The Magic of Pompeii: Crushing The Chains You Invent




This is a dog frozen in time.

This dog was on a chain and completely unable to run away when Pompeii erupted.

He was stuck.  Stucker than stuck: he was freaking doomed.


Not only was this dog completely doomed when the volcano erupted, but there was nothing it could do to save itself.  The chain wasn’t going to budge no matter what it did, any 12 step thought processes it came up with or how it could have tried to fix the situation.  It was going to be a small victim of the catastrophic event.

It was stuck by a very real chain that kept the poor dog in one place until it died.



When have you felt so stuck, so chained down by issues you feel are so real that you couldn’t break free?


My soul is a very free spirit that bucks against blind obedience and conformity.  Blind obedience will just never happen, so don’t hold your breath… but I am also a soul who likes order.  Things have to make sense…. or I am just going to take over, since a leadership is obviously failing.

On a day to day basis, I have agendas, daily lists, things that need to get done and usually in a particular order.  I think I’m rather Type A-ish…I’mType A without having to commit to the label.  This morning I was with some ladies and I was explaining how I budget money (we’re a wild bunch of ladies, let me tell ya) for our meals,and how I meal pan for breakfast/lunch/dinner/snacks …and a woman with 12 kids said, “I love hearing about how organized you are.  I mean, I’m not like that; I can’t do planning.  I just figure things will get taken care of.”

Which blows my poor little Type A-ish mind.  I “only” have 5 kids, but if I didn’t have a plan and order for each day we would be in chaos with each meal, extracurricular activities and especially homeschooling.  I have no idea how anything would get done if I didn’t make plans, lists and agendas!  But she can do it, and more power to her for that!


(On an honest note: I so desperately want to make an agenda for her days…just to make myself feel better)


However: when it comes to commitments, social settings where I “have to be there,” or other such things…I typically go if it is worth my time, but after a while I feel like bucking the routine.

I don’t want to do the same thing every day for the rest of my life.  Holy cow, that is just hell in a handbasket for me.  If I do something, such as attend a weekly group, or if my kids do something, like martial arts, it is a “want to” not a “need to.”  “Need to”s are boring.  “Want to”s are fun. That’s just the way it is.  I know plenty of people who aren’t this anal retentive about this topic, and I can only say: bless you. That is awesome. I annoy myself with this kind of stuff.


So, let’s say you are Type A-ish or Type B-ish, and you feel like you are in some kind of a rut.  Like you are somehow chained to something, and you are in it until impending doom, because the chains of issues you believe are realer than real are never going to break

Let’s crush the chain, shall we?


These are 5 ridiculous ideas that I find myself believing that keep me chained to my imaginary post:


1. Social Perfectionism: “These People Need Me, And If I Am Not Available At All Times, I Am Not Only Letting Them All Down…I Am A Failure.”

I have been beating at this chain for as long as I can remember, and I remember beating at it earlier this morning while I was doing the dishes and letting my mind wander.

I have it in my mind that I am basically “On Call” to “Everyone on Earth” for “The Remainder of My Days.”  I don’t know where I picked up this bad habit, but it is probably the worst I have and it’s nearly impossible to break.

Maybe it was because I was the oldest, maybe it is narcissism, maybe I’m just delusional.  Who knows.  But I want “Everyone to Be Happy,” and I am pretty okay with bending over backwards in order to make this happen. I have gotten so much better in the past 6 years, and I am lightyears from where I was 10 years ago.  It takes a lot of time and introspection, reevaluating what my values really are and whether or not I am actually compromising my values in order to complete a task on someone else’s list.

If you can differentiate that, you are in a good place.

10 years ago I was spending about 6 days a week in the church office, brainstorming, planning, going to meetings, creating curriculum, writing plays, teaching Sunday school, going to Bible studies, running ministries (all volunteer)….all the while, my little baby daughter was sitting in the church nursery without me.  Except on the days when I was in charge of the nursery, of course.  But after a while, I got to thinking: it was fun to be involved with creative teams, but I didn’t start my motherhood experience just to drop my baby off in the nursery that often.  So, I started resigning from positions.  This also slowly alienated me from the people involved in the departments since I wasn’t there anymore…but now I was there for my daughter, and I got to perfect (well, “perfect”) my role as a mother, instead of my role as a struggling Christian artist.  And that decision has made a huge difference in how I see myself as a mother, and how I see my relationship with my kids.



2. Task Perfectionism: “Everything I do has to be perfect, or my personal worth will decrease.”

This is the blunt version, but a more expanded definition of this would be when you freak out because your house isn’t as clean as a showroom: you think it says you are less of a woman because of a mess.  Maybe you overstress if your kids aren’t interested in the same over-the-top activities or hobbies that other kids are.  Has your 7 year old not mastered Italian yet, but your neighbor’s kid is fluent in Italian, English and Russian?  Are you worried that you aren’t the best mother on earth because you can’t take them to Hawaii every few years for vacations, and you are just glad if you get to eat out tonight because you just need a break….

Honey, you are doing great.  Is your kid okay? Are they happy?  Do they smile often?  Do you smile often?  Do you cherish their hugs and sloppy kisses?  Do you stress out because the 3 year old is spooning jelly onto the carpet, but still smile because she is so proud that she found the jelly all by herself? (not naming names, Alice.  The dog helped clean it up.)

You are a great mom.  You don’t have to be the best housemaid in order to be a great mom.  You just love and take care of your kids, and you are a great mom.


3. “Suck It Up, Buttercup”-itis.

This generally gets the best of us, and it will suck your brain dry and leave a rotten shell of a formerly-working mind in its place.

This is not Victorian England in the 1800s.  You do not have milkmaids on hand, or a staff of “help” to help.  You got yourself, your SO and if you’re very lucky some family or good friends around.  You are the one warming the formula up at 3am, you are the one cleaning up the barf, you are the one scraping peanut butter out of the buttons on the TV remote with paperclips and you are the one kissing them at bedtime.

This doesn’t mean you martyr yourself at all, yet I see this quality in far too many mothers…myself included.

It is so easy to fall into this habit!


What you think: “I sincerely want the best for my child!”

What you do: “I shall sacrifice all of my ideas, dreams, visions and interests in order to provide the best for my chid!”


Good heavens, what sense does this make?  Would you want your child to give up their dreams, visions and interests because they had a kid?  It’s not healthy for you, and it’s not healthy for your kids.  They are not the center of the universe, and you need to provide a balance for them, not a gravitational pull towards them.  Besides, they need to be inspired by their mother: do they watch her volunteer?  do they attend events with her?  do they see her writing?  do they see her fulfilling her dreams in her interests?  If she is an artist, are they seeing her paint?  If she is an accountant, are they crunching numbers with her?

Just because they are little doesn’t mean they can’t be involved: let them be involved with some of your stuff!   But not all of your stuff… They will be more likely to have aspirational goals for themselves when they get older if they have already been doing it side by side with you all this time.

Be a leader, not a martyr.


4.  Let Your Home Be Your Home: Invite People In, But Put Boundaries Around Your Family

This is a tough one to explain, because it sounds harsh at first.  Put boundaries around your family?  What does that mean?

It means your family will be forever.  Your daughter will always be your daughter, until the end of time.  And although your family will have friends around, it doesn’t mean you accept everything they bring over.  Even if they insist on sharing with you.

Here is what I mean: Some people have debt.  Some people have addictions.  Some people have entitlement issues.  Some people simply cannot take responsibility for themselves as adults, emotionally or financially.  Some people have issues so deep seeded that even though you have tried to help them “pull out the roots,” you guys keep finding more roots underneath.

You do not have an obligation to take on their burdens.

You can help, you can be supportive, you can bring them meals, watch their kids, drive them to counseling.  You can absolutely be a great friend.  But you do not have to be “everything” to “everybody.”  Putting boundaries around your family is healthy, and it will save your sanity.

Trust me.



5.  You do not actually have to be accepted or liked by everyone.

This is a weird one that tends to be a pitfall of mine, but it’s a good reminder:

Just because you know someone doesn’t mean you are going to get along with them.  And even if you are as polite as you can muster up whenever you see them, they have no obligation to do the same for you.  They might not like you.  They might not accept who you are.

In short, you’re dealing with people and not everyone is the same!  Maybe your face looks too much like someone they remember from school who they always hated.  Maybe they don’t like the way you talk.  Maybe they don’t like what you are saying.  Maybe your personalities just clash, and there is nothing you can do about it.

It is hard when someone who is genuinely nice doesn’t like you.  It’s tough, but honestly, it can happen.  Don’t lose sleep over it, just let it be.

What is even worse is when a total jerk doesn’t like you: because they are never going to shut up about why they don’t like you, no matter how many times you try to ignore them.  Holy cow, are these people annoying.

I would suggest chaining them to a post, but that probably isn’t the right solution.  Probably.


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