30 Days of Doing my Best.

For the month of November, I set a goal for myself. I vowed to do my best, as much as I possibly could. I would, as much as I could judge, do what I “should.” This included reading with my kids instead of turning on the tv, going outside, saying “yes” when my only reason for saying “no” was that I’m lazy. It included exercising even when I would be tight on time, and showing up to my work when I planned to, even if I didn’t feel like it. I ate more of what I “should” and practiced stopping when I’d had “enough.” And because this is all very vague, I laid out some hard rules to follow; No TV, No sweets or desserts. No soda. No fast food. No coffee. No caffeine. No alcohol. Do your best. Give your best. I essentially removed all of my entertainment, distractions, and numbing devices. Here’s what I learned this past month:

-You can feel what you feel and do nothing about it- I have always felt the need to “do something” with emotions, particularly uncomfortable ones. I’ve heard people say things along the lines of being with these feelings…of staying with them…letting them be…to experience your downs, sadness, frustrations, etc. But honestly, I think I’ve always, in one manner or another, numbed myself. Life can be hard. Life can be extremely trying and stressful. And sitting with all the shit that life brings up in you…that’s hard. It’s uncomfortable and saddening and exhausting. But it is also clarifying. Being with these emotions, feeling them without the numbing of alcohol, food, tv, entertainment, whatever ways you numb, makes you see yourself, your life more clearly. After this month, I’m more aware of when I feel my worst- my saddest, my angriest, my most stressed, and pissed. I’m aware of how I’ve come to “deal” with these emotions instead of reading them for what they are- totally acceptable and useful tools to taking control of my life. You can not choose what stays and goes in your life in you don’t let yourself feel.

-Self love does not always feel very loving- Self love is a complicated concept. Often we see images depicting devotion to ourselves as luxurious bubble baths, pampering, shopping, sex, food, whatever. I suppose that self love can expressed and explored in all of these ways. But self love is also waking up early to exercise, it’s making yourself meditate, neglecting yourself of distractions to really explore how you’re feeling in your life, it’s taking the run, and going to the yoga class, and choosing to skip the second glass of wine. Sometimes self love is down right painful. Because self love, while it does include indulgence at times, is ultimately about feeling and being your overall best- it’s about caring for your body, mind, and soul from a kind, loving, gracious, and disciplined place.

-The energy of change is complicated and multifaceted- I read the Ana Forrest book Fierce Medicine earlier this year. One of the many things she shared that stuck with me was this concept of “the energy of change…”. I want that. I like that thought. The energy of change… what is that? How does that feel? What does it look like and sound like? Well here’s your very vague and likely unhelpful answer. The energy of change is both exciting dull. It’s painful and releasing. It’s clarifying and wildly confusing. It’s both bright, and dull. Moving and terribly sluggish. Change is not linear, and the energy around the experience of changing yourself and your life is ever-changing. The “trick” is to know why you want to change and then to stay with it and let it be.

-We know what we “should” do most of the time- it’s available to us. We have been provided a sophisticated system of wisdom and guidance in our beings. But many of us have also been taught to ignore such inklings. This month, I felt for the first time, maybe in my life, how it feels to honor when you’re body, mind, gut, instincts, etc, guides you. When you honor that “inner voice,” it grows. I feel like learning to honor our internal compass and navigational tools requires a lot of unlearning too; more than I can do in a month. It requires practice and patience. But it’s there, wisdom, authenticity, truth. It’s all there inside of each of us.

-The hardest part of change is belonging no where- You no longer belong to your vices, habits, or the people who share them. You’re not really a part of a new set of folks like who you’re becoming. You are alone, a soul, drifting between ways of being. We often ascribe all these little bits of ourselves to out identity. So leaving unhelpful bits of “who we are” behind can be scary. Who are you now? Who are you without your vices and hang ups? Can you bear being untethered, to belonging no where, to feeling lost? At least for a while?

Onward. Any thoughts?

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Being Ruled by Lies and Fear.

full frame shot of text on wood
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Keeping my 4 and 2-year-old at home was a decision I made, largely based on this idyllic image in my head of me and my daughters spending all these lovely days together, and then their going off to school as these confident, smart little girls, totally prepared (thanks to all that studying our ABC’s and 123’s at home with Mom). Add together a wild 4-year-old, a totally sweet but nutty toddler, the general stresses of gradually setting up a new life in a new place doing new jobs, financial insecurity, and a Mom (that’s me!) who sets totally unrealistic expectations for this experience= Mess, chaos, and meltdowns galore (many of which are mine). Welcome to my life 🙂

With a heavy cloud of self-doubt and frustration hanging over me, wading through a sea of Pre-K prep, Brain Quest books, and flash cards, anxiously planning out lesson’s and time with my kids, something dawned on me; This is not fun.

Life is not always fun and that’s ok. But learning, something that many of our kids go about naturally and joyfully….in this house, it’s become painful. Yikes. Stuck somewhere between sight words and numbers, I sat there thinking; Why did I want to keep the girls home again? Why am I trying to do everything? Why am I consistently shirking off my husbands advice to get help? Immediately a list of well-rehearsed answers strung through my mind…..they’ll go to school soon….spend time with them now….good foundations….connectedness with your kids….blah blah blah….and then as if that dark cloud that’d been lingering over my head sprung a lightning bolt, I saw it; I saw the truth; All these reasons I have for being the way I am now and making the decisions I have, they’re not untrue; but they are also not the whole truth. In part, they are a shield; One I’ve been wielding, feigning a noble cause, when on the flip side of these truths, there is another real and dark motive; FEAR. As if my metaphorical cloud began to pour, I suddenly saw that my perfectionism, my dedication to make my 4-year-old sit the fuck down and focus, for what it is. It’s not about protection or preparation. I am not functioning from the fear that my daughter is lacking. I am being driven from the fear that I am lacking. I sat there feeling foolish. Silly. Guilty. Here I am pressing feelings of lack and anxiety onto my perfectly fine kids. This my friends is one of many ways we pass our burdens onto our children.

“I am stupid.” “I am silly.” “I’m incompetent.” “I do not have the capacity.”

These are variations of lies I learned young and have carried with me into my adult life. We all have lies about who we think we are, and many of us go about our lives terrified of discovering their truth. 

This post is not about parenting or kids. It is not in any way meant as a commentary on homeschooling or using educational stuff with our kids. It’s about the lies we let dictate our lives. It’s about the way these lies and our fear of their truth creep into every facet of our beings. It’s about seeing them for what they are….lies, and then choosing a new way. My kids don’t need my lessons. And they certainly don’t need the energy of self-doubt that I’ve been drudging around here. They need my love and my attention. As do I, I suppose. 

When you look as your life, does it reflect who you really want to be? Your job, your attitudes, your politics, your habits, your hobbies, your relationships…in what ways do you struggle with not allowing your fears to dominate your life?

 

Kindness Rocks

Recently my kids and I made a crude, economic version of the behavioral “marble jar”- often seen in classrooms- good behavior, add a marble. Optional- bad behavior, remove a marble. We made ours with rocks and a milk jug.

In the process of gathering rocks, we plucked several from wherever we went. In the parking lot of my daughter’s karate studio I picked up a smooth, round rock. A good one for painting (we painted our rocks), I thought to myself. I added this one to a little bag in my trunk, filled with rocks and pebbles of all shapes and sizes. As I looked them over, I was suddenly bothered. This isn’t going to work- they need to be the same. Otherwise, the act of kindness won’t match the size of the rock added (meaning it won’t take up as much space in the jug as it should, given the magnitude of the kindness). And the same vice-versa; if the act is tiny, it hardly seems fair to add a giant rock that takes up tons of room– my thoughts went something like that. Aside from the obvious fact that I was way over-thinking this project- my kids just want to paint rocks and earn treats- it also occurred to me that the quality of this project that I’m citing as flawed is actually very life-like. It’s actually kind of perfect.

In life, it’s impossible to really measure how far the effects of any act of kindness will ripple. A “thank you” to an under-appreciated server could be the thing that changes his day. It could be the impetus that reminds him that he’s doing something real and valuable and worthy of “thank you,” and that he in general is a worthy, valuable human being (you never know!). While it may not contribute to a literal “Kindness Rocks” jug, all kindness, no matter how small, matters. It all counts. It all contributes to a greater good.

Can you imagine…

…if we all chose eye contact with people serving us, instead of our screens?

…if everyone gave the benefit of the doubt instead of assuming the worst?

…if everyone always held the door? and respected right-of-ways? and drove safely because who knows who’s in the cars around them? and left the last bite for their partner? and loved on their kids despite their being little shits? and decided to get curious instead of judgmental when faced with people different than us? Or maybe if we didn’t even reach this far and we all simply decided to say “please” and “thank you”?

All. Kindness. Counts

RYT. New toolbox, same old builder.

Two Saturdays ago I completed the immersion part of RYT 200 (registered yoga teacher training 200 hour level) locally. It was amazing- a completely mind and heart opening experience for me. During that immersive week, it was as if I’d been lifted up out of my life, out of myself, and got this crazy birds-eye view of my life. My self. My potential. I was totally pumped leaving the last class, eager to get on to the hours of other requirements. I’d become equipped with this whole new toolbox of some seriously powerful tools and I was eager to take them and either tweak, or just demolish and rebuild my reality.

But when I returned to my norm- my house, schedule, life, responsibilities, all my usuals…Instead of feeling as if I’d landed gracefully from this fly-over-viewing experience of my life, I felt as if I’d fallen tumbling from the sky and landed in this confused heap, my new arsenal of tools flung all over the place. You with me here?

The photo above (it’s from my Danielle LaPorte Desire Map planner) is from these prompts at the end of each week in my planner. Mulling over the prompts a few days ago, those were the answers that angrily poured out of me. It wasn’t funny and I wasn’t trying to be sarcastic. I was just down and discouraged; frustrated that I wasn’t able to take all these things I’d learned and seamlessly apply them to my life.

I am the builder of my life. I choose how I am, how I spend time, how I’ll feel in various circumstances and in response to various stimuli, how I’ll work, love…every. little. thing.  And yet sometimes, even with a power-packed tool box of self realizations, challenged perspectives, and new hope and assurance, I feel powerless sometimes. It’s in my head, in my habits…this I know.

This week I have purposefully planned in more of what keeps me open, sane, and connected- and made time to delve deeper into all the new goodness I’m trying to introduce to my life (empowering beliefs, choosing action over fear, choosing connection over hiding, practicing openness for myself without expectations from others…).

When you’ve discovered, learned, have been given some great knowledge- some awesome new tool (in the form of anything I’ve mentioned above), how do you bring that into your life already brimming with habits and schedules and responsibilities?

“Seasons of Love”

This morning we got up, did the usual morning bustle. I gathered my kids’ bags and lunches and nap pads and water bottles. Purse. Phone. Book. Kids to the car. Feed the animals. And we’re off!

As I pulled out of the drive, a tiny red leaf drifted down and landed on my beat-up Toyota. I’m not sure why, but I felt like I had to get out and snatch it off my hood. It was just too tiny and perfect and red. So I popped out, grabbed it, and gave it to my girls.

I love when September comes. For me, the arrival of September means that Summer is over, even if it doesn’t feel like it. The hottest days are behind me. Soon the sweating will end! It means Starbucks’ pumpkin scones and reverting back to hot, rather than iced, coffee.

For whatever reason, the coming of Autumn is always a pensive time for me. Every year I feel like I find myself stuck in my head for a few weeks. This past week I keep finding myself thumbing through my notebook that I use as a planner and I’m scrolling back over old journal entries. I discovered that last year this week I binge-watched a bunch of grisly horror films on a free, kid-less night. Ha, yes, Fall also means spooky everything. Gotta love that.

Anyhow. We measure our lives using all sorts of handy, if arbitrary, calendars, measurements, cycles. The 12-month calendar. Birthdays. Christmas’. New Years. The School Year (especially for students, parents of students, folks in education jobs). And also the seasons.

This makes me wonder if maybe we just feel like we’re our best selves, or at least closer to being that, in specific places, at specific times. Like people who prefer AM to PM. Summer to Winter. Are inspired by the sea but not so into the forest. And of course, there’s the company of people we love that can help bring out our best. I suppose when we feel most in our element, all those juices, creative or whatever they may be, flow a bit freer and some ritual, whether we’re aware of it or not, emerges whenever we find ourselves in these “happy circumstances.” Evenings coming on us earlier, layers of clothes, hot beverages, cold weather, pumpkins and scary everything…I’m in my element when the Summer ends.

This is what I thought about while driving my kids this morning. These thoughts brought me to scrolling through my phone seeking the wise words of Jonathan Larson, creator of Rent. I cranked up “Seasons of Love.”

Anyone who stumbles on this post, I wish you to find your “happy circumstances;” the people, places, and times that light you up. Tell me, how do you measure your life? Goals? Growth?

Alright, enough. Measure your (life) day in love. 🙂 Have a good one.

 

Night-Owl Blues.

…life is not about perfection or great leaps, but about practicing being a better version of ourselves at every opportunity we can.

Last night I made the responsible decision to get to sleep early. So about 9:30 I curled up in bed with my book. At 10 I put the book aside and switched off my reading light. The moon shone in my window. This is a rare occasion; I live in an urban place so these nights when the moon is positioned just so, so I can watch as it creeps across my window, I can’t help but track it’s voyage. As I did so, I thought about how amazing I was going to feel the next morning, all rested and ready for the week….HA, who am I kidding? As usual, my “night-time brain,” as I’ve come to think of it, kicks in. And suddenly, I’m awake. 

Whether by nature or by nurture, I am most definitely a “night person.” I love the feel that all the world is sleeping but me (I know this is not the case). I love the dark. I LOVE the quiet. As my clock flicked on past 10:33…11:11 (lucky, so I made a wish), 12:09…I thought about my ongoing battle with the nighttime…the clock…the dreaded morning. 

This is not a new experience for me. High school? Not a stellar attendance record. College? Nope. And while in the beginning of both of my girls’ lives, my husband and I managed through those bleary-eyed, caffeine and exhaustion buzzed months, as our lives eventually settled into something resembling a schedule, I again would find myself  back to pushing into the late hours of the night time and thoroughly pissed when my girls came bouncing in the morning.

I think part of my problem is that I am in awe of the 5am folks. I want to be one. Up! Exercised! Glowing and dressed! Pets? They’re already fed! Lunches? Packed! I WANT TO BE ONE! I have set out to accomplish this goal many times. BUT here’s the kicker, an important realization and ongoing struggle for me: I want to be a lot of things. There are an endless number of bits of myself and my life that I wish were better. I wish I ate more healthfully. I want to exercise more regularly. I’d love to shed about 20lb. I’d like to dress in the clothes I wore in college. I’d like to find more time for my hobbies. I think it’d be good to keep in better contact with friends and family. I should spend more time practicing Russian as it’s the only language my in-law speaks. Meditating would most definitely make me nicer. I have a pile of books by wise folks that I’m itching to read. I also need to groom more often (sorry, TMI).

When we’re choosing how to better ourselves, as I believe we all should, we must be decisive. Our willpower reserves and time are limited. Over the past several months, for example, I’ve quit Diet Coke. This has been quite a will-power challenge for me. Once a “venti red-eye several times a day” kinda gal, now my Starbucks order is generally decaffeinated and often not coffee at all. While I don’t know if I’d call it “regular,” I do drag myself to yoga class. I haven’t managed to squeeze into clothes from my school days, but I have managed to ditch the scale and buy some clothes that actually fit and I feel good in. I am not advancing in all areas of my life, but I am growing in some. And as I’m making small, manageable changes, I’m reminded repeatedly that life is not about perfection or great leaps, but about practicing being a better version of ourselves at every opportunity we can.

The last time I looked at the clock was 12:11. This morning, I did not feel happy when my 3.5 y.o. came prodding me with the remotes to turn on Scooby Doo. Eventually I would peel myself out of bed and get myself and my girls ready. Our day was largely the same as all of our Mondays, with the exception of my locking the keys in the car and my daughter’s newest obsession of applying lotion (really her own spit) in the car.

I see visions of myself, peaceful and meditated and up before the sun….in the future. For now, I will continue to drag myself to yoga class, practice putting good things in my body, love how I look now, and joyfully seek to grow into the best version of myself again tomorrow. Here’s to a new week!