Day 319/365 Stay Curious

Last week my eleven year old daughter asked me, “Mom, do you ever wish you could live inside someone else’s body…”

For a split second I thought, “Oh no…I don’t want you to wish you are anybody but you.”

Then…(wait for it) she finished her thought…

“…so you can know what someone else is thinking, and maybe understand why they act the way they do?”

“YES!” I smiled and shouted exuberantly, “ALL THE TIME!”

(Oh my God, this kid is definitely mine).

While I obviously cannot live within someone else’s body, I do often try to look at things from another’s perspective. I try to get into their head and to understand them.

This practice in shifting perspective can be an incredible gateway to compassion. In doing so we begin to try to truly understand each other…

But it can also be dangerous.

Here’s why –

It can be a real impediment to true connection and understanding, when we assume we understand another’s thoughts and motivations without actually Asking. When we presume to know someone’s heart without being curious about whether or not we are actually right…this can be a huge mistake.

It can actually wreak havoc on our relationships.

I spend a lot (a LOT) of time analyzing my own thoughts…admittedly WAY more time then I should. So, I think it is only natural that I would also spend a lot of time trying to analyze the thoughts and behaviors of others.

More than a few times when I have stopped to actually ASK what someone is thinking instead of assuming that I know...I have been surprised by the answer.

How do you feel?

What are you thinking?

This is what I saw/felt/heard in your words or actions….

Is that what you meant?

I had a conversation recently that went something like this (I am paraphrasing)…

I know you are mad at me.

Actually I’m not. I was only mad for like ten minutes, and then I let it go.

What made you let it go?

I realized that I understood why you did what you did.

And why is that?

Because of XYZ.

Actually, that’s not why. It was because of ABC.

Oh…well that’s interesting…can you explain that? 

Yes…

A whole new and in-depth conversation evolved from that….a conversation and a level of understanding we never would have come to if we had not each been curious.

Even though I was being compassionate and forgiving, I did not truly understand.

I had “let it go,” but without an authentic understanding of what lay in her heart.

So…the next time I was bothered by someone’s actions, I reached out. I told him this was how I perceived the situation. I asked…

Am I right?

I wasn’t right…and a conversation evolved from there.

As Glennon Doyle says, “Less judgement, more curiosity.”

This doesn’t work with everyone, or in every situation of course. Sometimes people are not ready, willing or able to delve into why they said what they said, or why they did what they did...or what that might mean.

You can ask, but that doesn’t mean you will get an answer with any real depth to it.

More and more I realize how much I deeply appreciate the people in my life who are willing engage with me in this way. When a person can connect with themselves and give a thoughtful response to the question, WHY?

Somehow it still surprises me…it even takes my breath away. I feel humbled and grateful to know someone else’s truth. It is so brave to say – yes, I want you to understand me…to truly know my heart. I trust you to at least try to understand me, even if you may not like what I have to say.

In a way it feels like magic –

You mean…all I have to do is ask, and you’ll tell me what lies within you? It can’t possibly be that easy.

Yet with some people, it is. So, to those people in my life…thank you for sharing your heart and your mind with me. I think you are beautiful…and fascinating.

Sometimes, though, we are left to draw our own conclusions. When this happens, perspective and compassion are useful tools, but I think in using them we must always remember we are drawing our own conclusion, based only on our own perception…

This does not make it true. 

Also…

In my constant quest to understand myself and the people around me, I know I need to respect the fact that some questions need breathing space.

The answers are not always immediately clear. There are some questions we are not ready to answer, and some answers we are not ready to hear. 

Stay curious.

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Things that make you go HMMMM.

Day 318/365 The Courage of the Seed

The Courage of the Seed

All the buried seeds

crack open in the dark

the instant they surrender

to a process they can’t see. 

This innate surrender allows everything edible and fragrant to break into a life of light that we call spring.

In nature, we are quietly given countless models of how to give ourselves over to what appears dark and hopeless, but which ultimately is an awakening that is beyond all imagining. This moving through the dark into blossom is the threshold to God

As a seed buried in the earth cannot imagine itself as an orchid or a hyacinth, neither can a heart packed with hurt imagine itself loved or at peace. The courage of the seed is that once cracking, it cracks all the way.” – Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening

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At the very beginning of Dipped In It, I made reference to feeling within myself a “breaking open.” I did not use this metaphor in the positive context of the above prose…because quite frankly, I didn’t see it that way.

I meant – My life has broken me.

I AM BROKEN.

Now, with some perspective, I can see that yes, I have been broken, but I was never irreparable.

Wait…that isn’t the truth. 

Actually, I am irreparable…because I was never meant to be repaired.

I do not require fixing.

I cannot go back into the seed casing. I cannot curl back into who I once was. I am forever changed…and I hope to break open and to bloom again and again.

No, I do not wish for more hardship nor tragedies in order to further become.

Actually, I believe it is equally the joys in life that have the ability to crack us open.

Even the simplest of things can expand us when we open ourselves up to them…

Waking up in the morning next to someone we truly love, witnessing a fiery sunrise, letting the sound of our children’s laughter spill over us…  

I think when we practice opening our hearts within these beautiful, simple moments, it makes it easier to begin to open them during our painful experiences as well. We can choose to soften when we feel the impulse to tighten.

In opening our hearts to fully FEEL IT ALL…the full spectrum of our humanity, we begin to trust in “the courage of the seed.”

Knowing that the moment we let go…

That is when the light bursts through.

“It is an awakening beyond all imagining.”

Day 313/365 Noticing

Yesterday’s snow was thick and heavy, as it often is in March. It clung heavily to everything – making for a beautiful, luminous sight this morning.

After I brought the girls to the bus stop, I felt called to the woods. There is something about being the first person to walk on a snow covered trail, with only deer tracks ahead of you, that is pure magic.

Walking in nature has almost always been a family endeavor for me…I have such fond memories of walks through the woods with my dad, especially…and with extended family…and of course, with my own children.

I have grown to love my solitary walks as well. The woods are my church, and there have been many times when within them I have found myself inspired, uplifted, and soothed. Maybe I’ve just found myself, period.

Today, however, as I walked within this winter wonderland I found myself wishing there was someone there to see it with me. It was so perfect; so quiet. Everywhere I looked the world glimmered.

I thought about that philosophial question – If a tree falls in the woods and no one is there to hear it – does it still make a sound?

If the woods are magical and no one is here to witness it with me, did I still see it? 

Suddenly it occurred to me that I had been walking the entire time with a huge smile on my face. In that moment I knew it didn’t matter whether anyone else was there – this walk was magical….and I was grateful to bear witness. 

This evening, as I sat down to write to you, I could hear two owls right outside my house, calling to each other.

Who-who-who-whooooooo!

Who-who-who-whooooooo!

They sounded so close. I went to the bottom of the stairs and called to the four little girls playing board games upstairs. My daughters are having their first double sleepover.

“Girls, come here!”

The four of them appeared at the top of the stairs, no doubt thinking – Lights out already?

“Come here, very quietly…and listen,” I said. We crept to the front door and huddled together as I held the door open to the crisp night air. They looked at me expectantly.

“Just wait,” I whispered.

Who-who-who-whooooooo!

Who-who-who-whooooooo!

The girls exchanged wide-eyed glances…grinning enormous, silent grins.

I think…

We don’t need someone else there to make the world’s magic real – just noticing it makes it so, but…

Sometimes, there’s nothing better than having someone (or four wide-eyed, grinning someones) there to experience the magic with you.

If we’re lucky, we can have both.

Day 312/365 It Is What It Is

A while back a friend of mine was reflecting on this phrase –

“It is what it is.” 

She pointed out that it usually has a negative connotation. Typically, we say it in a dismissive way to people when they clearly don’t like whatever it is.

“It is what it is” becomes synonymous with “Deal with it.” 

We can’t change what It isand we don’t like it, not one bit. 

Her point was, what would happen if we took everything in, without judgement – without qualifying it as good or bad….but rather just as what Is.

Maybe we could learn to accept what is with more grace.

What if, instead of it being a statement of resigned defeat, we approach “what it is” with curiosity….or even levity?

What if “it is what it is” was just an observation?

I see it as it is, and perhaps…I welcome it as it is. 

There is no doubt that we would all live happier lives if we are able to do just that – to welcome whatever it is with grace.

It is what it is, after all. What’s the point in begrudging it?

If you think about it, we have a myriad opportunities every day in which to practice our ability to remain unruffled by what is (versus what we expected or what we wanted).

Today is a perfect example of this for much of the East coast. It is well into March…the first day of spring a mere week away, and yet we are being hammered by a storm bringing a with it the potential of a foot or more of snow. School is cancelled, appointments are cancelled, flights are cancelled. People are making adjustments all over New England….adjustments in plans, and adjustments in hopes of milder weather.

We can either gripe about this completely unavoidable inconvenience – about this far deviation from the direction of daffodils and birdsong – or we can embrace the opportunity to spend some time with our families, or perhaps with a good book.

It is what it is. 

What will you make of it today?

Ummm….wait, don’t go…

I do love writing these thoughtful, (hopefully) inspirational pieces…but I can’t let this one fly today without calling a bit of bullshit on myself.

First of all, my children have been sitting side by side next to each other on the couch with me this entire time. I could paint a rosy (or Ross-y?) picture of them drawing sweetly while I write – which would be partially true. Except I’d be leaving out the part where they were bugging the ever-loving shit out of each other – like the Olympics of annoyance – a championship match of the who-is-going-to-push-the-other-over-the-edge-first variety.

It is what it is!

Seriously, though…when “what it is” has been some life-altering events – the death of a loved one, or a poor health diagnosis, for example…it changes one’s perspective.

What may have once appeared as mountainous, reveals itself as a molehill.

Sure, there are times when small unexpected things have led to my unraveling…

Sometimes we simply cannot carry any more weight…even of the most infinitesimal amount or of the most ridiculous variety.  Who hasn’t found themselves bursting into tears over something so silly…knowing full well the little thing that happened was not the true impetus for the breakdown?

It was simply the straw that broke the camel’s back.

That being said, I think I for the most part I have learned not to allow the little things that “are what they are” to weigh on me…at least, not for long. If we overburden ourselves with a plethora of little upsets, where will we put the heavier things when they arise?

There would simply be no room.  We have to learn to weed them out…to not sweat the small stuff.

Perhaps when faced with something being what it is…we can ask ourselves –

Must I carry this?

Is it temporary? {Are my kids eventually going to grow tired of mentally flicking each other on the ears? If I let this go…will peace ultimately be restored without me having to lose my shit over it?}

OR

Will I need to carry this with me for a while?

Will I be carrying this forever? 

Doeswhat it is” have the potential to fundamentally change me?

If not…let it go.

If so…let it be.

It is what it is. 

Day 311/365 It’s A Practice, Not A Perfect

After practicing yoga sporadically over the past ten years (with gaps of years rather than weeks or months), I have committed myself to a daily yoga practice for 40 days.  I am a little more than halfway through to my goal. I have practiced (at least one hour of) heated power yoga twenty three out of the last twenty five days.

I feel strong in my body for the first time in forever. When I wake up in the morning, I can actually feel myself solidly present in my body, before my mind starts to greet the day with a list of who, what, where and when. 

What I have finally embraced is the fact that yoga is not just a workout, but a spiritual practice. I don’t mean spiritual in the sense of being connected to any certain religion, but in the sense that it involves one’s own spirit – one’s own connection to our inner being, as well as how we connect with everyone and everything around us.

There are things a good yoga teacher will teach you that apply not only to what is happening in the moment on our mat, but also in life.

As they say, it is called a yoga Practice, not a Perfect. Sometimes you just have to laugh…

Today I was practicing in a room full of people, and I was in the far back corner.  We were holding a pose that required us to twist our bodies in the direction of the corner of the room in which I was positioned. So while we were in this pose, I  could not see anyone else – even in my periphery – only the wall.

It was the type of pose in which after holding it for a while, my leg muscles burn, and I start saying some really nasty things to my teacher in my head. (It’s okay – not only does she know exactly what I am saying to her telepathically, but she loves me anyway).

There I was, holding this pose for what seemed like an eternity. I was cursing up a storm in my head, so mad at her for doing this to me. So caught up was I in this story in my head that I did not even notice she had called not one, but two other poses while I was holding that one twist.

Eventually I realized that everyone else had moved on, while I in my blind corner, wallowing in my story of teacher brutality, did not even notice that I was suffering alone in a hell entirely of my own making.

I had to laugh…

How often do we do this to ourselves in life? We get stuck somewhere – in a place, or an idea – so focused are we on our suffering that we fail to notice that we do not need to be there anymore.

We lose sight of the fact that we are free to move on. 

In class she also talks about when we land in a pose that starts to feel uncomfortable, how important it is to pay attention to that feeling, and to stay when we want to flee. They say the discomfort is where the real work happens.  Not pain, mind you, but the discomfort or fear that comes when you push yourself beyond the boundaries of where you thought you could go with your mind and your body.

She draws parallels to life – that when uncomfortable feelings come up…that is when we need to stay and work through them.

These are the lessons. 

For me I see this fear and discomfort come up around romantic relationships. I hold when I should let go, and run when perhaps I should stay. I know that the first step to change is awareness.

So – yay for me!

If you’re fucked up and you know it….clap your hands! 

I joke, but I am actually holding my own shortcomings with grace these days. I know  getting here, to this challenging place around relationships, was not a slow journey…so much has happened to land me here. I think it is fair to say that unraveling from it all will take time.

That’s okay.  

I know that moving forward, my challenge is to discern between the times when it benefits me to stay (in order to stretch myself and grow) when my inclination is to flee,  and the times when I am staying far longer than is useful, simply because of the illusion that I don’t have a choice. 

I just have to practice being still enough to listen to myself…and sometimes, I have to get out of my own head long enough to have an awareness of what is truly going on around me.

Stillness. Awareness. Grace. Strength. Humor.

Yoga is helping me practice them all.

what we feed

Day 310/365 Brace Face

My kids asked me a while back, “What’s your most embarrassing story?” 

I am quite certain that my most embarrassing stories involve a significant amount of alcohol, and took place during my college years, so…

I dug for this one instead –

I was a bony and awkward thirteen year old girl with a mouthful of braces. I didn’t have a lot of friends at the time, but the ones I did have hung out at the Boys & Girls Club, which was right around the corner from my house.

One of my boy friends from the neighborhood (literally a boy friend – I tended to have a lot of those) happened to be friendly with a boy on whom I had a huge crush. HUGE. Though, I am fairly certain at this point in time I had scarcely uttered more than a few words to him.

He was cool and confident and I was…not. 

So one day my friend told me that he was going to be bringing THE BOY to the B&G Club the next day after school. I was beside myself. HE was coming to the place I felt (most) comfortable socially. Maybe he would finally see me as cool. Maybe he would finally see me, period.

After school I raced over so I could be there when they arrived. I posed myself (I am not kidding – full on senior portrait style posed) on the porch railing, waiting to make an impression when HE arrived. (Careful what you wish for, girls).

There I was, sitting lengthwise across the porch railing – one knee up with my foot resting on the railing, one leg outstretched….perhaps an arm draped across the bent knee…perhaps nonchalantly gazing off into the distance.

Finally, there they were, walking up the steps. I turned and smiled oh-so-cooly.

{Oh just taking in some fresh air….fancy meeting you here…I had no idea you would be…}

Then, to my horror, I began to lose my balance. I wobbled for a split-second and then without a bit of grace, I landed face first on the porch floor…essentially, right at their feet.  

Face. First.

WHAM.

Did I mention the braces?

I stood up slowly.

All three of us stood there stunned for a second, and then my friend (tenderly, and humiliatingly) said, “Jesus! Are you okay?!”

MMmmmmhmm,

I managed to mutter through a cupped hand, attempting to cover my ravaged lips…as if I’d just had a slight cough. As if they couldn’t see the blood dripping down my chin, onto my shirt.

I gathered myself and strode by them casually, as if I had always been planning to leave just then. As soon as I was out of sight, I ran all the way home.

My girls laughed hysterically at this story, and now Beau tells it to anyone who will listen.

I mean, it is funny, but I suspect she likes it so much for a few other reasons…

  1. It is a good lesson in how it isn’t worth it – trying to be someone we’re not in order to impress someone. (Not my last lesson in that, I’m afraid).
  2. It is such a relief to know that embarrassing things happen to everyone…even amazingly confident Moms (umm…see above).
  3. It is proof that something that seems like the end of the world at the time…may actually be hilarious, some day.

Several years later, THE boy became my boyfriend, albeit briefly. (Not too long after I finally got him to date me, I decided we were better off as friends.)

I actually remember him saying, “Wait…You are breaking up with Me?”

MMmmmmhmm.

Anyway, one day while we were dating I brought up my most humiliating, horrible, face planting experience, to which he was a witness (and did he remember that mortified, metal-mouthed girl had been me?).

As it turns out, he had absolutely no memory of it what-so-ever.

None.

I was astonished.

But…the humiliation! How could he not remember!?

Which brings me to #4…

The truth is – sometimes when we screw up, we are so focused on our own wounded ego that we wildly overestimate the extent to which anyone else really gives a flying fuck.

Even when we fall flat on our face (literally OR figuratively), chances are pretty good that before long we’ll be the only one who will remember the horror of it all.

Day 309/365 Knock, knock

I was doing some work on my computer while my dog, Louie, was experiencing yet another existential crisis as he desperately wanted to play catch with me…and yet was not willing to let me have the ball.

 

As this exchange often does, it got me thinking about control, and how grabbing ahold of (or pushing away) something so fiercely can sometimes rob us of joy in life.

I thought about romantic love. Perhaps the ball is a metaphor for all of the love that I have….I mean, um…Louie has to give. Innately, he wants to share it with someone else.

Yet…he won’t risk it.

I have this comfort zone of people whom I love and trust – it is a truly rich and wonderful place…and the idea of widening it feels…very unnerving. 

It seems like whenever I get a little optimistic about my readiness to do so, I get tested…and I retreat, hastily.

I met a man a few weeks ago. We hit it off and exchanged phone numbers, but by the time I got home I had already talked myself out of wanting to see him again. He hadn’t asked me to love him nor to let him love me. He hadn’t even asked me to go for a cup of coffee yet…but in my head I was already saying no to all of the above.

I was confused by my strong negative reaction after such a fun first encounter. I honestly wasn’t sure whether I was being intuitive and I just knew on some level that this guy was not for me…or if I was just being chicken shit. I suspected the latter. Nevertheless he failed to meet the expectations of how I thought he should behave (via text, no less) aaannndd…end of story.

Perhaps I dodged a bullet, or perhaps it was a bit of a self-fulfilled prophecy. I will never know, because I didn’t really give him a chance…not really.

I was not willing (or able?) to let go of the metaphorical ball. I am not even sad about that. I am relieved. Which, considering I do wish to have a relationship again in this lifetime, is a bit concerning.

Getting back to the video, if you watched it until the end you saw that amusingly, Louie loses control of his ball anyway, despite his best efforts to the contrary.

Sometimes when we refuse to let go, life finds a way of making decisions for us. I’d like to think that when the “right” person comes along, it will be something somewhat impossible for me to fuck up….but, I do see that this could be complicated by me being unwillingly to…share my ball, if you will.

While I was turning this over in my mind a quote popped up in my Facebook news feed:

“Sooner or later we will come to the edge of all that we can control and find life, waiting there for us.”  – Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D.

Ah yes, there is a beautiful, rich life waiting for us as soon as we release control.

Maybe, and also…

There are really terrible and fucked up things waiting, too. Except I am finding that the bad things happen whether we think we are in control or not.

The good things don’t seem to have the same tenacity.

The tragedies bust down the door, while the blessings gently knock…perhaps only to be heard when we deign to listen…and to invite them in.