Saturday, April 28, 2018

Be Impeccable with Your Word...or, not...

This is one of the first of Four Agreements written by don Miguel Ruiz based on ancient Toltec wisdom. It's an amazing and simple (yet not) book about how to live a good life. Recently though, I have not been - even a little bit- Impeccable with My Word.

Let's rewind....

I've always had a thing for gossip. It's been a hobby of mine, a vice is probably a more accurate term. I like to communicate and connect and with my sharp tongue, sometimes keeping in the jabs feels like locking a vault with a toothpick.

But still, I recognize this is a very negative habit and I've tried my best to reel in my gossiping.
Now, I preface any comments with "I shouldn't be saying this, but..".
Because that's better?? Probably not, but alas, I am a work in progress.

Last week though, last week, the universe handed me quite a lesson and I was forced to attention.

Last week, a friend sent me an Instagram story by an author we both follow. This woman has been an inspiration to me and her autobiography truly changed me. I mean, I have one of her quotes hanging one the wall of my bedroom...

So this author is someone I respect.

The story was about her husband and it was a little...odd. (But who am I to judge what's odd in the first place!?!) So, I sent my friend a DM in response to the video, making fun of this author's husband.


I didn't send it to my friend. I sent my jab directly to the author.
And she responded, much to my dismay.

At first, I was mortified. But, laughing, because it was just so ridiculous.

But as the night wore on and I thought about my words and I pictured this woman reading them. I was beside myself.

What had I done? This is a woman who I respect and admire and I basically made fun of her husband to her face!

However, what I realized was, the only reason I felt so bad was because I got CAUGHT gossiping.

I got caught. I was heard. And suddenly I realized how un-Impeccable I was being with my words. So, so many of them. How judgey I was being, not just on social media in this instance, but in my day to day life. Man, that made me feel such shame.

In the click of a button, I became an internet troll. Is that who I want to be?? Not even close.

We teach children to use "positive language", to be kind, to fill people's buckets  and I turn around and forget all that. I don't walk the walk or practice what I preach.

Instead, I engage in low-vibe gossiping for the sake of a laugh.

Uugh, it pains me to even admit it.

I can't undo what's been done. I thought of emailing said author (because obviously now I'm blocked on IG) and apologizing. But she won't unhear my awful comments, so really, what's the point in that.

All I can do is move on and do better.

I can use my words to lift up others and breathe through those moments that trigger Judgey-Laurie to the surface. I can fill buckets and make positive choices.

I can walk the walk and talk the kind talk.

I can be Impeccable with My Word.

So next time you see me, and I say "I shouldn't be gossiping but...." just walk away. Let's make it easier for the both of us!

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Down the rabbit hole

So I went down a bit of a rabbit hole this week.

I stumbled across my old journals in a box of keepsakes, and something made me open them.

 And then I proceeded to read them obsessively, in chronological order.

It was like reading a novel that I just couldn't put down, waiting to see what would happen next. Except these chapters were (long-forgotten) memories and the main character!

The journals went as far back as high school and continued on through college, and graduate school. Almost a decade of my life's recorded history.

Many of the entries made me cringe, many more made me laugh. But I learned a few things along the way.

First, I learned that I haven't changed much. As much as I like to think I've become a whole new person; wiser and more self-actualized. What I realized is, at the core, I'm the same person I've always been.  A person who feels first, speaks second, and thinks last. A person with a big heart and an even bigger mouth. And while I'd like to believe I now use this power for good, I know that's not always true.

Another constant are my struggles. The struggles I had then, I still have now. (Food included, my goodness, how many pages did I waste documenting everything I ate and how many times can a person join Weight Watchers!?!?!). Maybe now I handle them better. Maybe now I have more effective strategies and coping mechanisms but my struggles and faults remain a constant.  It reminded me of "A Wrinkle In Time" when one of the Mrs. tells Meg to use her faults and they will help her defeat the IT. Now I can see that these struggles have helped me, and continue to help me. They give me perspective and ground me. They allow me to grow.

My faith has always been a huge part of my life. I was blown away by some of the things I wrote about God when I was younger. It took me a while to recall sneaking out of my apartment on Sunday nights to attend local churches , even after nights of too much booze and too many bad decisions. To me, my faith feels new or at least renewed, but alas, at my core, it's always been there.

Secondly, I felt such gratitude. In those pages were detailed the most "exciting" parts of my life. Adventures and late nights. Dancing until dawn and nights that I'll never remember. Heartbreak and love. Family struggles, bad grades, and difficult decisions about the future. Among those experiences; the good and the bad, were friends. Many of whom I'm blessed to still call friends today. Roommates who dealt with silent-morning Laurie. High School besties who've traveled decades with me. How blessed am I to (continue to) be surrounded by such an amazing group of all know who you are.

And the most important lesson of all is a message to my 20 year old self that this 38 year old version still needs to hear....
It will all be OK
There was so much angst in those pages. So much worry. What would the future hold? Who would I marry? Would I ever find someone to love me? What I so desperately wanted that girl to know is this....
"It will all be OK. As a matter of fact, it will all be so much more than OK. Just go along ,have your fun ,live your life and worry not. The path will reveal itself in time. "
I sit here as an almost 40 year old mother of two. And although I've learned to quiet those angsty "what's next?" voices, they are still there. I worry about my kids and their future, I worry about my career. I worry I don't do enough. I worry I play life too small. And yes, I still worry about how much I eat.
If this almost 40 year old mother of two learned anything from that 20 year old girl, it is this...
"It will all be OK, just go along and have your fun and live your life. The path will reveal itself in time"
Also, stop worrying about how much you eat :)

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Snow days, trust and progress

As a teacher, I used to hate snow days.

Like, legitimately hate them. Like be so angry about them, I'd storm about all day. Seething. I would even hate that people liked them!

I had plenty of reasons to justify my anger.

"The kids needs the consistency", "I'm loosing my summer", "I had an important meeting today!"

All valid, all true, and all feeding into that sense of injustice.

But the truth under all that anger was my lack of control. I felt best in life when I have a tight grip on what's happening around me. When I'm at the wheel and we're on cruise control. Order, control, routine. That's how I like it.

Today, we had a snow day. Unexpected, as our 1" of predicted snow turned into 5"+.

 I was awake, my morning routine had begun, lunches were made, clothes were set out. I was prepped for the meetings I had today. But instead, its a snow day.

And I realized- I wasn't angry.

I sighed (heavily, I'll admit) and went back to bed. There was no anger, no sense of injustice, no fuming or seething.

Just acceptance.

It may be because our last day is still June 15th, early summer by all accounts.

But I'd like to think it's because of the progress I've made in accepting life and reality as it comes. In being less rigid and more flexible. I'd like to think I've learn to trust, to be and to know it will all be OK.

My need to control in life has lead me down some dark paths; eating disorders, obsessive routines, stress, anxiety, anger, endless striving for perfection and people pleasing.

I used to think that my perfectionism and need to control would lead to me being a better mother, a better wife, a better SLP. If I had everything 'just so' then things would certainly turn out in my favor. Everyone would be happy under my control.

But now I see it only lead me to feel angry and upset, to snap and break when things didn't go my way. I'd even bet my husband would say I'm more pleasant to be around now that I'm a less Type- A. But don't fact check that because #creativelicense.

I can say for certain that my house (and head) is a happier place to live.

 Learning to let go a little has been an incredible relief and allowed me to feel more joy than I ever thought possible when I was white knuckling my way through my days.

Is a snow day a big problem? Nope, not at all. But if we learn to be flexible in the little things, it helps when the big things come along.

Sometimes, it takes a snow day, an unscheduled, unplanned break from life, to see how far you've come.

So today, I'll pat myself on the back for releasing some of that Type A/perfection/control, let my kids watch too much TV, and know that the lunches and the clothes are all ready to go for tomorrow.

Cheers to the journey, to loosening that grip, and to learning to adjust those sails...

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Spiralized learning

I believe that life is cyclical. Just like the moon, and the seasons, and the tides. We follow a pattern, a cycle. So are the lessons we might learn here. We might have addressed a topic, a lesson, a wound and done some work there but then the universe says "Well, let's revisit this and see if we can't clean it up a bit more. Go deeper this time" . So we spiral back to that topic, that lesson, that wound.

It's actually a very common curriculum tool in education, as well.

There is quite a lot of background information necessary for this all to make sense.

First let me start off with this...

I'm at the end of a 10 week wellness challenge and every week we chose a mantra. This week I chose this as my mantra: "Love yourself enough to say no". I chose that mantra because its Halloween week and candy is my kryptonite. What I meant was, say no to eating all my children's candy. Little did I know how much this mantra would play out later in the week...

Second, I am a recovering people pleaser. Not the kind of people pleaser who says the things that people want to hear. Actually, I do the opposite of that. I speak so honestly that sometimes I need to apologize for my words or at least clarify their intent.

No, my people pleasing is about doing, about performing, about showing up. As a child, I would get the good grades, and sing the solos and happily receive the recognition I deserved. It was how I knew my place, it was where I found my worth. In performing, in doing. I've written a lot about this topic on this blog. I thought I'd kicked this habit. I thought I'd healed this need to prove my worth to others and to myself.

Thirdly, my whole life, I've felt on the outside. On the outside of a group, looking for the secret  doorway to finally be IN.  Even at 30-something years old, no matter where I go, I'm looking for signs that I actually belong there. That I'm OK being in this place. The longer I live, the more I realize most people feel this way. But no one talks about it, so it may be that we are all looking for the secret doorway  IN that doesn't actually exist.

With all of that said, here is my spiral back...

September and October are always doing months for me. Months of volunteering and organizing, of PTO of church of soccer Saturdays. Getting back into the routine of school and meetings and Open House nights. Arranging schedules and cooking dinners and trying to fit it all in. There were lots of things to show up for. Lots of things to do.

 But, when I show up, I feel validated. I feel good. I feel accomplished.I feel worthy. So I yes'd my way through the months of  September and October and into lots of commitments. And ya know what? I survived! But I was glad to flip the calendar to November. I was happy to see a more restful month appear.

But then, new commitments came up. New requests to show up. And as much as the little voice inside me was screaming NOOOO, the people pleaser/wanting to belonger said 'yes'. Out of guilt, out of shame, out of obligation and fear.

"If I'm not doing the things, then the people won't like me and I'll never be part of that group" the voice in my head said.

"But it's too much" my heart argued. "It's all too much".

And alas, with that straw, the camel's back was broken.

Then came the tears. So many many tears.

When I could finally breathe again and ask myself "what the hell was that all about?". I put all these pieces together. I realized my need to please, my need for external validation, my need to hustle for my worth is still there. That urge is alive and well. I also realized my fear of being marginalized and alone, being outside of the group looking in is still there. I realized that by not listening to the mantra I set for myself earlier this week, I had walked straight into a trap of fear, guilt, and unworthiness. Just because I said 'yes' when I had really meant "no".

I may be biased in my perspective- but I think working in education puts you at increased risk to feel the pressure of doing, of showing up, of volunteering. You don't have office hours. There is no "out of office" reply on your email. The 'do it for the children' call to action is sure to pull at the heartstrings of any caring educator, despite the toll its taking on their own lives. Even Standard III on the MA Educator Evaluation- Community and Parent Engagement-acts as a mandate to show up.

Then there are the 'other' things, the after school meetings, the PTO meetings, the events, the special projects, the committees. All of these causes are worthy of our attention, of our showing up, of our help. So choosing the 'yes's' and the 'no's' can be a tough call.

And now, thanks to social media, you get to watch other teachers, other schools, other districts do things. Create things. Attend things. Show up. Volunteer. Engage. And the mucky waters of the comparison swamp pull you under until the guilt drowns you.

If I want to belong then I will do. For this person, or that group. That's the message, at least that's the one I've been whispering to myself for decades. But the reality of that is impossible. The reality of that leaves you crying endless tears in your office. The reality of constant doing and yes-ing is burn out, is resentment, is permanent medical leave, is living a life that is not your own.

There is only one person to belong to in this life and it is to Yourself  (that capitol Y is on purpose...)

 It is my responsibility to listen to that voice that says "Love yourself to say no" and honor it. To let go of the guilt and breath through the fear. To know that I am enough without doing damn thing to earn the title. And to then chose the things that fill me up, that give me life and to do those, with a resounding and heartfelt 'yes'.

This spiral back to these lessons probably started out as a whisper. But I missed it. It took a 2x4, a big upset reaction and endless tears for me to understand, for me to see.

I am worthy, I am enough and I belong to me.

So if you're reading this and you needed some permission to slow down or say 'no'. Take it from me, it's all good.

Monday, October 30, 2017

“You’re stealing my learning”

Tonight in our after dinner-before before bed-school night shenanigans, my 5 year old was building an alphabet puzzle. She was struggling with the middle of the alphabet so I proceeded to do what I do- I “cued” or prompted her. I began singing the alphabet song with her. And this was her response

I posted it on Instagram because it struck me so. But quickly realized this quote from my 5 year old was taking me to a deeper place requiring more reflection and so I must blog.

So what if I haven't written a blog post in 6 months?!

"You're stealing my learning".

Perhaps it's because it was said in response to such a natural habit of mine. A learned skill even, the cueing, the prompting. It's what I do ALL day with my kiddos at work. Perhaps it was the tone in which the message was delivered. Like she was really PISSED that I wasn't letting her figure this out on her own. Perhaps it's an abundance of worry about new reading "programs" and abysmal MCAS scores.

I'm not quite sure why but this quote struck a nerve. So much so that I had to write about it. Because if I write about it then I can think about it and I can learn from it. It's just how my processing works...

"You're stealing my learning".

My goodness, how many times in a day do I "steal" a child's learning. How many times a day do I accommodate and modify to a point that I am actually depriving that child of the opportunity to grapple, to grow, to learn. How many times do I personally invite a child to follow directions when, in fact, they might learn to do it more independently and faster if I let them fail once in a while.

Working in Special Education is like walking a fine line. Meeting the child where they are while trying desperately to get them to where they "need to be" is a never ending battle.

But what I realized tonight, thanks to my daughter, is that every struggle is an opportunity to learn. Or at least, an invitation to try.

How many times have I fed a child a word they were decoding because we just had to get to answering the questions?  How many times have I taken the pencil and wrote a child's answer because the rest of the class was already finished and my 30 minutes were almost up?

This isn't to say I need to let go and watch my darlings drown in the turbulent waters of grade level curriculum expectations. This isn't to say I don't continue to provide them the accommodations they need to succeed.

But maybe, just maybe, I let their learning be their own instead of a reflection of my support. Maybe I let them grapple, let them miss the direction and watch how they struggle through that and figure out a way to do it differently next time. Maybe I let them....learn.

It's possible I'm being dramatic about the words of a frustrated 5 year old. The thing is, I know myself well enough to know that when you hear what sounds like such a profound message- then, girlfriend, that means you need to listen...

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Being human is hard

I scrolled by this picture the other day on Instagram and just loved it.
If you're off the 're-creation', 'quantum physics' sort of mindset, then you get this. Otherwise, maybe not...
Today is May- well actually tomorrow is May, but since I usually spend most of Sunday preparing for Monday, it might as well be May.
May is hard for me. May if full. It's full of to-do's at work. It's full of anxiety about rumors of changes for next school year while trying desperately to finish all work left to do this school year. Also meetings- so many, many meetings.  May is when a full social calendar at home leaves me it's own to-do list there too. May is when my baby girl was born and when my father died. By the time May is over, I usually am too. Done, tired, spent.
Today as I peered into May, I realized that in the span of one week I will be celebrating my son's First Communion, my daughter's 5th birthday and my remembering my father's 3rd anniversary of death.
"Dear God" I thought (appropriately so as I was in church at the time) "how in the world am I going to handle all of those things in such a short span of time? How ever will I survive that emotional shit storm?".
Talk to any mother and they will share the range of emotions that comes with watching your babies grow. It truly defines "bittersweet". There is so much joy and love but also so much heartache and even more 'where did the time go?'.  So birthdays can be tough. Milestones, like First Communion only add to that seeming heartbreak. It's heavy, even when its really a celebration, that's how it feels for the feely type of people- heavy. And then, after that, will come the grief. The grief that arrives as May marches on and we remember my Dad.
I wondered how I- how any of us- navigate the range of emotions that comes along with being Human. How do we get up every day, go to work and function when we're carrying around all this stuff? How do we fake a smile and answer "fine" when someone asks how we are doing?
We are not fine! We are drowning! We are drowning in a sea of feely emotions! Well, maybe not every day...but sometimes!
It is no wonder why some people check out. Why they numb out with wine, or pills, or social media or cookies.
Because numb is easier than feeling. Numb is predictable. Emotions are not. As an experienced numb-er, I get that. I lived that. Sealing your heart up behind a border wall is a much safer way to negotiate life.
But here's the thing. Life- life is in those emotions. A numb life may be predictable but it's no  life at all.
We are here so briefly. We need to soak this shit up. The good, the bad and the ugly. We need to feel it. The good, the bad and the ugly. And we need to live it. The good, the bad, and the ugly.
So how will I survive this May? How will I ensure that I don't dive so deep into this sea of emotions that I will float away? Or more realistically, spend the month in a binge of epic proportions...
- I will breathe. Sometimes that's enough. A good deep, diaphragmatic (hello voice lessons!) breath
- I will move. Whether it's working out or taking a walk or digging in my garden. Doing helps to process those emotions, to move through them.
- I will talk. Maybe I won't answer "fine" the next time someone asks me how I am. Or maybe I'll write more. Experience tells me that breathing my thoughts into words is therapeutic.
- I will show up. Be present. Live these moments. For these are the moments that I've got.
and most importantly I will remember...
Like the moon waxes and wanes, and the tide rises and falls. So, too, can I. And be OK.
Here's to not only surviving May, but living it.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

What fills you

Recently, I've found myself saying "yes" to more opportunities presented to me. This is different for me because I'm more of a "no, thanks" person. I like my quiet and my routine, I like my space and my schedule. So "no thanks" keeps me in that comfortable, safe space where I have lots of room to breathe.

These "yes's" have, at times, come after a nagging thoughts "You really should try this"..."This will be fun". So perhaps its just me listening to my intuition more closely.

But with these "yes's" comes a bit of "yes" regret. The feeling in your belly when you look at your calendar and see all those yes's laid out. The voice inside that says "You really need to learn to say No!". But wait, I just learned how to say yes!

Last weekend, I had "yes'd" my way into two separate commitments. For a working mom who only has her weekends, the thought of giving up both days was bumming me out. But I went, I showed up, I followed through with my "yes".

Ya know what happened?

I felt GREAT! I had so much fun at both events. I met great people, saw great people and had great conversations. Rather than feeling drained and stressed from my "yes's". They filled me up!

So I think that's the key.

Choose the things in life that fill you up, that make you feel good. Not cookie and wine good, but real full in your heart good.

I had an afterschool Staff meeting this week which was based on professional development. Usually, these things are a drainer, an energy suck. However this week I was able to sit with other Speech-Language Pathologists and talk strategies, and talk visuals, and talk progress and stress and frustration and talk that little light bulb moment the kids' have that makes it all worth it. I walked away with that spark reignited. I walked away filled up.

This looks different for all of us. Maybe you are filled up watching your kid's play sports, or selling your product. Maybe it's time at the gym or time with your running shoes. Maybe you run a club or coach a sport. Maybe reading a book fills you up or presenting at a conference.

I think part of our journey in this life is to find our fillers- the good ones- and do them. I think if we all took more time to do the things that fill us up, we'd live in a different world.

So maybe my experiment with "yes" has little to do with the actual word and more to do with knowing myself well enough to know what fills me up.

Find your thing and do it. Fill the world with those good vibes and start a revolution.

This weekend is filled with "yes's" from PTO events, to chaperoning field trips, to hosting parties. Hopefully by Halloween, I'll be too heart-full to binge on candy!