Sometimes we can get lost in the day-to-day rhythm (well, crazy-making chaos as it often feels like) of taking care of our family and lose sight of what’s really important. Perspective is everything, as is having a good attitude. So when we feel like we’re drowning in all the little things, it helps to remember the top things on our priority list. For me, that looks like this: relationship with self (those with co-dependent tendencies benefit from consciously including themselves in the “care” circle), relationship with others (with our own family nucleus having top billing because how else will the world be a better place unless we start with those in our house), and relationship with God (which isn’t last per se on the list—it’s just that if you’ve already been churched, it’s nice to think of God as being ever-present and always accessible, not just “first” as if he can’t also be second, third, last, and everywhere). So let me expand a bit.
- Relationship with self. We benefit when we take care of ourselves and seek to put into motion health and happiness practices. Nurturing health and happiness are two of the essential life skills that will truly enhance the quality of our living (however long or short we have on this earth)—our everyday decisions about how we spend our time, what we put our mind on, how we relegate our emotions, what we put our faith in, what/when/how much we eat, and how we move are all ways that contribute to our health and happiness levels. This doesn’t mean that we have to be super serious about any one thing, but it helps to be aware of how we can help ourselves in these areas if we admit that we could use a little more health and happiness in our lives.
- Relationship with others. Fostering trust and building strong relationships with others are two more essential skills that rank high on the list of what’s most important in life. It’s important to understand that our family is included here–“others” is not limited to friends or colleagues or neighbors or strangers—our spouse, co-parent, or otherwise significant other is our family. Our children are our family. Our own parents, siblings, and extended family as well as our in-laws are also our family. But if you have needed to break off from an unhealthy family of origin, then it’s okay acknowledge that you have done your part and then focus on your own [new, budding] family. Your spouse/co-parent and your children (plus yourself) are the only people you are truly responsible to and for (and to break it down even further, you are the only person that you can ever completely take responsibility for—no one else can make our choices for us, and we can never actually make our spouse’s/co-parent’s or children’s choices for them (though our influence, whether positive or negative, over them can have effect)). It is enough to focus on growing a strong family in the present. If the family you came out of doesn’t contribute to your well-being, then it’s important to really consider this as we move forward in designating boundaries and sticking to them.
- Relationship with God. Developing spiritual depth is another priority on the list of things that matter most that point to skills that we are able to work to sharpen. To me, staying aware of the state of our spirit is a given. God is a given. It seems silly to belabor the point because God has made himself self-evident in our lives and in the world around us. Problems like the existence of evil and the concepts of sovereignty, providence, predestination, and free-will don’t change the existence of God or the loving nature of his character. When we are younger, these things seem to be more troubling to us (as we go through the “questioning” stages of our life) than they may be when we are older and have examined the hand we’ve been dealt and are working with and learning from. Or at least for me, I’ve settled into a more contented acceptance of the way things are and need to be (and the extent to which certain things can actually change) as I have acquired a few years and scars. The unmovable anchor we have in the Creator of our being becomes more and more evident as we cover more ground, scale more mountains, and walk through more valleys. I think the [extent of the] breakdown that happens in our faith sometimes is related to the extent to which we are unwilling to surrender our lives and our deficiencies and our uncertainties to the God who loves us and wants to help us, comfort us, and strengthen us. If we don’t ever lay down the human pride (e.g., need to control, need to be right, need to know, need to be first, need to have the best, need to be the best) that stands between us and the I AM, then everything will always be less than what it could be (and was intended to be).
We can wrap up our life’s main focuses (well, foci) in a bundle of three relationships: with self, others, God. And we can work on the skills that make us more effective in these areas. Just because life dealt us certain cards doesn’t mean that we are completely helpless, hopeless, or powerless. We can learn how to play our cards well, and we can make choices that will improve our lot in life—even if those improvements are incremental or even unnoticeable at first. There’s always something we can do to positively control something in our lives. Let’s keep our perspective high and our attitude good as we make our way through this life we’ve been privileged to lead.