One of the most maddening, is-it-bedtime-yet moments in my parental life is when, most often in the car, one of my kids whines because his brother is looking at him the wrong way. “He is smiling at me,” they cry and whine. Or even “He keeps looking at me.” The key words here are at me. The other person’s pleasure is obviously spiteful, rotten behavior intended to make the cranky child more miserable than he already is.
Confession: Too often I find my 38 year-old self slipping into behavior not unlike my five year-old’s. Maybe already feeling a little bit grumpy or irritable, it’s easy to look around and have a feeling that people are doing things at me: posting pictures of dream vacations while I set my alarm for work, having houses that look magazine-worthy (or even clean toilets), being thin while still eating candy bars.
It’s unnerving that I understand what is logical or even what is good for me, but sometimes it seems easier to be the pouting child in the backseat than the adult steering the car. Sometimes it seems easier to pretend things are happening at me or to me, rather than to exert the energy to guide myself toward adult-like behavior.
My husband and I recently jumped on the Whole30 bandwagon. If you’re not familiar, it’s a 30-day dietary re-set in which we abstained from sugar, gluten, dairy, soy, alcohol – and if you asked us most days – fun. I’d like to tell you it was 30 (or maybe 28.5…) glorious and glowing days, but most of the time, it was just plain old hard and time-consuming. I got sick of shopping, sick of scouring labels, sick of prepping, sick of making good decisions. Much like the glowering kids in the backseat, I too often found myself getting irritable when I had to take the time to cut up the kiwi versus grabbing the chips from the cupboard. And, though my body seemed to be quite happy with some logical decisions I was making on its behalf, watching my kids eat a $5 Little Caesar’s Pizza was nearly torturous. Words like accountability and wisdom and discipline can feel a bit like older brothers smirking at me.
Don’t we wish it was easier — that doing the right thing might cost a little less? That kale might call to us like dark chocolate does? That selflessness was as easy to access as it is to talk about? That goodness could flow from us as easily as greed? Or that extravagant kindness would seep from our veins as does competitiveness and jealousy?
C.S. Lewis says it this way: “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
Trading my tendency from focusing inward to looking outward requires me to realize that I am the “ignorant child making mud pies;” I am the crazy kid in the backseat screaming at someone else for smiling; I’ve mindlessly got my hand in the Cheetos bag when fresh apples and ripe cherries are hanging on the tree outside. It’s an inconvenient truth: I am far too easily pleased.
P.S. In case you’re interested, these have become my favorite go-to Whole 30 recipes:
Whole30 Chicken Tenders
(Have any favorites to share with me? Comment and share a link!)