When my students and I read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, one line—spoken by the murderous creature to Victor Frankenstein—always gives me a cold chill:
“Slave … You are my creator, but I am your master; obey!”
Each year, I tell my class, “This is such an apt personification of addiction. What starts as a small habit, seemingly under our control, quickly morphs into a monster that takes complete control of our lives.”
I speak from very painful, very personal experience.
Decades ago, when my clutter collecting craze was in full swing, I exhibited many classic signs of addiction.
- Inability to Stop. I made up elaborate budgeting spreadsheets. I put cash in envelopes. But every single time I promised myself, “I’m done buying so much stuff!” I’d see something else and make an exception, “Just this once.”
- Withdrawal Symptoms. I cut up and canceled credit cards. Then, as my anxiety level would rise and I couldn’t calm myself by running out for a quick shopping spree, I’d open new accounts.
- Social Sacrifices. The more stuff took over our home, the less space there was for people. We quit inviting friends and family over because there was no room for them to stay. Or, eventually, even sit.
- Solitude. I never shopped with friends. Going on a buying binge had one purpose: to give me my fix, for which I wanted no witnesses.
- Secrecy. I hid my purchases from my husband, and he had no idea how many credit cards “we” had. He was clueless to the extent of my possession obsession.
- Supply Maintenance. I stockpiled food, toiletries, gifts for upcoming holidays. I started numerous businesses and ordered tons of inventory. Buying these things gave me a thrill. So did storing and counting it all.
- Increasingly High Doses. Just as a drug addict needs larger and larger amounts to experience the “high,” I needed to spend more and more, purchasing bigger and better things, to feel the buying buzz.
- Risky Behavior. I “stole from Peter to pay Paul” regularly, paying bills just in the nick of time to avoid being charged late fees, having utilities shut off, defaulting on loans.
- Financial Difficulties. Our checking account balance was typically so low, I had to call the bank each day to find out how much (if anything) was available for groceries. We ultimately ended up in bankruptcy court.
- Relational Difficulties. When my husband discovered how bad things had gotten, he felt completely betrayed. The bankruptcy process was deeply humiliating for him.
If some of these sound scarily familiar, here are four things I want anyone wrestling with possession obsession to know:
1 — It’s not your fault.
Slinging blame and wallowing in guilt serve no constructive purpose. Facing the facts and taking personal responsibility do. And the most responsible thing you can do is ask for help. Starting now.
2 — You’re not alone.
Shame depends on secrecy; addiction thrives in isolation. When you reach out to those who can help and support you, shame’s power breaks and addiction’s grip loosens. You need accountability, both for individual recovery and for financial recovery.
3 — It’s not too late.
The enemy of your soul says, “You’re beyond all hope!” It’s a lie.
In Romans 7:19-25, the apostle Paul chronicles this vivid description of addiction: “For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.”
So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?
And reminds you of the hope that is always available to you:
Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!
4 — Yes, you can.
You can address the core issues that trigger your spending sprees and clutter collections. For me, it came down to a combination of “buying to become” and “never enough” syndrome. Over time, I retrained my brain to disconnect my identity from my possessions, and to revel in gratitude for what I already have.
You can find healthy ways to settle the everyday ordinary problems that a possession obsession promises—but utterly fails—to solve. I’d turned pretty much any “negative” emotion into an excuse to spend: sadness, anger, loneliness, and boredom all lifted (albeit temporarily) with a bit of “retail therapy.”
It took time to develop new self-soothing strategies. Over several months, I built a list of my Favorite Free Ways to Feel Better Fast (which you can download at the end of this article!)
You can develop safe systems for making necessary purchases. I always take a list when heading to Safeway or Target. My husband and I pre-plan major purchases. Whenever something catches my eye, I have a pre-decided wait time (yes, even if it’s on sale.)
I write it on my wish list and set a calendar reminder for a week away. Nine times out of ten, when the alert pops up, I think to myself, “I was going to spend how much for that?!?”
If you feel trapped in possession obsession right now, please know that I understand.
And please hear the truth: Your stuff doesn’t have to morph into a monster that enslaves you.
You can do the brave work to break free. You can learn to master your spending and storing habits so that your stuff serves you, not the other way around.
Sign up to receive updates from Cheri, and receive her FREE “15 Favorite Free Ways to Feel Better Fast” PDF.
Cheri Gregory is the co-author, with Kathi Lipp, of The Cure for the Perfect Life and the upcoming Overwhelmed. Her goal is to equip women to relate and create with less drama, more delight. Connect with Cheri on Facebook and at www.CheriGregory.com.
by guest blogger, Rachel Lewis
“Today, I am trying to cling to the hope in the midst of an unknown future that lay ahead of me. At times, I just want to fast forward a year, till I know how everything has turned out . . .” And I pondered, what to do in the waiting.
Facebook reminded me of this post I made a year ago. We had just found out we were pregnant. After 4 consecutive losses. I didn’t know if I should prepare my heart for a loss, or for the possibility of a live baby to bring home.
We were also fostering a baby boy at the time. We’d had him since he was 5 months old, and had just passed the one-year mark of him in our home. Reunification with his birth family seemed imminent. But I didn’t know how, or when, I would have to let go of this baby. And I certainly didn’t know how our family would survive the good-bye.
Our adoptive daughter’s birth mom had also recently contacted me. She wanted back into our daughter’s life. Again. After failing to follow through so many times.
All of this – at the same time. I suppose you can’t blame me for wanting to fast forward. I felt like if I only knew WHAT I was dealing with, I could face it, make a plan, and work through whatever was coming my way. But at the time, our futures remained unknown – at least, to me. And I had little control over any of the outcomes.
All I could do was wait.
Many of you won’t be able to relate to foster parenting, or struggling with fertility. But I guarantee that you have experienced a time when you wanted to hit “fast forward” on life.
Maybe you are waiting for something good to come – a baby, job, degree, promotion, or retirement. Perhaps you are waiting for answers – a diagnosis, resolution to a conflict, or a restoration of a relationship. Then again, maybe you are waiting for something hard – the passing of a loved one, the closing of a business, or the progression of a disease.
None of us loves waiting. Not for our drink at Starbucks. And certainly not for life’s big events.
But as I discovered over the last year, no matter what we are waiting for, our season of surrender is not a passive one. We can make intentional decisions, right in the midst of our unknown, in order to grow stronger in faith, perseverance and character.
Here are some key actions you can take today in your season of what to do in the waiting:
Besides praying for only the outcome we want, there are a few key things we can pray for during a time of waiting.
– Pray for God’s will. This is the hardest prayer, because we know our will is often not God’s. It’s a prayer of submission, of laying down the very depths of ourselves to His perfect wisdom.
– Pray for peace. God promises a peace that surpasses all understanding. Pray specifically for a peaceful heart, free of worry and fear.
– Pray for salvation. God is not only concerned about the here and now – he is concerned about eternity. As we faced reunification for our foster son, I began praying that God would bring people into his life who would share the gospel with him when I no longer could. Who do you need to pray for salvation for?
– Pray for growth. In every season of waiting, there is refinement in our faith and character that needs to happen, if we would be open to it. Pray that your eyes are open, and your spirit is willing to grow.
Just as muscles require being broken down through exercise in order to grow, so does our faith. Our seasons of waiting give us an opportunity to question our beliefs, expand our understanding of God’s character and his role in our lives, and more solidly define what we believe and why.
In the Bible, you will find that God often had his people wait. But they were not to be idle in the process. Instead, they were to prepare for what God ultimately was calling them to. Now is not the time to sit by passively. It is a time to prepare your heart, your home, your skill set, and your faith so that you can be ready when your season of waiting is finally over. Ask yourself, “What is the next right thing I can do?” Then go do it.
PRACTICE GOOD SELF-CARE
In a season of waiting, it is crucial to take stock in your spiritual, emotional, and physical needs, and then invest in meeting those needs. As much as you are able, exercise and eat healthy. Talk with a trusted friend, pastor or therapist. Journal or blog. Find what feeds your soul And take the necessary steps to make it a practice.
Give yourself grace. Waiting is hard. One day, you might feel as though you have got this. The next, you are all tears, anxiety and regret. Give yourself the grace to take your fears and emotions day by day, even moment by moment. Waiting is a marathon – not a sprint.
Seek out others who have survived a season of waiting like you are currently in. Be vulnerable about where you are, and allow them to speak the lessons they have learned into your life.
We are never guaranteed tomorrow. Either for us, or for our loved ones. It is so tempting to want to live for the futures we are waiting for, and miss out on the gift of today. Be present with your loved ones. And choose to be grateful for every single thing you can. Because tomorrow, they might be gone.
It is now a year later from the day I posted on Facebook. As much as I longed for answers, I now realize I would not have been able to handle all the answers at once. The unknown, while scary, actually served to protect my heart. Had I known what I know now, I would not have had the courage to follow through with God’s call.
Ironically, that season of waiting just gave way to a new season of unknowns.
Our foster son did return home 9 months ago – and we are now waiting to see if his mom will allow us back into his life at all. Our daughter’s birth mom never followed through, though we are open to her in case she is ready to make contact. And the baby we were pregnant with went to be with Jesus shortly after my post on Facebook. But God blessed us with another pregnancy after 5 consecutive losses, and we are only weeks away from holding our new daughter in our arms.
For now, in all these things, we hold onto hope.
And we wait.
“Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.” Isaiah 64:4
“Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.” Psalm 27:14
Rachel Lewis is a foster, adoptive and birth mom. When she’s not chauffeuring her kids around, you can find her shopping at Trader Joes, drinking coffee, or writing at The Lewis Note.
I didn’t have my daddy leave me when I was a little girl, as Lysa Terkeurst recounts of her story in her new book Uninvited, but I have felt the slap of rejection.
The time when my seventh grade school friends planned a birthday party for everyone else, but not for me.
The time I blew it with a close friend, and I asked, “Do you still love me?” And the answer was, “A little less right now.”
The time I was passed over for a job that I felt capable to do, in favor of a younger, more talented woman.
Slap. Slap. Slap. Long after the red mark of the blow faded, the impression on my heart lasted.
With each new rejection, I made a mental note on how to never let it happen again.
So in junior high, I went on those before-school walks with my friends around the block taking covert puffs of cigarettes. I wouldn’t inhale because that would give me lung cancer which was deadly. But I pretended and puffed, earning my inclusion in the group.
I learned not to upset anyone so as not to have their love withdrawn from me. I learned to be likable, amiable Emily, becoming adept at people-pleasing.
I stopped putting myself out there for jobs I thought I could do, because there was always someone else who could do it better than me anyway.
Lysa writes, “Rejection isn’t just an emotion we feel. It’s a message that’s sent to the core of who we are, causing us to believe lies about ourselves, others and God.”
My lie was that I better blend into the crowd to be liked and accepted. That I better never tick anyone off, or I would never be truly loved. That I needed to try harder or else I would never be worthy enough to fulfill the dreams God gave me. The burn from the slaps in my past never fully healed because I kept rehearsing the scenes over and over, believing their stinging truth. I was now my own worst enemy.
I was the one rejecting myself, no one needed to do it for me.
I remember sitting at a conference with inspiring speakers. My usual M.O. means mourning that I’m not like these speakers. Oh, I’d like to be like them – inspiring, motivating, educating, but I realize I am not up to par with them. And probably never will be. The negative talk hisses, “I’m not educated like they are. I will never be able to do it as well as them. I am not equipped or connected. I just don’t have what it takes!”
During worship time, God whispered as if He sat right beside me. “Emily, what you are moaning about is sin for you. You are staying stuck in the belief that you are not enough. You think this is a belief about yourself, but it’s really what you believe about me. You believe I am not enough for you.”
“Oh, Lord, no!” was my first response. “You are sovereign, all-sufficient and every other praise adjective I was taught in Sunday School.” Yet He showed me I honored Him with my lips, but my actions showed otherwise. When I constantly let rejection define me by belittling myself, comparing myself and trying hard to be perfect, what I was really doing was telling God His approval was not enough. That what He made when He made me was obviously not good enough.
In fact, I was the clay, smashing my vessel and fisting it to God, “Not good enough! Remake me!” And The Potter takes that lump, with my uncertainties and insecurities and says, “You are my workmanship. I knit you together perfectly. I chose you as my own before the foundations of the world. When I made you, I declared it good, VERY good even. I bought you. With a heavy price. I made you enough already. When will you confidently believe it?”
I know you have your stories of rejection too. Just think back to junior high, the hotbed of so much rejection. Have you carried those wounds through adulthood? Have you let them define you? Tell lies about you? It’s funny how we try so hard to find approval in the ones who rejected and hurt us. Isn’t it enough to know the Creator of the Universe believes we are enough?
Lysa observes, “People can’t fix from the outside a perspective that needs to rewired on the inside.” Not admittance in the Cool Club or perfectly performed responses or acquiring the best suited job. None of that tells us we are enough. So it’s useless trying so hard to make it so. But there is a salve to heal the hurts of rejection. It’s turning to the Truth, running to the Life to show us the Way.
I confessed the lies I believed about myself. But I also had to confess my lack of faith in my Father. His Word is truth and He’s says we are cherished and approved! Do you know how healing it is to accept God’s approval and quit chasing after the world’s?
“Lies flee in the presence of truth.” Tune your heart to believe a new truth: You are accepted, for now and forevermore!
*All quotes taken from Uninvited by Lysa Terkeurst.
Emily Nelson is part of the Kathi Lipp ministry team. More about her can be discovered and loved at her website, www.beyondtheredchair.com.
guest post by Cheri Gregory
My husband is a disagreeable giver!
I know, I know.
Doesn’t sound like one of the most romantic thoughts crossing my mind after more than a quarter century of marriage.
But it’s certainly one of the most important.
This epiphany hit while I was listening to Adam Grant’s Global Leadership Summit* talk, “Give and Take: A New Perspective on Leadership,” in which he describes four types of people:
- Agreeable givers
- Agreeable takers
- Disagreeable takers
- Disagreeable givers
Agreeable givers are everyone’s favorites, to the point they often become doormats. Agreeable takers are “fakers” who can fool us into treating them as givers. Disagreeable takers are pretty quickly labeled as jerks.
But it’s the disagreeable givers who, according to Grant, are the most misunderstood and undervalued.
They invest endlessly in the people and causes they care deeply about.
They just don’t care about how they come across.
What Happens When I Get Hung Up on How
A few weeks ago, a scenario that’s played out thousands of times in our marriage started to run according to script.
Daniel and I were in the kitchen, and he said something that ticked me off. I started to react, but in the nick of time remembered I’m trying to ask myself what problem is he trying to solve?
Which forced me to recognize I was all set to react without knowing the facts. (And while I may be a Highly Sensitive Person, I’m an HSP who scores high in analytical reasoning. I expect my emotions to be grounded in data, thank you very much!)
As Proverbs 18:13 so bluntly puts it
To answer before listening—
that is folly and shame.
So I asked myself, If I’m not about to react to facts, what I am I about to react to?
The answer was simple:
I’m about to react not to what Daniel said.
Or even why he said it.
I’m about to react to how Daniel said what he said.
I’m waaaaaaaay too hung up on how.
Focus on Why and What Before How
Now, I’m not suggesting that how other people speak to us isn’t important.
I am simply confessing I have been way too hung up on how, to the exclusion of why and what.
When I paused in the kitchen to ask myself why did he say that? I knew, without even asking Daniel, that the over-arching answer would be:
- because he loves God, and/or
- because he cares about what’s right, and/or
- because he is committed to me and to our family
And when I asked myself, what did he actually say? the answer was something simple and reasonable.
Sure, it’s important in any relationship* that we discuss how we communicate with each other. But how doesn’t deserve top billing, at least not for me.
I’ve become convicted that my knee-jerk reaction to my husband’s how prevents me from hearing his why and what.
When I find myself getting all bent out of shape over how — and I start gearing up to turn lawyer, judge, and jury — I’m telling myself:
Don’t react without the facts.
Only then, ask how.
Cheri Gregory is a teacher, speaker, author, and Certified Personality Trainer. Her passion is equipping women to relate and create with less drama, more delight.
Cheri is the co-author, with Kathi Lipp, of The Cure for the “Perfect” Life and the upcoming Overwhelmed.
Cheri has been “wife of my youth” to Daniel, her opposite personality, for twenty-eight years and is “Mom” to Annemarie (25) and Jonathon (23), also opposite personalities.
Cheri is the host of “Grit ‘n’ Grace: Good Girls Breaking Bad Rules,” a podcast for women tired of trying so hard to measure up. She blogs about perfectionism, people-pleasing, highly sensitive people, and hope at www.cherigregory.com.
*Note: This blog post reflects one woman’s experiences, reflections, and insights in a marriage between two well-intentioned but flawed individuals. It does not attempt to speak to any relationship that includes abuse, addiction, adultery, abandonment, and/or apathy. Such relationships are beyond the scope of this post and may need the intervention of a trained counselor.
The Husband Project Online Bible Study starts in just one week!
Sign up now and get your book from Proverbs 31 and join the thousands of women all over the world ready to bless the socks off of our husbands!
Last year, just three weeks after her most recent (and most radical) surgery, Michele Cushatt and I hung out on her family room couch with friends Traci Sheer and Joy Groblebe, chatting about her newly-released book Undone: a Story of Making Peace with an Unexpected Life.
Today, I’m excited to share some of our convo and for Michele to tell you about her new Undone Life Together: a 5-Week Conversation about the Unexpected Life that begins February 22.
Kathi: You and I have talked a lot about self grace. This is something you’ve really struggled with. When we first met, I thought, “That woman is harder on herself than anyone else I’ve ever known.”
Michele: You’re not the first person to tell me that.
Kathi: I’m not surprised.
Michele: I’ve pretty much heard that my entire life.
Kathi: Reading the chapter about your upset over the A- … if I’d come home from school with an A-, my parents would have thrown a party! But all you saw was the minus.
Michele: I only saw the minus. And isn’t this true about so many of us? We look at our lives and all we can see is the minus? We can’t see the “A”? That has been a theme in my life.
Kathi: I think a lot of people have pocket perfectionism. They’d be cool with an A-, but there’s other things they’d lose their mind over.
Michele: Not me. I’m pretty much across the board.
Kathi: So, speak to that. I feel like in the last couple of months, there’s been a lot more self grace. There’s been a shift.
Joy: You’ve had to ask for help. … I work with you every day. There’s stuff we’re doing that normally Michele would have handled, but she’s been handing over, saying, “Could you do this for me?”
Kathi: But her standards haven’t slipped.
Joy: Not at all! It’s still this high level of excellence. But it’s a reall sweet soft side of you. And I like watching God work in your life like that.
Traci: It’s what we get from you as your friends. You are very grace-full and very forgiving, and you see all of our As…
Traci: …but you don’t see yours. So it’s nice to see you give some of that back to yourself.
Kathi: That’s good. Because she is the biggest cheerleader in the world.
Kathi: What’s been the transition?
Michele: I’ve landed in a circumstances that have given me lots of practice. Where I have no ability to control all the errant details of my life. So I have to let go at some point. And it forces me to see that not everything is my fault. Not everything is within my control; some of it is just life. Just life.
I have to find my value in somebody other than myself and my performance.
I have to find my sense of worth and value in something other than myself and my performance. For 43 years of my life, I had find my value in my ability to perform well. To produce children who behave and listen. To have a marriage that looks spotless. To do everything with excellence.
And I have learned that’s very shaky sand.
Ultimately, the only sense of value I can find that will not move, that is unshakable, is the love of God for me.
The only thing that I know I can wake up to tomorrow that will not be different than today is the fact that God will still love me. He will still know my name. And He will not leave. Romans 8:35, 37-29. It’s the only thing I can stand on that will not change.
I have no idea what my children will do tomorrow. I have no idea what kind of kids they’re going to grow up to be. I don’t even know if my husband will be here tomorrow; we never know these things. I don’t know how much I’ll be able to speak once everything is done.
The only thing I can stand on for sure, in cement, is the love of God for me.
And that allows me to first of all grace myself, because it’s not dependant on me any more. It’s not about me getting up and working really hard to talk well. It’s not about me reading a bunch of parenting books and being the best mom and winning some kind of parenting awared.
It’s about the fact that nothing is going to change the wide, high, long, deep love of God for me.
And somehow, that helps us make peace with our unexpected lives and undone selves.
Joy: Because that never gets undone.
Who can change the mind of God?
His love for your is already established.
It will never change.
(You can view the entire conversation here: https://youtu.be/TBi3-0TLWpg … the portion shared above starts around 26:35 and runs through 34:55. Begin at 26:10 for a bit of fun banter!)
I’ve come to believe we can endure just about anything as long as we know we’re not alone.
Problem is, too often we feel alone. Utterly and completely.
In spite of the emails and messages and well-wishes, our crises isolate us, creating a divide too wide to bridge. It makes us feel “other,” separating us from those who seem to carry on unhindered in their ordinary, pain-free lives.
But here’s the thing: I think pain-free is a fantasy. I don’t know anyone who’s living the life they always imagined. I know more than a few people who are pretending to. But behind their well-crafted charade sits a schism of struggle they’re too afraid to expose. Thus we trudge on—both the pretenders and the strugglers—each of us swallowed up in our aloneness and fear.
But what if …
What if someone went first?
What if someone dared to create a safe place for the complicated questions and conversations?
And then, what if you and I could find a way to laugh and cry and be undone together?
I think there is.
That’s why Monday, February 22, I’m launching Undone Life Together: A 5-week Conversation About the Unexpected Life. Picture it like a giant family room with a bunch of fluffy pillows and chairs. There’s a seat for you there; me, too. And we’ll circle up and unpack the tough questions we bump against every single day. Only, this time we won’t do it alone. We’ll do it together.
When you join Undone Life Together, you’ll receive:
- A 5-week Daily Reading Plan through the chapters of Undone: A Story of Making Peace With An Unexpected Life. If you’ve already read it, no problem. You can revisit the chapter themes and engage in the conversation. Don’t want to read it? That’s okay, too.
- Daily emails designed to create conversation around your biggest questions.
- Dedicated Facebook group conversation around the days themes.
- Weekly videos where I dive a bit deeper into the most complicated topics.
We won’t come up with all the answers nor will we resolve all of life’s unknowns. But we’ll open the doors for an honest conversation. I believe, in the process, we will discover a God who is faithful, a peace that is unshakeable and a community of fellow strugglers who will walk with us in this Undone Life Together.
Like cold water in the driest of deserts, my friend.
It begins February 22 and ends March 25. Even better, it’s absolutely FREE. That means you can participate as much or as little as you like. You can even lurk in the background for the entire five weeks if that’s the most you can do. Believe me, I get it.
But you need to sign-up to join.
I can’t wait to get started. And, honestly, my heart is aching for you to join us. I may not know all the details of your story, but I know what it feels like to be alone, drowning in questions without answers. And I know the One who holds the key to staying afloat.
I’m so glad we’re in this together.
You all know (and love) my coauthor and friend Cheri Gregory. What I love about Cheri is that while being one of the smartest human beings on the planet, she is always first and foremost concerned about the heart – not the head. In today’s post, she talks about how knowing who we are personality-wise can affect how we combat one of our biggest temptations this season – the need to buy.
Be sure to hop over to her blog for a chance to win our book The Cure for the Perfect Life: 12 Ways to Stop Trying Harder and Start Living Braver.
“…be content with what you have, because God has said,
‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you’.”
(Hebrews 13:5b NIV)
Settling into my favorite chair, I smile and sigh.
I love my life.
Outside the window, a slight flutter catches my eye: a hummingbird. Delighted, I watch the little guy test the feeder options and settle on a favorite flower.
I have everything I could possibly need.
I look slowly around the living room, basking in abundant evidence of rich blessings: shelving units overflowing with books, an over-stuffed couch covered with soft blankets and seafoam green pillows, two cats snoozing in sunbeams.
If I didn’t know better, I’d envy myself!
I giggle and, trying not to feel guilty for being so happy, begin sorting the day’s mail.
A catalog catches my eye.
I don’t need anything, but it’ll be fun to browse for just a quick sec.
Ten minutes, one Sharpie, and fifteen Post-It Notes later, I am a woman possessed. I have found, at long last, the exact kitchen gadgets I need in order to …
I’m at it again.
I glance around the room. Sure enough: my contentment has been replaced by a gnawing sense of need.
The bookshelves are cheap and ugly. The couch is old and stained. The cats ruin everything.
In my lap, more catalogs offer instant solutions to my home improvement problems, quick fixes for the many defects in my wardrobe, and …
I’m not going down this road again.
Bankruptcy no longer tarnishes my credit record, but its lessons are etched into my heart.
I’m still vulnerable.
A book I used to read to Annemarie and Jonathon when they were little comes to mind: The Berenstain Bears Get the Gimmies.
I shake my head.
I still go from gratitude to gimmie in a heartbeat.
I get up, toss the catalogs in the recycling bin, and return to my chair.
As I watch the hummingbirds flit to and from the feeder, my contentment gradually makes a comeback.
Preparing Our Hearts for a Contented Christmas
During the holiday season, we are bombarded with a barrage of emails and billboards and sale flyers and TV advertisements that all scream, “You NEED this!”
But what we really need is internal fortitude to resist the external forces ganging up against us.
I’m not suggesting that buying things we need or want is inherently bad. Not by a long shot.
What I am suggesting is that we combat consumerism by intentionally choosing contentment. Here are a few how-to tips, customized for each personality:
An Expressive’s #1 goal is to have fun. We buy a fabulous new outfit or tickets to a big event, thinking, “This is going to be so much fun!” But as the fun fades (as all fun does), we’re tempted to keep spending money to keep the fun coming.
But the key to fun isn’t funding: it’s learning to trade expectation for anticipation. Rather than getting caught up in how much fun an event is supposed to be (followed by disappointment when it isn’t), we can choose to anticipate and then find the fun in each one.
This personality’s life goal is to achieve perfection. It’s so easy for her to get an image of a “picture perfect” holiday in her mind and think, “It isn’t truly Thanksgiving/Christmas unless the ______ (house, meal, tree, etc.) turns out just right!”
When perfection becomes our only conduit for contentment, disappointment is guaranteed: for ourselves and those who feel like they’ve let us down. Instead, we can choose to re-define “perfection” as “good enough” (no matter how much of an oxymoron that may seem to be!) and look for perfect moments to truly enjoy.
For Drivers, whose life goal is control, it’s very easy to treat the entire holiday season as one giant list, moving from one thing to the next: check, check, check. We had that last night, we have this today, and soon it’ll be tomorrow when we will… The danger in this approach is never being present in the moment.
Detaching contentment from achievement may require taking an eraser to the calendar. We may need to say, “No way. I can’t be fully present for every single one of these. I’m just going to be hopping and skipping and jumping but I’m never going to actually be there.” Slowing down and making space for relationships may feel less productive, but it’s what creates true contentment.
The Amiable’s life goal is peace. Always. Between all people. This can be tough at the holidays. Put a bunch of people with different personalities together, add some travel, throw in gifts, mix with fatigue, and Peace on Earth is not an easy goal to achieve.
It helps to remind ourselves that sometimes the messiness, chaos, and even conflicts of life are normal. We can focus on being grateful for those who have gathered together, even when they aren’t getting along perfectly. Even when the people around us aren’t exactly peaceful, we can still choose contentment.
Looking for encouragement to help you recover from that pesky problem of perfectionism? Today’s featured book is The Cure for the Perfect Life.
You can enter to win a signed copy by leaving a comment directly on Cheri’s blog.
PLUS, you’ll also be entered into the grand prize drawing for the Wrapped In Grace gift package: signed copies of all five of our books, a $100 Visa gift card, and a bunch of other fun goodies. All winners will be announced Saturday, October 24th, at http://www.WrappedInGrace.info.
Cheri Gregory is a teacher, speaker, author, and Certified Personality Trainer. She is a frequent presenter at women’s retreats, parent groups, and educational conferences. She has contributed to or coauthored a dozen books, most with Kathi Lipp, including The Cure for the “Perfect” Life: 12 Ways to Stop Trying Harder and Start Living Braver and Clutter Free.
Cheri has been “wife of my youth” to Daniel, her opposite personality, for twenty-seven years. She is “Mom” to Annemarie (24) and Jonathon (22), who are also opposite personalities. The Gregory family lives on the central California coast.
Cheri’s passion is helping women break free from destructive expectations. She writes from the conviction that “how to” works best in partnership with “heart, too.” You can visit Cheri’s website and connect with her on Facebook.