I do quite well at these in my work environment which is the area of my life that is most successful.  I work hard and I’m very well thought of by my manager and colleagues.  I generally train up the new staff who come in and as they get younger and younger and I get older I feel myself getting a slight twinge of jealousy when they start performing well.  I guess it is inevitable that someone may overtake my accomplishments one day.  They are so keen and motivated and I seem to have lost that as time has gone on.  At home I’m not so good at resolving conflicts so they benefit all.

Habit 5 is tricky.  I’m quite a quiet person so I’m a very good listener.  I can be very sensitive to other people’s needs e.g. the people with PMLD that I support at work but I am not always emphatic towards everyone.  I guess I see it that if you really are in need like the people I support then you are worthy of sensitivity but it is based on my judgement of your situation.  That sounds terrible now that I have written it down, must change that!  I guess it’s because I see the people I support surviving and thriving everyday when their needs are so high, that I think other people should be thankful that they are able-bodied, happy and healthy (in lots of cases).  People sometimes live in a bubble and sometimes don’t think about the hardships of others compared to their own.  But, I guess I’m forgetting we don’t always see the truth or real situation behind other people’s pain.

I am quite good at listening to other people’s opinions and coming up with ideas, but here again I need to improve on this at home.

Habit 7  is Sharpen the Saw and deals with renewal in the four areas of life, physical, social/emotional, mental and spiritual.  Doing this increases our capacity to live all of the other habits of effectiveness.

This is probably where I’m going wrong!  I do not really do any physical form of exercise, although my diet isn’t too bad.  Although I have a habit of skipping meals if my partner’s not about for dinner (quite a lot).

I don’t have many close friends and my work relationships are mostly professional.  I don’t really go out much as I don’t like to leave the kids in case my partner drinks. So socially I’m not doing so well

I am doing activities I enjoy now and I’m reading about spirituality but I guess I could always be doing more.

Habits…

This post was inspired by the following Daily Prompt:

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/too-big-to-fail/
th-8According to Stephen Covey a habit is the ‘intersection of knowledge, skill and desire’.  Knowledge is what you know and why, skill is how to do and desire is the want to do.  You must have all of these three things in order to form a habit.  It is also necessary to have these same things to break a habit.  Habits are extremely difficult to break and often people need to make major changes in order to do so.

I started smoking when I was seventeen.  I had quite a difficult home life (both of my parents went through periods of depression and they had a volatile relationship), so I used it as a way to de-stress.  I can’t even blame it on peer pressure as I was at college training to be a nursery nurse so smoking was frowned upon!  Later on at 18, I started going out with a guy that smoked and most of my friends in my local pub smoked too (back when you could smoke in a pub).  So at this point I was hooked.  I never worried too much about it and always thought that I would be able to give up whenever I wanted.

Of course, as time goes by this statement becomes less true.  So fast forward a few bad relationships, and finally getting to a point where I could be happy to be single, I decided it was time to try… and failed miserably, several times over the next few years actually.

Eventually I’m with my current partner (which regular readers will know came with a whole new set of problems and stresses).  We talked about trying to get pregnant.  So again I didn’t worry and felt absolutely sure that I would be able to give up if I became pregnant.  How wrong could I have been?  I cut down hugely but I could not give up.  It’s still to this day the one thing I will never forgive myself for.  In fact it took until my youngest was two and a half before I gave up completely.  It was thanks to Stephen Covey actually.

I started by looking at the knowledge:

  •  Smoking was starting to effect my health.
  • I wanted to stop before the children noticed.
  • I wanted to be around to see my children get married and have children of their own.
  • I didn’t want to effect the children’s health.
  • I didn’t want to pass the habit on to them.
  • I didn’t want to go through smoking-related diseases.
  • I didn’t want to die.
  • I could spend the money on something worthwhile.

I then looked at the skill:

  • Look for information online about quitting.  NHS Choices website.  Look into ‘Stoptober’.
  • Read books on the subject.
  • Speak to friends and family who had quit.
  • Gather as much support as possible.  Make myself accountable.
  • Speak to Gp about quitting options, patches, gum etc.

I looked over my desires:

  • To be healthier.
  • To have healthy children.
  • To be a part of their lives as long as possible.
  • To save money.

I then came up with an action plan.  I used patches, initially these were brilliant and completely stopped my cravings, after a while they brought me out in big red welts on my body (an allergic reaction). It was very painful but because they stopped the cravings so well I continued with them until it was unbearable.  Then I went cold turkey.  The welts took months to disappear!  So ‘Stoptober’ 2013 I gave up smoking for good.  A few months later my partner gave up too.

5 Principles…

th-7Stephen Covey writes a great deal about the principles on which the seven habits are based.  Here are the five principles which most effect my life daily.

The principle of service, of giving oneself to others, of helping to facilitate other people in their endeavours.

I seem to do this all day long, everyday!  I work in a residential home for adults with profound, multiple learning disabilities.  I provide full support with every aspect of their lives from personal care to helping them to live as independently as possible.  I have even helped some achieve their goals and their dreams.  Service is my job and one that I love.  I count myself very lucky.

In my personal life I take the majority of responsibility for the children.  Service is yet again the order of the day!  I don’t mind this anymore, it seems to have become easier as the children have got older and I have found ways of coping.  I love the time I spend with my children and I don’t feel the loss of identity that I once felt.  I’m beginning to get some of ‘me’ back.

I need to practise this principle more with my partner, I know deep down that he is a good person and I believe that this person will come back to me one day.  In the meantime I will do my up most to support him.

The Principle of staying positive and optimistic, radiating positive energy, and avoiding the four emotional cancers (criticizing, complaining, comparing and competing).

Well, staying positive and optimistic can be a battle when times are bad, but I try to remember that there is nothing I can do to change his drinking.  He needs to do this himself.  So, I just carry on with my life and try to help the kids understand.  (I would like to make it clear here that there have been very few incidences where he has been drinking around the kids.)  He now knows that when he is drinking, I will just stay out of the way.  I have managed to carve out a little life for myself, I started writing, learnt a new craft skill and started doing the things I loved as a child like drawing and singing.  This has helped so much and I am much happier for it.

During the day to day grind when I was unhappy and depressed I did a lot of the four emotional cancers.  I criticized the way he looked after our children, (sometimes rightly so, like when their outing with daddy was to the pub), but a lot of the time it was just nit picking because of my resentment towards him. This is probably partly responsible for why he helps so little now.  He felt like he could do no right.

I complained from the moment I got up in the morning till the moment I went to sleep.  I didn’t realise how negative I had become.  I compared our relationship to others, and wondered why we couldn’t be like a ‘normal’ couple.  I now know there is no such thing.  Everyone has their own problems.

I still have negative days, but I tend to just bite my tongue now.  Then I guess bottling up my feelings will do no good either.

The Principle of integrity – The quality of being honest and having strong moral principles.

I try not to speak about others when they are not present, but I admit this is quite difficult as I work in a female dominated environment.  There is a lot of gossiping and bitching and it’s easy to get sucked in.  I try to avoid these conversations and walk away and get on with my work.  If I am part of the conversation, I try to make sure that I don’t say anything that I wouldn’t say to the person’s face.

In these types of situations I try to remember that we never know what other people are going through.  My colleagues really have very little clue of the extent of the problems in my family, I hide it well.  I’m actually one of the few staff who doesn’t take their issues into work, I would never want to – it’s the one place I can get away from it all.

The Principle of patience – The capacity to accept or tolerate delay, problems, or suffering without becoming annoyed or anxious.

I am very patient in my work life.  A lot of the adults I support have challenging behaviour and mental health issues.  I can be in some pretty dangerous situations, sometimes on a daily basis.  I cope with this well.  I am good at it.  So, why do I find it so hard to apply at home?

I am much better with the children now, when I was very stressed out I would lose patience quickly and feel like I couldn’t cope but I manage this well now.  I have had to set up my life so that I no longer depend on daddy, e.g. I have back-up childcare, informed my manager so he’s aware.  The minute I put these things into place my life became easier.  It is just sad that it has come to that.

With my partner things need to change.  Staying out of the way helps but it does not address the problem.

The Principle of balance – Identifying our roles and spending appropriate times in each one.

All good with work and children here but definitely need to spend more time on our relationship.  I also need to look at developing friendships as I am feeling isolated at times.

It’s just knowing where to start…

My Fable…

th-6This is my version of Aesop’ s ‘The Goose and the Golden Egg’.  This fable reminds me about how effective we currently are and how effective we could be.  Stephen Covey uses this fable to talk about that which we produce (the Golden eggs) and our capacity to produce (the goose).  In the original story the farmer is very greedy and wants the golden eggs quickly and kills the goose to get them, only later does he stop to think that he can no longer get golden eggs as the goose is dead.  In life we often make these wrong decisions too.  Here is where I am at currently.

In my relationship

I love my partner, although it can be extremely hard at times.  I have chosen to support him with his alcohol addiction rather than leave him, and not just for the sake of the children, but because he is a good man when he is sober.  Even writing this down it sounds like my love is conditional but it is not – he is just very difficult to be around when he is drinking, which is quite a lot of the time. I know that I should try to be more understanding and forgiving but I find myself holding resentment and as a result our relationship has become distant.  He won’t talk to me unless he has been drinking and then he gets abusive so I then shut down.  We have basically come to live separate lives, we do very little together.  I worry about the long term effects on the children.

I know it is my resentment that is holding us back.  So what am I resentful about?  I had post natel depression after I had my first child, he did not support me or help with the baby, he puts his work and social life before us, he is ‘fun’ daddy with the kids and I do everything else.  I see now that he just didn’t know what to do or how to be a father.  I’m not sure if I am making excuses for him!  So confusing.

I know that I can’t change him – he needs to do this for himself.  I just need to be more supportive.  It is difficult to be this way when I’m yet again cancelling work because he is too drunk to look after the children.

If I could just forgive and show more compassion, he would be more receptive and follow suit.  Obviously better for everyone.  So why is it so difficult?  I have made some progress though, my happiness is not defined by him anymore, I have moved on with that and have found things that I enjoy rather than sitting at home worrying, such as crocheting, drawing and Writing!  I still go out very rarely though.

As a mother

I love being a mum, it is the most amazing thing I have ever done.  In my twenties I was told I would probably not ever be able to have children due to scar tissue around my fallopian tubes – I am so thankful that the damage was not as extensive as they thought.  Two children later I feel a very lucky woman.  My eldest DLP (Daddy’s LIttle Princess) is 5, she is very outgoing, talkative,and creative.  My youngest MLS (Mummy’ s Little Soldier) is 4, he is placid, gentle and kind.  Two very different children.

At times I feel overwhelmed by motherhood and completely rushed off my feet.  I feel a burden that the responsibility is all mine due to my partner helping rarely.  I have very little time to myself.  I feel tired all the time.  I ask myself how I’m expected to be a good mum when I don’t look after myself properly.  The tiredness can make me quick tempered with the children, I sometimes feel like I spend my whole day shouting.  Then the resentment returns when ‘fun’ daddy comes home (5 mins before bedtime), reads them a bedtime story and nips straight back out to the pub, reputation untouched whilst I am bad mummy because I’ve been telling them off all day!

Of course not all days are like this.  I love doing activities with the children, teaching them new things, creating with them.  I know when they grow up, they will remember all the things they did with mummy and the time I spent with them.  Something Daddy may not have.

In my friendships

I have a few close friends but I do not spend a great deal of time with them.  I find it hard to make social engagements due to my home situation.  I worry that my partner might have too much to drink to be responsible for the children.  I could ask my parents to babysit but I don’t like to as my mum looks after the children in the week as I work full time.

I have a few good friends at work but I tended to keep these relationships quite professional as I knew my chances of promotion were good. I think I have lost my confidence in social situations.

Reading this back, I realise what a mess I have got myself into.  It’s hard to see it written down in front of you.  My production and my capacity for it certainly has room for improvement.  Lots of things to work on.

How Do You Do?

th-5Today’s Blogging 101 task got me thinking about the way I interact with those around me.  I am generally quite a quiet person when I first meet people, quite shy I suppose.  I never really know what to say and rarely initiate a conversation.  I’m absolutely useless at ‘small talk’ – yes, I am that person you have conversations with and there are lots of awkward silences!

It definitely takes me a while to get to know people.  I’m in my thirties but I only have a few close friends – and even those I don’t see very often.  I find it difficult to develop friendships.  When I first started my job nine years ago I was a very quiet member of the team, or so people thought.  Reflecting back on it I realise that I was watching people, how they worked and how they connected with each other – it’s something I have a talent for – reading people.

Over the years I became a trusted member of the team and worked my way up through the ranks – even past people who were there long before me.  I feel this is mainly due to the fact that having been so quiet and watchful my basic character shone through, rather than the falseness that personality can sometimes bring, e.g. fitting in, joining in the gossip etc.

I often wish I could of remained the watchful, quiet one who only showed true character but as my confidence grew and my personality began to develop, bad habits crept in.  Now I’m struggling to become the better person again.  For me character is important, personality tends to manifest from what we think other people want us to be, or even what we think we should be like to please others.

I realise my quietness with new people comes across wrong, some people find me insensitive or abrupt because I rush in to say something because I’m nervous.  I seem to find it difficult to show empathy, maybe because I need to get to know people better but also because I work with adults with profound multiple learning disabilities with all sorts of difficulties so others ‘problems’ don’t always seem so important to me.

There are pros and cons to each way of being.  I wish I had the ability to be both confident and principally centred.  I’m not there yet, but this is what my journey is all about.