When I saw the topic for this month's blog carnival I was stumped at first. "The Best Thing"... hmmm? What is the *BEST* thing? I've been pretty high on life for quite some time now, so to pick one thing seemed daunting. But then one night cuddled up in bed Marisol whispered to me, "I love my life" and I thought, now *that* is the best thing. Hearing my daughter say that she loves her life is such a beautiful affirmation for me and all of these "unconventional" choices that we are making. Hearing that she loves her life in spite of the fact that she is sometimes bored, and even though she has been having some rather intense emotions lately, well that to me is THE best thing.
It's even better than hearing her say she loves me every day, and better than hearing her say that I am the best mama EVER, or that "This is the BEST. DAY. EVER." The contentment that I can hear in her voice, the love that exudes from her, her excitement to plan a new week, and watching her learn new things every day makes every challenge worth it. Even better? I can honestly say that I can 100% agree and shout in unison with her, "I LOVE MY LIFE!"
I made this Venn Diagram a while ago to remind me of the ways I can take care of my body, mind, and spirit. Then this past weekend we were doing various things around the house and another analogy popped into my head.
I've been aware for some time now that I need to get back to exercising my body regularly. I've just not gotten into a regular habit since Marisol was born 6+ years ago. Luckily for me my lifestyle is such that I stay fairly active and I'm also continuously expanding my healthy diet options, so it's not that I'm in TERRIBLE shape exactly. It's just that I've not made it a priority and I'm really starting to crave that now.
So we were doing a couple of things upstairs where our bedrooms and one bathroom are and I thought (not for the first time!) how it was the most neglected level of our three-level home. I really don't want to describe to you the state of affairs upstairs, but let's just say it is far from clean or neat. Dusty, clothes often everywhere, Marisol's many babies piled here and there... and the bathroom! Let's just not go there. Yet the rooms are used every day for very important things - namely sleep, potty, and hygiene. So I thought, jeez, that's just like my poor, neglected body. My body is also used every day for very important things yet not getting the love it truly deserves!
Now the main living level of our home which includes the kitchen and attached craft area, dining area/computer desk, and living room - well, let's just say we "keep up". The kitchen of course needs to be relatively clean just to use it every day. This "mid-level" is comparable to how I keep up with my spirit. I mean it's pretty darn important to tend to your spirit regularly, right? I definitely have room for improvement both in the mid-level of my home and in tending to my spirit. Ironically, the biggest thing I do once a week on this floor of our house is make sure that there is a safe path for my students to walk to the stairs to the basement.
Ahh, the basement. This is my teaching space. Every week it gets cleaned up really well (by my standards anyway). The bathroom is the cleanest bathroom that I've ever personally taken care of. The toys must be put away and the rug vacuumed every week (especially for my students with cat allergies!) And this of course is analogous to my mind. I'm constantly feeding and exercising my mind - primarily with reading, but also with having conversations with friends and loved ones, and now I've added writing regularly to my mind's "workout". I've got this one COVERED! In fact, I'm realizing that I'm a little too good at exercising my mind and not so good at resting it which would be better for my spirit and body. I find this analogy ironic but appropriate because 1) the basement is the best taken care of space in our house (this doesn't seem normal) 2) my analogy is a little backwards with the bottom of the house being compared to my mind - which I think of as being housed in the attic of my body and 3) Teaching is a very "mind" centered activity - although it does serve my spirit as well.
There you have it - how I the levels of our home are similar to how I take care of my mind, body and spirit.
In the middle of my Venn Diagram I spelled out the word balance (it fits perfectly!) because I believe if I'm feeding my body, mind, and spirit I will find the best balance for myself. (I'm beginning to think that "Balance" is my word for this year, not "Embrace"... but oh well, they're both good!)
The "e" in the center symbolizes emotions to me. When we are balanced we will experience peace, happiness, joy, acceptance, love and many others. So I am more and more getting to a place where I realize I need to feed, use, and rest all parts of myself. The saying below is becoming a new mantra for me and is really helpful when I'm falling asleep, "Rest your mind... Calm your heart". Ahhh, it just feels peaceful and I can let go of all of the busy thoughts of the day.
How about you, is there are specific "part" of you that you particularly take good care of or neglect? What could you change to feel more balanced?
"peace" I whisper. Peace, I smile. I breathe PEACE in when I feel myself losing my balance.
I look around me. People hurting - parents, children, adults and teens - and I say a little more loudly, "Peace!"
Be kind to each other AND yourself.
Respect others AND yourself.
Love others AND yourself.
Forgive others AND yourself.
Know others AND yourself.
PEACE. I proclaim it loud.
If what you're doing or saying hurts someone else, if it creates separation between you, or if it causes you to harden your heart - then it's not the way.
Others don't want to hear it. And I'm confused. How is kindness controversial? Why is love radical? When did respect become something to be earned?
My own internal peace begins to falter. So I breathe. Breathe in peace... Breathe out love.
I remember my own ROAR.
We are all one... we all desire the same basic things, we are just on different paths.
Breathe in... Peace. The fierce, menacing ROAR of the "Peace Nazi" settles down to a gentle, content purr.
It is ok to disagree. It. Is. Ok.
I don't have to be right for everyone.
I am right for me.
And with that Peace, I can spread more to the world.
This post was inspired by the Wild Sister website and the September issue of the Wild Sister e-magazine. It was so worth the money - filled with amazing women, their inspiring messages, and how they are each changing the world for the better in their own way. Check it out!
Ironically, I can't breathe right now. I'm completely congested. There's nothing like losing something that you take for granted to totally make you appreciate it, eh?
Here's another great post about breathing. I have to agree, it really is the answer to most problems. Sandra Dodd (another of my favorites) has a whole page dedicated to breathing on her website.
So often we think we have to *do* something. Someone wronged us, or was disrespectful, or hurt us and we can't just sit there and take it, right?!? But usually our reactions or actions are taken too quickly, they are knee-jerk, usually thoughtless, and coming from an unsteady place. So this is where breathing comes in. If we can re-train ourselves to stop and focus on our breathing, for one breath, or 2, 3, or 10 or even many minutes of purposeful focused breathing, then we can change our old habits. It gives us time to think and our bodies can calm, dissipating adrenaline and emotions that course hot through our blood.
Today I had the chance to practice this skill. (And it does take practice!) Marisol got very upset with me a couple of times. Both times were things that I was actually doing to help her or be nice! (Remember my public service announcement? She was not being reasonable in my opinion! But what human being is reasonable all the time?) When I say she was upset I mean she was pretty much screaming, crying, yelling - a complete 6 year old rage. And when I say I was being nice - the one time was to do something she asked me to do (turned out I misunderstood what she wanted, but it was easily fixed). For whatever reason, today I was able to breathe through these incidents (one time better than the other - the second time I admit I was trying to reason with her as my voice became more intense - it didn't work). Both times within 5 minutes my little girl came to me apologizing, "I'm sorry for yelling at you" and was in my arms. She's already better than me at saying she's sorry.
I was so glad that I took the time to breathe and stay calm. There was no need to to punish or shame her. I calmly stated how I felt and what had happened in each instance. Then I let her be alone (because that is what she wants - if she wanted me with her I would respect that too, actually that would be easier for me!) And hopefully I'm modeling for her how to stay calm when I'm frustrated because as she told me, "It's just so hard sometimes when I'm frustrated!" I have had just a few more years to practice.
So yeah, breathing. It does a body good. And mind. And spirit. And relationships. I can't wait to kick this cold and experience the full benefits again!
Sometimes I have the weirdest thoughts go through my head (ok, lots of times!) Often the analogies that pop into my head have to do with birth - I'm cool that way.
So yesterday I was unpacking the van while Mike watched Nascar and did puzzles with Gerry, and Marisol watched Cyberchase on the computer. I was so proud of myself for getting so much done even though I am sick and we had just had a long day of packing up that morning and driving home (about 5 hours).
But it was actually the perfect thing for me to do after sitting in the car for so long. I got to stretch and move my legs AND I got some quiet "alone" time (we mamas take that however and whenever we can!) So I'm walking back and forth to the car and thinking how this was just the perfect "window" of time for me to get some things done - the kids just wanted to veg out. And I was like this is just like the window of time right after a baby is born and they're awake in a quiet alert state for a few hours before sleeping (is anyone having a hard time with this analogy? Come on - stretch yourself! Like I said, this is just a stream of consciousness moment from me to you. I didn't say that it made total sense!)
Of course then I had to think of exceptions. Like I'm sure there are times when we get home from a long road trip and the kids are tired and whiny and cranky and just want to cling to me and I don't get anything unpacked, or laundry done or food put away. Just like I'm sure there are newborns who go to sleep pretty quickly after birth. Because life really isn't all that predictable is it? But when we have a perfect "window" for something to occur, it feels so good to take advantage of it! So keep your eyes and heart open and let life keep flowing through and around you.
(I need to create one of those cool signatures for my blog - anyone know how to do that?)
ps These pictures of my alert babies are not just after birth, but they are two of my favorites from when they were just hours and days old. If I ever do this baby thing again I'm going to get more pictures of them when they are fresh out of the womb!
1) Go early and often
2) Embrace the Grittiness
3) Enjoy as many sunrises and sunsets as you can (in our family that means more sunsets!)
4) Make friends where you are
5) And invite some to share the fun with too!
Most importantly - go with the flow and enjoy the ride!
Wife, mom, information and peace seeker.