So I'm a stepmom. A fairly new one at that — I've now been married to my (amazing) husband for a whole four months. My two kids and I moved into the house with him and his three boys about a month before the actual ceremony, so we've been at this "blending family" thing for a good, solid five months.
Like every human being on earth, I've had struggles and personal challenges. I've been through divorce. I've been pregnant, by myself, in a foregin country. I've quit my job and started a business with no promise of success. Heck, I've been through Army bootcamp, where I was purposely exposed to poisonous gas.
Cake walks. All those things.
Compared to the difficulty of blending two families that were originally created out of loss, boot camp, divorce and everything else was easy-peasy. I'd go through any one of them over again if I thought I could come out the other side with seven happy, warm, comfortable, easy-going family members who never (ok, rarely) get their feelings hurt or feel like their lives are ten times worse than they were two years ago.
All of this is to say I spend a lot of time questioning and worrying.
How does ego show up in your life?
It can be hard to remember, among the constant anxiety that comes along with being human, that questioning yourself and worrying about whether you're "doing it right" is actually helpful. Ego gets in the way all the time. My wise friend Amber once told me she thinks of her ego, the source of all questionning and worrying, as a mean, insecure little bully who sits on her shoulder whispering destructive thoughts in her ear. So now I think of my ego as a little Nellie Oleson, the bratty neighbor girl from that old show Little House on the Prairie. She spent her days making Laura Ingalls Wilder and her sister Mary, who were essentially saints, misreable with her snottiness. She wasn't pure evil; she probably had deep, hidden reasons for treating everyone like they were dirt, but mostly you just wished someone would punch her in the nose.
Regardless of how your ego personifies itself, here's what we should all keep in mind: that little brat of an ego is there to help you, if you let it. Consider it your own personal "Director of Security." She's got a good nose for trouble — perhaps too good — and in the end, she really is just there to protect you from getting hurt. Even if she causes so much pain in her wake.
So as you go forward in your day (week, month, life), remember that questioning and worrying are all part of the process. It's how you learn about yourself, learn about others, and how to recognize when your ego is acting like a hurt, petulent little brat, and just needs a little love and attention.
Serenity prayer for the ego
Recently I was at a party at my friend Marti's house, and on the refrigerator was the serenity prayer. It's old school (much like Nellie Oleson) but still has a lot to offer those of us who struggle every day with questions and worry:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
As I work through this new family structure, trying to figure out if I'm applying too much pressure or not enough, if I'm the evil stepmother or the orphaned girl slaving in the ashes of the fireplace, I try to remember the serenity prayer. Sometimes it helps me feel better (but not always). Other times I try to give Director of Security Nellie Oleson a hug and throw a little gratitude her way. Either way, remember that the questions and the worrying are part of the process, and with a little luck (and a lot of work), you'll find your way home.
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Jill Hinton Wolfe