Rolling with the Punches…and the Hugs

I’ve written before about my lack of resilience, about my inability to bounce back after negative experiences.

I’ve never been good about absorbing small losses.  Something as slight as being cut off by a rude driver or hearing a snarky comment from a stranger can derail me for hours.

But it occurred to me recently that it’s not just that I have trouble rolling with the proverbial punches.  I have trouble rolling with the hugs too.  I simply don’t do well when my plan or my routine gets knocked out of sync.

Take the last week for example.  Granted, it featured its fair share of punches.

Tiny Baby woke up last Monday night with the tell-tale barking cough of the croup.  After two doctor’s appointments, five days of prednisone (you haven’t seen anything till you’ve seen an 18 month old with ‘Roid Rage, I tell you), and lots of extra snuggles, he is mostly recovered.

Meanwhile, I had some dental adventures to match his medical ones.  I spent two hours in the dentist’s chair on Friday getting a temporary crown put in (installed?), only to return for another session on Saturday after the original one popped off.

But, mostly, the week was filled with good stuff, the aforementioned hugs.  We got our new car…ahem, van.  We finished up two home improvement projects that had been on our to-do list since we moved into our house three-and-a-half years ago.  We attended a joint birthday party for two of Big Boy’s favorite friends.  My sister-in-law, aka All-Star House Guest/Kid Wrangler Extraordinaire, visited for four days.

Sounds great, right?  Like the good far outweighed the bad?  And like I should be sitting here basking in the glow of time well spent?


The problem is that, even when my weeks are filled with more Hugs than Punches – which, thankfully, they generally are – I still get antsy.  You see, in some ways, the Hugs disrupt the usual rhythm of my days as much as the Punches do.

In both cases, I ignore my Happiness Project.  I don’t exercise.  I don’t write.  I read much less.  I let clutter overtake the house.  In short, I don’t take care of the things that make me feel most like Me.

I thrive in a world without incident.  One dominated by routine and order.  But how pathetic is that?  And how problematic, given that most of life’s highest highs happen outside of a routine?

Are you good at integrating both the Punches and the Hugs?  Any advice for this Resilience Reject?

Image: Cruel Life by cadfael1979 via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

65 responses to “Rolling with the Punches…and the Hugs

  1. Good questions. For me, I feel like it’s hard to slow down for both the hugs and punches. I am so busy that I feel like I can’t really enjoy the cuddly moments because they take me away from all I’m trying to accomplish (not just on a personal level, but doing things for my kids, too). Like right now, I’ve been up writing for an hour and it’s 5:20 am. There might be something wrong with this picture. I’m with ya on the routine thing, too. I think the solution is to take a very long vacation to a very relaxing place so that there is no routine and we have to come to terms with the spontaneous and unplanned. But short of this, I don’t have any words of wisdom, as I struggle with it, too.

    • Oh goodness, a very long vacation sounds wonderful right now. But then there’d be the planning and the packing and the traveling and all the laundry when I return. (See how good I am about seeing the cup as half empty?) 🙂

  2. It is NOT pathetic.
    It’s really difficult to make room in the routine for the hugs and punches. (though I think it’s way easier for the hugs, but that’s just me!) (getting cut off in traffic derails me for hours as well, that’s too funny…) BUT I think it’s possible. I don’t really know how. I don’t want to say to make the hugs the routine, because once something becomes routine sometimes the meaning gets lost, but I want to say make them accessible more often? I don’t know where I’m going with that. My main point is, I completely understand, and recently I’ve been very intentional in keeping a quiet routine, but even when you do that LIFE happens. So dealing with that… ugh… Angsty is a good word…

  3. Kristen, I can definitely understand where you’re coming from. The older I get, the more I realize that I too thrive on routine. I love the predictability and when there’s a lot going on, instead of looking forward to the events themselves, sometimes I find myself craving for the day or weekend after so that we can get back to our regular schedule where things are quieter and I’m afforded more quality me time and family time.

    This past week has been difficult for me as well – highs and lows that took a lot out of me – and I miss the comfort of the plateau of the norm. I thought at first that I must be a little weird to love spontaneity and surprises but still prefer solitude and predictability when all is said and done, but then I just learned to accept that everyone’s wired a little differently. It’s how we cope, it’s how we thrive and it’s how we live. And if we are managing just fine, who’s to say if we’re doing it better or worse than others?

    (By the way, thank you for your kind words on my site. Your support and strength help more than you know.)

  4. Oh this is timely for me! When it comes to my home life I do not roll well with the hugs or punches, I like my routines and do not like disruptions of any sort. On Friday my husband’s sister, her husband and two children arrive for ten days to stay with us over from England. I am trying to mentally prepare myself for this but know it is going to be hard to get through ten days of constant mayhem. My home is my sanctuary and I like it kept that way 🙂

    But in other ways I not only like but crave change – hence I think my roaming from country to country, all the traveling I have done and more.

    • I’m okay with change as long as I feel like it’s part of my plan. When we moved here 3 1/2 years ago, pregnant and not knowing anybody, I was mostly fine because I felt like it was what we had planned. I knew it was coming and I went with it. Change that comes at other people’s hands? Not nearly as palatable.

      Good luck with your house guests. You deserve a very big holiday present for your hospitality!

  5. Or… you’re really on the true trail of you happiness: if only you can WANT punches when they come (which is not at all the same as liking punches, more like accepting that pain is a great teacher, and small lessons still pack a big wallop).

    The problem in America is the “pursuit of happiness”—it’s pretty much the same thing as unwittingly choosing not-happiness; we’re always carrot-on-a-stick after it, and ever feeling unsuccessful (and in need of a new something to clinch the deal).

    Your very discontent (harsh self-judgment) is filled with love and potential brilliance. It’s great to have a whole range of feelings, including unpleasant ones—just key to let them come and go and not hold onto them or let them define or imprison us.

    We need nothing more than the attitude of lovingly wanting what just is and voila, today we’re happy. Very hard indeed, but that might be why some myths suggest it takes ten thousand live to be released from the wheel of life and death.

    For another gloss on happiness see (

    Do be happy today. Namaste

    • Whenever I’ve tried meditation – even the brief rounds of it at the end of a yoga class – I’ve struggled with the idea of letting go. When the time comes to release a thought without judgment, I tend to hold fast to it, judging it and myself all the way. I suppose that’s just the stage of my journey that I find myself on and I’m grateful for your reminder that there are lessons to be learned from all of our life experiences.

      • Perhaps there is discernment (rather than judgment) to be applied here. Sometimes “letting go” is more like rejecting. Think of your painful feelings, fears, unseemly aggressions, envy, and the like (all we seek, in shame, to conceal) and imagine them as children who you take upon your lap, neither smothering nor rejecting. They will scamper away when they choose. Perhaps that is “letting go,” a relinquishing that requires loving embrace as a part of the process?

        Or maybe not. Whatever works for you 🙂 I just wish you happiness that lasts.

      • Thanks for that, Bruce. Any metaphor that involves children scurrying into or out of a lap is very resonant with me right now. 🙂

  6. When the big bad stuff hits, I brace myself and take it as gracefully and practically as I can. But I’m really, really bad at dealing with the small setbacks. The snarky comment, the customer service call, the bad driver.
    The “hugs” go both ways…if they’re a delightful surprise or something I’ve been looking forward to, I love them and thrive on the planned change of routine. But when they’re smaller, happy little hugs, I too often treat them as distractions or disruptions. Oops.
    There’s nothing pathetic about routine. We all have different needs, different patterns. I have a close friend who would laugh at my version of routine!
    Bottom line: I think you have to manage in ways that keep you happy and sane.
    And – all too familiar with the ‘roid rage (PERFECTLY put!). Hope you’re both feeling better!

    • This is me precisely: okay with the big bad stuff, terrible about the little bad stuff. It’s so nice to know that I’m not alone.

      As for the ‘roid rage, I’m wondering if it’s you or Jack who’s allowed you to relate. I hope that you and yours all have good health and avoid the prednisone in the months ahead!

  7. Changes in my routine often derail my emotions too. For better or for worse, I’ve learned to appear calm and collected on the exterior while I’m twisted in knots on the inside. That’s the major thing I’m currently trying to change in my life. I want to “go with the flow” as I appear to do but also truly feel relaxed. Rather than the emotional turbulence I usually experience.

    I think as your family grows and evolves your resiliency will also. Hang in there! In the meantime, blame the hormones!

    • That’s a really interesting point, Erica. I think that most people who know me would think of me as a pretty reasonable, patient person. So they might be surprised to know just how wacky I can feel when little setbacks happen. You’ve got me thinking about the value of matching our insides and outsides.

  8. I think this is part of the struggle for any parent, and it’s inevitable. I think it is especially the struggle of the parent whose life has changed the most when children come along – generally, it’s the mother.

    But eventually, you learn to roll with the punches – good and bad, large and small – or you’ll make yourself crazy. Really crazy. And somewhere along that path is the slow seepage of self. Its quiet and insidious and you’re more aware of it than many, and sooner. It’s impossible to get it “all done” and done “well” or to former standards of “done well.”

    Choices have to be made. Including acceptance of doing things less well – and for some of us, that goes against a core self regardless of what roles we play.

    The fact that you are aware (and please know – you are in good company) – that’s a start. I’d ease up on yourself – you’ve had your hands full, and still do, and still will for awhile.

  9. Of this I am acutely familiar. Like you I thrive only when my routine is completely in balance and without surprise. And I’ve gotten worse as I’ve grown older. I’m not completely sure of the cause though, whether it is age, or having children or just everything jumbled together and making it difficult for me to see the forest for the trees. All this to day that I think it’s more common than you may realize and that you are in good company. Is that solution, of course not. But it is a sign of the times. And something I’ve been thinking about a lot of late.

    I’m sorry you had a challenging week. I’m so glad little one is on the mend. Having been on prednisone myself this past summer I can say for certain that it is NO fun.

    • Your comment and some of the others make me relate my whole issue to the larger question of balance that we all talk so much about. And that’s it, isn’t it? This struggle to control an essentially out-of-control life. Sigh.

  10. I am just the same as you. I can’t seem to handle a change in my routine at all. This week my husband is travelling, so yeah. Knots in my stomach for me (above and beyond the usual resident knots).

  11. I LOVE this post, becaue it is me. Yes, more slugs than hugs somedays.

    But we can change that, and realization is one big step.

    Very much enjoyed this post, others would, too. Tweeted it out, for that reason.

  12. Oh, you are so singin’ my song. I’d rather stay home and get stuff done than go out for “fun” most of the time. It makes me feel better. But I do usually force myself out, just so I don’t become some freaky shut in.

    And as for the punches ruining your day. . . if I get hurt — as in physically injured in any way — it’s game over. You can pretty much just write me off. Which is hysterical because I expect way more from the kids (“Just shake it off!”). What a wuss.

  13. For some reason, I like living with a little bit of chaos. I don’t like order and routine and predictability (I’m sure it drives my hubby absolutely crazy!). I like *some* routine, but for the most part I ENJOY distractions, unexpected changes. Unfortunately I don’t have any advice, other than the lame “don’t sweat the small stuff”!

  14. Hugs and punches, what a great way to describe the duality of life’s highs and lows. I can relate to the feeling of derailment even in the midst of so much good (holiday season tends to have that effect on me). I think routine keeps us who we are — at least, those of us who thrive on it. It helps us check in with what’s important to us in ways that wonderful but one-time joys (or less than joyful events) do not. I think a lot of small, frequent pleasures (maybe not the right word — comforts?) that we get from our routine help us maintain a baseline of happiness and rootedness. If we experienced nothing but highs and lows all the time, we’d be worn out.

    Here’s to a more routine week 🙂

    • “I think a lot of small, frequent pleasures (maybe not the right word — comforts?) that we get from our routine help us maintain a baseline of happiness and rootedness.”

      Yes, yes, yes! That’s exactly it. Thank you, CT, for giving words to a feeling I have but couldn’t express.

  15. I have a couple mottos. One of them is “Be a duck, not a sponge.” Which means I pretty much roll with any punch or hug. However as of late I need a little extra help. Today I am going to say try to be a duck and have patience with your sponge like vibes. That is only the best we can ask of ourselves.

    • “Be a duck, not a sponge.” I like that, Alita.

      A social worker friend of mine once described resilience as the ability to stay on the surface of the water – like a duck, indeed. Thanks for this new expression that helps give me a visual reminder of what I’m aiming for.

  16. I’m pretty good with the hugs, and the punches, as they’re happening. I have a survivor’s mentality and can manage through anything.

    It’s the aftermath that steamrolls me. I’m so busy rolling with the punches and embracing the hugs that I walk away sore and exhausted and in need of a hot bath and a long rest. Rarely do I find time for either.

  17. I’m a routine girl all the way. I love the holidays and family but it disrupts our schedule to the of where I get stressed. As much as I love Christmas it’s always a relief when life gets back to normal.

  18. I think that some of this is a matter of discipline- just teaching ourselves to keep on moving no matter what happens. I don’t mean for that to sound obnoxious either as some things derail me too.

    But I find that when I push myself to do whatever it is I need to do I usually get out from under faster than when I just let it sit. The hard part is that it is really easy for me to let it…sit.

  19. I definitely do not roll well with the punches – routine, routine, routine. I do find that my ability to deal with said punches can be greatly influenced by hormones and amount of sleep, hubby’s ability to help out, etc…. And, I’m not sure but I think some of my best high’s are when the “plan” comes together!

  20. I am with you on this. The monkey wrenches throw me off kilter, but I somehow can pull them off. Anymore, there is nothing I like more than my boring old routine. There is some huge comfort in knowing that whatever happens, Hubby will be bringing home the Thai Red Curry chicken come Saturday night!

    That being said, a little excitement never hurt anyone ;)!

  21. Oh, croup. We get it, bunches, around here and I’m just waiting for him to outgrow it! I’m sure you feel the same!

    A’s far A’s rolling with it, you are who you are. Try your best to enjoy all that life throws your way but don’t worry too much about changing who you are. Sometimes I find myself trying so hard to Change that that becomes more of a worry, you know?

    • Thanks, Danielle, for this reminder. Sometimes I think letting go of worrying about how I worry would be the best solution of all.

      As for the croup, this was our first bout with it. My older son never had it and this was the first time my 18-month old got it. I’m sorry to hear that it is a more frequent occurrence at your place. That cough is scary!

  22. Kristen, now I am absolutely sure that we are the same person. I kind of sensed it when you first wrote about your “lack of resilience” but now I am positive. 🙂 This is me. And Christine’s comment above is spot on- I know I have also gotten worse over the years and I know this problem is not uncommon. I almost don’t want the holidays to come because I am afraid that I won’t be able to enjoy them the way I really want to and I am hoping to hurry up and figure out a way to “roll with the hugs” before they get here.

    Wishing you a better week to come.

    • At the very least, Celeste, I hope that knowing you are not alone gives you the same comfort that it’s given me. Maybe we should start a support group – so that if any of us find a solution we can share it with each other.

      I hope the start to your holiday season brings much more peace than stress. xo

  23. I am very much the same way – very easily derailed. And your comment in response to danaudallweiner about vacations…. I see them the same way – the packing & planning, I’d rather just stay put! Ugh. Here are my two suggestions: don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good (a little Voltaire for ya via Gretchen Rubin who you inspired me to pick up). And: comfy pants (aka The Pants). I find I’m a lot happier if I’m getting things done while wearing The Pants. I believe in The Pants so much I’d even call them one of my Secrets of Adulthood (so much so that I even spent an inordinate amount of money on a pair while home this summer).

    • I love it! We are Gretchen Rubin soul sisters.

      “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good” is one of my personal commandments. (You can see how well I follow it…) 🙂

      And the idea of The Pants is genius. Right now, with my pregnant belly ever-expanding, my version of The Pants is an old pair of yoga pants. I’m wearing them right now and feeling good about how the day has started out. The Pants. Perfect.

  24. All I can say is just keep trying to roll with both. As long as you recognize your struggle (that we ALL have in some way, BTW!) is there and that you’re working towards something better, that’s still the important thing in my book. You don’t blindly let life pass you by. You are trying. And that’s all anyone…you…me…anyone…can do.

    Here’s to smooth sailing and a life jacket ready to go when it’s not! Looks like you have plenty of those around!

  25. I wish I were more “typically organized.” I tend to be on the “constantly cluttered” side, and eventually it drives me completely nuts and I have to sort and organize. I suppose the more out of control my life is, the more out of control my kitchen, and then that sparks a regaining of control, at least for a day… Sorry about your teeth and the croup!!

  26. Every mom has her ups and downs. It’s called “motherhood.” We survive by the oxytocin hits that keep us addicted.

  27. I do an okay job of rolling with the punches. I’m better with the hugs. Growing up we called the hugs “pleasant surprises.” It was always nice to get a pleasant surprise, especially if you were in the middle of a beatdown otherwise.

    As is the case with most things, I think awareness is the first step to improvement. Not that I think you need much improvement, though.

  28. Kristen,
    You’re funny.
    I am so pathetically routine oriented because I need to do “all those things that feel like ME” to y’know, feel like me.
    I recently wrote on my blog about this young man that passed through our house for 2 weeks on his way to Guatemala via BICYCLE. I became completely captivated by him because he was rolling with everything, literally, and I get all out of whack if I can’t start my day with coffee and The Durango Herald, as I have for the past 14 years.
    Also, I have experienced a toddler on steroids. My son has all sorts of lung issues, and the last dosing of prednisone (when he was 3) was so awful, we swore it off forever.
    I think for people like us, getting out of our routine is good stuff. Just don’t make me do it.

    • “I think for people like us, getting out of our routine is good stuff. Just don’t make me do it.”

      That’s just the way I feel. I can get behind the idea of stepping outside my comfort zone. But actually doing it? Not so much. (I wonder if that’s why I don’t really love traveling – too much uncertainty, too little predictability.)

  29. Oh Kristen, I hear you. You raise so many good questions that I can’t help but linger on. I love the routine as well, and I’m not always good at taking the “hugs” of life. If things are going too well I get worried, waiting for the other shoe to drop. I guess I’m superstitious in a way.

    I think routine might be a way to help us build resilience. Falling back on the routine allows you to recover, to rebound after a challenge has tested your resilience. You need that safe zone, that comfort zone to recharge so you’re ready for the next test of resilience.

  30. Unfortunately, I am too often upset by the punches to remember the hugs. Sigh.

    Something I am trying to change is my habit of letting little irritants ruin my day. You know, like a messy kitchen, a pile of dirty clothes, and other household traps. Today, for instance, I actually played with the kids on the floor and laughed at their silliness. It was therapeutic. I am crossing my fingers that I can do this more each day.

  31. I hate when things go wrong, when one of my children is sick, when I’m overwhelmed… I hate when there is change and upset. At the same time, when things are going super well, I worry too – I worry all the time.

    • Hi Loukia – Thanks for stopping by Motherese and for your comment.

      I can completely relate to the idea of constant worry. Sometimes I wonder: if I ever stopped worrying, would I be worried that I wasn’t worrying? Sigh.

  32. Glad your little one is feeling better.

    I admire you for routine. I think as we have more responsibilities with families, a good amount of routine and order are necessary for sanity.

    I can usually take lots of criticism–knowing that I probably deserve most of it.

  33. Very interesting. I have never really thought about it before, but I actually think resilience is what I do best. I am actually the opposite in that too much order and routine makes me really anxious and start to question everything. Mind you, I like enough order and routine to function. Perhaps I just haven’t had enough resilience to know if I am truly good at dealing with it though?

    I wish I had some advice for you. I might have to actually think on this for awhile. I guess I just figure, life moves on and it’s not worth dwelling on. I focus a lot on the future and present so the past doesn’t stick with me long.

    Glad tiny baby is better mostly. You are going to have to find a new name for him soon.

    • Your last line made me smile. The funny thing is that he’s always been on the big end of the growth chart so he’s never really been very tiny. And it’s been quite a while since Big Boy stopped calling him that. So, yes, I’m going to need to come up with some new bloggy nicknames for my little ones…and soon!

  34. You do sound like me. I don’t bounce back well at all and unfortunately have the habit of eating sugar to feel better. Now that I’m doing the Dukan diet that’s not an option, but the tendency is there.

    But I’ll bet it gets better as we get older, right?

    • Hi, Lady Jennie, and welcome to Motherese!

      Oh, how I can relate to the habit of turning to sweets when things aren’t going my way. (Would it be bad to confess that I’m sitting here now with a chocolate doughnut only inches away?) 🙂

  35. Pingback: Mistaking Activity for Happiness | Motherese

  36. I’m the same way. Getting cut off or yelled at by a rude drive usually makes me cry! Small things like that often make my heart hurt.

    I also am very careful about the movies that I watch. If they’re too violent I get depressed.

    I’m always trying to put routine into my day, but as soon as something inserts inteslf, be it a punch or a hug, it messes me all up. Consequently I find that I don’t even try, which in turn leaves me living in an unorganized fashion.

    Most of what interupts my attempt at a routine is taking care of someone else’s needs. It’s not that I mind doing these things, I don’t. I just can’t seem to do what I have planned for the day and do what needs to be done for someone else.

    This will probably sound a little crazy, but I often find myself wishing that I could have a routine like my intelectually impaired relative of mine.

    I recently hired a coach for a business I was running. She stresses having a calendar and not letting anyone or anything mess with it. If there is something that you don’t have on your calendar must be taken care of, she says that you need to make sure that whatever gets booted is scheduled in somehwere else.

    I hope all of this makes sense!

    • Hi, Debbie – Thanks for stopping by Motherese and taking the time to leave a comment.

      I think what you have to say about routine maintenance vs. taking care of other people’s needs makes a lot of sense. Right now, as a stay-at-home mom to a toddler, a preschooler, and one on the way – my life is fairly other-centric. What I think I need to do is to try to guard time for myself even while meeting their needs. It won’t be easy, but I’m bound and determined!

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