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!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Embracing the dark side

Last week was rough. 

There were hormones, which never really help make anything easier, dwindling summer patience, a bug problem, and an interaction which left me feeling less than positive, to say the least, to do lists galore together with the anxiety of impeding transitions. 

Yup, last week was rough.

When you write a blog entitled "Choose the Light Side" and you focus so much time and attention to your mindset and outlook on life, your faith and spirituality- you have certain expectations of yourself. 

Like you'll shit glitter, or something. 

But some days (weeks, moments) aren't like that.

Sometimes you react, or become negative or overwhelmed or let your emotions speak where they've been quiet for so long. 

And sometimes after that happens, I feel bad. "Fuck" says the spiritual gangster inside me "I should know better". "Where is my zen?!".

Even my husband has a tendency to remind me to "Choose the light side, Laurie" when I'm on a tangent about this or that.

But ya know what, I don't shit glitter and rainbows. Sometimes, the light dims. Sometimes, the shadows creap up on me. 

And ya know what, I decided that's OK. It's more than OK, in fact, it's human. It's real. And it's necessary.

That negativity, that dark side, those shadows need room to breathe. You need to process that shit and let it run its course. You need to scream or run or yogi or vent that shit out until you feel clearer. Until you can see the light again. 

This week, my priest quoted a friend of his who said "There is no darkness, only the absence of light." 

I liked that. Felt more acceptable to think there are no dark parts of you, just ones you haven't lit up yet. Ones to "work on", I suppose. To acknowledge, to see, to inquire about.

Inquiry has been a powerful tool for me in the process of emabracing the dark side. 

When feelings surface or I have a big reaction to something or even when I find myself reaching for the cookies- I have learned to stop and ask myself "What is this really about?", "Where did these feelings come from and do they even belong to you?". Because I know enough to know now, it's never really about the cookies.

Don't get me wrong, sometimes the cookies still win, or I go bat shit crazy on my kids. I mean, it's not a perfect system- it's a practice!

This inquiry practice and learning to sit with my feelings- negative and positive- has given me so much insight into the stories and beliefs I carry around. It's helped me see my bruises and work to heal those. 

But most importantly, it's enouraged me to love and accept all the parts of me. The light side and the dark side. The jealous and the grateful. The angry and the joyful. 

I may not shit glitter and rainbows but I make a hell of a lemonade out of those lemons.  

Monday, August 1, 2016

It's just a body...

It's just a body
Those are four words I couldn't have imaged uttering several years ago. 

I had become so consumed with what my body looked like and how much it weighed and who thought what about it. Consumed. Obsessed. Compulsive. Just 
a body wasn't a thing, it was everything!

And now, when I see images or read articles about body image and even body positivity, I can't help but think- it's just a body...

My mindset around this has come so full circle it's almost shocking to me at times. 

When I am at Crossfit in the middle of a WOD, I'm not distracted by thoughts of "Man, my ass must be jiggling during these box jumps" or "Wow, she must think I'm a cow". Usually I'm distracted by thoughts of "I wonder if I'll die during this workout" but that a story for another day!

When I'm playing with my kids at the beach, I'm not thinking "Ooh, that skinny lady in the bikini must be looking at my cellulite".

When I walk into a room, I'm not scanning to see if anyone is fatter than me. 

Because, after all, it's just a body.

And thank goodness we are so much more than that.

We are our minds and our sense of humor. We are our smile and our radiance. We are our analytical minds and our creativity. We are our hearts and our love. Our gratitude and our laughter. We are our heaviness and our tears. We are a constellation of light.

And yes, all that goodness (Godness) is wrapped in a body. 

My body can run and jump rope without pain. It can lift heavy shit and carry my children.

Maybe yours can dance or swim. Maybe it can walk or maybe it can't.

Maybe yours can help make music or art. Maybe it can inspire others with its strength or flexibility. 

Maybe your body can create and sustain life and maybe it can't. 

It's a body and it's yours but don't get caught up in the limitations of it. It's a body and it's yours, but don't get frustrated at the sight of it. It's a body and it's yours, so appreciate the existence of it. 

Treat it well and give it love.

 But do not fret, after all, it's just a body.