Day 44/365 Removing the Mask

On Friday night the girls and I went out to eat at our favorite restaurant.  While we were there we ran into a couple who has known me since I was a kid. We adults are in contact through Facebook and we run into each other here and there, but they don’t happen to see my children too often. They came over to our table to say hello, and told my girls that their mom is a gifted writer. Very sweet indeed, but my ten-year old was more than a little surprised by this, as my writing isn’t a part of myself I have shared with her much.

My friends went on to tell the girls that I had written wonderful things about them (the girls), and that they sure do say some very funny and interesting things. I could see from the look on Beau’s face that she was concerned about what I had written. She wasn’t sure if she should be embarrassed. (My eight year old didn’t seem to be paying too much attention to the whole exchange).

Despite the most lovely intentions on the part of my friends, I felt terrible. Once they left, I tried to reassure Beau that what I had written wasn’t anything that would embarrass her, and that I would read some of it to her when we got home. She brightened.

I do most of my writing at night, after the girls have gone to bed. One day Beau did see me writing, and I told her I was writing about my feelings. She asked me if she could read it, and at the time I said no. I am not really sure why. I mean, “Mommy” has a bit of a potty mouth sometimes, so there are a few entries that won’t be appropriate for her to read for a while, but some of them – most of them – would be fine. I don’t really know why I was keeping it private from her (especially since I am sharing it with all of you!). I guess I always imagined presenting the finished product (a year’s work) to the girls at some point in the future…

Was I waiting until I felt stronger, before I would reveal that I ever felt vulnerable?

After all of my writing about sharing feelings and being truly seen, why was I hiding from her?

Wasn’t I being a bit of a hypocrite?

Ummm, a huge hypocrite?

When we got home I offered to read the girls some of my blog. Ruby, as expected, was  uninterested and instead chose a story about kings, princess and enchanted forests (how can I complete with that?), but Beau was all in. I read to Ruby her fairy tale, and tucked her into bed. Then I nestled into bed with Beau. I started by reading aloud the entry about her.  It begins with me recounting a conversation she and I had. As I read her own words back to her, and she realized that I thought what she had said was so wise and so beautiful that I wrote it down and shared it with people…she was beaming.

I tell my kids that I love them every single day (usually multiple times!), but right there, in that moment, she felt seen.

It was powerful.

Next, I read to her the one about her sister. She loved that one too. Then we read the one about Miskiania and we both cried, and then we laughed that we were both crying, and then we cried some more, and laughed some more…

And in the end, I felt seen by her, too.

Honestly, it was one of the most beautiful bonding experiences we have ever shared.

Isn’t it funny how experiences that make us feel awkward or uncomfortable can often lead to beautiful truths being revealed?

New to this blog?  Read what it’s all about here.

Day 42/365 Oh, Duck

My cousin, Kate snapped this shot and captioned it, “Every time I think I have my ducks in a row, I turn around and one of those fuckers has wandered off.

Lately I have been dealing with some anxiety around the fullness of my schedule. This is no “humble brag” about how busy I am. I actually don’t like it; not at all. I have no ambition to be busy, busy, busy!

I can get spun up in my head about how I need to check certain things off my list before I can relax.  The thing is, though, there are always going to be more things that need doing; more errant ducks to chase.

I jokingly told a friend the other day, “My list doubled today, but I got half done.”

In other words –

There is no end to the things.

Sometimes I can’t even find all the “ducks.”

So how to keep from feeling stressed?

Here’s what I’m trying –

I have a notebook with an actual running list. I have finally come to accept the fact that I cannot possibly remember all the things. I used to kid myself about that.  I am still holding on to the idea that I don’t need reading glasses. I can only let go of one illusion of youth at a time.

I like putting the list in a notebook so that it’s not just on a slip of paper I could easily lose. Also, I recommend getting a sweet little non-threatening looking notebook.  It might be full of stuff you don’t want to do – but look, it’s so pretty!

img_2513The list is good because it helps me to remember all the things…or ducks (which is kind of crucial to any attempt to line them up).  Also, by dumping all of the things out of my brain onto paper, I actually am able reduce my anxiety.  Somehow this makes me feel like I am in control of the ducks…or at least I know how many I am supposed to have.

(Self esteem tip: Sometimes I write down a few things I’ve already done just so I can cross them off right away and make myself feel better! Don’t judge me).

The second thing is, simply to remind myself that I am never going to be finished.  I am trying to tell myself this, not in a frantic “You’ll never get this done!” kind of way, but in a gentle “this is life, and you’re doing just fine” kind of way. Sometimes frantic me is louder and pushier than gentle me, but I’m working on that.

Third, if there is an item on the list which I am particularly dreading –

I do it first.

Okay, that is a total lie. I will procrastinate to the death.

Seriously though – if I am dreading something on the list I think to myself – is it something I can actually accomplish?

If the answer No, I take it off the damn list! If I literally cannot do it, why is it on the list?  Just to make me feel inadequate?  No, thanks!  I at least change it to read, “Ask so-and-so to do –  X”

Delegation. It’s a beautiful thing.

If the answer is Yes, I can do that, then I try to relax around it. It is doable. I might not enjoy it, but I have the ability (and I will make the time) to do it.

At the end of a week, I transfer all of the things I didn’t get done onto a new page, so that I don’t get stressed out about the list looking like this: img_2512

And I remind myself to breathe.  The list is a part of life, but life is not the list.

Those fucking ducks are never going to fully cooperate.

Let it go.

Besides, wouldn’t life be dull if they did?

 

New to this blog?  Read what it’s all about here.

PS My cousin, Kate Oakley, is a talented photographer.  She specializes in portraits and branding. She works with a lot of small businesses and entrepreneurs.  Check out her website http://www.adornedphotography.com.

Day 40/365 A Universe Contained in Skin

I saw a quote once that read that each of us is “a universe contained in skin.” What a beautiful and true observation. We are all img_2501-1 complicated beings.

Add to that, many of us are what my friend, Erin, refers to as “the walking wounded.” We all have our battle wounds and our triggers, not to mention the enormous load of responsibilities we each personally carry. Sometimes we can’t even get out of our own way. So when we are curt, non-attentive, emotional, etc. toward others it often springs from within. It is usually not a reflection of how we feel about the people with whom we are presently interacting.

We are simply revealing a bit about the present conditions inside our own universe.

Admittedly, it takes self awareness to acknowledge that our feelings are about us and our own present weather patterns – not about others. Once we are aware, we can work toward coming from a place of kindness toward others (rather than taking life out on the innocent!), while still allowing ourselves time and space to feel all the things. It helps to find people who know your good, kind heart, and who won’t take your moodiness personally. They know – this isn’t who you are, it’s just how you feel.

Which leads me to flip this scenario the other way…

If we can agree that how we present ourselves or interact with the world when we are angry, sad, or simply distracted, is actually about how we are feeling within our own universe and isn’t about everyone else, then why is it so hard for us to see it from the other perspective?

If the way we are feeling or behaving isn’t about others, then the way others are feeling or behaving isn’t about us.

If someone else is behaving in an angry, sad, frustrated, distracted way, we often default to assuming we’ve done something wrong. Or, in perhaps an equally troubling default, we make generalizations about that person that may not be true in order to make how we are feeling about the interaction make sense. (Read – he/she must be an asshole, rather than he/she must be going through something difficult right now).

It seems to me that this is a problem with a multilayered solution.  The first bit is especially hard for those of us who are sensitive souls. We really have to sheath ourselves in a protective layer to keep from taking in/taking on the mad/bad/sad energy that is coming our way. For an empathetic person, this is a life-long battle.

Second, we need to remember that it most likely isn’t about us. Most people I know are not narcissists, and yet it is so hard to let go of the idea that we are the cause of unpleasant behavior toward us. We’re not.

Lastly, be compassionate. As they say, “Hurt people hurt people.” This is not to say that you must repeatedly expose yourself to someone who is causing you emotional harm. What I mean is, understand that there is a reason that person is behaving the way they are. It probably isn’t because of you (and unfortunately you may not be in a position to help, either). However, it is healing all around to recognize that the storm lies well beneath the surface, within their own universe.

You don’t make the weather there.

New to this blog?  Read what it’s all about here.

Day 41/365 Rainy Day Haiku

I love the forest on a rainy day.

Surprising few seem to enjoy this sort of endeavor…which is one of the reasons I love it.

No crowds.

Sunny day walks are lovely, but universally enjoyed. When I walk in the rain it is peaceful and quiet, aside from the symphony of percussion sounds upon my hood, through the leaves, and into the puddles below.

Plus, putting on rain pants makes me feel like a little kid.

I sometimes exchange glances and nods of mutual respect and foul weather bliss with the lone few I pass along the trail.

The other day I passed an ill prepared, soaking wet fisherman who smiled and said, “Ah, we should’ve checked the weather!” I grinned at him. He then noticed my head to toe rain gear and said, “Well, I guess one of us did!”

As they say in Waldorf schools, “All weather is good weather if you’re dressed for it!”

A rainy forest

Soft percussion on my hood

Blissful solitude

New to this blog?  Read what it’s all about here.

Day 38/365 Old Patterns and New Paths

The beast and I walk every weekend in the same area. It satisfies both my love of the ocean and my love of the woods. Yesterday we were walking down our usual trail and I spotted a new path I had never noticed before.  I decided to go exploring.

I hadn’t realized how patterned we had become in always taking the same path, until I noticed Louie stopping frequently as if to ask, “This way?  Are you sure?”

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I know, you see it coming, don’t you?

The metaphor.

Me and my damned metaphors.  Sorry, it can’t be helped. It’s just how my brain works – making sense of one thing by comparing it to another.

My brain is like a…(just kidding).

Okay, back to patterns…

The thing about our patterns is that they are our patterns for a reason. They have become comfortable – or at least, more comfortable than the idea of change. The problem is, sometimes our patterns aren’t particularly good for us. Maybe they were good for us at one time. Maybe they never were.

Somehow, the not-so-good old pattern seems much better than the worry of trying something new.

How will I know where a new path will lead, and whether I will like it when I get there? 

You don’t know, actually.  That’s the scary part; but it can also be a little exciting. Right?

Sometimes new paths can get messy,

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…and growth is always possible.

You may see beautiful things along the way that you would have otherwise missed…

img_2490Here is where this metaphor loses it’s relevance a bit…

As it turns out, this particular path led me into a stranger’s back yard.

Trespassing…it led me to trespassing.

(Editor’s Note: Sadly, so began her life of crime…)

Maybe I’ll just end here by saying…

Is there a pattern you are holding onto? Is it because it really satisfies you, or because changing is scary?

Think about exploring a new path, and see where it takes you.

One last thing – 

If you happen to get arrested for trespassing in the process, please leave me out of it.

New to this blog?  Read what it’s all about here.

Day 37/365 On Prince & Career Goals

A couple of days ago was the one year anniversary of Prince’s death…

The morning that I heard the news I felt compelled to listen to some of his music (like many people, I’m sure). I explained to my girls (7 and 9 at the time) that he had died unexpectedly, and much too young. I said I wasn’t sure how he died (of course they asked). I said that was being investigated (which led to a whole other conversation about autopsies…).

The girls did not much enjoy the music of Prince, as it turned out. I explained that he wouldn’t appeal to everyone, but what an amazing gift to have your music loved by millions of people….and to know that what you’ve created will live on long after your death.

I thought it was a perfect opportunity to discuss gender ambiguity and the importance of not only being confident in who you are, but also of being accepting of others who don’t conform to the norm.  I showed them some images of Prince…with his hair from long and wavy, to short hair with side burns, to afros…his clothes from feminine silk blouses and tunics to leather jackets and suits. He rocked whatever look he wanted to and never let himself be defined by…well, he never let himself be defined.

I really wanted them to get the message that its okay to be different, and that in doing so, a person can bloom into something amazing – THEMSELVES.

(Boom! Right?)

Juuust as I felt I was really scoring a home run with this teachable moment, Beau says, “That seems like a good job to have.”

“A famous musician? Yeah, that would be a great job,” I said.

“No, I mean cutting people open to figure out how they died.” She pauses to consider this further, “If you make a mistake with the knife, at least you know you aren’t going to kill anybody.”

Um…

Later, the girls went to their dad’s house and they told him that I was “going on and on about that guy’s clothes.”  Ha! Sometimes we just try too hard to teach our children, when in reality they are learning all the time from us. They notice everything. If they see us treating everyone with equal kindness, and not making a big to-do over how people choose to express or to identify themselves, they might even find it weird when we feel the need to point out these differences. And they’re right, aren’t they? I never enjoyed Prince because of his clothes or his hair…well, maybe a little, but mostly I liked his talent and his confidence.

I can just imagine my nine year old’s brain disregarding the information she deemed irrelevant, and honing right in on the truly more fascinating bit of information –

It’s actually someone’s job to figure out how someone died, by cutting them up!

Now that’s news!

 

 

Day 36/365 Sitting One Out

I’ve been a bit down and out with a cold the past three days. Last night some of my favorites got together, sans children. I knew it was going to be a great time and I had been looking forward to it all week. I also knew I wasn’t feeling so hot. There was a time when I’d have gone anyway – stayed up late and drank too much (and had an absolute blast, no doubt).  Today I’d still have had a cold, and a hangover.

Last night I said no because I wasn’t physically feeling well, but I have said no a lot lately – to social invitations, volunteering, and in general, to adding more to my plate. I remember a similar, but different, feeling of self imposed isolation during the mourning period after my marriage ended. For me, the quiet is an important part of healing – a warm bath and an early bedtime held more appeal than any opportunity to interact with others.  At the same time, I so appreciated friends and family who continued to ask to spend time with me, and who never took it personally when I said no, even repeatedly.

That last bit is important. Remember, it’s not about you.

I think I’ve moved past, for now, the period of shrugging off invitations because I’m depressed. I just want to say to anyone who knows someone going through a rough patch or a full on depression – keep the invitations coming, gently. They want to feel loved, and missed, even if they don’t want company.

Fortunately, I’ve been provided with video clips from last night’s festivities via text message, so I can vicariously enjoy the hilarity that ensued in my absence. It’s taking every ounce of restraint not to post them here. They wouldn’t disappoint. My people are really funny…and really hungover today.