Have you ever sat with someone, words tumbling and spinning through your mind - trying to find a way out of your brain and into the vast space between you? The tension builds inside of you to the point that you're sure they must feel the electricity in the air. So many phrases begging to be uttered, yet not a single word you can think of speaking out loud. So you muddle through - awkwardly talking about the weather or some other mundane topic. Anything but the existential, philosophical, murmurings of your soul. Because you know in your heart they don't want to hear those. Or silence falls heavy - not the comfortable kind either, but the thick, stifling, "Someone say something!" kind.
You can feel that they have avoided bringing certain topics up around you precisely so they will not have to hear what you have to say about it. So you struggle - do I say something? Or so I respect that they don't want to talk about it? It's like you are holding onto a beautiful gift that you are afraid to offer and even if you did would not be accepted.
I've felt this way.
And then I heard this Sara Bareilles song today:
(You can see the original video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xwTr_CRw3GY - I'm not able to show it here on weebly - it's very inspiring!)
Whoa, if that's not powerful inspiration to speak our truths, I don't know what is. "LET YOUR WORDS FALL OUT!" I love that - makes it sound so easy. That's what I do here. I still believe knowing when our words are welcome and helpful is important. When they are not it may be more respectful to wait - till a better time and place. But I think it's so important for us to let out our truths. Bottling them up is not good for us! I dream of people feeling confident enough express their dreams, desires, needs, and truths in a compassionate way - and for more of us to become open, receptive listeners. Because it takes two to have a meaningful exchange.
What about you? Do you struggle with sharing your deepest desires, goals, and values? Or is it easy for you to share?
Last week I posted this painting - it only took me a few minutes to create. One of our little friends loves to paint when she comes over to our house and I can't bear to let the paint go to waste.
But people really responded to this simple little painting and the message. One friend commented, "Love it! I wish all people could follow these directions, I don't understand why it's so difficult."
I've been thinking about her comment ever since. Because I know that it is difficult to be kind sometimes. Why is it so difficult? Because we are all human. We all mess up sometimes. We all have needs that aren't always being met 100% of the time. We all have unique triggers - things that cause us to feel strong emotions. Sometimes we're exhausted or hungry, sometimes we see something that makes us really ANGRY. In these situations we may feel like we don't have the energy to be kind. Sometimes the kindest thing we can do is bite our tongue and take a few deep breaths until our boiling blood cools down.
It's easy to get behind the message, "Just be kind" when we witness terrible events in the world - unfathomable acts committed that harm innocent people. What's difficult is being consistent in our day to day lives with people in our immediate environment. Sometimes the most difficult thing is to Be Kind to a family member that always seems to do things that go against our values. Perhaps our neighbor does something annoying that we can't understand. How kind are we to strangers we see at the grocery store or what thoughts do we have about other drivers on the highway?
And of course - how do we show (or NOT show) kindness to our children every day?
Be Kind may be a simple message but it is NOT an easy one. If it was we would have figured this stuff out already. So we keep trying. We keep challenging OURSELVES every day to be kinder. (And admit and forgive ourselves when we are not. The more I focus on this message the more I notice when I'm falling short. It's ok to admit we aren't perfect. Instead of beating ourselves up it's more important to make things right and learn from our mistakes.)
So yes. Just. Be. Kind. Even - no ESPECIALLY - when we see others being Unkind. It is the only answer that makes sense.
Although some people may think it is so, Kindness is NOT weak.
Kindness is strong. We can build kindness up - within us and out in the world - one small brick of kindness at a time. But just like a brick wall can be worn down byrain and wind, Kindness can be worn down by the elements of judgment and selfishness.
Kindness is tender too. Like a seedling that needs sun and rain it will flourish if we protect it. Like a vine it will grow wildly and cover everything it touches. We can nourish our vines of kindness with mindfulness and compassion.
Be Kind. Even - no ESPECIALLY - when it's difficult.
Just. Be. Kind. ♥ ♥ ♥
This thought has been in my mind for a while. And the longer it sits the more I know it is true:
My choices about how to parent my kids are more about me than they will ever be about them.
This may sound wrong. It may come off as selfish. But it is the truth.
How many times have we heard how "resilient" kids are? How they can adapt to so many different situations, environments, and people? How about people that like to say, "well I was parented in x, y, or z manner, and *I* turned out 'fine'!"
How important is it that we really think about this parenting stuff? I mean why stress about it too much if they are probably going to more or less turn out ok - regardless of my specific parenting philosophy?
There is some merit in this line of thinking - it is good to keep perspective. When I was a teacher and things were getting heavy, I had to remind myself not to take myself too seriously. I wasn't responsible for saving the world or single-handedly turning my students' lives around. There are so many factors that contribute to life.
So the bottom line is that we do our best. That's it. This is how I came to the conclusion that my parenting is really all about me. What kind of person *I* am in this moment. What kind of person I aspire to be in my best moments.
Now, when I say "do our best" this is no small thing. Doing our best means dedicating ourselves to always improving ourselves. To being the best example we can be. To finding ways to be present and loving every day. To improving our communication skills with our loved ones. To apologizing when we fall short. Because we will fall short. But that is to be expected, because doing our best will never mean that we are perfect. So the question is, what are you going to do when faced with the inevitable? What kind of human being are you going to *choose* to be?
Our focus has to shift. Instead of defining our parenting by what our children are doing, we need to define it by what *we* are doing. When we raise the standards for ourselves, our children will naturally rise with us.
This is how we will change the world together. This is how a new way will be defined. This is how peace will begin to spread from one mama and papa at a time to their children, and then outwards through the world.
Last March I tried out a "schedule" for writing my posts - Mondays were for "Awakenings" and Fridays for "Confessions". The idea behind the confessions was to "keep things real" so I didn't get too "Pollyanna" or sunshine, rainbows, and unicorns here. I quickly ditched the "confessions" idea though with one Final "Ultimate Confession" that I saved as one of the tabs on the top of my webpage. It is kind of like a second "Disclaimer" and it's purpose was to let readers know, "Hello, I'm a real person! Imperfect just like every other human being". Sometimes the images projected out through cyber space lead to distorted images and perceptions in the minds that they land in. (I'm ending this paragraph now, but just wanted to point out that I may have set a record for combined "quotations" and links to my own blog in shortest span ever. So there.)
Anyways, the schedule did "work" (lets keep this "quotation trend" up! Adding a "parentheses trend" too. If you can read this post and it makes sense to you, you are really on top of things.) It "worked" in that I posted regularly and frequently. But I didn't love the whole idea of "confessions" because I felt like I was trying (subconsciously perhaps) to "create" material for those posts. And who wants to start behaving badly just to have something to write about!
Today I *am* going to keep it real. It's not a confession though, because nothing I'm going to write or post pictures of is something I (or anyone) should be ashamed of. (speaking of shame, you must check out Brene Brown's work - brilliant!)
We had friends over on Monday and I wrote the following on my FB Together Walking page:
Inspiration tip: Need some motivation to do some of the mundane things? (You know, like get dressed and pick up around the house) Invite some friends over to your house! You'll be amazed how much you get done in a short time AND you get the added benefit of seeing people you love!
It's true - normally when we have a planned play-date I get SUPER motivated the morning of the play-date, sometimes for a couple of hours, and I'm like a whirling dervish of appendages, brooms, and vacuum extensions. My kids generally keep themselves entertained with computer games or shows and don't complain too much when I'm on such a cleaning binge. (Partly because they are excited to have friends over and maybe they are also confused about what I'm doing.)
But although I love that aspect of inviting people over to my house (or planning parties, having out of town guests, or teaching on the weekends) I also truly believe that it would be healthier for everyone if people were generally more comfortable and honest about the everyday state of their homes. (I joke with my students that I leave a certain amount of mess for them to see so they can see what it's like to have kids. I don't want to set them up for an unrealistic standard after-all! hmm now I'm thinking I should leave things even messier - not in my teaching space, just on the main level where they walk through ;-)
But seriously, many homes where small people live just aren't that neat. Kids don't see the benefit of picking up messes, and actually messes don't look the same to them. (I really want to insert a cartoon I saw on Facebook here - the first frame is black and white and shows a huge MESS in their room, the second frame is in color and the kid is gesturing and clearly explaining to the adult what is *really* going on in the room... it's awesome! If any of y'all know what I'm talking about it and can locate it for me, please leave me a link!)
I'm sure the majority of the time they're like, "why pick up? We're just going to play more tomorrow!" And honestly I think they're onto something. Why do I get my house so clean just to have kids over to trash it?!?
In actuality my comfort level for chaos keeps expanding as my kids push the boundary farther and farther out. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy neat, tidy, dust-free spaces too - I just don't let messes get to me as much anymore.
But even though I'm handling the normal mess of everyday life better, I'm still not handling other people seeing it very well. I still feel the need to apologize or make comments like, "Well, we've really managed to trash the house this week!" It's like I have to say something (to my best friends even) to acknowledge - hey, I *know* it's messy, but really *I'm* not. It's so silly. The state of my house says nothing about me, how capable I am, if I'm a good mother or wife, or whether we are happy. Yet, I know I cannot be the only one who struggles with this. So I've been pushing my comfort zone even more and not worrying (well trying not to anyways) about neighborhood friends dropping in and seeing our crumby rugs, and toy-strewn floors. It's even harder to bite my tongue hard enough not so say anything about it, but I'm getting better at that too.
So today we had friends over and since I was still feeling a bit under the weather, Tasmanian-Devil-Cleaning-Mama didn't make her appearance. The pictures I'm putting up on this post were taken right after our friends left. Most of the mess was there before they arrived and we added to the chaos with hours of fun playing together. I commented to my friend that we should put pictures up of our houses like this and she agreed.
So here they are - what our home looks like more often than not.
My other "keepin' it real" statement for this week is that I'm just not feeling so upbeat the past couple of days. No amount of "affirmations" is doing it for me. And although I posted this on Monday (after our first playdate of the week):
Today may have been the best "first day back to 'normal'" that I've ever had aft e r vacation/time with family. Filled with peace, cooking, connection, nourishing and nourishment, listening, play, time outdoors, creating, connecting, friends... I am so grateful for it all! What a difference knowing what I want to do and how I want to feel makes. ♥
yesterday I was sick and spent the afternoon on the couch. And I longed for support - a tribe, a community, people to play with my kids and keep them happy and fed while I rested. And I wonder if I'm setting myself up to be unhappy by thinking about this all the time. Or is this how we make change, by first envisioning it?
But I *do* know that things always turn around. I will get back to my flow, it just takes time after awesome, sunshine filled vacations! And Spring, warm weather, and long afternoons playing outside are just around the corner here.
*And* I have something new coming up as a "writer" (make that WRITER - no quotation marks for that one!) that is really exciting (how's that for a teaser!) So things will change again and I will come back up to my baseline level of Happy. (Watch this movie/documentary called Happy - so good!)
The ultimate irony is of course that what I am longing for is connection and community. But I sometimes am not comfortable letting it into my life because my house is messy. Wow - seems even sillier when I see it written in black and white like that. Well, at least I'm working on it! And Saturday I start teaching a new Hypnobabies class - so guess who'll be making an appearance this weekend? Yep. Whirling-Dervish-Tasmanian-Devil-Cleaning-Lady. (And you know what? None of these things take that long to pick up - it's more the combined chaos or the Gross House Mess(GHM) that is overwhelming.)
I wrote this at night and just before going to sleep and thought that one of my friend's recent status updates was the perfect way to close this post (Thanks Kelly! Check out her Facebook page for Hypnobabies and doula services here)
Goodnight dishwasher with your clean dishes. Goodnight dishes in the sink. Goodnight laundry pile and Goodnight toys on the floor. Goodnight half-made lunches and Goodnight wet snowpants. Goodnight scribbles and Goodnight markers. Goodnight bills and Goodnight Quickbooks. Goodnight stars Goodnight air. Goodnight noises everywhere.
And this morning I am refreshed and feeling more like myself again. It's amazing how powerful a good night's sleep is!
What do you struggle with more? The mess or letting people see it? Or are you just so Zen that you let it all go?
ps please share if you wish there was less pressure to have a perfect house and more support and community in its place!
We've been on a really, really strange sleep bender around here. (ok, when I say we, I really mean Gerry. But he takes me for the ride too!)
Mostly I'm really proud of myself for how I've been dealing. But sometimes I forget how much of a toll it's taking on me. For example, sometimes I get what seems like "enough" sleep, but our hours are kind of all over the place and then when I'm tired I don't understand why! (Like today, Gerry went to sleep a little after 1 am last night... but then we were in bed till 9 am - not so bad in number of hours. But our schedule - haha, that word just made me laugh - has been so wacky lately I think it just catches up to me).
So, anyways - today. I'm going to try and focus on that. (I did just have my glass of wine too though, so focus is kinda hard right now.) I actually got showered and dressed before 11 (this is pretty unusual around here) and then Marisol requested to go outside (also unusual). We somehow convinced Gerry to go out and it was really nice out - sunny and quite warm compared to what it has been. The kids flitted from activity to activity - we were probably only out for around an hour, but they each did at least 3-4 different things. I'm so grateful to have that huge outdoor space and the luxury or running back and forth to get different toys/clothes/sports gear when they want it.
Back inside I got everyone a decent lunch and made zucchini bread. Then I realized how tired I was. And that we had to start gearing up for dance class soon. Oh boy. So I knew that now was the time to forget the pile of dishes in the sink, of clothes waiting to be folded, and toys on the floor. Now was the time to rest. Not long ago I might have pushed through and tried to get some things done since the kids were happily watching their respective TV shows. And usually those are the times I end up getting really burned out. Today I decided I needed to rest a bit before heading out (I took some time to take this picture of myself first though, haha).
When it was time to go I gathered us up in record time. Marisol was fairly cooperative getting her dance clothes on. Gerry was a mess (remember the 1 am bedtime?) He wanted "muk" and he did NOT want to leave. So I empathized with him the best I could and got us all out to the car as quickly as I could. I strapped my poor, crying boy into his seat. It only took two extra trips inside (grabbing the house key off the bunch connected to the key already in the ignition) - one for Gerry's socks and a stroller and another trip for a movie for Marisol (we had negotiations regarding iPhone use - big sister was very generous and agreed to using a DVD player).
I joked as we pulled out that I forgot my sunglasses and should I run inside one more time? Marisol and I agreed that no, one more time would be a bit ridiculous. But it was very sunny with perfect blue, cloudless skies. Gerry's crying subsided and I dispensed snacks and water bottles as I drove (I wonder if there have been any studies on accident rates of mothers). A few minutes into the drive she requested headphones - I didn't have any. I turned my music down (how I can listen to music with two other devices blaring behind me is another mystery - I guess it's a talent of mine.) I requested that Gerry turn his down and after refusing a couple of times he said, "Otay, I turn mine down". Peace resumed. Then about half way to dance class Marisol started making small, discontented noises. The sun was TOO bright and was interfering with her view of "Brave". I made a quick decision to pull into a gas station parking lot. I found a pink re-usable shopping cart and lowered her window, just a crack. Twisting from the front seat I slid part of the bag out the crack, yelling when I got a leg cramp, then I managed to roll the window back up.
At this point I was congratulating myself on my wonderful mommy performance. I'd been understanding, gentle, and empathetic with Gerry when he didn't want to leave but decisive enough to get us out the door. I was being flexible and patient in the car and really listening to the kids. Thoughts about self-love also ran through my mind and how, if I hadn't been able to be all those things, that would have been ok too. I mean everyone has their limits!
Marisol's improvised sun-shade seemed to help, but a few minutes before arrival Marisol started complaining about the sun again. This time I told her, "almost there." Gerry's eyes closed one minute before we pulled into the parking lot. Good thing I remembered the stroller!
I parked and then started to gather our things. I opened Marisol's door and this is when something happened - she was cold or upset that she hadn't seen much of her movie, "You can watch more on the way home," I said from the back of the car, pulling the stroller out. But all of a sudden Marisol decided she didn't want to go in. I tried to be matter of fact - we just drove all the way here, we are going in - besides she would have fun, I just knew it! But the crying continued and my frustration mounted. My limit was quickly speeding towards me. Gerry woke up somewhere in there and he didn't want to get out either. I admitted defeat but not without throwing my own tantrum - slamming doors and the stroller back in, then raising my voice with some not-so-nice words thrown towards my distraught daughter. I looked at the clock. We were already 15 minutes late.
We talked more and Marisol agreed to try to go in - but requested a couple of minutes to calm down. Heart melting a bit, I said, "Of course!" (How wise children are.) She climbed up front and sat on my lap. We talked more and I apologized for yelling.
Ultimately, she never calmed down. Her legs were tired (a very late bedtime the night before didn't help, and we talked about that too) and she just wasn't up for dancing. In my frustration I talked about quitting again (we've been struggling with dance class lately) but although when pressured she says, "fine!" neither one of us really want to quit - we already paid for her costume AND she really wants to do the recital (so do I!)
I wanted to try and go to the grocery store at least, but Gerry was refusing to get out of the car, so I gave up. Homeward bound we were.
My sweet girl and I talked more - "I love you Mommy," she said and I said sorry again. Eyes watering she said, "I understand why you were frustrated though." Oh my heart hurt. She's so beautiful.
So I focused on the good parts:
1) Gerry's nap had been limited to a couple of minutes, this was VERY good news (and yes, he slept from 7:30 last night till 7:45 this morning, yay sleep!)
2) We had gotten out of the house - and it was a BEAUTIFUL day!
3) Marisol and I talked - about getting to bed at a decent hour, and more importantly I got to say the words, "You are more important to me than dance class. You are more important to me than money."
4) Although I reached my limit and didn't behave in the best way, I also turned things around quickly my kids got to see me apologize and ask for forgiveness.
The funny thing is, I was so tired before we left. But I thought we were going to push through - maybe my intuition was trying to tell me something and I wasn't listening? I don't know.
But there you have it. Our day yesterday (I started writing last night, hence, the "today" at the beginning of this post and the "yesterday" now. Confusing I know, but I feel like leaving it this way with a long explanation...) I know this was long, but I'm glad to record these moments on our journey. And, my new affirmations are going to include things like, "My ability to love and listen is always expanding" because it's true - my limits keep getting pushed out by my kids. And I love and thank them for that.
Have you ever noticed that right when you start congratulating yourself, Life likes to deliver a small piece of humble pie? I'd love to hear some of your choppy moments!
Well loves, the time has come. This book is going to mark the end of my Blogiversary celebration. I sure had fun, I hope you did too!
This book is such a gem. It is actually been a couple of years since I read it, but I was skimming through tonight and reading pages that I had flagged (they're still marked!) and there is so much wisdom in in this little book. I mentioned earlier this year that finding unschooling was one of the biggest awakenings of my life. If that statement is confusing or intriguing to you and you want to know more, this book will answer a lot of your questions.
Rue Kream organized Parenting a Free Child: An Unschooled Life in a very reader friendly way. Each chapter is actually a short essay that answers a typical question or concern regarding unschooling.
I want to quickly share a couple of my favorite quotes from the book.
When asked if she could play a song on the radio on her guitar, Rue's daughter said, "I could if I knew how" (p 7).
I love this! How confident the child is in her own ability to learn what she wants when she wants to, so beautiful.
I also love Rue's response to the question, "Don't you ever have a bad day?"
"Unschooling does not make us more than human. Striving to be a peaceful parent does not make me a perfect parent." (p 112)
All I can say to that is, Amen!
This book gives perspective on so many issues from why in their family (and many unschooling families) they choose not to limit TV and screen time, and how and when children learn to read, to concerns about children getting into college and chores. It really covers a lot of ground in a concise and clear manner.
Sooo.... whether you are interested in learning more about unschooling or if you are already unschooling but need a shot of inspiration and confidence, this is a great book.
Leave me a comment if you want to be in the drawing for this awesome book! And if you share the love by liking my FB page, or by sharing the link on your blog or FB page I'll add your name an extra time for each bit of extra love you give me. ;-)
Lots of Love and Peace to you all tonight...
That's a lotta "Ps"! I love it! (I know, I'm a dork - but I've learned to embrace my dorkiness, I can't help it if I love alliteration!)
I've been thinking about perfection and the pressure to be perfect (more "Ps"!) a lot the past few years. It's one reason I love Mayim Bialik's book so much (the one I'm giving away this week!) - she does not paint a picture of perfection (haha, I'm not even doing it on Purpose anymore!) in her life or family, in fact she admits that they are anything BUT perfect.
I stumbled across a post this week about how photographs posted online can give others the impression that a person is leading an idyllic or "perfect" life. If we were being rational we would know that of course NO ONE'S life is perfect and everyone struggles sometimes. Just because beautiful pictures are posted publicly, that doesn't mean that there aren't less-than-perfect moments in the person's life.
This is the reason that I posted my "Ultimate Confession" right at the top of my website - I don't want anyone ever thinking that *my* life is perfect or that we never mess up here. I don't want to contribute to competitiveness, guilt, jealousy or other destructive feelings in the world. I was thinking about this last night and then the irony struck me hard - I chose to use beautiful, professional photos at the top of my "confession" page! Ha! What a juxtaposition - my confession of how we are human with real flaws, coupled with the happy, "picture-perfect" moments captured of my family (next to a cornfield at that!) ... wow. Kind of a huge visual/literary oxymoron. But my point in choosing those pictures is that even though our lives don't always look like a professional photo, I do *choose* to focus on the good times and happy moments.
Of course we share the happy, sunny, smiling, moments on Facebook. We put pictures on our blogs of cute kids holding hands or hugging each other tightly. We instagram kids throwing leaves into the air and running freely with wild abandon. I hope that pictures of shiny, wide-eyed children and beautiful walks next to sunset streaked oceans are inspiring to others - I know they are for me.
I have a few pictures of Marisol crying miserably when she was a baby. I don't think I have one of Gerry. Does that mean he cried less? (well... maybe! haha) More likely, it reflects a change in myself as a parent. I don't even think of grabbing the camera when he is in a state like that anymore. My first thought is to comfort, offer my arms and presence - not to pick up the camera!
Remember, what you see online are snapshots. It doesn't mean anyone is "lying" or trying to deceive their audience - it simply means that they are choosing what they present to the world. No one, no family, no life is "perfect". But it is true that some people are happier then others. Why? Because they know that true Peace and Happiness comes from within and is of their own making and choosing - no matter what imperfect circumstances arise in their life.
Synchronicity - after having drafted this blogpost a few days ago I read this post from Glennon over at Momastery. I guess these things are on people's minds.
Also, when I started this post and as I posted my latest give-away I had no idea that Mayim Bialik had filed for divorce. Mike brought it to my attention last night and it I definitely have a lot of feelings and thoughts about that. Mostly compassion for her and her husband and kids as they go through a tough time. Mayim has really put herself and her beliefs about attachment parenting "out there" and now she is under even greater scrutiny - of course people are questioning if their style of parenting contributed to their split.
I will just say that the book is awesome, regardless of her marital status, I promise! Head over to this post and leave me a comment if you want to enter the drawing!
This is going to be just a stream-of-consciousness type post - just some of the thoughts I've had swirling today.
After my post on Monday - which I stayed up quite late to finish before the "deadline" for Blog Action day - I've been thinking how I must be irritating some people by insisting that some parenting practices just aren't nice. And I have to admit it makes me a bit uncomfortable because I don't like making people feel bad. But then I thought, well hey, that's kind of good if someone's bothered by something I wrote, because that means that it got into their head and it's sticking there. Maybe it's like a little grain of sand that will rub until it turns into a beautiful pearl.
Tonight Marisol and I were reading Dr. Seuss' story about the Grinch and she said that she likes people with the Biggest hearts -then she looked right up at me and into my eyes and said, "I think you're one of them". Oh my goodness, did I melt and cry? Oh yes I did!
I don't write here to brag about how wonderful my kids and life are, or to show off how perfect and compassionate I am. Because although my kids are wonderful and I love my life, we're not perfect by any stretch of the imagination - we have meltdowns every day and I feel my heart contract and turn cold when she freaks out about something that seems insignificant to me. But we've been making a habit of saying what we're grateful for at night before going to sleep and tonight she said, "My life", and she keeps telling me in so many ways, and I just want people to know that they can have that too! I see a lot of hurting parents and kids and I just want them to know it doesn't have to be that way.
I feel a bit like I'm becoming "One-note-Nelly" and my monotone mantra is "Be Nice to your kids!" but I guess it could be worse. And I have some different stuff coming up soon that I'm excited about (how's that for a teaser? Stay tuned!) So in the near future I'll be a little bit less like a 1-Hit Wonder (although I'd be excited just to have 1 Big Hit at this point!)
I was messaging with an old friend a bit and talking about how writing here just fills me up in a way I never could have predicted. She mentioned that she's not surprised and it's a good way to connect with like-minded people. I guess it kind of is. But actually that was more what my "secret" blog was for - and Xanga is a great blogging community for that because you can search for specific things, like homeschooling, and then "friend" or follow people. Other great places for finding people you gel with are Yahoo groups - I've found international and local groups which have been great for inspiration and making friends in real life.
But again as I wonder why (wonder but don't question... it's too good to doubt it) I'm doing this - writing, sharing - why I've been able to keep it up so consistently for so long, I'm realizing that it's my way of living out loud. And it feels great.
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.
Wife, mom, information and peace seeker.