12 Things I Learned in July {2016}

12 Things I Learned in July {2016}

Children have a way of moving life into the fast lane. Perhaps that’s because kids are harbingers of change. In my BC (Before Charlie) days, I could go for months or even years without experiencing many noticeable changes in my day-to-day routine. These days, I’m living with a toddler who seems to enter new developmental stages on a weekly basis, and that means that my life is continually in a state of flux. These regular shifts in routine keep me on my toes, and they seem to accelerate the passage of time.

Now, more than ever, it’s important for me to take time to pause and reflect on how life is going, the emotions that I’m feeling, and, of course, what I have been learning. Here, in no particular order, are twelve things I’ve learned this month.

What I Learned in July

1. The most interesting things are mostly boring.

I heard Elizabeth Gilbert say this in an interview recently, and I’ve been reflecting on the truth of her statement. She’s right, the things in life that I find most interesting—relationships, faith, creativity—are fairly boring when viewed through the lens of everyday. Only a broad-picture view reveals them to be infinitely fascinating, filled with nuance and spackled with experiences and emotions that are ripe for inspection. I suppose it’s their dynamic nature that makes these things inherently interesting.

2. Summer may no longer be my favorite season.

I’ve always loved summer, but this year I’m starting to recognize its drawbacks. I honestly don’t mind the Texas heat, but I hate that it’s too hot for us to leave our windows open, and air conditioning is NOT my friend. Also, the longer days make it almost impossible for us to get Charlie to bed at a decent hour; whoever invented Daylight Savings Time must not have had children. Finally, my biggest complaint about summer is that everywhere we go is so BUSY. At the risk of sounding like a grouchy old maid, I have to say that I’m ready for all the kids to head back to school so that Charlie and I can have all our little hangouts to ourselves once again.

3. The tongue of a blue whale weighs as much as an elephant.

And its mouth is big enough to hold 100 people. I am still trying to get my head around how MASSIVE that is!

Blue Whale

4. Cynicism is linked to increased dementia risk.

Psychologists have found that cynicism—defined as a “deep mistrust of others, leading to chronic anger”—leads to a higher likelihood of developing dementia, as well as an increased risk for heart disease and cancer-related deaths. I’ve found myself growing much more cynical as I age; this is just further reason for me to begin working on that aspect of my personality.

5. The average height of a US president is 5 foot 10.7 inches (and 5 foot 11.6 inches for presidents that have served since 1901).

Abraham Lincoln was our tallest president at 6 foot 4 inches, and James Madison was the shortest at just 5 foot 4 inches. Wikipedia lists the heights of all of our presidents; the biggest surprise was that George H. W. Bush was 6 foot 2 inches; I had no idea he was that tall.

6. The key to overcoming adversity is focusing on how to make the best of a bad situation.

This excellent article from Psychology Today looks at why 1 in 3 people are more successful at adapting to change. Researchers have found that when faced with a devastating change, such as a job loss, a majority of people search for a reason why they are experiencing a misfortune—a tactic that only leads to more personal challenge and heartbreak. However, the “adaptive third” doesn’t focus on what they have done to bring about the unfortunate event; instead, they choose to focus on what they could do now that it has occurred. This is easier said than done, but a tactic I hope I will remember next time I face adversity!

Bad Things Good People

7. I picked a good age (30) to have my first child.

According to a study that analyzed findings from roughly 18,000 births, “mothers who gave birth to children while in their 30s were likely to see a positive correlation with increased cognitive and behavioral outcomes in their child.” Kids born to first-time moms in their 30s scored higher on mental tests than those born to mothers in their 20s or 40s, and they were also less likely to be obese. I often wish I were a younger first-time mom, but these findings are encouraging.

8. The 10 Commandments can be reframed as “10 pleasures to pursue.”

I love this list, which offers a new way to look at the infamous list of “no’s”. My favorite is this reframe of the Second Commandment against idolatry: “Enjoy the pleasure of worshiping God in ways that He approves, loves, rewards, and responds to.”

9. Ellen DeGeneres and  Jane Lynch were both considered for the role of Phoebe on Friends.

This fun fact came to me via the Popcast deep-dive into Friends. If you are a fan of the show, I highly recommend this fun podcast episode—it was totally worth the $1 download!

Phoebe Potentials

10. “I don’t know what I think about something until I read what I’ve written about it.”

This is a direct quote from Jeff Goins, and the minute I heard him speak these words I knew they were true for me as well. I’m a slow processor, but writing speeds up the process, helping me articulate my thoughts, ideas, and beliefs. This is why I blog and also why I journal. Which leads to my next learning point. . . .

11. I’ve finally discovered a journaling method that helps me effectively process my emotions.

In all my years of therapy I was repeatedly encouraged to incorporate journaling into my recovery. While I’m an avid journaler, I never had much success with using my writing to work through more dynamic/painful emotions while I was experiencing them. In those moments when I would get particularly worked up, I would try sitting down to write, but putting emotions to paper simply made me more upset and never led to much resolution.

Lately, I’ve been experimenting with a new tactic: When I find myself feeling frustrated/angry/overwhelmed [insert all other icky emotions here], I open up my Day One journal and begin pouring out my feelings in a stream-of-conscious type way. After a few minutes of writing, I pause and take a few deep breaths, then reread what I have just written. This is when the processing begins. I have found that this simple act of slightly distancing myself from my feelings allows me to approach them from a more objective viewpoint. I am able to give space to my inner tantrum, then gently work with my feelings—now separate from me—to come to a resolution. As I’m writing about this, I have to admit it sounds a bit crazy, but I feel so relieved that I’ve finally discovered an approach that helps. (I’ll also note that I have been sharing portions of these journals with Luke; it can be embarrassing to expose my inner craziness, but this vulnerability has helped him to understand me at a deeper level.)

12. According to Zillow, our Texas home–with its upstairs game room—is highly desirable. (It’s too bad we’re just renters!)

This fun list shows unique listing terms that make each state stand out. Texans are apparently 76 times more likely than the rest of the country to want homes with a game room upstairs. In California listings, the phrase “access freeway” is 11 times more common than elsewhere in the nation. And people in New Hampshire are 38 times more likely to seek a house with a snowmobile trail (I knew there was a reason we didn’t move to New Hampshire!).

Charlie is just thankful our house has a park down the street!
Charlie is just thankful our house has a park down the street!

I’m linking up with Emily Freeman to share what we learned this month!

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