With fingers crossed, I hit the “submit” button on my computer screen. Sure enough, I’m a self-help book. Dang it. That’s what the online quiz told me, but what I really, really wanted to be was something cool, creative, sublime, or funny. Perhaps a poetry book, a recipe book, or a lovely romance novel. But no, I’m a self-help book. You know, the one that shows you how to organize via a handy-dandy acronym, SPACE (sort purge assign contain equalize)? Or the one that tells you how to make your own energy bars because you hate the taste and cost of manufactured protein bars and know you can make your own better? Or the one that encourages you to develop not 1, not 2, but 7 habits to be a great family? That’s me. I’m the friend you call for a Cliff Note version of endless non-fiction books related to the purpose of life and literally “how to” live life well within a family.
What did the fish say when he hit the wall? Dam. That’s right, I’m funny. In a “I’d rather laugh than cry or complain” sort of way. Family life is difficult. Tip #1: Laugh.
Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. ~ Leo Tolstoy
Are all happy families alike? Well, most people would agree that happy families do share traits in common. They provide a place and ways for members to thrive. They have good relationships amongst each other. They encourage individual members to be their best selves within the family. They share values that are good, positive, and proven. Happy family members are happy for each other.
Are all unhappy families different? We can all think of outrageous extremes when a family derails; murder, all manner of abuse, and gross negligence come to mind. At first glance, unhappy families do look different in how they express their pain but they also share traits in common. They tend to live in chaotic environments, with confusing patterns of behavior, and with dangerous routines or no natural rhythm at all. They tend to struggle communicating, connecting, and trusting each other. They tend to have extreme bullies and victims; where mutual responsibility dies. They have individual members who are selfish, demanding, and disproportionately or needlessly energy zapping which brings the group down. Unhappy family members can be jealous, fearful, passive, and angry when other members do well.
The idea that there is no perfectly happy or unhappy family first came to me over twenty-five years ago when I worked with troubled children and their families at a place called Friendship House. I knew that my family had problems and that my friends’ families had problems yet the problems I saw within these families were shocking. Every conceivable offense against man was being committed and the most unnerving part was that this was my hometown. These families didn’t look or live all that differently from me. I began reasoning that family stability and happiness was a matter of degree. Some families are mostly happy with unhappy moments, some families are mostly unhappy with happy moments, but most are somewhere in between. Tip #2: Choose happiness.
That simple insight was the beginning of my desire to increase happiness within the context of my family and to help other families to be happier, too. Self-help books are teachers and organizers. And the best teachers, me included, see themselves as life-long learners. Here are a few learning curves that are increasing my happiness right now.
- Higher Protein, Lower Carb, Eater
- Social Media Networker (Twitter, Message Boards)
- Church Goer
- Foodie and Beer Connoisseur
- Baseball Fan
- Manager and Administrator
- Group Organizer and Leader
- Wife and Mother
I call this blog Family Love Does More because I want to teach, organize, network, and learn. A lot. Together. I want to help myself and others to be happier through family life and all of it’s seasons, roles, responsibilities, sorrows, and joys.
How happy are you within your family life? What family relationships, roles, and responsibilities are you most engaged in? How valuable do you perceive them? What season of family life are you in? What sorrows are bringing you down? What joys are lifting you up? Do you believe that you can be an instrument of positive change in your family?
If you lean more toward the unhappy end of the family happiness continuum, hold onto your hope. With good information, support, and encouragement, you can be happy, make happy moments, and string them together. Families need members to meet basic physical needs for food, water, and shelter. We need members to provide safety, both physical and financial. We need members to share friendship, intimacy, love and belonging. We need members to honor and respect each other while developing inner confidence. We need to help each other to reach our goals, dreams, and our ultimate purpose in life. We need to contribute our unique gifts and talents for the betterment of all. We are needed! Tip #3: Chip in.
Remember those troubled kids and their families at Friendship House? Well, one day I was late to work because my 200,000+ mile car had broken down yet again en route. Thank goodness a friend picked me up, dropped me off, and as I raced passed the secretaries to my classroom, I spotted a handsome man in the waiting room. Within an hour he was introduced to me as Dave, my new partner. At the end of the day, Dave read a story to “our kids” as I focused on updating student notes. Until I noticed… silence. Each of these troubled little souls was soaking in every word of the story, every ounce of Dave’s warmth. This is the beginning of my, “How did you meet your husband?” story. Our story has continued with many plot twists, unique characters, and cliff hangers. Now doesn’t that sound like an adventure book?
Thank you for connecting! Feel free to ask a question, give a tip, share a story, or tell a joke here. And a very warm welcome to Family Love Does More: Where self-help book meets adventure book and (with hard work, good humor, and eternal love) everyone lives happily ever after ❤
Update: November 22, 2014