Pardon my french :-) (A whole 'nother post - or at least a Facebook post - is waiting to be written about my exploration into my use of profanity.)
Anyway. As I was saying. Balance... I'm done with you. I'm done obsessing with you, striving for you, feeling like I'm no good when I can't achieve you. Maybe some people can seek you and feel good about it, but for me (a recovering perfectionist) it just feels like I never can get you right.
You know what? I used to be good at finding you (or so it seemed). But that was when all I had to worry about was myself. You know, in high-school and college (and maybe a bit as a teacher... but even then it was a little difficult to keep you in my sights). As a student I was great at you-ing - keeping my grades up, playing sports, involved in music. I worked for the family business in the summer. I had plenty of friends. I had it all covered - mind, body, spirit, social life, academics, physical activity, creativity - you name it. When I graduated I picked my favorite professor to present my diploma to me and he called me a Renaissance Woman - YES! Doesn't that phrase just scream, "BALANCED!"??
But then again... maybe I never really touched you. Is seeking to be the "best" or being a perfectionist truly balanced? Is staying up to midnight to finish homework after basketball practice or waking in the middle of the night freaked out that you're not going to finish your work in time (so you start doing it right then in there, in the dead of the night on your bedroom floor) balanced? Is running till your knees ache and you can barely stand up in church for the hymns balanced? Hmmm...
And now as a mother I find my world always just a bit askew. My kids are a teensy bit older now so things are way better (and by better I mean easier) than they were four years ago or even two. Now I have time to write, I go on walks alone (every once in a while anyway), I regularly teach Hypnobabies, and I actually COOK meals (sometimes) And yet... I still find myself trying to catch even a glimpse of you in my days. But you remain ever elusive. My plan changes daily. I will get up early and walk. No, I will get up early and do yoga. No, I'll stay up late and write. Every day the book I'm (not) writing is in the back of my mind. Every day I think, I need to exercise more! Every day I feel like I need to give more to my kids only to realize I'm wanting to give more to myself.
I wrote a shit-ton about you (yes that is the precise, technical amount) last year. And now I'm declaring this the last time (for a while)! It seemed as if I had given up on you last year when I wrote about moving away from balance and towards flow, but you are a persistent will bugger. You didn't want to be evicted from my mind. Danielle LaPorte first gave me the idea that maybe you were a myth. And then my friend Jolette Jai (check out her Jai Institute for Parenting!) posted this on Facebook:
Don't strive for balance. Strive for excellence. Strive for that which moves you from inside. Rocks your world. Pulls at your heart and doesn't let go. Not even for a moment.
Yes! Thank you. So last night I'm lying in bed, but my brain was in spin mode (I guess when it's like that I'm wringing out ideas, because they were swarming my brain like mosquitoes on a hot, muggy summer's night) and the words "FUCK BALANCE" just came into my head. And it felt great! Of course, I felt a little fired up too, which didn't help with falling asleep, but still I felt relief.
Because you know what? It all goes back to this simple truth: no one can be all things, do all things, have all things. I guess some would argue that balance isn't about that. But that is what it feels like to me sometimes. I'm a mom who's homeschooling her kids. I don't have time to train for a marathon (but my friend Rebecca does - yay Rebecca!!) And other women don't have time to blog about the incessant stream of thoughts that runs through their mind. The truth is we have to make choices. Many of us modern mamas still have the message "you can have it all" burned into our psyches and it's simply not true. I slowed down on the blogging for a couple of months and it was perfect for the summer - we traveled, spent time with family and friends, and were outside a lot. And now here it is October and my writing juices are flowing. So that is what I'm doing. Someday my kids will be older, more independent, and even (gasp!) move out... and then I'll have time to write AND exercise consistently. But for now my method for shutting up the gremlins in my head will be a big "F-you" to balance. My measure for a good day will be how my family feels and whether we did things together and independently that bring us happiness. And once I calm down a bit, my gentler mantra will be, "Life is Lumpy, Let it Be."
So Au Revoir Balance - for now. Maybe I'll take a gander at finding you again when I'm a Grandma.
ps If you have creative ideas or tips for meeting everyone's needs and staying connected while doing so, I'm all ears. Just don't use the terms "Me-time" or Balance. ;-) Sound like semantics to some of you? Maybe. But I'm sold on the power of our minds and the words we use. You can thank Hypnobabies for that.
I know it's hard to believe that I could write more on Balance - but it's a topic that just won't leave me alone. On my last tribe call we talked about what balance means to us - and of course I mentioned that I've been trying to make a mental shift from the word balance to flow. In that post I said that I felt like if I had a good balance between being "On Fire" and "Peaceful" then things would flow. The same formula from a post 6 months earlier!
Passion + Peace = Flow
So clearly the ideas of balance, flow, peace, and passion frequently inhabit my mind.
But even with all this thought-fermentation, I still couldn't explain "Balance" means to me! (Maybe this has something to do with why I'm trying to avoid it!)
But I think I finally have it! (I know, I know, this is REALLY EXCITING! Don't worry, I won't keep you in suspense much longer.)
Balance is achieved when:
Energy output = Energy input
Whew! Did I just BLOW. YOUR. MIND? Or what?!
What this means to me is that I allow or put back into myself at least the same amount of energy as I put out into the world (my family, friends, home, community etc.) If we don't do this, our energy reserves get low and that is when we feel out of balance.
I love this way of looking at balance for a lot of reasons. Of course I love it because it's a formula, and if something can't be expressed in a mathematical formula or scientific theory, well, then what good is it at all?
Seriously though, I mostly like this because it is actually very general; it's sufficiently vague so that we can make it work for our own individual needs. Because the truth is we are all unique. Some of us need time alone every day and others of us die a little without having some major social interaction daily. Some kids need to be moving ALL. THE. TIME. and others ok with less activity.
I also really love this because you can choose to "zoom out" on your timeline with this idea. Yes there may be days or a stretch of days where you are putting out a lot of energy into the world, maybe even compromising on your own needs for a while. But you know that after this time you will have a period of calm and be able to replenish yourself. Or perhaps you even knew this busy time was coming up and made sure to take extra-special care of yourself before hand.
Anyways, I'm kind of in love with this idea.
I'll leave you with a story about the Dalai Lama that I love (and found here):
A friend who I met through HE recently told me a story about a question the
How wonderful is that? And it explains it so perfectly! If we are busy giving, doing, rushing, achieving, connecting and all the other things we do in our modern, busy lives, then we must put at least as much back into ourselves.
What do you think? Does this Balance Formula make sense to you? Does it help you feel better about taking care of yourself so that you have more to give too?
One of the best things about starting to question - well, everything - is that after a while you start to enjoy it! Last year "balance" was kind of a big theme for me. I even put it in the center of my awesome "Mind, Body, Spirit" Venn diagram (and if that doesn't say "IMPORTANT!" then I don't know what does.) Balance has taken on an almost Legendary status in our culture - especially for the modern mama. Last year I argued that: There is no formula for perfect balance. Balance will look different for every person and it changes with time too. Still sounds pretty good. And of course I talked about children and balance, and how it's best if we can let go of trying to control them so that they can find their own balance.
So when I was reading Danielled LaPorte's The Fire Starter Sessions, and she proposed that - there's no such thing as balance - I did an emotional double take. WHAT?!? What does she mean, NO SUCH THING?? But the incredible thing is that instead of writing her off as some ranting lunatic, I almost immediately warmed up to the idea. I didn't just accept it as "truth" because she's so cool; no, I just liked that she was challenging an idea that was so deeply ingrained in me. And I understood quickly the point that she was making. She was talking about people who are profoundly passionate, who go deep into their work, who become so engrossed in something that everything else disappears. She was talking about becoming so focused on something that things like sleep and eating "healthy" food become extraneous. In the same way that I argued that "normal" can be boring at best, and harmful at worst, so can this idea of balance. This is especially detrimental when people ignore their callings and ditch the inner voice that guides them for an artificial idea of what Balance "should" look like in their lives.
But I still believe that it is important to take care of all of our needs - from the mental, to the physical, and the spiritual. So if I'm going to let go of the idea of balance, what am I going to replace it with?
My answer is "Flow". This word has also been on my radar a lot. I put it in my desire map between the feelings of "On fire" and "Peaceful":
The idea that I had is when there is a good balance (haha, old habits die hard!) between these two seemingly opposite feelings, then things will flow. What I've really begun to notice though, is that my core desired feeling of being "Connected" is my base - particularly with my family. When I am connected with them, then everything else is free to flow. When I am not, it's almost impossible for my my other core feelings to flow.
As I reflected more on this idea I also realized that "Balance" has a certain judgement attached to it. If we are trying to balance two things, we think of a scale and there being a perfect "amount" of the two things that will bring the scale into alignment. Any little bit off from this perfect amount on either side and we are out of balance - which means WRONG. A great example to me is exercise. Honestly, I still don't exercise that much since having my kids. But for someone who was extremely involved in sports and exercise right up until that time, it just doesn't bother me. I am active with my kids - playing tag, pushing them on swings, bouncing them on my birth ball until my arms almost fall off, learning to hoop with my daughter, sometimes taking walks (or even small jogs), jumping on our friends' trampoline with my son... and none of it is at a level that would be considered a sufficient amount of exercise by almost any expert. Yet, I am healthy and happy (and slimmer I have to add!) than I have ever been in my life.
I talked about how "me-time" as an idea doesn't sit well with me either. I think this is related to the idea of balance. From the outside it may appear to some people that I don't get sufficient "alone" or "down" time or time to do things that matter to me. And I'm not saying that I don't struggle sometimes. I do. But I struggle most when I try to force things and grab at what I feel like I deserve. If I can shift and trust that Life will give me what I need and accept each moment for what it is, Life has not yet failed to deliver. I live joyfully in the moment, connect with my loved ones, and get to do the things I am passionate about.
I become the flow.
When do you experience flow? Does this resonate with you or does it seem like "semantics"? If the idea of balance resonates with you, does it usually make you feel good to focus on it?
The phrase "Me Time" irritates me.
It seems like such a selfish term: "Me Time". In my opinion this mentality pits you against anyone getting in the way of you getting your "Me Time". Usually the people "competing" with your "Me Time" are your closest loved ones - for moms, most often their children.
I'm not suggesting that we don't take care of ourselves. And goodness knows many women and mothers have reputations for putting others' needs ahead of their own far too often. But if I've learned anything as a mother, it is that the more I can be creative, flexible, and kind, the more likely everyone's needs will get met. In my personal experience, "Me Time" mentality makes me rigid - as in: I have this idea in my head about how I'm going to get some time and space to myself and gosh-darn-it, I want my "Me Time" now, and if I don't get it then NONE of us are going to be happy! (hmmm, I wonder where that phrase, "If mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy, came from?! Guess we kinda created that doozy ourselves!)
This "Me Time" idea is so common now that everyone knows what it means. To me it is a "band-aid" solution to a deeper problem in our culture. For example when we get "Me Time" we often end up just wanting more. I have two theories about why this happens: 1) We didn't really respect others' needs while trying to get our "Me Time" and so when we are back to "Not-Me-Time" everyone is out of sorts. This leads us to feel like we need to get away... AGAIN. AND NOW! And/Or 2) Because we've put our own needs off for so long waiting for special "Me-Time" when we get it, it isn't nearly enough!
So I propose a new paradigm (I like new paradigms). We need to start cultivating a true, deep, and constant Self-Love for ourselves. When we do this we will start to have better Self-Care. Self-care means taking care of your needs all the time, or at least as soon as you can. It means taking loving care of your body by taking the time to spruce up, feeding yourself nourishing foods, and moving (If this sounds like a fancier version of New Year's resolutions, I promise you it's not. When true Self-Love is nourished, you will start doing these things automatically). Self-care is getting enough rest and slowing down -when you are feeling tired, before you get sick. Self-care is connecting with your loved ones every day in ways that are meaningful to each individual, and thriving on the energy this creates. It means if you need time and space to yourself, you work to create it in ways that respects others' needs for you to be around - because they love you and depend on you for comfort and security.
This may sound the same as what you think of as "Me Time" - but in my experience they are not. They are vastly different philosophies. I know some people are impressed with my ability to go without "Me Time" (are you annoyed with that phrase yet?!) - but it's really not that remarkable and I know others, like me, who spend almost all their time with their kids. I've learned to adapt and meet my needs in ways that don't usually require separation.
And, as my kids get older I am getting more time to myself. It's actually one of my things on my list of 12 - a date with myself (got that from the book The Artist's Way). So please, do take care of yourself. But do it in a way that not only nourishes you, but those around you - it's way more fulfilling and instead of your energy getting quickly zapped to nothing again, you will be revitalized to the point of having your energy overflow. LOVE YOURSELF, it's good for you and everyone around you.
ps If you like or use the phrase "Me Time" I still like you. I just don't like the phrase. :-)
pps I'm not REALLY irritated... because that wouldn't be very ZEN of me, would it? It's more like the phrase causes slight ripples on the smooth as glass water surface of my mind (is anyone else laughing yet?!), and then I look at the ripples with interest and curiosity.
Do you have a story about when you tried to get some "Me Time" and it didn't work out the way you were envisioning? Or how about a time when you were creative about meeting your needs and felt great about how you handled things?
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?
This year has been so amazing so far. I've just felt this incredible amount of growth and although it can be overwhelming and exhausting, it is mostly just invigorating and wonderful.
I'm reading a couple of really good, interesting books this week (I visited one of my favorite bookstores - my mother-in-law's house - Thanks Gigi!) One book that I am really enjoying is called "Rediscover Catholicism: A spiritual guide to living with passion and purpose", by Matthew Kelly. This book is powerful regardless of your religion or spiritual beliefs - actually the sub-title says so much about its message, everyone wants to live with passion and purpose, right?!
Anyways, I'm not ready yet to do a review or analysis yet but I wanted to share one quote that has had a huge impact on me this past week. In the chapter about saints Kelly talks about Mother Teresa and there is a quote about her.
"For the moment you were with her, there was only you and her. She wasn't looking over your shoulder to see what was happening around you. You had her full attention. It was as if nothing else existed to her except you."
Wow. How amazing is that? And what if we all treated each other with that much love and respect?
I know that I write a lot about parenting and my radical ideas of treating our children in exactly this way. But the truth is that I often fall short. I'm often not present - on my phone or computer, on the phone (ha, just realized I said PHONE twice - how appropriate... to clear things up, the first phone refers to my iPhone, and the second our "land" line - which is really digital - but I digress), reading a book... whatever the current distraction might be. But I've felt a new calmness settling in around and inside of me lately.
I've mentioned a few times this year how ON FIRE I've been. And that is an amazing thing! But when I'm on fire I have a tendency to be in motion too and always trying to get something done or moving on to the next thing.
Then, more recently I had a little bit of a depression in my mood and activity. I lost my way a bit. I just got back from a visit to my home-town. The kids and I stayed with my parents, visiting family and friends for 2 weeks. Coming back is always an adjustment too. But I feel like I really got back to myself and what's most important to me.
So, I feel like I am slowly swinging back into a really healthy balance. I'm no longer concerned that my new found love of writing is going to disappear. (It's here to stay! I'm not running out of ideas anytime soon. :) I'm also realizing that I really just need to BE with my kids the majority of the time - especially because we are choosing to home-school. This is not a new revelation or rocket-science - but I also know that sometimes we "know" something in our heads before our hearts embrace it, and because of this our actions lag behind what we know is right. That's why we must at once be patient with ourselves while always striving to improve.
So, my point is (I swear I have one!), that for whatever reason this particular quote about Mother Teresa made something CLICK for me, and it is transforming our lives again in the most beautiful way. I want my kids to feel that way about me - to feel like I am giving them my complete, undivided attention and love. That *they* are the most important part of my day - not my facebook newsfeed, not my latest blog post, and not the gazillions of cute pictures OF THEM that I haven't had time to do anything with. I haven't even needed to print this quote out or put it anywhere, it just keeps popping up in my brain reminding me... slow down, breathe, trust, listen, smile, love... LIVE.
Have you ever heard the general wisdom to not look at what a toddler eats in one day, but rather what they eat over a longer stretch, like a week? This is to reassure parents who feel like all their children want is one particular food or eat sweets nonstop. Usually you will be reassured when you see that they are getting a variety of foods and nutrients through their diet after tracking what they eat for a few days in a row, rather than focusing on one particular day.
This is how I feel about my life as a parent. It is so easy to fluctuate between the extremes of "Super-mommy!" and "super-TERRIBLE-mommy". For example, last weekend we threw Marisol a pretty awesome party for her 6th Birthday. In preparation we (and by we, I mostly mean *I*) painted two life-sized (well Marisol-sized) mermaids and an Atlantis-castle-under-the-sea mural. This took a few weeks. The party was a hit - we played pin the starfish on the mermaid's hair (everyone got a prize) and had mermaid trivia (that Marisol made up herself). So that was a pretty "Super-mommy" moment.
A neighborhood friend recently commented that I always seem to have a lot of energy. I laughed and said that's because that's when you see me - which is very true - the neighbors don't see me when I'm home curled up on the couch! This week I'm tired. Life has just been pretty hectic lately. Oh yeah, and I got my period again. So yesterday I just felt like a LUMP. It is so easy to let my mind go to thoughts of what a horrible mom I am - all Gerry does is eat candy, and Marisol is bored from sitting home and watching lots of TV. But instead I gave myself permission to rest without feeling guilty. I recognized that I am human too, with physical, spiritual, and emotional needs and remembered all of the amazing opportunities and experiences that I regularly facilitate for my children. Then I lay down on the couch.
Later we made it to the pool and Marisol played with a friend for an hour, splashing around and practicing her new swimming skills. Today was slightly better - we managed to play, clean, have a playdate and get outside this evening.
A week from Tuesday we are flying up to NY to visit with family. I know it is going to be a jam-packed, fun-filled couple of weeks. So I'm trying to remember that life's balance is kind of like looking at a toddler's diet - sometimes we have to step back to see that every moment has its place and feeds our life in different ways - the busy times and the quiet times, the tired times and the super-inspired energetic times. Instead of fighting how you feel in any given moment relax into it. Embrace everything and love yourself. Meet your needs and those around you the best you can. Know that when you do, you and your life will naturally flow on to its next state, whatever that may be.
Every week I have ideas of what I want to write about, but usually at the last minute I end up changing my plan because something going on in Life actually sparks a new direction. Balance has been on my mind a lot lately. A post titled "Balance" has patiently waited for months in my drafts folder. In fact not a day goes by that I don't think about this word. What does it mean? What does it look like and how does it feel?
There is no formula for perfect balance. Balance will look different for every person and it changes with time too. This makes sense to me intrinsically. Individuals need varying amounts of sleep, different types of foods to thrive on, and are stimulated by a unique pursuits. Yet we seem to think that there is a magic number of hours or a specific percentage of our time to spend on various aspects of our life that will lead to this magical state called, "Balance". And then we judge and compare ourselves to others when we perceive what we think is an "imbalance". I am certain that what is a good balance for me would not be a good balance for many people.
What is it exactly that we are trying to balance in our lives? Here are a few simplistic dichotomies that jump to my mind:
Work and Play
Work and Family
Activity and Rest
(and one especially near and dear to my heart...)
Thinking and Being
For all of my fellow homeschooling parents, there is the balance between home-tending (got this from my friend Shan and love it so much more than house work!), supporting our childrens' learning (however we decide to do that) and of course we can't forget, self-care. So I guess that is a "trichotomy".
I'm currently reading Deepak Chopra's book "Perfect Health" which is based largely on the ancient Indian system of healing called Ayurveda. It is fascinating. In Ayurveda there are three doshas inside each person - Vata, Pitta, and Kapha - and the amount of each one in a person makes up their "body-type". (This is a very simplistic explanation of it and I'm still just learning about it). But what is really interesting to me is the idea that for each person there is an ideal level of these 3 doshas, and that it is different for each person. When one or more of them rises or falls from the optimal level it manifests in our bodies - often in illness. I'm sure we've all noticed that during times of stress, lack of sleep, or poor diet, in other words poor balance, we are more prone to getting sick.
Speaking of illness, there is a nasty cold/virus making it's way through my family right now. Currently I have a sore throat and just really low energy. Yet, it is one o'clock in the morning and I am working on this post. Balanced? Most people would probably say, "No way!" (I can hear Mike yelling at me right now - Go to bed!) But I dozed on the couch for about an hour earlier and these ideas are buzzing in my head. I know myself, and I know that sleep wasn't happening right away. So here I am writing.
Speaking of writing - I suddenly seem to have this intense desire (need?) to write every day. (My sister thinks this is weird. I have to agree. But what can I say, it's there and I'm going with it!) Anyway, one of my challenges right now is figuring out my balance point - for myself and my family. I really want to write, but my top priority is to be present with my kids during the day. Difficult to do when you keep having these awesome ideas for blog-posts! So I usually write late at night, or right when I wake up, or sometimes even the middle of the night if I can't sleep. I also write little notes and snippets down when I can (journals and scrap paper are now easily accessible).
Speaking of my kids - how do they learn about balance? Many parents think that they have to control things for their children because they haven't developed the capacity to make decisions about "balance" on their own. Unschooling has led me in a totally different direction. As much as I can, I support them in finding their own balance. This means with food, television, computer games, going outside, social activities, reading, sleeping... really anything you can think of. This can be difficult for many parents who are attached to the idea that children couldn't possibly know what is best for them. I see my children prove this idea wrong every day. Just the other day Marisol said, "I have to listen to my body so I'm going to stop eating this cupcake now. My tummy's starting to hurt." Later she asked for more "healthy food" and chose a ham sandwich. Marisol can watch TV when she wants and every day she is itching to get outside and play with her friends. Was it always this way? Nope. When she was 3 1/2 she didn't want to get outside or see other people hardly at all. (She was also adjusting to big sisterhood). Her balance was different that winter. It was challenging for me when I got serious cabin fever, but I pushed myself and I'm glad I did. We both learned a lot about ourselves and trusting each other through that experience.
Allowing our children to learn about their own balance does not mean that they will always make the "right" choice, or the choice you would make (you know, the one you want them to make). (Side-note: Do you always make the "right" choice?) Sometimes we have to experience extremes to find out what is really right for us. I know sometimes I just need to sit around, because I'm tired or uninspired, or whatever the reason may be, until the urge just builds up in me and I can't to it anymore - I just *have* to get sh*t done! I firmly believe that allowing our children to figure out what is right for them when they are young helps them develop and believe in their own decision making abilities as they grow older. Yes, I give them input and my *opinion*, but really there is very little in life that is black and white, cut and dry. Marisol recently asked me if sugar is bad for her. Lately I have "heard" vague "whisperings" through the internet that there is "scientific evidence" that sugar is a "toxin" to our bodies (By that I mean, I've seen some headlines, but have not read deeply or paid it much attention.) So I proceeded carefully when I answered her question, not wanting to allow fear to color our conversation. I told her that some people think it isn't good for you. But that what I think is most important, is to listen to her body. She concluded that a little bit of sugar probably is ok for her. I'm sure that her relationship and understanding of food will continue to grow and evolve as she does. I feel very strongly about letting her make her own choices and learning through her own experience. I also know that I will be by her side supporting her in the best way I can. It's not always easy but I believe the benefits outweigh any fears I still have. Gerry is already pushing me out of my comfort zone even farther - that kid LOVES his sweets! I feel better by making sure he also gets fruit (strawberries and apples are a favorite now) and a carrot every day. I know that they are learning about their own limits and developing their own internal sense of what's good for them instead of relying on me to tell them what is right.
And besides all that, I just look at human nature. If someone tells *me* what to do or what I *should* be doing I immediately dig in and don't want to do it! Why would I want that dynamic in my relationship with my children? For instance, I can't stand it when Mike "nags" me to do something. I rarely get up and do something cheerfully if I feel like he's asking in a not-so-nice manner. But as I'm making my own choices to get things done, I feel his nagging fading (also I think my response is changing, but that's another topic). And I am feeling good about what I am doing. From his point of view, the "nagging" may have worked. But I know differently. I know that I am *choosing* to do things that make me feel good and to please him too.
Personally, besides writing I'm also learning what is a good balance for me and my family in regards to teaching. I'm so happy that I found something that I really love in Teaching Hypnobabies, but I also am constantly evaluating if it's the best fit, not just for me, but my kids and husband. Right now I don't feel perfectly balanced. I'm so hyped up about a lot of things (teaching, writing, and just life in general), that I'm feeling a little lop-sided. I'm also a little sick and that is my body's way of saying, "slow down!" Also as a mom to young children I can't always take care of my own needs immediately, in the optimal way. Sometimes I have to suck it up and take care of them. But I'm learning small ways to get my own needs met at the same time. Just this week we had an amazing day, followed with two very low key days at home. Instead of looking it as a "high" followed by a "low" I know that they are just different kinds of days. We are all sick and need some down time.
I guess that sums it up for me - listening to our bodies, minds, and spirits the best we can. It's about being mindful and checking in with yourself. All of the important things in life require practice and dedication (ie inspiration and positive thinking). At first it might seem like a lot of work, but it is worth it. I am consistently asking myself now, "what do I want to do with this moment right now?" One time I am especially aware of my choices are when Gerry naps. I can do the dishes (or other home tending), I can get on the computer, I can take that time to connect with Marisol, or I can rest myself (usually while cuddling with Marisol). But I know whichever I choose I have thought about what is best in that moment - for me and my loved ones. I am not just rushing to the first thing that jumps in my line of vision and then wondering later why I didn't choose something else. Will we always make the "right" choice? Probably not - but we can get better at it. And we can always get back on course.
Stop letting others or what you "think others think" dictate what you choose. If you are tired the house can wait. A clean house with an exhausted mama is not balanced (in my opinion!) Don't worry about what others say about how much time you spend with your children - listen to the people that matter - yourself and your children. If you are working so hard that you cannot enjoy any other aspects of your life, examine why you are doing that. Is it serving you? No one except *you* can tell you what is *your* perfect balance. And your balance will change - that's why you need to be in tune to yourself. Your needs for exercise, for nourishing food, for stillness, for connection, for stimulation are your guiding posts. Of course, we have to balance our needs with our loved ones' needs too, which is where things get trickier. But we try. We listen to each other with love and problem solve when our needs seem to clash. I loved this status from a friend on Facebook, "Balance is taking care of what matters MOST at the time it matters most!" This especially rings true to me for mothers of young children. Sometimes when you have a sick child there just isn't anything else that's going to get done except caring for that baby. And that is the perfect balance for that moment.
I lay in bed tonight at 10:30 - Gerry went to bed "early". I thought, "I'm just going to go to bed in my clothes (at least they were linen pants) without brushing my teeth or anything." It felt so good. I thought of this post on "balance", and it seemed fitting. My body is tired. But habit and my bladder weren't listening and the need to release (my thoughts!) won out. My kids - if they are tired you can't convince them to brush their teeth or anything else. It's just time to sleep. Things are simpler for them. I hope that maybe they can stay that way.
Anyways here I am working almost till midnight like a kid in school with a paper due. And I love it! I feel good and I know tomorrow even if I'm tired I will be more present with my kids. Sometimes I am better at being still when I'm tired. Guess that's part of my balance.
Two more things and then I really must retire. During Lent I was randomly opening the Bible some mornings to read. A few days after I wrote in my journal about balance I opened up to Proverbs 11, which state, "A false balance is an abomination to the Lord but an accurate weigh is his delight." (it also went on to say "whoever belittles another lacks sense, but an intelligent person remains silent" guess we better not knock other people's sense of balance!) Powers bigger than me continue to speak to me. I try to listen.
And finally, check out this sticky note that has been posted on my computer's desktop for months now:
I don't think I could say it any better than that. So thank you, whoever I saved that from.
What are your thoughts on balance? What are things you do to help you achieve your optimum balance? Have there been times in your life where you felt either particularly balanced or unbalanced?
Today something really remarkable happened. Well if you were watching my house it would have looked entirely UN-remarkable because what happened was completely inside of me, hidden from the outside world.
Marisol is a little under the weather - headache, a little feverish, leg pains, and all around tiredness. She didn't sleep that well last night and today she has a runny nose too. So we had a very relaxed day. We stayed in all day, largely in PJs, lounging on the couch, watching TV, reading books, and cuddling. Friday is normally dance class but I had a feeling she wasn't up for it. As the time approached when we should leave, I asked her again what she thought. Since she wasn't terribly ill I think she could have gone if she wanted to, but I left it up to her. She didn't feel up for it. So I let it go - it was probably the wisest choice as she hadn't eaten that well in over a day and also so we didn't spread whatever she had to other classmates. Plus I really trusted her to make the decision that was best for her.
So that was cool. But not the remarkable thing. Normally on a day like this I would have been feeling quite "blah" by the end of it. We didn't get outside; indeed, we barely moved today! I read a lot on the computer and a book that I got out from the library. But when Mike got home from work and Gerry woke up from nap (around 6 o'clock both!) I was actually able to move on with my day without any sign of the blahs. (This to me is the epitome of the blahs - losing motivation to do ANYTHING)
What was different?
I'll tell you what's different - it's the power of affirmations and using our minds for good in our lives. I just finished reading my second Louise Hay book, "You Can Create an Exceptional Life" (coauthored by Cheryl Richardson). It is great, no - unbelievable - stuff. For example, I'm not known for being a morning person (Ask my dad! He got to see me at 6 am a lot growing up as I worked for him on our family golf course). But I'm changing that now and it's not even hard, it just takes practice. In the morning I've been starting out with positive thoughts - how I'm going to approach my day, what nourishing food I will provide for myself and my kids, how I love life (and life loves me!) I know it sounds hokey, but you should try it because it works!
I've always thought of myself as an optimistic person and I believe most people who know me would describe me as such. But the truth is that many, MANY of the thoughts that run through my mind on a daily basis are NOT positive. When I'm feeling bad about what the kids and I have done all day, when I'm feeling not good enough or running through my list of "shoulds", none of those thoughts are kind towards myself nor are they even helping. We often think that we can motivate or will ourselves to "be better" with these negative thoughts, but I'm learning this is not the case. Instead, by affirming what we love about ourselves and what we want in our lives we create the space - mentally, physically, emotionally - for change to occur.
So this evening I was able to get off the couch, feed Marisol, play with Gerry and let go of the idea of getting out for a walk when it became clear it wasn't meant to be, easily and with love. And I don't feel blah at all! That is REMARKABLE!
And now that I am slowly learning to reign in my mind, to retrain it to think only positive, loving things, I want to learn to still it when I want or need it to quiet. To actually NOT think at all. That's my next step, it may be even more challenging but I'm sure with some affirmations I can do it!
There was so much in this book that resonated with me, I highly recommend it. It's a quick and easy read. See if your library has it - what do you have to lose? Nothing says I, and everything to gain! ;-)
I just had a total epiphany. I've realized that the dissonance I've been feeling about this blog is that I want to inspire others AND I don't want to make others feel bad (Yes, they are two different things). I feel like if I write so much about how amazing life is and how wonderful people are and how we can change the world with our powerful minds, people will react in a few ways - 1) They may be inspired (I hope!) 2) They may think, holy cow, Susan's goofy! or 3) Geez, she's really high over there - what's wrong with me? How come I don't feel like that?
So I can deal with people thinking I'm crazy. And I adore the idea of inspiring others. But the thought that I actually might make people feel bad about themselves or their lives is just really a downer for me. I think that is why when I came up with the idea of posting twice per week, it seemed like a good idea to have an "Inspiration" theme and a "Keeping it real" theme. In this way there would be some balance and people would see that I'm a real, *imperfect* person. Yes, I do have some pretty lofty goals and idealistic notions, but I'm no better than anyone else. (And don't forget the actual lofty purpose of it all - to get me to consistently write twice a week! These "themes" were more a primer than anything.) But even after one week of posting a "Confession" on a Friday I was already rethinking this tactic. I jokingly commented that I may have had a meltdown that day just to create material to write about. I'm not saying that is actually what I did, but the more I see how my mind creates my reality, the less far-fetched it is sounding. Last week I talked about Judgment (without an "e" - thanks Mom!) again, and you know what? I found myself judging again this week.
The other thing I noticed about these two "Opposite Categories" is that they really aren't opposite. I can take almost any experience and see how it can transform my life or awaken a new awareness in me. After I judged this week, it was tempting to berate myself - why is it so hard to be the person I want to be? I have all of these inspirational writings and people flooding my awareness and I *still* say unkind things. Perfectionism. Another topic to be tackled at a future time. Instead I chose to love myself in spite of my insecurities and imperfections. To say in my mind over and over, "I approve of myself."
And really this isn't a "balance" I want in my life - 50% inspiring and 50% oops, I F*@$ed up again. I want it to be more like 90/10 or even 99/1, goshdarnit! And really that is how I'm feeling almost all the time lately - LIFE IS GOOD!! *That* is what I want to share and spread.
BUT, like I said up there ^^ I also want people to know that life here in the May household is not all rainbows and sunshine. So here is my Ultimate and Final Confession, I'm going to add a tab on my menu too, so anytime someone needs to they can click and read it there:
I, Susan Dionne Damaske May, hereby confess to being 100% imperfectly human. I have bouts of impatience, ignore my kids, spend too much time on Facebook, obsess over my blog and what to write next, and make judgments on other people's choices. My house is usually a mess and often borders on a disaster zone. I barely cook. In fact, my husband cooks most nights when he gets home from work. At 7 o'clock. (Poor guy! But lucky me ;-) I have barely exercised since my daughter was born (almost 6 years ago!) When I read I don't hear anyone which drives my husband crazy - and leads to what looks like more ignoring of our children. I over-think and analyze just about everything. I tend to dwell on things that bother me - about myself and others. I sometimes talk too much. I love Peace but sometimes feel violent.
My children have meltdowns, eat lots of candy, and fight with each other. They have been known to stay up late.
My husband and I very rarely have "deep" conversations and we can count how many "dates" we've had in the past 6 years on our hands (not sure how many hands, but one sounds way too pathetic!)
We all get on each others' nerves and say things that we feel bad about later. In short, we're a family comprised of imperfect human beings.
So there you have it. When you look at it that way it doesn't sound that amazing, huh? But even with all the above I am more in love with myself and my life every day. Blogs are only snapshots, just like everything else. When we see someone at the grocery store, or the playground, or at church it is only a snapshot. When we visit with family or friends the image projected does not include every aspect of our person-hood, and usually some parts are magnified, diminished, or distorted. I think this is why it is sometimes challenging to write for me - because I want to present a clear, whole picture but when all my ideas and beliefs are so tangled I worry about getting it all straight - and really it will never be the whole picture. So I choose what to focus on and present here, and I can only do what feels right for me. I am comforted by the thought that each post is like a conversation that can be built on or even revisited over time.
So no more Friday Confessions (3 was enough I guess!) I'm thinking I may do Snapshots, which highlight a day in our life, or "Did you know?" type things, we'll see. And I'm not even sure how long I can keep up two posts per week. We'll see!
Good night all you lovely people! I hope you enjoyed my final, truly scandalous, confession.
Wife, mom, information and peace seeker.