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Rainy Days and Mondays….

…. Rainy days and Mondays always get me down. – The Carpenters, 1971

It’s not a Monday, but I woke up to a rainy day in Northern VA, with the line, “rainy days and Mondays always get me down” running through my head.  Composed by Roger Nichols and Paul Williams, The Carpenters’ recording of Rainy Days and Mondays went to #2 on Billboard’s  Hot 100 chart in 1971.   It went to #1 in my head this morning when I woke up to a dismal sky and steady rain.  Guess what word was emphasized in my mind? Always – as in rainy days always get me down.    

 In a recent moment of motherly frustration, I advised my husband that our daughter never begins her home school day on time (as determined by me).  My morning assessment of rainy days and my late night assessment of my daughter’s work ethic share something in common: each is an example of a distorted thinking pattern called over-generalization.  We over-generalize when we make universal rules or laws out of single facts and fail to prove our rules or test our laws.

A habit of over-generalization causes our universe of daily options to shrink.   If rainy days always get me down, I have no other possible outcome for today.  If my daughter never starts her studies on time, I am destined to always be frustrated.  But what happens if I test my rule about rainy days? I find that it is untrue!  In fact, I have lived through plenty of rainy days without feeling down, and today is rather pleasant.  What about my law of home school tardiness?  It is honestly untrue as stated.  What’s the broader truth? My daughter has been tardy of late, but she started studies much earlier the previous two years.  Gradually, I begin to see more home school possibilities.

Does a habit of overgeneralization ever shrink your universe of daily options? It might if your statements or thoughts include words like:   always (I’m always late), never (I’m never on time), everyone (Everyone thinks I’m weird), no one ( No one likes me) , all (All dogs are mean).  Here’s another example: you delete a file from your computer, and you immediately become an idiot.  If you recognize this bothersome habit, it may be time to test your universal rules.  For example, if you seek evidence concerning the universe of dogs, consult the owner of a retired greyhound or an adopted coonhound.

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Contentment

My home schooled daughter recently bailed after reading two thirds of Augustine’s Confessions (Chadwick, 2008).   Her favorite part of history is the Rockabilly Era, not the Medieval Ages.  Similarly, she eschews Geometry (have I mentioned that I have degrees in Mathematics?), and finds little compelling in her Chemistry.  Yet she rocks at Latin, taught by her grandmother.  Can you guess that I am frequently discontented with my role as a home school mom?

 Not one to leave loose ends, I decided to complete Augustine’s autobiography, even as home school discontentment swirled around me.  Imagine how my interest piqued as I read Augustine’s declaration to God in Book XIII, “whatever is less than you can never be sufficient to provide itself with the rest of contentment” (p. 277).  Apparently Augustine of Hippo learned something that many Christians have not fully accepted: “all [our] abundance which is other than [our] God is mere indigence” (p. 278).

Back to my daughter, an out-of-the-box thinker: I started out chasing the abundant home school models of other parents.  I found discontentment, which propelled me toward a higher challenge: truly accepting my unconventional child, and exploring unique ways to facilitate her learning experience.  Accepting her as she is, not as I might wish her to be, provides contentment.  Yet that acceptance only comes with my belief that she is just as God desires her to be.

Penned in the waning years of the fourth century A.D., I suspect that Augustine’s words could promote healthy discussion for people of all faiths, as well as those with none.   What gives us individual contentment? In what instances might we humans chase perceived abundance, only to encounter ultimate poverty? 

Reference:

Chadwick, H.  (Trans., 2008).  Saint Augustine: Confessions.  New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

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