Written by Janae Moss, owner of RBM Building Services
Losing our family landscaping business was one of the hardest experiences my husband and I have ever had. I remember having a strong feeling to write down the intense emotions I had. Every time I picked up a pen and paper, my fears started to creep into my thoughts, and they stopped me dead in my tracks. My mind raced, emotion began welling up in my throat, and the thought of recording something so personal was overwhelming to me. I couldn’t handle the idea of someone picking it up years down the road, and having my words become fresh again, to them. I didn’t want to remember any of it, and I couldn’t find any benefit in telling my story. So I didn’t.
In 2008, I started blogging, alongside countless other people on the Internet. It felt like a digestible way to begin sharing my thoughts with some fun pictures of my family. It was simple at first, but soon enough, I began finding joy in the storytelling. And if you recall, 2008 was a year when many people’s stories shifted as the economy collapsed. One of our companies at the time was a mobile billboard company, but marketing budgets plummeted and gas prices went up. In order to retain our investment, we quickly redesigned our trucks into carpet cleaning trucks. We also chose to let go of several other companies that were fun, but not as stable as RBM Building Maintenance, our primary company. During that experience, my blog became a breath of fresh air to my soul. Writing was a creative outlet, and I was able to wake up and relive the best parts of our life. Rather than focusing on the companies we didn’t have anymore, I passionately began looking for the moments throughout my day that made me laugh, or reflecting on my blessings. People began to ask me why I was smiling, and I realized when they asked that I was thinking through how I would retell a funny story, or how I would express the love I had for my little baby, or how my adopted son put a hanger in his pants and called them “SpongeBob pants.” I was still processing the stressful business decisions with my husband, but I refused to let them take over my energy.
When my husband and I talked about it, we agreed that we wouldn’t want to go through losing our business again. But through blogging, I realized that even when we lost our company, we still had each other in the end. I began to surrender to the idea that we would work as hard as we could, and if we still lost our company, we would come through it. Really, what was the worst thing that could happen to us? They could potentially take our physical assets, but they couldn’t take away my family. Over time, my writing became a blessing because it offered me a greater perspective. I became so focused on capturing memories to write on my blog that I began to see patterns. I realized we had gone through hard things before, and we were still alive and surrounded by the family we loved.
[pullquote]“We write to taste life twice: in the moment and in retrospect.” — Anais Nin[/pullquote]
Because I had days when I’d lie on the floor, crying next to my husband, I chose to write my “Top 10”— a list of simple things that made me happy. On the days when I couldn’t even stand up, I’d refer to this list, my lifeline. Writing about my personal feelings was the only thing that got me through that time. Even on the days I couldn’t find anything good, I could look back to what happened the previous year. I could see that life keeps going, even after the hardest days, and I could reminisce as I stared into pictures of my kids’ smiling faces.
Social media can be a double-edged sword. The risk is when people scan everyone else’s highlight reel and compare it to their own seemingly mundane life. They fail to realize that all of us are just people, struggling like everyone else. Focus instead on what you can create. Writing can really help you identify your voice, goals and strengths.
Since I’ve learned the power of recording memories in my own life, I’ve found I can use it with my kids, too. Dr. Matt Swenson, child psychiatrist at Intermountain Healthcare, says that negative memories are more “sticky” than positive ones, meaning that they last longer in our heads. Taking time to review positive accomplishments with your kids, he says, builds happiness and reduces anxiety and sadness.
When my kids tell me they’re struggling, I try not to jump in and encourage them to “look for the positive.” My first goal is to listen. I never want to downplay the frustration they are feeling in their life. But when I listen long enough, it turns into, “Look at this funny thing that happened!” or, “Mom, look at this video I took.” Sometimes I just don’t want to watch another video of that cat, but I stay and I watch it with them. I listen because I love my kids, and I love the things they care about. When this happens often enough, it’s easier for the kids to seek me out to talk when something is going wrong, and to find the positive in the midst of the negative.
Most importantly, we’re all human. We have strengths and weaknesses, and it’s common to experience highs and lows. Whether you choose to share your story out loud on social media, through writing in a private journal, or a handwritten note by your child’s bed — we need to capture those moments and enjoy them, again and again. I print all of my favorite Instagram photos and cover a special wall in my house with them, so that we can remember! Remember that, together, we are all having a human experience. And it’s beautiful. So whether you choose to write your thoughts and share them publicly, or you keep them only for yourself, you will be happy you did.
Because United Way believes in memory making and resilience, we’ve partnered with Chatbooks to give you a free handbook with activities to help your kids be resilient against anxiety and depression. You can get it now at chatbooks.com/livehappy. Find us on Facebook and Instagram or at everydaystrong.org.