Meditation, Parenting, Special Needs

Wrestling the Fearosaurus

Anxiety is an extremely unpleasant sensation.  It is the place where fear of the unknown meets fear of the future, and they throw a huge fear carnival that can affect your whole system.  There very specific physical responses we have to anxiety, a sense of elevated heart rate, a dry mouth, an inability to be still or think clearly.

These are real physiological responses to what your body perceives as a threat.  Even if that threat is manufactured in some internal fear factory that is busily creating scary scenarios, your body cannot tell the difference.  It responds to anxiety that is generated internally with the same enthusiasm as if it were an external attack.  The problem is that our sympathetic nervous systems were designed to quicken our heart rates and slow down all our functions so we could escape from animals that were going to eat us.  It was a system that was designed for short bursts of lifesaving action.  Instead, for many people they have found themselves living in a state where this system is always on.

There is no question that we live in stressful times.  Reading the headlines right now is enough to make anyone feel vulnerable and scared.  When you add into it the day to day headlines of our own lives, filled with the regular victories and tragedies that befall us all, it can be hard not to feel overwhelmed.  Our incredibly, amazingly well designed bodies, however, come equipped with a second system to counteract the effects of the sympathetic nervous system.  It is the parasympathetic nervous system.  It signals to our body that we are safe, that we are at ease, that we can digest our food and our heart can beat normally.

The thing to remember is that both these systems are triggered and controlled by our perception of danger. If I am sleeping peacefully and am attacked by a dinosaur before I ever saw it, then I never had the chance to perceive it and become afraid. My sympathetic nervous system never went to battle stations, accelerating my heart rate and making me strangely alert and focused on getting away from the attacker as my only goal.  The reverse is also true.  If I lie in bed thinking of terrible scenarios that I perceive to be real then my body will respond as if they are.

The key is to look honestly at what messages we are sending to our body.  Are we running around all the time, claiming we are incredibly busy and extremely stressed and then wondering why our body is in a strange nervous overdrive?  Perceiving that there is never enough time, or that everything is going to fall apart at any moment is a habit.  It is a habit of mind with serious ramifications in the body.

The only way to break the habit is to look at our thoughts, honestly, gently and with compassion for ourselves.  Can you identify thought patterns that don’t serve you? Do you have habits that feed your anxious state? If you find yourself in an endless cycle of stress then try introducing new habits as a way to break it.  Instead of waking up every day and immediately checking email and the news, maybe go for a walk or sit for meditation.  Stress is a habit we reinforce without meaning to.  Sometimes the most effective remedy is just to change our routines a little; maybe then we can see more clearly what is triggering our anxiety.


Seeing clearly can come from setting aside a quiet time every day, seated in meditation, going for a walk, riding the subway, when all we do is watch our own mind. I have come to think of my meditation practice as a kind of internal eavesdropping, listening to the conversation that goes on in my head all the time, even when I am unaware of it.  What are the topics I am returning to?  Are they serving me, or are they keeping me stuck?  I cannot learn to let go of them until I identify them.  

If you are feeling like you are in overdrive spend some time just listening to your thoughts.  Are you spending your days in a cycle of what ifs? If you find that you are trapped in a cycle of repetitive and anxiety-producing thoughts you need to work to break the cycle.  The first strategy is to notice the signs, the accelerated heart rate and quickening of breath.  Go for a walk, take 10 deep breaths, call a friend.  The key is to recognize that you are safe, that this feeling you are experiencing is a product of your own perception.  It is a thought that seems more real because it has a physical presentation, and fairies and unicorns don’t.

Listen to your own mind.  Listen carefully and without judgment.  Pay attention to your habits and start to see if you can change the ones that don’t serve you.  There is no magic to mindfulness. It just means learning to listen to our thoughts and know the difference between the real dinosaurs and the ones we breathe life into ourselves.

Family, Parenting, Special Needs

A small act of real kindness goes a long way….

mae every dayThe last few weeks have been jam packed with errands. Boring ones like the grocery store, hardware store, bank. Before the kids started school they tagged along. For the most part they are fairly well behaved and they always hold out hope that there will be lollipops at the bank.

Mae has a shorter fuse than her brothers and at least once during these days of vaguely tedious drudgery she will completely lose it. Before I met Mae, I used to believe that when children fell apart it was because they were hungry or tired or there was some other situation a parent could have influenced or predicted. Public tantrums were some indication to me that a parent was asleep at the wheel.

Sometimes Mae’s tantrums are that, but most of the time they are like flash storms. They start up out of nowhere, rip through the peace of the day and leave us both spent and a little shell shocked. The older and bigger she gets the harder they are to defuse, especially in public. As she hurls her body around, screaming and crying, biting her finger or banging her head it’s all I can do to keep her from hurting herself.

Inevitably, as soon as one of these colossal expressions of displeasure begins, a “helpful stranger” appears. They are typically older than I am and female. Usually they spend a few minutes assessing the situation and then they offer advice or commentary like: “she needs more sleep,” or “maybe she is hungry?” Or a personal favorite: “my children never behaved that way.”

The “helpful stranger” has been on every airplane with us, in every grocery store, bank, even at the play- ground. She is masking her displeasure at my child’s behavior in the form of some sort of parenting tip, as if I were enjoying the sight of my red-faced screaming child and restraining her was some sort of hot new arm workout.

I have never been nasty to the helpful stranger. It wouldn’t solve anything, and I am usually too focused on Mae to do anything else. Occasionally, I will make eye contact and say loudly enough for the other people around to hear, “she is autistic.”  Just the statement of the fact hangs in the air and is mortifying enough to shut the helpful stranger up without me doing or saying anything that I would regret.

Last week, we were in Safeway and my cart was a mountain of groceries. I could barely push it. As we reached the checkout line Mae’s goodwill came to an end and a tantrum ensued. It was a doozy; arms and legs were flying everywhere. The helpful stranger was right in front of us in line. I could feel her watching us. I could feel her getting ready to offer me some parenting tips. I could also feel myself fragile and exhausted, getting ready to take my frustrations out on her. If Mae was having an external meltdown I was as close as I get to an internal one, and the helpful stranger was going to bear the brunt of it if she opened her mouth.

When she had finished paying she turned to look at us, me with one hand emptying the cart, the other arm holding Mae on my hip and trying to prevent her from throwing herself to the floor. She said “my grandson is autistic, I am so sorry it looks like she is having a hard day. I hope tomorrow is better.” That was it, then she walked away. It took a minute for me to register her kindness. I was so prepared for the false concern of the helpful stranger. Real kindness is without judgment, it is simply an acknowledgement that you see someone. It is the difference between eye contact with a stranger behind a counter or looking away. Real kindness is about connection.

I know that sometimes I can be the helpful stranger, jumping in to tell the woman with the screaming newborn to try the football hold or maybe bounce up and down a little… I won’t do that anymore, it doesn’t help.  It’s about me and not about her. I will remember what real kindness feels like, and just hope for her that tomorrow is a better day.

Family, Marriage, Parenting

I owe an apology…

photo (16)I owe an apology to every friend I have who has undertaken a house renovation.  I now understand that it really is all-consuming.  When you would talk to me about counter tops or which kind of door you should put on your bathroom, I was as bored as I appeared.  In my head I would be thinking that you should be grateful for the house you have and wish that you would stop talking about faucets.

I am sorry, I get it.  As we undertake the never ending project of this house I find myself compulsively reading magazines with titles like “Best of Kitchen and Bath” or losing myself for hours on www.remodalista.com I am on Pinterest so much that Colin was teasing me that I needed a pintervention.

It is of course a totally escapist pursuit.  We can’t help but imagine that the right flooring will lead to total familial bliss; the right arrangement of cabinetry and furniture and lifelong happiness will ensue.

Being able to organize or reorganize one’s space is a sense of control that in our chaotic always almost-slightly-out-of-control life I rarely experience.  Intellectually I know that there is not a renovation under the sun that will cause my child to speak, or make any one of us better or happier people.  We will just have a nicer more functional kitchen.  That knowledge, however, doesn’t make the planning less consuming.

The next time a friend asks me to admire her counters, or wants to discuss faucets I will do it with enthusiasm.  I will make every effort not to be impossibly bored but instead will recognize that the kitchen, living room or bathroom in question represents more than its four walls.  Right or wrong, it feels like an opportunity to shape your family’s experience of their day.  It is a luxury beyond measure to even dream of these things. It can feel ridiculous when many people in the world don’t have access to clean water to realize that you are falling asleep wondering if brushed nickel was the right choice for your faucet.  It’s important not to lose sight of that.

Like anything it is about keeping it in perspective. It is about remembering that your fixtures are probably not a subject of universal interest, while at the same time enjoying the process of creating a space for your family. I will not miss the tangerine walls of our current family room, or the crumbling cabinetry, but when it’s over and I have created what feels like the perfect space, I know I will miss the dreaming about it.  I will miss the possibility for improvement that these ugly rooms represent.  They are problems with solutions.  When I have solved them I may be forced to address the more complicated, less straightforward problems in our life.  I will miss the conversations about oak vs. pine when I am hiring a behaviorist to potty train my 6 year-old or I am sitting through tension-filled school meetings. But every time I put my hand down on my counters I will know that there is one problem I was able to solve; every time I see my family gathered in our kitchen I will smile and know that in some small way we have won that round.

Family, Marriage, Meditation, Parenting

Can we ballpark it?

photo (16)I love routines.  I can happily eat the same breakfast for months, run the same route for years, and in so far as it is possible make each week similar to the one before it.  When I first met Colin I was fascinated by his disregard for routines.  He actively avoided creating them.  He would wake up at different times and some days eat breakfast and some days skip it.  He might exercise once a week or not at all.  The thought of living without routine exhausted me.  How do you know you can fit everything in? The reason Colin was able to live happily without routine was that he wasn’t especially concerned about fitting everything in.  He knew that each day would contain some meals, some work and some sleep and beyond that things could happen or not happen and the world could continue to turn.

This summer we have been in constant motion and maintaining my routines has been impossible.  We have driven across the country twice, the first time in two and a half days, and definitely a situation that does not lend itself to long runs, healthy breakfasts or quiet meditation. In the whirlwind of moving and traveling I have had to let go a little bit of my regular approach to life.  I remember once reading an article about a guy who ran two miles every day no matter what.  This meant that he had done laps in Newark airport, and would sometimes wake at two in the morning to fit his run in.  Clearly for him this had enormous value but I can’t imagine how tightly gripped he would have to be around the daily run to make it happen regardless of circumstance.

We are starting to settle in our new house, the kids will go back to school in the next few weeks and I will be able to return to some of my regular patterns.  There is certainly a part of me that is craving a return to an organized day — to know before it starts that there will be a time for play, rest and work.  On the other hand, I have learned a lot this summer about just going with the flow of each day.  I have taken some of the Colin approach: some days there is time for exercise, some days there isn’t.  If you don’t make it to the grocery store on Saturday morning, or wash the sheets on Sunday, it’s OK; the world will continue to turn.

Families need structure, Colin’s more free form approach was perfect for him before we had kids, but after kids it led to enough “tardies” that we got a note home from the school district.  When it comes to structure we have to meet in the middle.  Were it not for him I would probably be unabashedly running in Newark Airport or doing down dog on the train platform.  He has learned that when it comes to our kids the schedule can’t really be ballparked.  If school starts at 8:20 that doesn’t mean any time before 9….

In Buddhism we talk about the middle path, “not too tight, not too loose.” I think this is the perfect approach to the rhythms of our new life.  We can fit everything in, but we can also fit in some space.  Somewhere in the middle of my highly structured tendencies and Colin’s free form is the middle path. The middle path means that there is time for work, time for play and time for rest.   It just doesn’t have to be the same time every day — except for the 8:20 part.  They aren’t kidding about that. If you are too tightly gripped around your routine it becomes a crutch, you may be fitting everything in but to some degree you are just checking boxes.  If you are too loose, threads get dropped, kids are late, dogs go un-walked, and you can actually lose time scrambling to fit in the basics. So we are hoping to steer our family on the middle path, not too tight, not too loose.

Parenting, Uncategorized

What city are we in again?

photo (11)This year, I have traveled a lot. There have been some trips for work, some for play and roughly a zillion associated with our move.  I have spent so much time in airports that I actually have opinions about where you can find the best snack options (SFO) or how the cartoonishly surly barista at the JFK Starbucks actually makes a fabulous cup of coffee. I am not a nervous traveler, I find it enjoyable.  When I was growing up, we used to get dressed up to fly on planes.  Air travel was a different animal then. The staff was attractive and courtly and the food and booze were free.  Now they may be attractive and even courtly, but that doesn’t seem to be a requirement for the job and absolutely nothing is free.

It doesn’t seem like people dress up for travel anymore, particularly the early flights that we have been taking to maximize time at our destinations.  People roll out of bed and head to the airport.  Some even walk around the airport with those funny U-shaped neck pillows draped over their shoulders, like hemorrhoid donuts for their ears. You half expect to see them dragging their comforter behind them.  There is something so unself-conscious about the way people behave in airports. Somehow the experience of travel becomes so personal that a level of decorum that we typically reserve for public situations falls away.  Rarely do we head to our local grocery store with our pillow and pajamas despite the fact we may be sleepy.

Years ago a performance artist put himself in a cage at the zoo and people watched him, sleep, eat, brush his teeth. I can’t remember about the bathroom but maybe they watched that as well.  It was a wildly successful exhibit. I love being in airports because it is a little bit like that.  People’s public faces kind of fall away and they behave as if they were at home.  They lounge, they eat, they play with their children, even when they appear to be trying to get work done they look a little more at ease then they do in an office.

Even though I think it is a little strange to wear your pajamas on an airplane, or walk around with your pillow as if at any moment you may be overwhelmed with the need for a nap, I love watching people just do their thing in an airport. There is something comforting about how similar we all are.  I may not want to start my day with a large curry filled burrito, as my seatmate did earlier in the week, but I admire his lack of concern for potential gastric distress.  I love the “wasn’t me” expression on the face of a passenger when the stranger next to them is snoring with gusto. Or the two women behind us who shared intimate details of their lives with each other over the course of a 4 hour flight.  They covered topics from back injuries, dating, Costa Rican sailors, shuttered New York clubs and sushi, a friendship started because they had randomly been assigned 32E and 32F.

I think there is a sweetness about the fact that on airplanes people sleep next to strangers comfortably.  There is something trusting and very human about looking over at someone you have never seen before with their eyes closed and their mouth open.  I know lots of people think that air travel is nerve racking or expensive and incredibly un-glamorous. I understand their point, but I love what an equalizer it is. I love how people get in airports and just become travelers.  One may be a wealthy businessman and the other a struggling student, but they are both just trying to get to Nashville, Chicago, Tampa, or wherever.  To do that though, some of them just need a portable pillow and a spicy burrito for their journey…

Family, Marriage, Parenting

There might even be cake…..

IMG_5216Almost five years ago today we flew home with Mae from China.  It happened to be my 34th birthday and as we chased my birthday around the world I turned 34 over a seemingly endless day.  The night before we left China we went out for a festive dinner.  We had so much to celebrate.  We had officially adopted Mae and received her visa that morning which meant that the years of chasing paper were over.  We sat around a giant round table, me, Colin, the boys, Mae, my parents, my brother and his then-girlfriend, now wife.  I remember there were some toasts made, and presents exchanged.  My brother, who lived in Beijing, even arranged for a birthday cake and candles to appear.  It was a perfect evening.

The thing I remember most clearly about that night was the sense that this is what a family looks like.  We had two new additions Mae and Sarabeth both of whom I now cannot imagine our lives without.  But that night as I looked around the table, at my parents whose faces and presences are some of my most beloved and familiar, at my sweet boys who were only 3 and 5, at my patient and incredible husband,at my beautiful daughter, at my brother who is also one of my dearest friends and his joyous girlfriend who I knew was the real thing, I was unbelievably happy.  The little room with this giant table and all of these people I loved was the only place I wanted to be.  We were laughing and eating, and reveling in being together.  We had, over the last few weeks, been on an enormous journey.  From the moment we boarded the plane in Newark with the fear that if someone on board had swine flu we could all be quarantined, to that moment in the restaurant a lifetime of things had happened.

By that evening, I knew in my heart that Mae had some sort of serious condition.  I didn’t know if it was permanent, or what we were up against, but I did know that I loved her with every ounce of me. That night was a celebration of so much, it wasn’t really a celebration of my birthday, or Mae’s adoption, it was a celebration of our family.  A family that was in the process of growing and changing as we sat in that very room.  A family that had over the course of the previous two weeks experienced every emotion possible.  Joy at meeting Mae, sadness at understanding how sick she really was, fear that our paperwork would not come together as planned.  We were exhausted, and it was also extremely hot and humid in China which is never a value add for us. But we had made it through the two weeks. We had this incredible new little person in our lives and could not have done it without everyone gathered in that room.

As a family we adopted Mae, as a family we have met her challenges, as a family we have been through a lot since that dinner almost five years ago. We have been reminded that no matter how much you love someone you cannot wave a magic wand and make their pain disappear, and because they are your family you cannot look away either.  So much has happened since that night, in five years we have experienced enormous joy and plenty of heartbreak but one thing I absolutely know is true; we are a family with so much to be happy about.  This coming weekend we will all be together again.  We will gather around a big table, together for the first time in quite awhile. There will be lots of laughter and tall tales and hopefully cake. But the best part is that I will be able to look around the room and know that there is no place else any of us would rather be.

Family, Meditation, Parenting, Yoga

What are you packing?

photo (15)The house is practically empty as of today.  Which means that when we speak our voices seem unusually loud.  The tone of voice that worked when the house was filled with furniture and art work now sounds like yelling as it bounces off blank walls.  The floors are scratched and the walls all have tons of holes from where the photographs and paintings hung.  The whole house kind of looks like a crumpled party dress.  I keep waiting for the empty rooms to inspire some kind of emotion in me, but so far I just walk from room to room and register what’s left in them and don’t really feel anything.  Mae loves it, every room has plenty of space for jumping and the house is one long runway, she can go from room to room on her fast little feet with no need to steer.

 

With any move there is a chance to curate your possessions to get rid of things you don’t need or have outgrown.  For the last few weeks I have been giving end tables and lamps as parting gifts to practically anyone who drops by.  The large pieces of furniture we used to store the kids toys in when they were little won’t make the cut for this move, nor will the fire truck shaped bunk bed that was a super big kid thing when it first appeared.  If we weren’t moving we would have been giving away some of these things anyway, I can’t imagine a 16-year-old version of Ben climbing into the bunk beds. The toy storage, though, would have just faded into the background, along with the rocking horse, and 6 old computer monitors in the attic. I keep promising myself that I will never, ever purchase anything ever again, because I cannot believe how much stuff we have acquired.  This is of course ridiculous.  When you are moving you are quite literally going through everything you own, and evaluating whether or not you need it. What you realize is that you have things you don’t use anymore and moving presents an opportunity to get rid of it.

 

I think that this is true not just for our things, but also for ourselves.  I know that no matter where you go, you are who you are.  I do not expect to wake up that first morning in the new house and be taller, thinner, speak Spanish and have straight teeth.  I will wake up in the new house my regular self, but a move is a chance to leave behind old habits and cultivate new ones.  I would like to have more time to write, cook, garden and do yoga, I would like to learn how to use my sewing machine, and maybe even pick up some Spanish.  While the list of skills that I would like to acquire is long, the list of habits I would like to break is longer: snacking, procrastinating sleep, not leaving clean folded clothes in piles anywhere but drawers, feeling busy when I am not, never listening to voicemail, amazon.  Those things are all habits. There are many more but none of them serve me and I hope to break them in our new house. Just like the bunk bed they don’t serve a purpose anymore.

 

One of my favorite things to say to students in class, is “let go of what doesn’t serve you” this can mean gritting your teeth because you think it will help you balance, or thinking about lunch while you are on your mat.  I like the idea that if we pay attention to what we actually have, and how we behave, that we can let go of what we don’t need.  Habits, like anything ever purchased from Ikea may have served a purpose when you got them, but if you don’t pay attention to them they may become permanent fixtures long after you don’t need them.  That is my practice for this move, paying attention to what I am bringing with me into the new house not just on the back of the truck but in my head and heart as well, and letting go of anything that doesn’t serve me.

 

Family, Marriage, Meditation, Parenting

Grateful for champagne problems

photo (11)My new favorite phrase is “champagne problems.”  A friend of mine used it recently to describe the intense angst that people she knew were experiencing about their bright, healthy, normal kids not getting into competitive private schools.  We both have special needs kids and would like very much to have our greatest fear about our children be that they won’t get into a top tier college.

Yesterday, in the middle of a beautiful day, I found myself with a free hour.  I decided to sit outside and read my brother’s book.  First the Fed Ex guy came, then a garden crew showed up at the house next door, the the propane guy came to fill the tank.  Each interruption made me more irritated.  I was feeling cheated out of my quiet hour in the sun.  As my blood pressure started to rise I began to feel sorry for myself that my one quiet hour of the day was being ruined, I heard the phrase champagne problems in my head and had to laugh.

Sometimes it’s important to have champagne problems.  I can’t walk around all the time thinking about world hunger, climate change, or what will happen in my own future and that of those I love.  I am not sure how much fun I would be having if I walked around all the time intensely focused on all my fears.  We should be mindful of the realities of our life, and of the greater world.  We should live in a way that aligns with our values: recycle, be kind to others, do your best, but also give yourself a break.

Trouble arises when we can’t tell the difference between champagne problems and genuine heartbreak.  We all struggle with real problems and real insecurities, but it’s easy to distract ourselves with superficial ones.  Perspective is being able to separate an irritation from a crisis. Sometimes it is hard to tell the difference because our bodies respond to them similarly.

The gritting of teeth, the tightness of shoulders and the elevated heart rate are the body’s way of sensing and dealing with danger.  The trouble is that a driver in front of you going slowly, or a quiet afternoon being ruined by noise are not danger.  They are irritations or champagne problems.

I am learning that I need to spend some time each week on a walk or a run reflecting on how I am responding to the unexpected ups and downs in my life.  If we aren’t careful we can form habits that turn everything into a calamity when really very few things are. A champagne problem is one that I can catch and release quickly, I can be disappointed or irritated for a few minutes and then let it go.  I know I need to conserve my emotional resources for the moments that matter both good and bad, because life is certainly filled with both.

Family, Marriage, Meditation, Parenting

Why is cynical cool?

I really, really have tried to love the show Girls.  I think Lena Dunham is smart and funny.  She has written things in the New Yorker that have caused me to laugh out loud.  The movie she made right out of college; Tiny Furniture was clever and witty.  The other night, Colin and the kids were gone and I decided that I would watch Girls.  I downloaded a bunch of episodes really wanting to find myself in one of those glassy eyed, zoned out states that occasionally feels really good.  I applaud the use of regular bodies, and I do remember feeling and creating situations that were dramatic during that stage of my life.  I think it attempts to be honest and accurately portrays that strange in-between stage that well educated women in their twenties can have.  They are smart and motivated, but not totally sure what they should want.

The thing that makes it almost un-watchable for me despite my best efforts is the cynicism and the sarcasm.  Being cynical means that you fundamentally believe that people are completely motivated by self interest.  It means that you live in a perpetual state of distrust.  It is the combination of distrust and lethargy that weaves through every episode that makes the show unsatisfying to me.

Distrust and lethargy are the antithesis of an awake and calm mind. Part of being able to really see and accept what is around us is trusting that the ordinary is extraordinary.  When we approach things with cynicism we start with a closed door and don’t believe it can be opened. When you are in your twenties, the world is filled with possibility.  If you approach it with cynicism you miss it.  Girls does not seem like a coming of age show to me because the girls all seem so world weary already.

There is one character, Shoshana who rather than approaching things with the Eeyore like attitude of her peers is made into a cartoon.  Her optimism and sweetness seems to make her a punch line, an innocent fool who somehow managed to sneak into the cool crowd.  Edgy and cool seem to only exist at the expense of generosity and kindness. I can’t think of anything edgier and more dangerous than living life wholeheartedly, allowing yourself to be vulnerable.  Instead, nudity and tattoos is passed off as groundbreaking.

I have learned that the more difficult life becomes the more important it is to greet it with an open mind.  Things can get very hard: children get sick, parents get older, financial situations change.  If we greet these changes as if we expected them, then we don’t really learn from them.  Instead we are bulldozed by them. Periods of calm and good health in life are a gift if we respond to them with anything but appreciation we are cheating ourselves. The expectation should never be that the good times will always roll.  They most definitely will not.  In every disappointment there is a chance to grow and learn and change but only if we don’t live life protecting ourselves with cynicism and lethargy.

Being cynical does not protect you from life’s disasters big or small, but it does prevent you from seeing and delighting in the ordinary.  When we stop connecting with the happiness of an ordinary day then a kind of spiritual paralysis sets in. Girls is the kind of show that perpetuates the notion that to be smart, cool and urban you have to be totally self interested. I refuse to believe that’s true, I believe that you can be intelligent and funny without being cynical and mean.  I think that waking up every morning and expecting that people are doing their best is a much better outlook than deciding that everyone I meet is lame and a liar.

These days I think that life’s challenges are best handled with optimism and humor. It is both more effective and more fun than the alternative…It just may not make for good television.

Family, Meditation, Parenting, Yoga

It’s not the marquee moments…

photo (11)It seems that I learn more from the truly mundane, vaguely boring but necessary parts of my life than I do from the big marquee moments.  The big marquee moments, weddings, births, even deaths, certainly teach us enormous amounts.  I have never appreciated life more than when I watched my grandmother take her last breath. However, I learn more about marriage on a sleepy, itchy, Monday morning than I would in a month of weddings and celebrations.

We have high expectations for the marquee moments.  We have planned them. We have thought about what it will feel like when we are actually in them.  Most of these milestone moments for me have been like out of body experiences.  I have been so busy having them and wanting not to miss a moment of them that the experience becomes one that is a memory as it unfolds.

Moving is a marquee moment, you remember the dates of various decisions, the day you left one place and arrived in another.  I have always loved saying my new address over and over in my head. Eventually the new address isn’t new anymore and the habit of repeating it falls away.  The day we drive away from our current house is one I will remember, I will be cataloging what it feels like to drive away from our sweet house filled with so many memories. I can picture this experience, it’s a marquee moment.

What I didn’t picture or understand would be how much I am learning as I pack us up.  The literal packing unearths all sorts of treasures. Those kitchen scissors that disappeared years ago had apparently staked out new real estate at the back of the tool closet.  Then there is the figurative packing up, the winding down of my job and volunteer commitments, returning the various rented instruments and sports equipment.  I am saying lots of good-byes in my head to people who I see fairly often but don’t really know.  The nice girl at the UPS store, the people that work at the grocery store.  Every time I see them, I wonder if this will be the last time.  The result is that I smile at them more and make better eye contact.

I am having this sensation at the yoga studio as well.  Each class I teach brings me closer to the very last one.  I am finding myself more awake to the details of the room and the experience, knowing that it is finite; my sense that it is something to cherish has increased.  I am finding myself less likely to see the flaws in things and more likely to accept them as they are.  Knowing that some of these relationships and experiences are ending seems to allow me to just accept them.

I like how it feels to take a little more time to appreciate the details of my life.  I like how it feels to not get super wound up about the outcome of various relationships and projects.  I like how it feels to be aware that I should pay attention and notice because none of this is going to last forever.

The truth is, that even if we never move again, none of this would last forever.  I am hoping that when we arrive in our new house and new life that I am able to maintain this greater appreciation for the smaller moments where life actually lives.  I am hoping that when my new address stops being thrilling that I can maintain wonder and appreciation for the ordinary moments.