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.
So the former science teacher in me has to concede to daughter of a math teacher that is equally alive in me - Life is a Sine Wave NOT an Inclined Plane (Sorry simple machines)
(And, yes this is another spin on the "Life is a Journey Not a Destination" theme. What can I say, at the core of most cliches are undeniable, sparkling truths.)
I've learned this lesson over and over again in my life:
Homesickness - it's not something that you "beat" one time and then you're done with it. It comes and goes in waves.
Children's development - Often kids will try something new or seem to reach a developmental stage only to stop or seemingly "regress". This could be food or a skill or anything really. It could be their moods. It could be their ability to sit through a church service. It all waxes and wanes.
Relationships - Again, I think about my children. Marisol's "adjustment" to being a big sister was not a one-time event. Her relationship with her brother is like all human relationships - it has its ups and downs. As their parent I can do many things to help them understand and weather these different phases of their relationship. And of course we can see similar trends in all of our relationships.
Energy - Our overall energy ebbs and flows. Honestly, after a rip-roaring start to 2013, March was a little bit subdued for me. I had days in which I struggled. I felt very emotional. In the midst of this different energy I did some things that helped a lot though. I connected more with my loved ones. I meditated. I took more time away from the computer. And in the past few days I've felt the energy coming back up. (Hooray for Spring and new beginnings!)
These are just a couple of the examples that jump to my mind. But really we can see this idea in just about everything in our lives. It's about the flow and change and different seasons in life. The only constant thing is change.
And actually a simple Sine Wave doesn't even tell the whole story. Because even a Sine Wave is very predictable and regular. But in actuality life may look more like this:
Sometimes we stay close to our "baseline" so that it almost looks like we are on an even keel. And sometimes we stray from our baseline a LOT (look at those huge waves and crests! My what a large Amplitude you have there, Grandma Sine Wave... oh wait, never mind.)
But what about our baseline? Are we not in control of this at least a little bit? I believe we are. We can raise our energy level (what some call our vibration). This might look something like this:
That's why it's so important to take care of ourselves and notice what helps us feel good in our everyday lives.
But, I also am finding how important it is to not fight things. Someone told me recently that feelings are neither good nor bad - that we should let ourselves feel them so we can process them and release them. This has been a very helpful idea to me recently. What does this have to do with my Sin Wave analogy? Well, I guess it means that I let it happen. That it's ok to have dips and troughs in my emotional landscape. I definitely try to "fight" my feelings sometimes and it just isn't helpful. Partly because I'm trying to beat feeling bad with my mind.
But if I can surrender to the feelings, while continuing to make choices that I *know* from experience are good for me, then I can ride it out. And then my baseline level of feel good can rise back up more easily.
So there you have it. Life is a Sine Wave.
What are things you do when you're feeling low? Have you found things that help you bounce back quicker, or do you just need to let life run its course?
So we went to Disney World the last week in February. To see our Disney adventures in pictures head over to my other blog, Everyday Adventures.
Before we went I considered asking friends for any advice on "doing Disney". I have several friends on Facebook in particular who I know have been multiple times, so they really know the "ins and outs" of the parks. But my procrastination paid off this time and I never got around to it.
Instead we just did our normal thing. Show up. Follow the fun. Stop when we got tired. Our version of "Go with the Flow".
Here are the major things that helped us stay in our flow while visiting the most magical and possibly stressful places on earth:
1) The first major decision you have to make regarding Disney is what time to get up the first day (and every other day). Do you want to get up at the break of dawn so you can be at the gates when they open?
Nope, not us. We opted to wake up naturally whenever that may be (we were still at my parents' place the first day, and had an hour+ drive to get to our hotel too). We actually were in the car by around 9 am which for us is VERY early - that alone shows you how excited our kids were. But we had to go to the Animal Kingdom Lodge where we were sleeping for two nights to check in and get our passes first. So we did that, found our room (which the kids loved!) and then eventually made our way to the park (it took some convincing to get our kids out of the hotel! They thought it was cool enough to stay and explore for a while!)
Our first day also happened to be rainy, so I'm EXTRA glad that we didn't try to "maximize" our time in the park because it wouldn't have been worth it. As it was, there was one big downpour while we were there and then it cleared up. We had a very low stress, fun afternoon. And the park closed after the 5 pm Nemo show so we headed back to our hotel where we were able to enjoy the outdoor movie showing by the pool (Brave was on that night, one of our favorites!), Marisol swam and went in the kid-friendly hot-tub, and Gerry played on the playground. Perfect first day, even with rain.
I would so much rather be rested than miserable trying to get my "money's worth". One woman told us there horror story of getting up at 4 am to fly to Orlando then taking the screaming kids to the park. She was still reliving that first day at the end of their trip. Our earliest day at the parks was the second day at the Magic Kingdom, but we still took our time. The last day we didn't get to Hollywood Studios until almost noon because we had to check out of our room first.
2) Know when to push it and when to back off. Gerry was tired and overwhelmed a lot. I brought our ergo carrier and was able to carry him and have him nap on me every afternoon. But until he napped he was pretty much not his usual happy self (aka: a mess!) The first ride I took him on at the Magic Kingdom was "It's a Small World". We went on with my mom - he was NOT happy about it as we got in line. But I put him in the carrier and nursed him while we waited, and when our turn came he happily got on the boat and LOVED it. Later, he didn't want to go on the Peter Pan ride and we didn't push it because it was obvious it wasn't the time (plus we only had 3 fast passes, so Marisol, Mike, and Grandma went.)
Towards dinner time on our second day the kids were tired and Mike was ready to head back to the hotel. I could tell my mom was a little bummed we didn't get a few more things in. But I agreed to heading back and calling it a day. On our walk we came across the Swiss Family Robinson Tree House and both kids wanted to climb it - I think Gerry was just waking up too, and running up and down the stairs and jumping was the perfect activity to revive him!
After that we ended up doing a couple more rides and having dinner! In fact we outlasted my mom and stayed for the fireworks! It was the perfect example of going with the flow - there were no arguments or hurt feelings, we just did what felt right and actually ended up staying a lot longer!
3) Listen to your kids. On day 3 we went to Hollywood studios. Marisol REALLY wanted to do the "Tower of Terror" ride. I thought the kids would enjoy going to a cafe for lunch with characters. We stopped by the cafe first to find out how we could get in. We could have gone in with only a short wait - about 15 minutes - right then. If we waited we were going to run into the lunch rush and they weren't taking any more reservations. Because we knew that Marisol had her heart set on the ride we opted to do the ride first, even though it didn't make as much sense to my adult minds. The good news was they only had to wait 20 minutes for the ride. After, both kids happily waited 45 minutes for a seat at the cafe and LOVED seeing the characters. (And who knows, if we had done the opposite order the ride line might have been a lot longer - and we might have all been grumpy!)
Later, Gerry and I waited at least least a half an hour to see Lightning McQueen and Mater from "Cars". I was so excited for him - and of course I wanted a picture of him with his favorites! When we got up there he did NOT want a picture though. And I didn't push it - he got what he wanted, to touch Lightning. And I got some pictures without him. (Plus I *did* get a couple pictures of him with some other favorites earlier - Handy Manny AND Jake the Pirate!)
Of course we had our "moments". The morning we went to the Magic Kingdom was probably the most stressful, with longer lines, more people and a mix-up at a fast pass station. But overall I was really happy with our time at Disney and impressed with how well we stayed in our flow.
I just love Disney shows! They are always so good and their messages so wonderful - even (especially??) for adults. This clip is from the Nemo show at the Animal Kingdom. You have to watch this turtle sing about going with the flow - it's so beautiful. And he gives some great parenting advice too ;-)
Here are the words from the song transcribed by moi:
Dude, you have traveled far..
You must be swimming under a lucky star!
You're exactly where you're meant to be...
So grab some shell and surf the EAC with me!
Go with the Flow!
Go with the Flow!
Go with the Flow!
Don't be a high-strung fellow,
Kick back and keep it mellow,
oh, oh oh, Go with the Flow!
Kill the motor dude,
Why don't you take it slow?
Let us see how quirt does flying solo.
Squirt: Dad, did you see what I did??
"You so totally rocked it Squirt! You're such an amazing kid!"
It's awesome, they're eggs on a beach,
then coo-coo ka choo - they find their own way back to the Big ol' Blude
Marlin: All by themselves? But what if they're not ready? I mean - How do you know??
Well you never really know...
But if they're ever gunna grow
Then you gotta let 'em go, ya know!
Just go with the flow...
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!
I've been pondering the quote on this page. For a while I focused on the word "judging". I've grappled with judging and judgment many times. And I've kind of come to the conclusion that "judging" is kind of part of the human experience. After all making a "judgment" means that you are forming an opinion about something. That is what I do as a parent and as a writer here. I share my opinion about what I think is right and wrong, about what makes life sweeter or more difficult.
So the above quote really caught my attention. Will I ever *truly* be awake if I can't stop "judging"? I think of awake as being conscious, deliberate, and thoughtful. I am confident that all of those adjectives describe me. So how could I evolve more along these lines?
Last week I had an experience that pushed me closer than ever to my awakening. A couple of popular bloggers (and by popular, I mean these writers have hundreds of thousands of readers and followers - it's humbling) wrote posts that really got under my skin. And I'm not going to lie, part of what smarts so much is that they *are* so popular and these views that don't jive with me AT. ALL. are embraced by their readers.
So I started to think about how I want to feel and what I can do to achieve these feelings. Lately I've been advising lots of people to stop watching the news or inundating their consciousness with every little detail of the world's happenings (they aren't often happy). But I wondered if maybe I could use a little of my own advice. What purpose does it serve for me to read these blogs if they are just upsetting me? I mean, yes I could comment in an attempt to make my views and opinions heard. But really, I'm not deluding myself into thinking that I'm going to make much headway in forums like those.
I also do think it's healthy to hear different opinions of things. But quite honestly, it was as much *how* these opinions were presented that bothered me, as the opinions themselves. One in particular just wasn't respectfully presented.
So I made a choice to stop subscribing to these two writers - even though they are talented and funny and I often enjoy their work. It just wasn't worth the mental turmoil it was causing me.
A refrain in one of those irritating (to me) blog entries was "I don't care." And actually it's not that I mind those words. Sometimes the words "I don't care" are empowering. But if they are said to dismiss others or to fool ourselves into believing that something we really *do* care about isn't worth our time, then these words can be dangerous.
Ironically, these three words also led me to feel closer to my awakening. I'm getting closer and closer to "not caring" what others think. Don't get me wrong, I still *do* care greatly about other people. But the more comfortable I am in my own skin and in my choices and thought processes, the less I worry about what others think of me. Also, I cannot worry about other people's paths. Everyone is on their own personal journey of growth and each one is unique. Some people are going to resonate with my message and "truth" and other people aren't. And the more I can let go of trying to control what others think, the more I am able to stay on my path. That's what it means to be awakened and to not judge others. Because we can't help those that don't want to be helped. We can't force a horse to drink even if we are holding its face in the water. It's not my job to try and get people to agree with me.
My job is to be me and love everyone the best I can.
"I must be a mermaid...
I have always loved that quote and it still resonates with me.
I think a lot. I analyze more. I'd say "thoughtful" is a characteristic that pretty well describes me. I've always felt "wise for my years" - although the longer I live the more I realize how little I know, and that growth will always be a part of my journey.
But last night as we finished up watching "The Bachelor" and I had a Facebook "conversation" with a couple of friends about the show, I realized that I'm not really a mermaid... I'm a sperm whale (I know it's not as exotic as a mermaid, but come on, the image and the word "sperm" must make you giggle a little!)
I've talked about this with some of my friends. One of my best friends told me that she can "only" be friends with people who would subscribe to the Wall Street Journal and US Weekly. (We only subscribe to one of those in our house - luckily she's still my friend.) The point being, we can't take life too seriously ALL. THE. TIME. It's good to be thoughtful, deliberate, and be AWAKE in our lives. And that takes some effort. We have to examine ideas, question "truths" that have been fed to us our whole lives, identify what's most important to us.
When we grapple with these issues we're like the sperm whale diving deep into the ocean and wrestling with a colossal squid that will hopefully be it's dinner.
The sperm whale can dive down almost 2 miles and stay under for almost an hour and a half if it needs to. But eventually it needs to come to the surface to breathe. We all do.
And those long, deep dives aren't even the best for the whale's health (I just learned a lot from Wiki-pedia! My base knowledge of sperm whales came from "Wild Kratts" though - thank you PBS Kids.)
And just like the deepest dives are hard on the whale, we can't be serious all the time. It's not good for us! Laughter is good; and, combined with lightness, fun, and connecting with others, it's not just good, it's life-sustaining.
I need to remind myself not to take everything so seriously all the time. I do pretty well in my everyday life - my kids won't let me stay too serious (I mean a day can't go by without a huge belly laugh from my boy and a sparkly smile from my girl!) As a writer I seem to like to stay down in the depths, wrestling with my own giant squid ideas. It's where I'm comfortable. But I like to push my comfort zones, so I'm going to try and share even more of myself here, and include the silly, immature, and "shallow" parts of me. I hope you'll join me!
Can you guess which we subscribe to, the WSJ or US weekly? (Family and friends, please don't give it away!) How do you make sure that you come up for air and lighten up when things get too serious?
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!
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?
My recommendation is that if you have a child you're sure is fantastically superior to other beings, keep quiet about it. She might grow up to be literally or figuratively 5'2", if you're lucky enough that she grows up. Don't be so ecstatic now that you can't help but be disappointed in your children for being the people they are.
I love this passage. And although I love and believe every word of it in regards to our children, I especially like it because it also reminds me to be gentle with myself. That *I* am going to be brilliant sometimes and exhausted others. That *I* am going to be the wisest person I've ever known one day, and the next possibly the most immature. That *I* am going to learn and relearn lessons that I thought I had mastered long ago, and have "aha" moments about the most basic, mundane possible things.
I have a tendency to the "up and down". To be higher than high and then slide down into a valley of... low. Today was a low. I miss my sister who was here for a couple of days. I miss my family. I want my tribe. But focusing on things that aren't here and now do not lend themselves to a happy, present person. So that was my lesson today. Again. And that just because I have some bad moments, that doesn't mean the whole day is lost. There are still plenty more moments to be had (Thanks again to Sandra et. al. for that one!)
And again I am reminded that this path I'm on isn't really "just" about parenting. It's really about me and becoming the person I want to be. As I do that I am also becoming the best possible parent to my children. And I am slowly learning that when I love myself in my lowest of lows, then I am quicker to forgive myself, recover, and move on the next moment.
Life is Lumpy and that's ok.
Wife, mom, information and peace seeker.