In my quest to practice better self-care, I have just read two very different books on the subject of self-care for women:
Replenish by Lisa Grace Byrne is a practical step-by-step explanation of what the author calls the 7 Habits of Self-Care (Calm Mind, Sovereign Thoughts, Nourished Body, Restorative Rest, Joyful Movement, Anchored Quiet, and Authentic Connections). Byrne's voice is very "motivational speaker"-ish, but in the good way - I think she would be a good motivational speaker and would get everyone pepped up about going home and taking better care of themselves.
One metaphor she uses that really struck me was to envision yourself as a children's wading pool, rather than a well. To keep the water in the wading pool, you need at least one garden hose putting water in it. Or, if you aren't getting enough water from that one source you could have several hoses, each just dripping in. The water-level in your pool would stay steady, as long as it was getting at least some input from those hoses. I like this because it takes away the idea of "deep-well-springs" that you are supposed to just possess, which always makes me feel bad when I feel all used up.
Oriah brings a very different voice to The Dance. Rather than being a motivational-speaker or coach, she is a poet, asking more questions than she gives answers. Throughout this conversational, personal, and melodic book she challenges the reader (and herself) to accept who you really are and engage with that self.
"What if the question is not why I am so infrequently the person I really want to be, but why do I so infrequently want to be the person I really am?"
Indeed - what if that is the question? A provoking question that I would like the answer to!
"When we avoid the emptiness, when we fill the stillness with too much doing, we are often trying to outrun our sometimes unconscious conviction that who we are will never be enough. The things we try to hang on to - our work, our relationships, our reputation and perspective - are the things we believe will make us worthy of life and love even though we fear we are basically and inherently flawed. If we can simply be with the fear that we are not enough, and with the vastness of what we do not know, we discover an emptiness that is not our failure but is the very source of the fullness of who and what we are. We discover that who we really are - compassionate, gentle beings capable of being with every moment - has always been enough.
Simple. But not easy."
Yes, decidedly not easy!
An interesting pairing, which I did not design ahead of time, but I liked the conversation these two authors had in my head this week.
Wednesday, December 4, 2013
Sunday, December 1, 2013
On Friday, as is our custom when we are home for the Thanksgiving holiday, we went on a family hike. Not a big one - most of the really cool trails are already under snow and my kids are woefully lacking in proper gear right now - but still enough of an outdoor experience to refresh us after eating too much good food on Thursday.
It should have been no big deal: a nice wide graveled path, less than one mile round trip, with a scenic goal and a nice place to mess about before making the climb back up. But it, apparently, was a big deal to my daughter, who was so distraught about walking she pitched a fit on the trail on the climb back up.
That hit some kind of crazy trigger for me, and I did what a parent needs to be careful about. I Laid Down the Law. "If you can't handle a small hike we are going to have to Hike Every Day. STOP FUSSING."
Later, at lunch, she said (loudly, in a restaurant, earning me Mother-Of-the-Year in most of the patrons eyes, no doubt) "The only thing that would get me going is Mommy threatening me."
These are my cardinal parenting rules:
1. Pick Your Battles. (In other words, is this really important or not? Think it through - don't make everything a battle of the wills. Cooperate, delegate, vote, listen, negotiate, be flexible.)
2. But Always Win. (As a parent, you still need to maintain your authority. Don't give the kids authority over you. Maybe it's a Win-Win, but just don't Lose your position as the Parent. That's your job, to be the Parent.)
3. Don't Go Back On Your Word. (Sure, if you've really made a mistake, call a family meeting and admit your mistake and negotiate a change. But never make an idle threat - never say something and then just pretend you didn't say it.)
I said it. And we're living with it.
The next day we were back from the holiday, and we went on a short scenic walk in town. And we made a goal: we are going to try and walk every day until we have logged 100 miles.
It will be good for us. There are worse things to have lost my Mommy cool over.
Wednesday, November 27, 2013
(Feeling grateful even for small harvests)
This month my Facebook newsfeed has been full of people posting their 30 Days of Gratitude. I blogged my 30 Days of Gratitude last year. But this year, I decided not to participate.
It's not that I'm against feeling grateful. I'm not ... we should reflect on what we are grateful for and as a mindfulness practice I find it very helpful. I think we should pause to note the abundance that we already have, especially in the season of harvest and before we hit Consumer-Christmas.
But, at the same time, the public naming of gratitude has a bit of the image-crafting problems that Facebook has brought into our online culture. Although I'm sure folks are usually just being genuine with their gratitude, the over-all effect of everyone listing all the things they are grateful for is ... a bit braggy. A bit off-putting.
Maybe it's just that, as Americans, we can turn even the 30 Days of Gratitude into a competition.
I found this quote in a book I'm reading right now:
If we only wanted to be happy, it would be easy: but we want to be happier than other people, which is almost always difficult, since we think them happier than they are.
--Charles de Montesquieu
When we edit our lives to highlight the best parts, we are projecting a fake life for all to see and admire. It's something most people do all the time, and I do not believe it to be malicious. It may even be appropriate to a large extent - airing our dirty laundry or complaining on the internet all the time would be a bit of a drag and show inappropriate boundaries. But still .... cumulatively we are all guilty of raising the bar of expectations so high that now we can all feel like failures. Cumulatively, mind, so please don't feel bad individually.
So, I'd like to say this about my own gratitude:
- I am so grateful for the blessings I have received, which are many.
- I love my family very much.
- I can lose sight of my blessings when I think of all I want or all I should do.
- It really is true, that it's not having what you want, but wanting what you have.
I wish all a joyous and gratitude-filled Thanksgiving.
Saturday, November 23, 2013
Stuff is breaking here at home: the dishwasher has been past using for 3 months now, our desktop computer broke this month, the dryer broke, and the well house sprung a leak and needed a new bump tank and all new piping. Our major maintenance reserve fund wasn't large enough to deal with all of that at once, so I'm living without a dryer or a dishwasher. That makes daily laundry and dishes a much larger chore than they were before. But my priority is to rebuild that major maintenance reserve, so no big purchases for me for the foreseeable future. Sigh.
It's also the time of year when the focus shifts from the outside to the indoors, and we spend these cold wet months on chores and mending that were neglected while the sun did shine. My task for the last two weeks has been mending quilts. Patching them, to be precise, as the holes had become so bad my fingers were punching through the quilts when I tried to fold them.
The quilt pictured above was sewn by hand by my great grandmother, and came down to me when my great uncle's home was being cleared out as he moved to a retirement community. It's not a lovely quilt, but just a practical 9-patch made out of old clothes and backed with a weird green color. My mom tells me that great-grandma worked as a seamstress at a department store, long before most women worked, and would sometimes get to bring home unwanted "throw away" fabric. That green fabric might have been unwanted (the color points that way).
I've had the quilt for a few years now, and we use it. We don't store it away, or display it: it's a practical quilt so we use it. And now that it's wearing out, I'm sewing patches on it. Not fancy patches - just the bits of our worn out clothing and the scraps that I have in my "re-use/upcycle" basket. I hope my great-grandmother would approve.
She was a practical woman who raised 11 younger siblings and lived through the Great Depression, after-all - a pretty awesome role-model for trying to live a practical and thrifty life.
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
OK - I've been feeling more than a little like this poor Jack O'Lantern pictured above looks - worn out, falling apart, molding, and sad. I woke up one day recently, looked in the mirror, and saw Depression looking back at me.
I can list current "causes", and trace their vicious cycle. In a nutshell:
- People disappoint me. I wish they would be one way, and they just won't be like that. I expect them to step up, and then they don't.
- I start to doubt myself, and to seek validation from those people - the ones who are disappointing me - and they don't validate me either. They say unhelpful things, things like "people treat you the way you let them treat you". I start to feel like everything is my fault, and that the only reason people disappoint me is because I just can't manage people properly.
- I sit with this disappointment and discouragement for a few days, and think about things like just quitting my job or quitting homeschooling or quitting this organization or activity, because what's the point really?
- Then I get mad. I reject this world view, and get pissed that people are basically trying to make me feel bad for clinging to the ideal that if one is nice to people, it will ripple effect into a nicer world.
- At which point anger burns out into depression, and I'm back to feeling disappointed, discouraged, depressed, etc.
But why now? People are people all of the time, and frankly, they rarely measure up to my hopes for them. I consistently want and expect the world to be a bit better than it actually turns out to be, and most of the time I consciously choose this stance. I'm very fond of the idea that a pessimist may turn out to be right more often ... but an optimist gets more done. I'd rather get more done through willful rosy-glasses thinking than be right about everything being crappy and just contribute to more crapiness. I know I'm choosing to be wrong, and I'm choosing it anyway, because that's the world I want to live in and I hope my choice will make it ever-so-slightly more real.
So why am I depressed now?
I found comfort in this recent blog post from Simple Mom: Everyone Wants to Quit in November and February. Aha! Yes, it's just seasonal. It's just the November Blahs. Nothing else has changed, and I just need to put up some holiday lights, give myself a little extra rest, get re-inspired, and charge ahead.
And I need to plan ahead for February so this doesn't jump out at me unexpectedly again.
Monday, November 18, 2013
Escape From Mr. Lemoncello's Library, by Chris Grabenstein, is a fabulously delightful book. Thoroughly modern but with an obvious love for classic children's literature, Mr. Lemoncello owes a big hat tip to Willy Wonka (and this is referenced and acknowledged in the book).
A town without a public library is suddenly getting one, thanks to an eccentric billionaire who has made his fortune on games - both board and video. Children are selected to attend the grand opening, and are then locked in (with parental permission granted) and set to trying to escape the library, following all sorts of clever clues to find the way out. Despite no real danger, the plot is still plenty exciting. It's also funny and full of sly references to classic boardgames and children's books.
Boardgames and Books, and Libraries! What's not to love?
Saturday, November 16, 2013
Here is the 2nd grade girl's edition of "What We're Into Now". Right now, she into:
1. The show Liberty's Kids. It is a good launching off point for study of the Revolutionary War, as well.
2. Playmobil has made a come-back in her life. Lots of historical re-enactments as well as fanciful play.
3. Drawing and coloring. I finally just bought her a nice sketchbook and a pencil bag that we keep stocked with sharp colored pencils, and she loves to sketch and color all the time.
4. YouTube videos of people playing Animal Crossing New Leaf. Her brother owns this game (although I think he has lost it), but she is still in the process of saving up all her money to buy a 3DS and the game for herself. This is a long process - that stuff is expensive - so she probably won't get to the goal amount until after Christmas. But I'm not buying it for her. The process of saving up for a goal is an important lesson.
That's just a bit of what she's into now. Once again, I find a lot of what they choose to do with their free time to still have educational value. Life is learning!