Sometimes I'm struck suddenly with the realization that I am not in this alone. That there is something going before and coming behind. Call it God, Providence, the Angels, the interconnectedness of human spirit, or just luck, I experience it frequently in my life.
We mamas know a lot about this. We're always picking up (scrubbing up, sweeping up) after our children and planning for their immediate futures. We make way for them when we plan and cook their meals, make or purchase clothes for the next season of their lives, encourage their education, and generally keep a safe and fertile space for them.
It can be so overwhelming and all consuming that it's easy to forget what they're doing inside of that space. Growing, dreaming, doing the hard work of becoming. It is so challenging being a child. Do you remember?
What is even easier to forget is that out there, earth's angels and heaven's angels are making way for us, and cleaning up what we leave behind. In our culture we think we're being so strong and independent when we do things all on our own. There is no such way to be or do, though we all sometimes delude ourselves into thinking there aren't others out there making way for us. It simply doesn't exist. Even a person all alone in the wilderness relies on the plants and the animals around her.
Try to notice today. Maybe someone will make way for you in their lane on the freeway, or give you their cart at the grocery store. Maybe someone at work will remind you of an important meeting you nearly forgot about, or maybe someone will make space for you around their table.
For all of the people you notice making space for you, or sharing their kindness with you, there are dozens more out of sight that we will never recognize.
No matter where or when we are living, there are always those going before and those coming behind.
Send out a little thanks for all of the people who are sharing their kindness with you, and who are making way before and behind you, even if you don't think there are any out there.
Spend your day in gratitude, be willing to acknowledge even the smallest act of kindness, and you'll see them begin to multiply in your every days.
It's a beautiful thing.
I woke up this morning in a decent enough mood. Last night I had a beautiful dream, and I was hanging on to the blessing of it as I woke up to the day.
In very little time, though, the girls were jumping and shouting on the bed (oh, don't I miss waking up slow and easy), and the demands of the day started rolling in. Laundry, dishes, breakfast, baths, potty training (otherwise known as double the laundry and scrubbing the floor, couch, you name it), and then my husband comes in and says, "The truck is dead again, I have to take the car."
* TRAPPED! *
My brain starts to scream at me, "How did you get yourself into this??"
I forget how much we have and how blessed we are to have each other. I forget that the years are short even when the days feel so long. I forget that with some time, the extra scrubbing and laundry will give way to more freedom for me and for her. I forget how life used to be, back when I only dreamed of a relaxed home and family full of loving care. I forget where I am, how much of my life now is a product of the dreams of my childhood adolescence.
Was I naive about what this life would be like? Yes. Maybe.
Or maybe I just forget what it is that makes my life beautiful, the potential beauty I was looking for back then, while I'm aiming for something that isn't even desirable to me when I really think about it.
Even before I remembered these things, I rearranged my priority list and started in on a task that was more fun than the other jobs that are still sitting and waiting for me. Ever so slowly the day has gotten better.
I've been reminded several times this week that life is so much better when perfection isn't the goal. There are so many more important things than being perfect, and perfectionism just gets in the way of the real stuff.
It's time to remember that way deep down. So deep and so true that it replaces all of those ideas ingrained in me about what makes a good woman and a happy home. Even with this life we've created, I am seeing that I never did the work to uproot those unspoken rules and judgement patterns, the ones that creep up from the inside so much more than they come from the outside these days.
I'm grateful to be aware of it.
"The essence of being human is that one does not seek perfection."
Maya Angelou has advised, "If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude. Don't complain."
What if you find yourself in a circumstance where you feel nearly powerless to change, or at least the changes you could potentially make would cause serious pain to people that you're responsible for, like your children. Or maybe the cost of the change isn't worth the damage.....
Maybe you've spent days, weeks, months, or years trying to change your attitude, trying to make sense out of the situation you're in, how you got into it, and how to live in it fully and happily.
Maybe your younger self chose the situation...chose to be compliant, chose recklessness, or chose to be blind to reality.
Maybe you have much to forgive yourself for.
When we are backed into a corner. When the only way out is to grab your loved ones and leap over the well armed walls. When we have been through the despair, suffered the humiliation, born the burden and the shame for too long. When we turn the page and say, "To hell with all of that I am what I am, and I am more than all of this." When we stand firmly and start to dig our heels into the earthen truth at our feet. When we learn to reject what threatens or demeans us.
That is when the nice girl begins to become the warrior.
I woke up with the thought today, "Jesus didn't stay in Nazareth all his life trying to be a nice, virtuous guy. He went out to the wilderness and came back a radical man full of unconditional love, ready and able to change his world." And he did not try to change the pharisees.
It is easy to listen to convention, to believe that compliance is wise, to fear growth, learning, and change. Most people do. That is not the narrow path.
I used to think that changing your attitude meant attempting to salvage what is left of a broken situation, or of a circumstance that breaks a person down.
My soul is beginning to say no to that. No more salvaging.
My soul is beginning to say yes to self-reliance on the human level, and to Spirit reliance on the spirit level.
My soul is saying no to prescribed roles and to conforming to "the way things are."
My soul is saying yes to changing attitudes from reliance, compliance, and salvaging to empowerment and creation.
My soul is saying yes to the freedom of others going their way while I go mine.
My soul is saying yes to ignoring judgement and fear.
Yes there are things we have to just survive. Of course there are things out of our control that we must bear, like the death of a loved on. They come with their grief and sorrow. We bear them and they grow us.
Most circumstances, I find, have opportunities of change woven within them. If you are feeling stuck in a situation that has no hope of change, I invite you to look inward at yourself, and see if there you find that you are more capable than you thought. Perhaps the situation is not so hopeless. Perhaps you are more powerful than you are currently allowing yourself to see.
Sometimes what we are capable is scary, because change can be scary. The unknowing is enough to scare us right back to our status quo, since it is at the very least sustaining our physical life. What I've heard and witnessed over and over again, though, is that the anticipation a thing is far worse than actual experience of the thing, even an u supremely comfortable thing. The more you actually experience, the more aware you are of what you can withstand.
I am still at the beginning of this journey.
Maya Angelou's quote is like a tool, it seems. I agree, we should never complain (hello, challenge), and the change of reality and the change of attitude are like the two handles of one of those sort of see saw rail car, you know what I'm talking about? Those old railway cars that people would pump a lever up and down to propel? Hand cars they're called. For a while we work on our attitude and then we need to switch and work on changing our reality and back and forth it goes, each action moves us down the line a little further, and if we get good at it, we can really start to fly down the rails. Complaining, though, is like putting on the brakes, or doing nothing.
Some questions to ask yourself could be, "Where am I with this? Do my circumstances, my world, need to change or do I need to change? Do I need to spend some time in the wilderness to connect with God or Spirit of my Self and realize my capabilities? Am I ready to change my circumstance right now? What can I do right now to start that change? Is my attitude getting in the way of changing? How could I change my attitude to make change more possible?"
It might not be easy at first. It might be a ton of work. I do believe that once we get rolling, though, that all we have to do is learn to keep a steady pace....but let's just take this one challenge at a time.
Today is as good a day as any to begin again.
Right now is a good time to let go of all the things that bind you.
Today is a good day to set yourself free.
Right now is a good time to realize that no one is better at saving you from yourself or your circumstance as you can be.
Today is a good day to realize that all you need to create the life you want is tucked right there inside of you just waiting for you to call on it.
Right now is a good time to accept responsibility for your well-being, for your life.
Today is a good day to accept the help that is offered to you, or to look for the support you're yearning for.
Right now is a good time to receive.
Today is a good day to lend your soul the listening ear it deserves. It is wise. It will guide you.
Right now is a good time to realize that what is keeping you from your dreams isn't your kids, your spouse, your community, or anything outside of yourself that you are not able to change.
Today is a good day to remind yourself, "I've got this," and, "I'll get there," and "I'll figure it out."
Right now is the best time to give up negative self talk. When you belittle yourself you are refusing to recognize the miracle of Life that you are.
*Imagine the sacred, mysterious and soulful experience of holding a new born baby.*
You are mystery and soulfulness. You are sacred. Honor and care for yourself the way you would care for a new born baby, and then try, try to do the same for others.
Today is a good day to give yourself a break,
To ride the wave of life in whatever way feels best to you,
To realize that you are worthy of all of this and so, so much more.
It is safe to give love to yourself.
Is anyone else out there overwhelmed by the sheer VOLUME of self help, spiritual transformation information out there? Whoa. Seriously. It feels like everyone and their sister is doing it. And everyone's method is both the same and different.
It's like the nutrition industry; everyone wants you to be healthy in their way. It's so insane. Hopping from one website to the next has you reframing your idea of what is healthy over and over and over.
Eggs are evil...wait, no they're a super food!
Dairy will give me a slim waist....oh wait, this site says it makes feces leak out of my intestines, YIKES!
Whole grains are healthy...but this site says they're poison....but this site says they're okay if you soak then dry then grind your own. Say WHA'??
More than once the confusion of it all has me heading to the gas station for a swiss cake roll in the frustration of it all.
Finding out what works for my body has been, and remains, an ongoing exploration. I now know that dairy gives me stomach pains, that I need to limit my grains for good energy, that I need a TON of protein...and even *gulp* fat (good healthy fat) to feel amazing. Refined sugar makes me feel terrible. It gives me stomach pains and ruins my energy, but raw honey is good in everything, including me. Also, and this one was big for me...obsessing about getting "enough" water only makes me feel water logged and stressed out. I trust myself to know when I need to hydrate now.
In getting to know my body, I'm finding the keys that make me feel good. And isn't that the point of all this nutrition stuff anyway?
I won't even get started on the exercise industry....
The spiritual industry, it's the same. Everyone has a different method, belief, or program that "works." Everyone is running a seminar that they swear will change your life. It's a massive load of spiritual exercise we have to choose from out there. Even within distinctive faiths there are so many avenues for one to chose from. What am I going to believe? How am I going to behave, dress......LIVE?
Those kinds of choices are ours to make every single day, and if you're like me, you're getting mixed messages all the time.
The truth is that the answers, your perfect answers are right inside of you, nestled, and easy to reach if you're ready to hear. The key for me to hear my guidance is meditation.
Meditation is such a commercialized concept these days that it's been made intimidating, as if there are good and bad ways to do it, or marginalized, like, only hippy, new-agers meditate. When I first started meditating, or attempting to meditate years ago, I was plagued with thoughts of not doing it right.
I'd get nestled in, and then the thoughts would start in. Back then I was in that "get it right, work harder" phase of my life, so I'd start beating myself up. Why can't I do this right? Why can't you just shut off, mind??
Of course after 5 minutes I was exhausted and feeling worse than when I'd began. It wasn't until about 6 months ago, when I threw out the guilt of not getting it right that I finally started accepting the good stuff meditation has to offer....like answers and direction.
Meditation is being still inside...you haven't failed if you scratch your nose or shift your position to get comfortable.
Meditation is about creating peace in your life...thoughts are going to be there. Acknowledge them and let them go, and for heaven's sake, don't beat yourself up for thinking or for what thoughts come up. They're just thoughts after all.
Meditation should feel good. It should feel like deep relaxation.
Meditation starts with you as you are right now. It is simply the listening part of prayer. When it's time, when you're getting to know your insides, as you start to acknowledge your thoughts without judgement. (For example: A frequent thought/feeling for me is, "I'm never going to be able to do what I want to do and feel successful" my meditative response is, "Oh, that's a fear thought that comes from my fear of failure and what I'm capable of." Then I just let it go, because it's simply a thought, and truth is so much bigger than that.
Just like everything else, it takes time, and it's totally personalized. Experiment, practice listening, learn what stillness means to you, and above all be gentle with yourself. Your instincts, intuition, the Still Small Voice will lead you where you need to go.
Support that. Love yourself. You are completely capable.
What are you doing to take care of you today? How are you treating yourself? What are you saying to yourself?
Once upon a time I was at a party at a friends house and this woman randomly found me in the kitchen pouring drinks. I was a new mama. Amelia was maybe a year old. I was overwhelmed, exhausted, and lost.
She comes up to me and starts to talk about how I need to take care of me first. Frankly, I thought she was completely nuts. How in the world was I supposed to do that?
My mom certainly never put herself first. She ran herself ragged trying to meet all of our needs. I was determined to be as selfless a mother as she was. Only....I was extremely resentful. I resented the loss of my youth. I resented the loss of sleep. I resented never having a second to myself.
In fact, I was really, really angry at the time. It was bubbling up from I didn't know where. I was really terrible to myself back then, too, so I immediately took my troubled spirit as a sign of my weakness. Work harder. Do better. That was my motto.
This sincere albeit intense and overbearing woman was telling me just what I needed to hear, but it took several years, another baby, a changing lifestyle, and a breaking point for me to really start putting her good advice into practice.
Within months I started to feel direction, and the lost feeling began to slowly drift away. The dense fog turned into more of a misty haze. Within a year I enrolled back in school to study religion, knowing full well that I was taking a step toward my purpose. I was only there for a semester before we moved to this remote-ish village in MI last year, but it restored my self confidence, and reminded me that I was capable of excellence.
By the time we moved here my self care was established as a necessary part of my life, and now, I know just how essential it is to my purpose here.
I adore my mother. Adore, Love, Appreciate, Honor. I am ever grateful for her consistent presence.
But I can feel and express that without doing exactly as she did.
>>My own way lifts me up and makes me a better mother than I could be otherwise.
I Honor that.
>>My own way fills me with JOY.
I adore that.
>>My own way is guided from the deep recesses of my soul, and by the spirit that
>>My own way allows me to shine.
I love me and I love to shine.
I would never have found my way if I hadn't started to take care of myself.
I would never have started to take care of myself if I hadn't ask the big questions that changed my world.
I desired change. I desired happiness.
Boy did I get it.
How many of you grew up with a workaholic for a parent? How many of you were shown over and over and over again that your stuff, or even family stuff was secondary to the need to excel at work?
It just dawned on me how deeply embedded that belief is in me. Here I've been thinking that because I don't work at a traditional job, and because I don't work at my non traditional work all the time that I couldn't possibly be mistaken for a workaholic...certainly no one would ever label me with that word.
Like everything else, though, being a workaholic starts in the mind. Perfectionism, ambition, drive, passion, dedication...those are all words I've used that kept me from understanding how the early lesson of "work hard, because play is for failures" has shaped the way I think about my purpose, my calling, my family, and how I live my day to day life.
I learned that rest = laziness, unless you've worked yourself to the bone, and now cannot get out of bed for 24 hours.
I learned that letting work go until tomorrow was equivalent to saying no to God's blessings.
I learned that if you have a calling, it should take precedence over every other thing in your life, or even if it's not your calling...work comes first.
Work came before school plays, concerts, birthdays, holidays, and family meals. It came before schoolwork, play, downtime, and it certainly was a higher priority than personal health.
This, among other things, bred an environment of manic stress. It was almost constant.
It also bred a bunch of "hard little workers."
I left my home of origin with a lot to sort out. This work issue, it wasn't so urgent.
I struggled with work, though. I struggled to stay in one job, opting to hop from place to place. Just as they were about to promote me, I'd quit, tell myself I was bored and find something else. Honestly, I was just afraid of getting trapped in what felt like the food/retail management hole. I wanted something different. I wanted to hitch my wagon to a star, but I couldn't reach the stars. I knew I must not be working hard enough.
So I went to work on myself.
The idea that life could flow easily never occurred to me. The idea that the right star would float my way just as soon as I allowed Life to flow through me wasn't even on the register. The idea that all of the pain and trouble would wash its own way out if I were to trust seemed like some quack's flaky "solution" to life's problems. Yeah. Right.
Proactive. That was what I needed to be.
And maybe I did.
Maybe I had to take life by the horns so I could get to a place where I could believe the guiding voice inside without analysis or angst.
Mostly, I think I was just exploring what it feels like to be in control. All the healing, though, happened when I wasn't looking, and in ways I never expected.
As I was healing, my intuition began to take over. Do this, it would say, and when I didn't, I could feel the impact, and when I did....bliss. I began to let go here and there. I began to trust when Life said, "You don't have to be perfect. Take the kids through the drive-thru. It's okay to make yourself comfortable. Don't strain your mind," as much as I trusted directions like, "This woman will guide you through this. You can handle this now. Feed your soul. Go to the woods. Reach out to this person. Start that book. Let go of your old life, leaving everything and everyone that cannot or will not support your new way of being."
Ever so slowly, I have learned to listen, trust, and act in line with my intuition. It never, ever leads me astray.
It is the star I've hitched my wagon to.
Today, it is teaching me, that no matter how important I feel the work is that I'm working on, about a bazillion things are more important than it is. My well-being, tickle time, sunshine, inner peace, my family and home of creation, learning, making space for growth....it goes on and on. I love the work that was laid out before me. It's intense, and it is mine, but it is not all encompassing, and it will happen in its good time.
The real "work" is me, and it is not the work of my childhood. It is not grave, demanding, or worth starving for.
It's the work of nourishment. It is flow and allowance. It's the tending of the Joy Garden. It's the stirring of the Hearth. It's the love of Mama Resource. It's the building of our potential, and it is allowed to be both passive and active. It is Intention and Trust.
It's an ear to listen and a heart to follow.
The rest is not worth being urgent about, because the rest will happen naturally. Your calling, or your Life's work flows naturally from you when you are kindling the Hearth with loving compassion for yourself.
All of those old beliefs seem so flimsy next to these new truths. I'm laying them to rest with profound gratitude...I've come this far with them after all. It's just that, I've found a way that is better for the life I'm creating right now. So, workaholistic-thinking, thank you, and...dissolve in peace.
Sometimes the only thing that seems appropriate is a thunderstorm. We are experiencing just such a thing right now up here in our hilly region of Michigan.
We used to live in Ohio...the flat part of Ohio that is. The first storm we experienced up here was more than a little unsettling. The thunder doesn't clap and boom and explode the way it does when you live on flat land. It rolls. Rolling thunder. It starts in as a low growl and slowly rolls up and over itself until the undertow draws it back to the steady drone that tends to make itself our soundtrack for entire nights once it shows up.
I woke to its menacing vibration a month or so after we moved here. I'd never heard rolling thunder before. I woke Oliver up.
"What is that noise?" I asked him.
He jolts awake and grabs the bat assuming his "do not mess with my family" persona. I always feel safe when Oliver is around.
We stay silent and listen to the rumble. We wonder: Tornado?
No, it's not a tornado. We listen to the rise and fall, the auditory sister of the lake's waves only miles away.
As we slowly began to accept that this was thunder here, our new thunder, Oliver drifted off to sleep. I lay awake, not sleeping well for the rest of the night. I kept waiting for the thunder to spend itself with a soul wrenching crash. I kept waiting for the storm to wage its fury on us, but instead it rolled on and on and on; not gentle by any means, but never giving over to the rage to which I was accustomed.
All that night I lay feeling dissatisfied, smolderingly angry, really. Eventually the thunder dissolved away as the storms here seem to do. It lacked closure, like the storm hadn't confronted itself or the cycle it was a part of. It just sort of kept pace. I wouldn't accept it. It was a calculated, tip-toeing storm, and I did not want to be near it. Just rage and get it over with, I thought.
Tonight, I didn't notice that the thunder was rolling until I started writing about it. This rolling thunder has woven it's way into my fabric of being. It has taught me that, in fact, it is not disingenuously calculated, rather it is steady, it does not tip-toe, it simply has mastered the art of allowing.
The ebb and flow is an aspect of living. There is no getting around it, and floating amongst the waves is not weak. There can be a time for rage, for crashing and banging and great big releasing, but there is no shame in allowing a slow steady, anchored release. They are equally valid methods of weathering those periods when different aspects of ourselves are charged in opposing ways creating a storm within. One is quick, fierce, striking, and frightening; the other is slow, measured, and utterly painful to bear--like childbirth. We need both. Or at least I do.
For the last year, I have spent intimate time with the rolling thunder that threatened to shake me right off of my foundation. The steady rumble lasted so long that, in fact, the house of cards other people built for me came crashing down bringing me right with it. Fortunately, I've been doing my own building these past years. Just as soon as I stopped trying to save the old, useless dollhouse, I leaned into trusting that there was something real for me already in place and allowed the cards to fall, and then....well, it was like magic. Painful magic.
Every card has a face, a memory, or an object stamped on it. Some have been excruciating to send to the compost heap, and that's not drama talking. With every card that fell, especially those big, difficult ones, I could see more clearly what I'd been building for myself. Four months ago, I thought I was walking on the edge of losing everything I've worked for, i.e. my sanity. Now I know that I simply needed to take time to let go of everything else. I was not prepared to rage last year at this time, or even four months ago. I needed the steady shaking apart of the shelter house that had been stunting my growth and blocking my vision, all while charming me with the empty promise of safety from all the things that frighten me.
For the last three weeks, though, I have raged against the ugliest, most difficult parts of that card house.
Think primal roar. And devastating grief. Finally, the bare bones of emotion that I've been wrestling with for a long while. Cycle those two endlessly, and that has been my month of April.
The perfect recipe for a rip-roaring storm.
And you know what happened after I wrote this last night? A big bang crashing Ohio style thunder storm, and a whole lot of release.
Who would have thought?
Anyone else getting shaken up out there?
"Something we were withholding made us weak
Until we found that it was ourselves
We were withholding from our land of living
And forthwith found salvation in surrender."
-Robert Frost, The Gift Outright
>>to the place I inhabit right now<<
It's a good place.
I got here. I'll get there, too.
I feel shame. A lot of shame. For being me. For being imperfect. For being too sensitive. For being too expressive when I allow myself to be. For being an outside the box person. Simply, for being human.
Because where is the box anyway? It's wherever we decide to put it. Most of the time for me the box is identified as my family and their belief system.
When I realized how much shame I was carrying, that was the driving force behind seeking coaching this winter. I realized the specific things I needed from that coaching later, but the recognition of my shame was what shocked me into actually talking to someone.
A lot of things were cleared up this winter, but the shame was not. It stuck around as a sort of foggy, warped glass I'd been so used to looking through that, though I couldn't quite see, still felt normal. Then I read the new post over at Pixiecambell.com and all that thinking I've been doing started to congeal and expand until now I feel that my potential, I am expanding in a way that won't tolerate that shame.
Why have I felt so guilty for being human? I had this idea that if I could just try hard enough, I'd grow enough spiritually that my humanity would, sort of, take a back seat. Why in the world did I think that? Why in the world did I want that?
Do I want to climb the mountain? You bet I do. Do I want to be God?
Sometimes I do. Or at least I want to be so tapped in that I can manipulate reality. I want it all to be real. This is the most human desire I can think of, because, don't we all wish we could manipulate reality? Don't we all wish we could will our children to health when they are sick? And don't we all wish we could always stave off catastrophes and the challenges we weren't prepared for? Or at least that we would be able to respond to them always with grace and ease?
Of course we do. And sometimes, we get to. Sometimes we have foresight and we respond to it and a dilemma is averted. Sometimes we respond to the unexpected confrontation with dignity and care. Sometimes we get to be our best selves and life is slow and beautiful.
But sometimes we will be out of alignment with our better selves. Sometimes we'll forget to be still and find that guidance from within. Sometimes we'll react poorly in the face of conflict. Sometimes we will get low, and we will feel like a perfect portrait of imperfection. It just happens.
And that's exactly it. It just happens. It happens and then it passes and we're up on the mountain again. This is part of being human.
Why do I have such a problem with being human?
I looked up the root meaning of the word human, and I like this little ditty: http://www.baltimorechronicle.com/human.html, the root of the word human is earth. The ancient people identified so much with the soil, the earth, that they called themselves after the soil. Just part of the cylce.
Isn't that lovely? The true nature of humility. We are all just part of the cycle. It's really a beautiful thing to discover that we can only do what we can do, and that we must trust others to do what they can do. All together a beautiful, earthy tapestry is woven, but when we try to be the tapestry instead of the thread it's completely overwhelming.
It brings "Simple Gifts" to mind.
"It's a gift to be simple.
It's a gift to be free.
It's a gift to come round where we ought to be.
And when we find ourselves in the place just right
'twill be in the valley of love and delight...."
Love and delight. I'll say yes to that.
Anna Turner is the woman behind Little Hearth. She's an ordained interfaith minister, a writer, a believer in purposeful living and healing, a perpetual student, and a full time feminist mother.