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. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Lessons from a year in blogging

Facebook's On This Day feature kindly reminded me this morning that it was 1 year ago when I published my first blog post.

Because last summer was so eventful- selling a house, buying a house, moving- I've been playing the "a year ago today game" quite a bit recently. All while being very grateful that all that upheaval is behind us. This, however, was an "anniversary" I've been looking forward to!

One year ago, I started writing and sharing and here's what I've learned so far....

* It's freaking cathartic!!!!
Taking these stories and ideas and words out of my head and sending them out to the universe allows more space in my head for other things. Like joy, and peace, and even a little quiet. My head has always been a busy place but writing allows me to let go of some of that busy.

* The fear and anxiety of sharing doesn't go away.
Every single time I press publish, I immediately regret it. I immediately want to delete the post and forget I ever wrote it. It takes a lot of courage to hit publish, to send out your thoughts, to own your ideas. The tricky part is not giving into that impulse and instead riding out the fear, which by the way, has proven to be 100% unnecessary.

* Our stories are our own.
 Our interpretation and understanding of our stories belong to only us. People in your life may see things differently and not agree with your perspective. And that's OK, because that's THEIR story. I used to require lots of outside validation from the people around me. Always looking for the A or the likes and comments and compliments. And now I realize, selfishly, I'm good - all on my own. I don't write for the kudos from others but instead because I have a story to share and that's enough. I'm enough.

* Your words and ideas will ALWAYS resonate with someone.
Each and every time I post of blog, I get a text or an email or a comment from someone near or far that reads something like this "I needed to read this today". So as much as I no longer look for outside affirmation, knowing my words can help others keeps me writing, keeps me sharing, keeps me pressing publish. We are all far more alike than we are different.

*I am a writer.
I've always been hesitant to use a verb form of a noun. For example, I may run, but I would never call myself a runner. There is too much ownership there. Too much responsibility to the cause. Adding that -er morpheme changes the weight of the word for me. But this year, I've taken ownership of the -er. I am a lot of things- a mother, a teacher, an organizer and event planner, a crossfitter, a singer and yes, I am even a writer. It feels good to take ownership, to name your strengths and passions and to live that. But I'm still not a runner!

I'm so grateful that you all have come on this journey with me over this year! That you've taken the time to read my blog and send comments and messages. It truly means the world.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Trust and balance

Around New Years, people on IG were posting about #onelittleword - A campaign to choose a word that would represent 2016. I played along and chose this...
Trust. Not something that comes easily to me. I'm the kind of person whose inclination is to spend much time in my head. My head is the questioner, the doubter, the voice of fear and negativity. 

I wanted a quieter voice, to spend less time in my head and more time in my heart, in my gut. To trust that my life was unfolding just as it should be and to know that the voice that said otherwise was just being a jerk.

Fast forward to this week. It's my summer vacation and this year, things look different. I'm not working-at all, and instead spending the days with my kids. 

I'm not setting my alarm to wake up at 5:00 AM to work out because most days I'll make a plan to work out when I feel like it. 

I'm not necessarily waking up and journaling every morning. Or meditating every morning.  I'm not meal prepping and planning my dinners or making my lunches in mason jars. 

Lots of my routines and rituals that I cling to so fiercely have fallen by the wayside in the past few weeks. 

For a type A personality such as myself, this is alarming! 

And so the voice re-appeared.
"What are you doing with your time?" "You're not being productive enough"
"You're going to ruin all your progress"
"You will not be balanced without your routines and rituals"
"You're going to regress and start binging    if you're not careful"

So I listed to the voice and I heard her but I thought instead of reacting. 

I reflected instead of freaking out.

I trusted instead of worrying.

And what I decided was that my choices now are OK. I've come far enough in my journey, in my healing, to incorporate balance, to trust

My meditative practices aren't on a yoga mat in my basement but instead are a moment of gratitude at the beach. In a silent "thank you" I breathe in when I see my kids (actually) playing and getting along. When I wake up to another beautiful, blue sky. 

I'm reading more and reflecting more throughout the day so it's ok if it doesn't get done first thing in the morning. 

And if I'm not hungry, I don't NEED to eat that egg white omlet first thing in the morning. I can trust my body will tell me when it's hungry and I will respond appropriately. 

This from a girl who ate religiously according to meal plan doctrine, even when she quit meal plans!

My routines and rituals are so important to me. But yin and yang, ebb and flow, black and white mix to gray. Balance. 

This "go with the flow" feels amazing. I'm thrilled that I can find the motivation to show up for a WOD after a day at the beach. Or have the balls to go to a boxing boot camp that I haven't attended in years. I'm even more psyched to trust the days when walking the dog is enough exercise for me. And when I am listening to my hunger cues instead of eating according to the clock. 

I am trusting my body and listening to her. 

And even more importantly, on the days when the sky is falling, when my CNN alerts are full of hate and guns and tragedy. I can trust. I can trust that we will figure all this out. That we will do better. That love will prevail.

In January I picked a word. And in July, I'm living that word a little bit more. 

And damn it feels good. 

Friday, June 24, 2016

A reflection of you

"Thank you for sharing you son with us, he is a joy! He is a reflection of you, know that..."

Those words came from a Thank-You note I received that week. Those words broke me open. They took my breath away.

He is a reflection of you

I often say being a parent is like being forced to look in a mirror. You watch a little version of you act, say, be a little version of you. You watch the tantrums and the emotional outbursts, the love of music and lack of athletic ability.

And you chuckle "just like her mom"! Genetics are a strong force.

Sometimes looking in that mirror is difficult. You know your struggles and you wish your child a different path. If you are shy, you want them to be outgoing. If you are fat, you wish them to be thin.

But sometimes, we need to look in that mirror and see the beauty. See the good. Admire what's there. Sometimes, we need to look at our children and acknowledge them for the gifts they are.

This little message from the Universe in the form of a Thank You note is quite fitting with my newest read, "The Awakened Family: A Revolution in Parenting" by Shefali Tsabary PhD. This book is knocking my socks off! So much so that I've been underlining and highlighting like a 4th grader. 

Dr. Shefali has so many thought provoking points in this book, but my favorite so far is the theory that we are triggered by our children when they do/say/behave in a way that points to a lack in ourselves. She holds that our triggers are due to unresolved issues of our past or our own childhood and not at all the fault of our children. 

This hit home for me in the area of "emotional outbursts". When I was a kid and had "big, upset reactions", which to be honest, was quite a bit, my father would say "Enough with the histrionics, Laurie". I learned that big, upset reactions were not welcome. That I was to be even-tempered. Even though this was not what was being modeled for me. 

Today, when one of my children has a "big, upset reaction" it's a total trigger for me! My reaction is to yell and send them to their room, which only makes things worse. Thanks to some help from a counselor friend, we've been working on other strategies to help with these situations. 

Strategies to diffuse instead of enflame. Strategies to name a process the feelings to allow them to disapate. 

We're all allowed histrionics sometimes!

Dr. Shefali also discusses a 'clash of time zones'. Because the culture of parenting is obsessed with our children reaching goals and creating a "happy" future for themselves, parents micromanage their children's lives based on these future goals. The clash occurs because the child is in the now, the today, the present. And parents are in the 10-20 years from now making judgments about their children's future success based on the actions of a 7 year old. Parents are living and operating from a place of fear that their child won't be enough, or do enough. No wonder we are screaming at them all the time!

"If we don't whip them into shape now, they will be failures in life and that will be a reflection on me"

Such. Juicy. Stuff.

I'm only half way through and it's already brought me so many "aha" moments. 

And yet, it took that note from a teacher to really drive it home. 

Whether we mean to be or not, we are hard on our kids. We expect them to toe the line and follow directions and be emotionally stable and never in a bad mood or upset. And yet, is that how WE behave?!

My husband will tell you no, that's for sure!

My "working on" this summer is to see my kids as they are. To meet them where they are. And to love them for who they are.  

It's what I want from the people in my life, so why wouldn't I give that to my most special loves. My creations. My reflections. 

Why wouldn't I let that reflection show me the beauty, the good, the strengths they bring?