Freedom: Choice or Gift?

Last Friday’s session with my counsellor consisted of a lot of crying. I was still exhausted from a week of being sick. I was overcome with a whole bunch of emotions. And when I’m tired I am even more prone to cry than I am normally, which is already a lot. I was not a pretty sight — especially when you add in all of the nose blowing from being sick.

I’d gone into that session expecting to cry and just generally feeling like all of the things that had been weighing on me over the previous days and weeks were a big muddle of confusion that could not be sorted out.

I explained to my counsellor that when I go to bed at night a lot of the time I will look back with regret on my day which leads me to think that I’m a horrible person. Not just that I made mistakes as a mother and therefore was not the greatest mother… Nope, I go straight for my whole being: a horrible person. So often I’d go to bed with just a horrible feeling  — about the day, about me, about all of the bad things that make up life.

At the end of the session my counsellor said something like, “What if you went away this week free from that?” And I just laughed — like really hard. If I’d been drinking something, I’d have snorted it across the room kind-of-laugh. I went on to explain that I always thought of freedom as a gift. “Can you really just ‘choose’ to be free?” That was  rhetorical question. Because, no. Obviously you cannot just “choose” to be free.

She asked me what my days would look like if I didn’t have the inner monologue of “I’m horrible” running through my head. I said that I likely wouldn’t do anything different (because I really do know that I’m not doing a completely horrible job), but that I would be or feel different. So she asked me where I could consciously make myself be without that negative monologue. I said I could start at the end of the day and instead of saying, “I’m horrible. Today was horrible. I have likely scarred my children for life repeatedly today.” that I would say “Today is what it was.” In my mind that is a bit more graceful description of the day. The day was not perfect, but that does not mean that I have caused the ultimate ruin of any one of my children by what I did or did not do today.

“Today is what it was.”

Just that phrase was liberating. I said I would say it at bedtime in place of those endless, negative, and chaotic thoughts that often spin around my brain as the day unwinds. I’d say it at bedtime because that meant that I was “free” to be chaotic and angry and feel like a failure when those situations arose in the daytime. I figured that was manageable, and I would use the phrase to reflect on those moments.

But instead what happened was that it even changed my perspective about the day during the day. All of a sudden I could look at a confusing situation and not feel like everything was falling apart because I knew at the end of the day “today is what it was”. And that meant that “Now is what it is”.

So there has been some freedom in my life because of that phrase. And it has felt like a choice, which I never realized was possible. I guess I always figured I’d run around with my usual head-spinning confusion and one day God would bestow upon me the thing that would stop the spinning. I big spike through the head comes to mind… Though that doesn’t really feel like freedom…

But instead I got five little words that make me look at the events of my life very differently.

And somehow they change things.

Posted in Family, Life & Faith, Motherhood, Parenting | 11 Comments

11 Responses to Freedom: Choice or Gift?

  1. Jenn Lundy says:

    Thanks for sharing Dixie! I need to say that very phrase to myself, “Today is what it was.” I do the same thing that you do, beat myself up over my mistakes. I’m going to try and tell myself this instead of ‘I’m horrible’. Thank you again!

  2. Amy O'Shields says:


    I don’t know if this will help or not but…you have changed the lives of my family forever. Your kindness and hospitality are untouchable.

    That mere fact that you care that you may have ruined your children’s lives forever means you are a good mother. (Which I do not think you have ruined your children)

    You have befriended us from the very beginning and your personality is one of a kind. Scott thinks you are the greatest women in the world (aside from me ;)). You are real and honest. We love that about you. I hope you can find the freedom that you deserve in knowing that you do so much good in your day and you don’t even know you are doing it!!!!

    We love you to pieces (If I could shrink you and put you in my pocket I would take you to New Brunswick with us!)
    Love the O’Shields’ family

  3. Aw, thanks, both of you, for your words.


  4. Bonnie says:

    Dixie…I find it very interesting that you have yet to understand how much you are loved!!!!!!!!!!!!! Because of this love you will NEVER be horrible.

    I agree with Amy….the fact that you care if you ruined your children is in itself showing you care.

    I think you are just living what most Mother’s live everyday. This job of parenting is hard, very very very hard.

  5. Deniece Reimer says:

    Love you Dixie, just the way you are. You are beautiful, inside and out!

  6. Carissa says:

    Oh, I can SO RELATE to that daily conversation in my brain….my “dumb brain” begins in the morning when my alarm goes off, debating getting up to workout…and carries out throughout the day. And yep, that’s what it boils down to…not, “You lost your temper a few times today, you need to do better tomorrow.” or “Too bad you missed your workout today, good thing you’ll have another chance tomorrow.” No. My dumb brain goes straight to, “You are an angry, lazy, slob, and a generally awful person. Shame on you.” 🙁 Ridiculous, I know. I will have to try your new phrase. And the quote I read from Sacred Parenting has brought me much encouragement too – basically that we can never be such perfect parents that God is obligated to save our children’s souls. AND, we can never mess up so badly that we will remove our children from God’s mercy and grace. Really need to remind myself of that continually! Love you, Dixie!!! 🙂

  7. Margreet V. says:

    You are doing just fine Dixie, you cannot be perfect and children are resilient. I love you.

  8. Bria says:

    So I have to admitt that I have HATED the phrase, “It is what it is” since the first time that I heard it. It is a phrase that, to me, tells people to care less and it is, more often than not, used as a scape-goat. I hear it being used more and more and cringe almost every time. It’s almost become a mantra for a disengaged generation.

    With that said, I do believe that you’ve just changed my mind. Slightly. I see now that there are situations and circumstances where it can be beneficial and, as you said, liberating to simply allow the day to be what it was.

    Thanks for allowing me an opportunity to rethink that phrase.

  9. Linea says:

    Today is what it was. I like that. I think that may be a good jumping off point for a discipline I need to take up again and intend to during Lent.


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