Being a Kid Again and the Word No

Eli and Grandpa Allen water the plants.

Indulge me in a quick thought experiment: Imagine yourself as a kid again.

What came to mind? Perhaps an image of you at elementary age, running free, exploring your neighborhood subject only to the limits of your imagination, unburdened by adult concerns of meal planning, mortgage payments, and marriage woes.

The other day a friend shared with me his irritation at the feeling he’s being asked to carry more responsibility that he really wants. He’s single, childless, and works hard at his job, which pays him fairly. He’s in a position to easily experience the unbounded freedoms of childhood. And yet, he found himself recently saying “yes” to a few too many requests on his time and abilities. “But I want to help,” he counters, mostly to himself. He values service, community, and connection so it’s important to him to provide what others need if he’s in a position to offer.

But something wasn’t sitting well with him and it was obvious. His anger fomented at the top of the conversation like a froth. “I don’t want all this responsibility,” he whined, “I just want to be a kid again.”

I sat there listening but couldn’t help think of my own kid, newly two years old. What do you know of two year olds? They love to say “No.” Or in some cases, “No! No, no, no, NO!”

This was something about being a kid that my friend–and I think most of us–often forget. Kids are excellent at setting boundaries around what they like and don’t like, what they will do and won’t do. They don’t think about how saying no might make them temporarily unlikeable. They don’t worry about it. And so, they enjoy sharing when it feels good and ignore requests to put to down they toy when they’re absorbed with it. It’s simple math.

But what do we do? We put others first before our own needs and desires to the point that we feel resentful of the very people we care so much about. How can we be more like a kid again? We could practice saying no.

The next time you receive an invitation to an event that sounds nice but you’d rather not get in the car to stay out late? Say no. Stay in and read on the couch instead, it’s what you really want to do.

The next time your eyes get bigger than your stomach but you know you don’t really want that fourth cookie? Say no. Listen to your gut.

You can change your mind, you can surprise people, you can make different choice, you can say no. Kids do.

 

 

 

Of course

Of course, the week we planned to move into our new place I get hit with the worst case of flu in recent memory and can hardly move my body from one room to another let alone move myself, my stuff and my family to another house. But isn’t that just how it goes?

Of course the kid gets sick on your day off, of course it rains the night you leave the windows rolled down, of course the store carries every size shoe in the one you want except the size you wear. Sometimes, we run the risk of averting the very things we most want by wanting them so hard…

The other day I was recounting to Simeon a story of the Bank Account, which got me thinking about these “of course” times. While we were living in Vermont, I started my life coaching business and in order to track my new business expenses I opened a separate checking account. Now that we’ve relocated and the bank isn’t local, I don’t want to have the account open. So, naturally I tried to close it.

I’ve literally been trying to close the account for months. But, no matter what actions I take, the account never seems to get much closer to closing. Of course…

I call the company, I’m put on hold, I call back, they tell me to send in the forms, I send in the forms. They lose the forms. I send them again. I have to go to a local bank and get a cash advance, they don’t tell me I need specific ID. I go back with the ID. They don’t tell me I need to know the exact amount. I return another day with the exact amount. They can’t do Mastercard, another bank can. I go back to another bank another day with the right ID and the exact amount – to a bank that specifically uses Mastercard, and they’ve just closed for the day. I go back again but now the card is void. I call the bank. They say its fine. I tell them then close the account and by now on the brink of tears I tell her, please help me help you help me. I just want to close this account!

So finally, finally, the woman helps. She says she’s sending the money left in the account via check. Which is not received at our new house because I am laying out sick at the old house. The certified mail is left at the main USPS station. As soon as I’m well I hurry over and hand in the crumpled pink slip eagerly awaiting the retrieval of this piece of mail that has been months coming. And do you know what?

They can’t find it. The tracking says it should be there. But they can’t find it anywhere.

Of course.

By now I am laughing. Of course they can’t find it! Before they can find it I need to get right with the bank and the account and the lost funds. I need to be ok with it not being ok. Before it will get righted I need to right myself about the whole situation. And isn’t that just it? The change starts with me. The world will not right itself while I swirl. I must first right myself.

My energy can create miracles and my energy can create quagmires. This is what creating our own reality is all about. It means that how I show up affects what I get.

So today, I’m enjoying the silly mess and reveling in my power to create. Because even when things go wrong, there is something that went right – your work is to find it, lift it up out of the darkness and celebrate it until it grows and grows and grows and you can’t see anything else.

My way of celebrating today is to share the silliness with you, in the hopes that you will laugh in related recognition and enjoy the frivolity of things that went wrong turning around and going right again. May it be so, for us all.

 

I am weary

Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health winter timeI am so weary from the news of the day and my spirit aches for renewal and assurances of a lasting peace. And all the while, Earth has been steadily spinning so that night will come and the moon will rise and tomorrow will bring another dawn.

I posted this to Facebook this afternoon. With more new articles coming every hour with updates about President-Elect Trump’s deeply troubling business debts and conflicts of interest, allegations of Russian interference in our election, the Syrian crisis, and how I’m going to afford day-care, I want to weep and weep and weep and weep.

This is not who we are. This is not the Universe I know and trust. And yet, isn’t it? The web of life connects, contains, and corrupts. Decay is a part of the essence of birth and of life. These aren’t platitudes–it’s the core of our existence. So I try. I try to stay with the feelings as they come: shame for not being more actively involved in the fight for justice, fear for how my life and my son’s life will change in the years to come, despair that so much good may be undone, and grief over what could have been. My silent tears seep through my skin and I try to absorb the truth. This is what I feel. This is what is real. This is the truth today.

 

 

Start Where You Are

masters thesis writingI’m way behind on my master’s thesis according to the deadline laid out in my class syllabus. The final draft is due Tuesday and I barely have half of the rough draft finished.

Ugh.

I dislike the feeling of being behind. And yet this is the reality. And of course I have a long laundry list of reasons why the paper isn’t yet done (including the laundry) but I’ve come to the point now that simply I can’t keep using the same excuses or I will never actually write the darn thing.

***

The other night while putting Eli to bed I suddenly found myself with my smartphone in hand mindlessly scrolling through Instagram without purpose. This is so routinized that I hadn’t even noticed what I was doing until I somehow “woke up” with a startled awareness that I was using precious, precious time that could be more efficiently spent. (Writing perhaps?)

I laid with Eli in the dark while he fell asleep and thought about what had prompted my situation. Unsurprisingly, I came up with another long list. This time it was a list of beliefs. Limiting beliefs.  Some of the limiting beliefs were about how I work, some about where I can work, and some even about what the process must be like in order to work well and get this paper done.

A few of the beliefs I came up with that night:

  • I need a chunk of hours (undisturbed) to get any good writing done
  • I can’t work without typing out my thoughts on my laptop
  • I can’t put anything else aside to write this paper because everything I do is non-negotiable.
  • Writing my thesis has to be hard. If it isn’t hard I must not be doing it right.

I went through the list one by one. Was it true? Really true? I had to ask–what if these beliefs were actually false? What could be different if I chose new beliefs? Would my circumstances change? It seemed more than likely. It felt inevitable.

So, I posed a series of new questions to myself as I laid in the dark, soothing my baby with one hand, clutching my smartphone in the other.

  • How can I put my smartphone to use in lieu of the laptop? Could I find a way to write in quick sprints?
  • What could I accomplish in 15 minutes? Or 5 minutes?
  • What could I let go of temporarily to make more time in the day?
  • What if I could get progress made everyday in those stolen moments–how would I feel at the end of each day?

My new beliefs are raw and uncomfortable. It will take time to smooth their jagged edges. I find it’s much easier to follow the status quo even when it’s fraught with discouragement because the path is so well traveled, the grooves worn from time and attention.

But I’m happy to at least have a new set of beliefs to carry me forward. And add to that list: “Things are changing for the better.” And “I’m becoming better at managing my time.” I’ve heard a number of examples recently of folks who wouldn’t take small steps to improve their lives because they couldn’t find a way to overhaul it all at once. One woman who wanted to run a marathon couldn’t find a way to run everyday and so wouldn’t run at all. Why not start with one run per week? What about running for 1 mile to start? The all or nothing mentality kills all progress.

Wouldn’t that one run be better than no run? Certainly. Wouldn’t 15 minutes of work on my paper be better than no minutes? Absolutely. With these new eyes I can see new possibilities and I’m taking whatever baby steps I can to make that happen. This weekend I made the trek down to Massachusetts so that my in-laws could babysit while I worked.* I don’t know that I would have committed to the drive time if I didn’t realize that the hours in between were totally worth it.

Yes, progress is happening slowly (for now) but things are changing for the better nonetheless. And that’s progress I can be proud of. Marathon or not.

 

*Yay for beloved grandparents! (And thank you). 🙂

What It Means to be a Mother

 

I wonder all the time why people choose to have children.

In a rational universe maternity wards would have long been efficiently repurposed and birth control would be far more ubiquitous than it is. There are millions of babies and children currently in need of a loving guardian, so why don’t those of us with the urge to parent choose to adopt instead? It’s a question I often wrestle with as I lean into my wondering.

The quick answer is biology. There is always a case of one’s “ticking clock” and “baby fever” to contend with. And accidental pregnancies too, of course.

But the answer I like better is creativity.

The singularly human need to make meaning of our experience in this world is, I believe, the urge to create. And the evocative result is art: the score, the film, the painting, the dance. In essence, these mediums are a creator’s attempt to capture and express to the rest of the world their multitudinous feelings of what it’s like to be human. The echo of that attempt lives on in the relationship between the art and its audience.

Our world is full of these creations and the remains of many, many, many attempts at meaning making.

The creative urge to make something of myself is one of the reasons I wanted to have a biological child. To literally make something of myself.

My life has new meaning because of my son. The ordinary miracle of his conception, gestation, birth, and young life is high art and it is low brow. He is my desire and my dreams expressed and made manifest.

Some synonyms for expression (according to the thesaurus) are ‘declaration’ and ‘setting forth.’ In setting forth this child into the world I declare that I believe in a hopeful future–one worth living into.

And I declare that rationalism, though a worthy companion, makes an egregious guide.

 

Happy Mother’s Day to the mamas and the meaning makers. xo

 

12 Things I Learned in My First Three Months of Parenthood

12 Things I Learned in My First Three Months of Parenthood via soultospeakblog.comA list from present day me to the me pre-baby. 12 things she wouldn’t have guessed then but are oh so true now.

  1. Any waist size smaller than 39 weeks pregnant will feel slim.
  2. If you ever want to read again, get a kindle. One handed is the new two handed.
  3. And 8:00pm is the new 11:00pm.
  4. If the laundry gets done today, you’ve won.
  5. You never thought you’d get so comfortable lifting up your shirt in public.
  6. No matter what time it is, if you sit down to eat, he will want to too.
  7. You will require liquids from 5-11. In the a.m. it will be coffee. In the p.m., wine. Two cups will do.
  8. He is the cutest baby ever. Seriously. Other babies are cute. He is cuter.
  9. Even his cry is cute.
  10. Accepting help isn’t easy. But it gets easier.
  11. You will realize how much you have in common with a gorilla
  12. Yes, having a baby changes everything. For the better.

South Carolina Retreat

Sea View InnThe past few days have been spent at a lovely ocean-side retreat called Sea View Inn in Pawlys Island just south of Myrtle Beach.

The sound of crashing waves are a constant backdrop to our day-to-day activities. This retreat, a Writer’s Circle of Trust, is based on the teachings and practices of the Center for Courage & Renewal co-founded by beloved teacher, writer, and Quaker, Parker Palmer.

Pawlys IslandThe participants gathered here on Wednesday afternoon to begin a thoughtful inner journey through writing and self-reflection. The mission? To hear the voice of the soul emerge from the page.

Emerging, awakening, softening…So many beautiful souls came through our hand crafted journals, (gifted from one of the participants) as we journaled, shared openly, and listened to one another reveal our innermost truths and vulnerabilities. It’s such a special thing to be seen in ways that are often kept hidden in regular life.

imageI had an especially potent experience as the Focus Person for what is called a Clearness Committee. As Parker Palmer explains, if the name sounds like it’s something from the ’60s, it is! The 1660s. The Clearness Committee is a common Quaker practice and was developed to help individuals find clarity around any issue that cannot be solved by their own inner inquiry. The process is simple. 3-6 people sit together with the Focus Person and simply ask open and honest question.. for TWO-THREE HOURS. I sat amongst a small tribe of five others from my group, a variety of ages, races, and backgrounds and after I gave a short explanation of my query, they began offering questions with poise and great care. There was no “fixing” or advice giving. Truly it was a powerful experience to be witnessed in my confusion and held with such safety and love.

imageThe days were punctuated with the ringing of the meal bell, which lured us to the dining room. There we were served overflowing plates of southern goodies. Cake or pie for dessert always ended the meal on a sweet note. A couple of times Miss Francis, a bold character of great charm and charisma who runs the kitchen, shared her gratitude for our presence by launching into gospel song. It was quite the scene.

imageAnd tomorrow the fun doesn’t end! I’m off to California where I am always held with the same love and protection as I was here this week. Ah! I can’t wait to squeeze my family and show them this belly!

PS Sign of a true seeker.

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