Friday, June 29, 2012

"Pollyanna/Sally Sunshine," Eeyore, or Somewhere In Between?

Chace: I knew a Sally Sunshine-ish woman once (from the south, of course, like yours truly) who was so very, very sweet, that a witty friend told me he thought he might get a cavity from listening to her culturally conditioned, inauthentic song and dance.  :)  When I crawl up in my Heavenly Father's lap, to let Him love on me and whisper the secrets of His great plan for my life, He often giggles, and teaches me to laugh at my weaknesses.  He's so good at speaking softly to my heart, bringing to my mind memory/video clips, to illuminate my tendency to be like her.  Bless her heart;  she never set out to be an 'over the top,' slightly obnoxious optimist, and she certainly has no idea how far from the mark of integrity she's actually veered.  I can empathize with her efforts to avoid the other extreme: the mopey, melancholy, Eeyore-ish caricature.    But, it's easy to unknowingly join forces with the enemy against the people we love, by unintentionally being manipulative, especially if we've not yet learned how to communicate appropriately.  We're trying to teach our children what God is teaching us, to avoid these 2 extremes:

-the despairing, 'couldn't-see-light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel-if-it-hit-you-in-the-face' type, who no one gravitates towards.  Sometimes, an argumentative, oppositional, complaining spirit accompanies those Eeyore-ish emotional responses we choose, when we aren't allowing the Holy Spirit to take the wheel. When the 'woe is me' attitude includes the martyr/victim mentality, it's even more unpalatable. This fear based, snipey, and sometimes way too opinionated/religious extreme is exhausting for the hearers.
Annemarie stuck in Chicago O'Hare airport, unable to board a plane to NY due to snow delays.  Her face illuminates perfectly what we in the Simmons household define as a "snipe fest," referring to the times when we resemble Eeyore.  :)
-the uber energetic, unrealistically smiley (like the kind where your face hurts from having to smile too long in a beauty pageant), people who live in denial or on a treadmill that doesn't account for the way life ebbs and flows, at all. These adventurous ones rarely know how to calculate the costs of the way that careless, hollow communication damages key relationships: ramifications that Eeyore pays attention to a bit TOO closely.
I call this a 'Sally Sunshine smile;'  Abbie calls it a 'candy store smile;'  We have some photos of she & Libby, years ago, with this exact look on their faces, with colorful confections in the background, when a generous friend treated them to a special mall day of ice skating & candy store shopping.  
When we live in either of the 2 opposite ends of the spectrum, we don't represent Jesus well, nor are we effective in producing relationships that go beyond a "Please pass the butter" level.  Graham Cooke says that God is the kindest and most integrous person he's ever dealt with.  When I think 'integrity,' or 'kindness,' I see neither Eeyore, nor Sally Sunshine.  These 2 stereotypes are not emotionally healthy, and they aren't representative of the abundant life God intended for His children.

I've been studying a chapter about embracing negative realities in Henry Cloud's book Integrity.  He reminds us that Scott Peck, in The Road Less Traveled, began by saying, "Life is difficult."  And then he said, "Once we truly know that life is difficult,- once we truly understand and accept it- then life is no longer difficult.  Because once it is accepted,  the fact that life is difficult no longer matters."  Cloud goes on to challenge us with these thoughts:

It's one thing to intellectually understand and "orient yourself to the reality that nothing good is going to happen, if you can't deal with the bad things that are going to happen.  The nature of the universe is such that you will encounter problems.  Period."  This is one thing.   But "being equipped to deal with them and  resolve them is quite another.  This is one reality that requires complete, mature equipment, very complete equipment, if done well.  It is only the equipment of character that is able to meet the demands of negative realities and transform them into all things profitable.   If you are not prepared to meet negative realities and resolve them (face into them, lean into them) , then they will be the end of your hopes for making anything work, either personally or professionally."

Annemarie attempting to embrace the negative reality of this sloppy, wet kiss and intense hug that Jojo's giving her :)

One tool we've discovered to help us avoid both extremes is to slow down, take EVERY thought captive, and sift each one through the grid of what the Bible says about whether my thoughts are like His, on any given subject.  I'm learning to ask, "What would please Jesus right now, in this moment, at this fork, in the road I'm on?," not "What would make me comfortable?"  or "What would make those around me temporarily happy?" If those around me are coincidentally blessed by the choice I made to please Jesus, that's a bonus.  It takes the pressure off to pretend (Sally Sunshine) or be overly negative (Eeyore), when you decide that an audience of One is all that matters.  

After not being able to walk without pain or crutches for a full month now, and vacillating between both immature examples of a need for character growth, I received an encouraging email that reminded me to stay this very tricky, fine line of a course, of operating from a Christlike middle ground.   I was diagnosed with phlebitis in my left leg 2 weeks ago (see our oldest daughter's post at  At first, the elevating/icing/applying moist heat/taking my meds regime felt like a much needed stay-cation, but now that cabin fever is high, it's a constant growth opportunity to practice the 'thought captivity' process.  The whiny baby brat part of me is tired of mothering from a seated or reclining position, from not being able to whiz about our property, sharing in more of the domestic arts with my peeps.  I'm convicted to pause/Selah/consider: all my days were written in His book, even before I was born, and He knew, from the beginning of time, that today would not be a day of returning to my physical responsibilities, full boar.
To bring perspective, I recall the familiar words of Rodgers and Hammerstein, and the passionate voice of Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music, singing,

"When the dog bites, when the bee stings, when I'm feeling bad, I simply remember my favorite things, and then I don't feeeeel, soooo bad!"

I choose to take my eyes off the disappointments of a longer stretch than I expected, of not being fully back in the saddle.  As much as I miss being able to run up and down the staircase I love, in this beautiful home God provided...
...and as much as I long to engage with society and to dance again, I'm trying to focus on "whatsoever things are pure, lovely, and of good report," and all the blessings these circumstances have afforded me, including the following:
quiet visits with our little women before baby sleeps
  enjoying our backyard pool...The first 2 summers we lived here I was too busy renovating and unpacking to do so properly.  It's only about 10 crutch paces from my door, and I can oversee little people while the older ones concentrate on school inside...all with my leg elevated!   How blessed am I, to have this as my escape from the cabin fever?
busy baby might not let me snuggle her like this for much longer; her newfound developmental milestones of crawling & pulling up are her primary focus  
less freedom to tackle physically demanding projects;  it frees me up to pay closer attention when my man dreams about dominion exploits, while baby plays below his legs
friends and family from near and far laid down their lives to serve us in practical ways.  Liz, my long lost friend from high school, pictured here, came and got 3 of the girls last week, to love on and pamper them.  Brand new friends we've only recently been in community with brought life giving, gourmet meals, which is no small sacrifice, when bringing food for a family of 11! 

Lamplighter audio dramas with my adventurously dressed littlest boys, who get distracted by that irresistible, mobile baby
watching Jack resourcefully gather computer parts to set up an office in his room, for the new business he and his dad are building, as entrepeneurial education.  How many almost 15yo young men do you know that can cherish and entertain a baby while working at a computer?   His future wife is going to be SO blessed.

hearing about the joy that our dreamer Emma takes, in her 1 day a week job at a nearby stable.  I also get to be a taste tester for her site, and she's been so faithful to keep my sweet tooth satiated with stevia while I heal.  These healthful treats keep my spirits up, and they don't make make it any harder to shed my postpartum waistline.

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