I should’ve known what kind of day it was going to be when I woke up, wrapped myself in the fuzzy bathrobe that feels like a hug and shuffled down the stairs to make coffee and assess who was crying already and why. Why?! They were fighting over Alexa and who gets to listen to music first. At 7 am.
That’s when I noticed something out of the corner of my eye, only to look down and discover- take a deep breath with me- a roach perched on my shoulder. I can handle spiders. Even snakes. But roaches? No ma’am.
So that’s how the day started, and it progress (digressed?) into spats over toys, resistance to school work, play dough on the floor, loud voices, forgetting to take the just-purchased chocolate covered pomegranate seeds for tomorrow’s field trip to the Botanical Gardens out of the trunk only to discover them tonight in a puddle of melted chocolate, etc. Nothing terribly tragic or dramatic; just a hard day with no breaks.
At one point Sam said, “This day stinks. I’m not getting my way.” It struck me in that moment, as I stood in the lego-littered hallway, that he was absolutely right. This day stunk because I wasn’t getting my way.
But what is my way? It probably involves waking up naturally. It definitely doesn’t involve roaches. Or fighting children. It contains all the positive feelings and none of the negative ones. Basically, it’s a life of ease and peace without any of the work required to actually achieve it. It’s a life void of reality.
Many people call this a neurotic claim*; demanding that life, others, God, the universe be a certain way at all costs. It’s irrational, void of real action & reaction, and really sets you and those around you up for disappointment and frustration when you cling to it.
It’s taken me many years of daily, deliberate effort to start to recognize my personal claims and begin to disarm them. (Wow, I’m amazed how deceptively simple that concept comes across in print when really it’s truly been the hardest work of my life. It should be a sentence dripping with blood, sweat & tears. And counseling receipts!) This process felt like loss of control (If I stop behaving this way or demanding these things, what will happen???), but the outcome has been, ironically, self-control (I can’t manipulate or predict outcomes, but I now have enough inner strength to know how I’ll respond, come what may.)
So here’s what some of my claims have looked like. These might sound familiar to you, or they might bring to mind some of your own.
- My house should be clean all the time (even though people live in it.)
- My house should be quiet all the time (even though people live in it.)
- Weekends should be filled with nothing but sleeping in and fun outings (even though running a family requires work like laundry, grocery shopping, budgeting, all of which require time.)
- My children should always be happy with me and life’s circumstances at the expense of their honest feelings
- My husband should be able to read my mind, understanding fully how I’m feeling even when I myself don’t
- My family should be healthy, regardless of what our eating or sleeping habits look like
- God should give me what I want when I ask for it and how I ask for it (of course, this one is covered up with flowery, spiritual language like “Your will be done” when really, I don’t mean that at all.)
- My kids shouldn’t fight, regardless of whether or not I’ve trained them how to make peace
Claims are sneaky because they can often sound like good, reasonable expectations. Who wouldn’t want happy kids or a clean home or clear communication? Is that too much to ask?? Well, if it’s a demand that must be met or else you pitch a fit, then yes, it is. One of the concepts that’s taken me years to come around to is that we are creatures living in a material world. We are not exempt from cause and effect and personal effort. In fact, the first time I heard that concept I laughed out loud as I cringed inwardly. It sounded blasphemous. Aren’t we exempt? Special? The exception? No, we’re not. But we do have the unique privilege as humans to use our wills to cooperate with God and creation. To operate according to our design, which is incredibly creative and ever-expanding if we’ll just stop pouring energy into demanding the actualization of our narrow-minded claims and instead invest it into exploring possibilities with a sense of adventure and hope and wonder.
May God bless our efforts!
*Neurosis & Human Growth by Dr. Karen Horney has an excellent description of Claims and their effects.
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