The Way Out

This is how I’ve been feeling lately: stinky.

One the things Tara Brach talks about in her podcasts is the “small self” and how when we’re so me-centered, or preoccupied or in a rush or worried, etc, we go into our small self. And I feel like I’ve been living there lately. I just feel scattered and tired and consumed with stress. I notice myself stressing and then get mad at myself. Which doesn’t really help.

It’s taking me longer than September to get back into the cycle of things this time around. And I am not being kind to myself about it. I go back and forth between trying to figure out if I should be more stringent with myself or just cut myself some slack. I honestly don’t know the answer this time around.

But I have noticed that I’m spending a lot more time being my small self. Which keeps me preoccupied, thinking about myself and my needs and feeling sorry for myself. And I know, from experience, that this is not productive. I am not at my best when I am being this person. I assume the worst of others. I compound my stress by reading into every single thing I can read into. I embrace the pity.

Which clearly is not the way out.

So I’ve been thinking about the way out today. How do I get out back to the sunshine and blue skies? Because despite the rush of it all and despite the stress, life is good. Life is amazing. My cup is overflowing. I am unwaveringly lucky. Blessed. I really am and I know it deep in my heart.

Alas while the bird’s eye view is bright, the small self gets caught up in the small moments. In the rush of life. And I’ve been feeding it the wrong stuff. Bad food, TV, negative journaling, etc.

I think it was during Soul Restoration II that we made this long list of things that make me feel good. And I’m thinking it’s time to make one of those lists again. Remembering what makes my soul feel good and feeding it some of that. Consistently. Not doing the things “I should” but doing the things “I love.” For me, this doesn’t translate to chocolate and TV (but maybe some of that, too.) It translates to going to see the water. The ocean. The waves. The tall trees. Spending time with my kids without worrying about other items on my todo list. Maybe also making a list of all my worries and burying them. Lightening up the load I’m carrying a bit. My MBSR teacher mentioned scheduling time in my day to worry so when something came up, I’d say “I’m not going to worry about you now, but I’ll schedule that for 2:30.” Maybe I can see if that works.

I’m not sure what will do the trick but I do know I need to start trying to go another direction. Time to shed the small self.

Time to start finding the way out.

Having Done vs Doing

During the late Nineties, I spent some time writing novels. I’ve always been a voracious reader and, like many people, have dreamt of writing my own books. I did what I always do: I signed up for classes, both online and in person. I got involved with the community. I even wrote a class. I wrote some novels, of course. I continued this for a few years and then walked away.

I can’t remember one instance that made me stop but maybe I got busy. It was around the time I joined TFA so I am guessing life just got in the way. But I never picked it back up again.

Over the years, I’ve revisited the goal a few times. Each time I made a wish, life, mondo-beyondo or any other list, “write and publish a novel” always made it to the list. After the mondo-beyondo class, I even signed up for a fiction writing class but I just wasn’t feeling it.

So I decided maybe it was time to put this particular dream to rest.

Well, of course it won’t stay dormant for long because each time I see someone else publish a book, a piece of me wishes I did it, too.

But here’s the thing: I don’t know if I like to write. Many writers will say they feel a strong need to tell stories. That they write cause they have to. They want to. They feel to pull. Etc. etc.

Me…not so much.

I think I like the idea of having written more than the writing. I think I like the idea of having my published book. More than telling stories that are inside me, itching to get out. I like having it all done. Not doing it.

Which makes me believe this is not something I should be dreaming of. Not something I should be aiming for. If I don’t have the strong desire to write, I am likely not going to enjoy all that it takes to get a book out there. As it is, for those who crave the writing, it’s a long and difficult process to actually get a book published. So it seems silly for me to aim for it.

I am learning to differentiate between wanting to do something and wanting to have done it. One is about enjoying the process and the other is about looking good. Since life is all about the journey, the process, the steps along the way, I think it’s best to spend my time with things I love to do. And not things I will suffer through just to have it be done.

Life’s all about enjoying the journey. Enjoying the doing.

So maybe it’s time to permanently say goodbye to this one dream.

Creating Silence

I’ve been thinking a lot lately of beginnings and ends. When it’s the right time to walk away. I’ve always found it hard to walk away from commitments. Even if they are just to myself. So I have trouble quitting jobs, ending friendships, stopping a hobby, or even quitting a book.

Years ago, I took a class where I discovered that one of my strengths is commitment. I am reliable. While this is a good trait for many reasons, it can make some parts of my life challenging. Years ago, I was teaching fifth grade in the South Bronx and I really, really struggled. It was clear to everyone that I should walk away from my commitment to TFA. But I couldn’t get myself to do it. I felt like it was a promise and I couldn’t break it no matter what. Even if it was hurting me (or even some of the people around me.) It was, to this day, the hardest decision I made.

There have been times I’ve walked away from jobs and people, of course. I’ve abandoned hobbies. I’ve even stopped reading books. But, most of these cases had one thing in common: I felt pulled forward. I left a job behind because I felt compelled to go in a different direction. So it didn’t feel like walking away from something as much as walking to something else and that if I wanted to go there, I had to let go of where I was. And the pull of the other place was strong enough that it would allow me the strength to shed.

In the last few years, I’ve been struggling with letting go in several areas of my life and I’ve noticed that the reason it’s hard for me is that I don’t feel the pull toward anything else. So it feels more like dropping something for no good reason. And like there will be a void if I let go. Or that I am abandoning more than outgrowing.

Which is, clearly, ridiculous.

One of the downsides to my pattern of not being able to walk away, without having something else to walk to, is that I am never left with empty space. I don’t have a period of doing nothing. I don’t have a pause. And pauses are important.

Pauses are crucial.

They are what give you the breathing room to hear the quiet voices in your head, heart, and soul. They are what push you to explore. When there’s a buzz of activity, like I often have in my life, I don’t tend to pay attention to the quiet voices. They are drowned by the noise. You need silence to hear those. This is why I like to journal. This is why I like to meditate. Those are my ways of giving the quiet voice some room.

And I’m realizing that I need to learn to let things go. Not after I find something new, different, better but when I feel like they are not serving me anymore. When I feel like I am done. So that I don’t drag them around. So that I can create the space where new things can flourish.

Silence can be scary. But the only way I am going to learn to be ok with it is by practice. You do it a little. You wait. You see that the world doesn’t end. Then you do it some more.

So my plan this week is to make a list of things I want to let go. Feelings, thoughts, hobbies, people, commitments, books whatever it is. And then start practicing.

Start creating the empty space.

More Moodiness

I woke up this morning and I was tired. I sleep for over eight hours, so I can’t imagine that’s it, but maybe it is. Maybe my body needs nine hours. Anyway. Then I started my morning routine. Exercised, showered, we all got dressed, ate breakfast, and then sketched. Then I started work. But I was still tired. More importantly, I was moody.

If I am honest with myself, I’ve been moody for some time now. I am trying to snap out of it and I have had moments of joy and even days full of contentment. But there’s an underlying moodiness. One of those periods when negative thoughts pop into my head way more often than positive ones. When my drive and willingness to do anything is low. (Which of course perpetuates the cycle since I won’t do what it takes to snap myself out of it.)

And I am sort of unpredictable. Even in the middle of joy, a tiny word or action can take me back down to the annoyed/moody place. Not depressed but cranky.

If you asked me what’s going on, I can tell you long stories about it. I have many reasons why all these things are happening. But, the fact is, most of the reasons are bullshit. (sorry for the cursing, i generally try not do that here but i needed something stronger than ‘made up’.) I mean, sure, things could be better. But, really, there’s just no reason for me to be the way I am being. There’s no reason to go through life this way. Doing the motions. And looking at every single thing with a pessimistic bias. I was watching this talk on the optimism bias today and kept thinking how I just don’t function that way. I am pessimistic about the future. Maybe not pessimistic but anxious. I worry all the time. All.the.time. My mind goes to the most negative outcome possible. It definitely doesn’t serve me.

But back to my moodiness. Years ago, I took this class that basically said that we go through different emotions mostly for chemical reasons. Happy. Sad. None of them mean anything. We like to attribute meaning to a good day and to a bad day but most of it is just chemical. (Obviously not when something significant happens and your mood changes right then, like being proposed to or getting in a car accident, etc. But on any ordinary day.) And, while I am not sure I buy this thought, I love the idea of reminding myself that “It doesn’t mean anything.” So today I woke up moody. So what.

Attributing meaning tends to do one of two things for me. I make it someone else’s problem which means it’s out of my hands; I am hopeless to fix it. So now it’s not in my control and I just sit here and feel small, out of control, frustrated. Or I make it this big problem that needs to be solved and I can’t be happy until it is. This puts me into the postponement world. So I hold happiness hostage until the issue is resolved. And if it’s something I can’t resolve soon, well I get to be unhappy.

Both of these are ridiculous.

At the moment, I am stuck in some situations that I am not happy with. But I took some time and decided I am not ready to change them yet. The outcome of change could be much worse than how things are. And I am just not willing to take that risk yet. This puts me in scenario two above. I can’t solve it. And I attribute almost all my moodiness to these situations. I hear myself thinking “if this and that were different…” then I get to be happy. Then I can quit being moody. Then I can enjoy my life.

Ok I won’t curse again but I am thinking the same word.

So. I decided today that next time I am moody, I am going to do three things:

1. Remember that it doesn’t mean anything. It will go away. My moods do change. And this one will, too.
2. Remember that it was my choice to leave the situation as is. I am choosing this so I need to choose to work with it and to not let it get to me. To find my way through it. But that the choice is mine and I am not trapped.
3. Remember to journal gratitudes. I have been doing this on and off and I noticed that I do truly get happier when I do it.

So here we are. I know this is a bit all over the place. But if you’re in the same place as I am where you feel a bit stuck and feel moody but are in a situation you’re not ready to change just yet, maybe some of these will help you, too.

One other thing I am trying to do is to do more of the activities that bring joy to me. Art, friends, TV, hugging my kids whatever it is. I am trying not to judge, but to do them all.

You can never have too much joy, if you ask me.

An Experience vs the Memory of an Experience

This morning, as I ran, I watched this Ted talk by Daniel Kahneman. Well, I’ve watched the first 7 minutes of it so far (I get to watch the rest tomorrow.) but it already gave me some food for thought so I wanted to share with you.

One of the things Daniel shares is that there’s a difference between an experience and the memory of an experience. He talks about a man who watched a symphony for some time (let’s say 40 minutes) that he really enjoyed. Towards the very end, there was some very loud disruption and the man said “it ruined the whole experience!” Daniel talks about how this is clearly not true. For the first 35 minutes, the man was truly enjoying the show, so it wasn’t the experience that was ruined, it was the memory of the experience. How we remember things is not how they actually were. I think even though we know this, it’s significant to think about it.

Especially because Daniel also talks about some specific ways memory can be tricked. According to his studies, endings matter. In the case above, the symphony ended negatively so it left a bad impression on the man’s mind. They also did studies on colonoscopies. They took two individuals: A and B. A had a short but intensely painful exam. And B had an exam that was twice as long and just as intense for the same duration as A but then it got less intense for the second half. One would think B would rate his experience as worse than A since he had at least just as much pain and had to go on for twice as long. But because the ending of his exam was less painful than A’s ending, the memory of B’s test is less painful in his mind than A’s memory was. So endings matter. Apparently more than the overall experience.

These two ideas led me to think about my own life. I am still struggling quite a bit and working actively and regularly on coaching myself and being acutely aware of the good in my life. There are many moments of joy and peace and contentment in my days but the end of my work days are often hectic and frustrating. And by the time work is over, kids are in bed, etc. I am spent and worn out and I often remember that feeling more strongly than the others in my day.

So to rectify this, I thought it might be interesting to start keeping a “spot check of feelings” log during the day. Where each hour I would take a second to see how I feel at that moment. Am I happy? content? peaceful? frustrated? whatever it is, i note it and move on. This way, regardless of how my day ends, I can look back and see all the moments in my day and not let my memory of my day overwrite the actual experience of the day. If the gentleman at the symphony did that every ten minutes, he’d realize he enjoyed 75% of the show and it might change his overall view. So I am going to see if it works for me.

The other idea I had was to end each day with something really good/happy/calming/joyous. Since endings matter and I know this, why not use it to my advantage? Even if I am dead tired and frustrated, I think I can find a 15-30 minute activity that will turn the last moments of my day around. And if those last moments are so crucial to memory maybe I can “trick” mine by ending my days with a happy moment.

So since I like lists, my plan tonight is to make a list of 10 things that are 15-30 minutes each. Things that bring me joy or peace. Things that I can do at night. I will pick one each night and see if I can trick my memory.

I bet I can.

Remembering the Good

A few weeks ago, I was reflecting back upon my life and the different milestones I’ve been through. I did this exercise for Brave Girls’ Soul Restoration class about 18 months ago. I remember it was quite profound and eye-opening then. What I realized recently is that, even though I tend to worry a lot in the present and about the future, I seem to look at the past and mostly remember the good.

I don’t mean far into the past, I still have some rough childhood memories that are bright in my memory. But for anything that happened in the last twenty years, when I look back, none of them seem so bad. I feel like I’ve had a relatively smooth, uninterrupted life. Not just in the big ways (but definitely those too) but in so many little ways too.

I remember most of my life fondly. I feel like each phase served its purpose. I look back upon our years in NYC and remember the trips to Central Park. The library that was so awesome. The cherry blossoms outside our apartment. The movie theater and Borders that were one avenue away. And the bagel store a few blocks down where we spent a lot of Sunday mornings.

I don’t remember the super long and stressful work hours though I know they were there. I don’t remember the frustration with my managers though those were there too. Nor do I remember the endless fights with Jake (especially at the beginning of living together) but I do remember some special anniversary celebrations.

Maybe because there wasn’t one big, bad thing to point at, I just seem to remember it all as a good chapter of my life. The good stuff sticks out more in my memory.

Same goes for Japan, the cross country trip, and San Diego. Even TFA, which was an exceptionally rough time in my life. I just remember so many good moments from all these experiences. Enough to put a smile on my face.

I am not sure why it is that I can look back with no regret and no sorrow but I can’t live this moment with less anxiety and worry. I wonder howcome the two aren’t linked. How come I can be optimistic and pessimistic.

It also made me think a lot about now. And how when I look back upon now, all my struggles will fade away and I’ll remember the good moments of getting to be home with the kids and getting to sit on my couch, etc. So I am going to remember that more when I stress. Remind myself to see the good right now. Those Kodak moments that will stick in my brain. I will pause to pay attention to them now.

And maybe this process will make me more optimistic in the now. Maybe it will help quiet down the worries in my head.

Seems worth a try.


Fair warning that this is a rambling post…

I am hoping I am not the only one with this problem but I am feeling quite scattered lately. Even though I didn’t really get jetlag when I came back from Turkey, I still haven’t been able to get my brain organized. I sort of go through the days getting what needs to get done, done but not really working ahead much.

I am not panicked about this since all my must-get-done items are done. I am working diligently and hard at work. I am still running 3 miles a day. I got my CHA work done. And I am sketching and doing art and savor project each week.

but something is missing.

I feel disconnected from it all. Not sure how to explain it better. I feel like hours pass, I do some stuff and then it’s 7pm and I am worn out, tired, and uninspired. I can’t even seem to pick a book to read lately, I am literally in the middle of 5 books. This is unheard of for me. I like to pick one, read it all the way, and then move to the next. But I can’t even seem to be able to make up my mind about which book to read lately.

There are things I wanted to do in June and I am worried that the month is quickly coming to a close and I am not getting to them:

  1. I want to reflect on the last six months. Review my goals from January and see how I am doing. Sort of like I did here. I am thinking I might use this download I found at Susannah’s site. Even though it was meant for 2012’s beginning, I can use it to look back on the first half of 2012 and plan for the second half.
  2. I want to go through the little changes list I made and sort of schedule them into my days, months, plans.
  3. I want to get some math and writing books for David for the summer. I want to work with him on his writing.  I need to schedule daily/weekly summer time with him.
  4. I want to resume our reading book with Nathaniel.  I need to schedule daily/weekly summer time with him, too.
  5. I am thinking of possibly writing a new class. It would be about savoring every day. It would be mostly about reflection, journaling exercises. It would also involve artsy exercises but you can use medium of your choice like photography, scrapping, drawing, art journaling, or none of the above. I haven’t fleshed it out but I can’t decide if it’s worth writing it or not. There are a lot of online classes now. This wouldn’t be super-cheap. Would any of you be interested? (I know I didn’t sell it well but I am feeling tired now 🙂 ) But before I work for hours and hours and really pour my soul into it, I sort of want to get a feel for how much interest there even is and I am not sure how to do that….
  6. I have sort of begun thinking about 2013 too. It’s not too soon for me. I want to plan some of my projects. See what I want to keep from 2012 and what I want to change up. I want to make time to think more around this.
  7. My inbox is loud with emails I haven’t returned. I feel overwhelmingly tired when I look at it. It makes me sad to feel this way.
  8. I need to get back on schedule with the food, driving, strength exercises, and journaling. I miss them all.
  9. Nathaniel’s school ends Friday and I need a bit more of a schedule for the kids if I am to survive this summer.
  10. I am tired. Feeling unmotivated always does this to me. I think this means I should get up and do some art.

So that’s what’s on my mind today. I think maybe I need to go out 1-2 nights this week and spend some quality time with my journal. I know feeling organized is the first step to feeling inspired for me. How about you? Anyone else having a scattered summer so far?

The Signs of Joy

I’ve written quite a bit about how I don’t like to have my photo taken. That post is what started my family photo journey and I am deeply grateful for it. While I still don’t really care to have my photo taken, I’ve grown accustomed to seeing it and I do cherish the family photos very much.

There are many things that bother me about my face (and body) and I can list them for pages and pages. But the one thing that I don’t seem to mind is the lines on my face. I am always surprised when people around me look at their picture and comment on how old they look because of the lines around their mouth or eyes.

To me, that’s just a sign that you lived.

Not only do they not bother me but I am a huge fan of crow’s feet. They mean you smiled.

A lot.

There are signs of aging that are negative (in my opinion) because they point to neglect. Like not taking care of your body or teeth, etc. Like eating unhealthy food and not exercising (moving) enough. I’ve got a lot of these, too. I’ve been working in the last two years to fix these. It’s considerably harder to fix them when you’re as close to your forties as I am. But it’s not impossible. And I believe that anything that makes me stronger and possibly live longer (so I can see my kids grow and have families of their own) is worth trying.

Even the graying of my hair might bother me some times. Though I think that’s more conditioning than my personal opinion. Left to my own devices, I think I would have let my grays grow out. I find other people’s gray hair elegant. But I can see how it might feel unkempt to some people. I can understand gray hair as the sign that we’re getting old cause it’s not something that’s an outcome of something we actively do. It’s just the way hair changes over time.

But the lines are a direct result of smiling a lot. Of living life. Of facial expressions you’ve made over the years. To me, they always, always seem to represent happiness. Joy. It’s like the map of all the good times you’ve had.

I know you might get wrinkles on your forehead from frowning or worrying, too, but the crow’s feet is a clear sign of smiling. I would take a million crow’s feet over sorrow any day of the week.

And twice on Sunday.

Little Changes

A few weeks ago, I signed up for Ali’s Big Picture class called 31 Things. I wrote about it a bit before. The class is almost over (two more days) and I’ve been able to keep up with it partly cause I did a big chunk of prep work at the very beginning. I’ve loved the fifteen or twenty minutes I spent on the writing each day. It was nice to get to look back, record the now and think a little bit about how and if I might like to change things.

In fact, the latter ended up having the biggest impact on me.

As I wrote each of the prompts, small things bubbled to the surface. Changes that I would like to make in my life. And while most of them are easy, I think they might have a significant impact in my life.

Here are some things that came out of the writing (they’re not in any order of significance):

  1. Nature fills me with peace. Specifically the ocean (or even just water) and tall trees. I need to make an effort to be in nature more frequently.
  2. I still really want to be able to drive on the freeway and learn how to ride a bike. These were planned focuses for 2012 for me but I haven’t spent enough quality time on them. I need to put both into my schedule.
  3. I am grateful that Jake is good at investing and takes care of our savings. This is not a change for me to make but I don’t think I pay attention to it enough. It’s not a small thing.
  4. The 3-5pm slot is challenging for me all year round. I need to find a way to get through that time period and find some activity to engage the kids in so they can be happy but quiet and I can do my work.
  5. Food continues to be a challenge. I need to come up with more options of healthy/unprocessed food that I can have at home and eat throughout the day. This is an area that needs much more planning.
  6. I like watching my kids play. Especially when they don’t realize I am watching. It brings me so much joy. I need to take more pauses in my day just to watch them.
  7. I love having schedules and routines. I need to remember this. When I am tried or overwhelmed, I tend to let the schedules go but the routine is the very thing that helps me stop feeling overwhelmed. I also am very grateful that I don’t have many chores that I really dislike. This is no small thing.
  8. I would like to learn how to paint my nails. Both hands and toes.
  9. I would like to find a unique style of dressing. Something simple, elegant and comfortable. But also something that’s mine.
  10. I need to clean out my closet and remove the clothes and shoes I don’t wear. I have a lot of clothes that are too big and shoes that are too uncomfortable. I always worry I might “need” them one day. I will pack them up and put them away. If the boxes sit untouched for a year, they get donated.
  11. I would love to live by the water. (Ok this is not a small thing and likely won’t happen soon, but it’s something I can keep in mind for planning any/all vacations.)
  12. I need to find a way to step back and reset some important things in my life. Mostly in my mind and soul. But I need work and I shouldn’t ignore it. (also not a small thing.)
  13. I need to find a new “getaway” spot in my neighborhood for going out when I need some alone time. Starbucks means coffee and bad food. I would prefer somewhere else where I am not tempted to eat badly.
  14. I think maybe I am thinking about writing fiction again. I can’t decide if this is something I should listen to.
  15. I want my relationship with my husband and kids to be front and center in my life. I want to make sure I give them the best of myself. I want to be more positive, calmer and more present. This is not a small thing but I think I can make small daily changes to make sure these feelings are more visible to them.
  16. I want to spend more time outdoors. I will take daily walks with my kids and, once a month, take a family vacation that’s outdoors: hiking, camping, etc.
  17. I want to figure out what I love to do. This is not a small thing but here’s my small plan for it: for a week (or maybe even a month) I will write down how I felt after every activity. So I can try to see trends in what I get the most joy out of and what I get the least joy out of.
  18. I want to learn to drink hot water with lemon. Ideally, I’d like this to be my warm drink of choice instead of tea or coffee.
  19. I’d like to add a nice smell to our house. Something subtle. Maybe a little vanilla or fresh flowers. Not sure what I want here but I think I’d like to explore a bit.

There you go.  Not bad for 15-minutes of writing a day, is it?

Amazing how much can come up by just taking a little bit of time to pause, reflect and write. I am deeply grateful I took this class and I plan to spend time over the next few weeks/months working on each of these things.  This is one of the reasons I like taking classes. For me, it’s scheduled reflection, growth, and play time.

Two more things: Thank you for your kind words about my good day and thank you for the feedback on the posts over email. I will leave them as full.

A Good Day

Today was a good day.

I know I’ve mentioned it before but I’ve been having a rough time lately. And when I’m in a place like this, I tend to only see the dark and pay attention to the bad. And then these good days get lost completely. They get enveloped inside the black and it’s as if they were never here. As an effort to pause more and pay attention to the good in my life, I wanted to remember this day.

The amazing thing is that no one thing made today a good day. So this read will be boring for most of you and please feel free to skip it.

I woke up at 5:30 with Nathaniel making noises in his crib. I had gone to bed at 9pm the night before so 5:30 was actually not too early, so I got up, got him, and came downstairs. I checked in on work and Nathaniel sat with me for just a few minutes and then David was awake, too. I took both boys in the garage and started my exercise. David read and Nathaniel played with the toys in the garage while I watched movies from Christy’s Your Living Canvas class. I ran my 3 miles and then showered and we all got dressed. (While I was exercising, Jake woke up, showered, and left for work.)

Then we sat down to have breakfast (oatmeal+fruit) and while the kids ate, I read from our current book, Savvy. (We’ve been reading this one for a while.) After breakfast, the kids brushed their teeth and we walked Nathaniel over to his school.

After we dropped Nathaniel off, David and I stopped by the corner store and got a hot chocolate for him and a latte for me and we got a sugary muffin and walked back home. I cut the muffin in half for us to share and started my morning sketch. After I was done sketching, I sat on the couch and started working. David sat next to me and read Harry Potter on the old Sony ereader I have. We both quietly worked for about two hours.

I got one of the bigger items on my work todo list done and one of the major ongoing issues I’ve been tracking had a good day today. So those were some good news for work. I also spent most of the day quietly working and getting things done. At noon, David and I walked back to Nathaniel’s school to pick him up. We ate lunch and then Nathaniel went down for his nap. David worked on his science book, wrote a little and then continued to read Harry Potter. I worked more. When it was time to wake Nathaniel up, David was still engrossed in his book and hadn’t realized quiet time was over.

We all went back down and the kids had a snack while I worked more. Then David got to have his computer time while Nathaniel played or watched him. Then it was time for veggies and dinner. This is the only time in the day that was a bit rough for me. Work’s always a bit extra chaotic during this time of day and the kids don’t just sit and eat. There’s a lot of “Come on, keep eating.” so I tend to get frustrated. Usually Jake’s home to give the kids dinner, but he’s at a conference today.

After the crazy of dinner was over and teeth were brushed again and the gratitude journal was written, we all tidied up the house a bit as the cleaning lady is coming tomorrow and it’s not possible for her to clean if there are toys everywhere. Then we reviewed David’s science work from quiet time. And now the kids are watching 20 minutes of TV (well David’s watching and Nathaniel’s playing) while I take a break and write this. (I also took a 15-minute break earlier today to do my 31 Things writing.)

Assuming Jake’s not back in the next five minutes, I will bathe the kids and then it will be bed time. David gets to finish up one section he missed in his science work and then he can read more Harry Potter (which he’s dying to do) for about an hour before he has to sleep. I was supposed to go to book club tonight but if Jake’s not back in time, I will stay home and do an art journal page instead. If I finish that early, I have photos to process for my Weekly Update and Savor Project. I’ll probably sneak a few looks at work just to make sure all is ok. And then it will be time for bed+book for me, too.

A perfectly ordinary day.

But here’s the thing:

1. I didn’t yell today. Almost at all. I was calm and relaxed for almost every minute of it.
2. There was no emergency at work. No stressful conversations. No unresolvable worries.
3. I loved sitting with my kids and working while they played.
4. I ran three miles.
5. I took two walks outside in the sun (to drop off and pick up Nathaniel.)
6. I worked quietly but diligently and consistently.
7. I did my exercise, sketch, and 31 Things. I also am posting my blog post. I even ate relatively well today.
8. No one cried or whined or fought almost all day.
9. I felt peaceful and not stressed out.

All of these together made for a simple, ordinary, but wonderful day. I have a lot I didn’t do and I’d still like to get organized for the summer. But for this one ordinary day, I feel content, calm, peaceful.

I wish I had a camera that could capture this feeling. But since there isn’t, I am writing it down so I remember.

So I pause.

So I know these days are here too, in the middle of the black. They exist and they sustain me. The dark ones will come again but so will the light ones and I need to let those shine brighter.

So I can remember.

The Summer of Calm

I am finally back from Turkey and trying get back into the groove of things. I have to admit that while I worried endlessly about the flight, the trip, the time difference, the jet lag, etc. none of them were an issue. We did get jetlag in Istanbul but since we were on vacation, it was easy to work around it. The kids got along wonderfully and it was absolutely magical to see the whole family together, laughing, hugging, and truly enjoying each other’s company. Thank you, Yonuka, for creating the best excuse to have us finally be together. I am hoping this is the beginning of many future trips home.

I had intended to write these posts while I was away, but as it worked out, I barely had time to check my mail. I did only two sketches while I was there and no art journal pages. The only thing I kept up with was my 31 Things prompts. Early on, I gave myself permission to let my schedule go and enjoy being there. I did exercise every single day but it was my only requirement.

Even though we’ve been back for over five days, I still feel all over the place. I spent most of the weekend doing personal catch up things like sketching, doing two weeks worth of the savor project, a collage page, homework for 31 Things, journaling for Your Living Canvas, my pages for both OLW and MMEW and processing hundreds of photos. I have a lot of thoughts, feelings and worries and hopes and wishes and goals in my head lately and I feel like I need to journal but I can’t seem to get myself motivated enough to do it.

One of these is figuring out more specific plans for the summer. I know Ali’s done a manifesto but what I really want to do is two-fold. The first is to come up with a schedule for me and the kids. Now that school’s closed and kids are around, I need to come up with a way to occupy them and make them stimulated without getting in the way of work. And I need to shift my schedule around so I can still do the things I want to do and still be present with my kids and accomplish things at work. Balancing it all looks different in the summer than the fall.

The second one is more about taking a breath and looking back at the year so far. Summer happens to come right in the middle of the calendar year. I’ve now been doing my projects for six months. This has been a rough year for me in some ways and I’d like to be able to sit back and assess what’s working and what’s not. How and if I’d like to change anything. This requires a lot of time and thinking. And I really feel a pull to do it. I am hoping this week is the week when I finally sit and give it the time it deserves.

In the meantime, I’ve decided on an overall tone for the summer. My personal goal this summer is to make this the summer of calm. Today’s prompt for the 31 Things class was “covet” so the goal was to write about things you covet. I don’t shop much and I am blessed to have everything I need. The one thing I covet above all else is peace. It’s tranquility. Not as much a quiet house (though that makes me happy, too) but really a quiet soul, heart and mind. I want to feel the quiet contentment and gratitude that I remember feeling last year. I want to calm my mind. I want to change my tone and attitude so I am kinder to everyone around me. So I am open to the world and receive things in a positive manner. I want to be quiet. Positive. Optimistic. Assume the best. I want to be calm with my kids. I want to react quietly to them and at work. I want to pause, take a breath and just act and not react.

This will be hard for me.

But it will also be rewarding. It will be good for my soul. More than that, I think, at this point, it’s crucial that I do this. I need it. And I am determined to make it happen.

So it shall be.

Here’s to the summer of calm.

ps: to those of you who receive these by email, do you prefer to get the whole content (like you do now) or a short preview which will mean you have to click to read the whole post but it will probably make your mail smaller. Let me know what you prefer. I always prefer whole content which is why I had it set this way but I figured i should ask just in case you feel differently.

Finding the Calm in the Chaos

I’ve been doing a lot of writing and thinking lately, partly thanks to the classes I’m taking. As well as Christy’s class that I mentioned yesterday, I’m also taking Ali’s 31 Things class this month, too. I debated a lot with myself over this class, partly cause I was planning on being gone for part of it and I didn’t want to do it halfway and I also wanted to make sure I could take my time with each of the pages. But, in the end, I decided to do it anyway. I did a whole lot of prep so now I feel more confident that I will be able to get through the whole class without stress.

Anyhow, this class has a new “word” everyday to encourage you to write about that topic and yesterday’s topic was “you.” There were some prompts by Ali and as I was filling mine, some of the same thoughts that I’ve had for a few years came back to the surface. With my word, “savor,” this year, I’ve wanted to channel the feeling of calm. Awareness and leaning into the joy, too. But also the calm that comes from being at peace, from not letting things take over.

This morning, I thought I had a meeting at David’s school, so I dropped Nathaniel early and we stopped to get a coffee and then I walked David into his classroom. I still had about 10 minutes before the meeting, so I sat outside in the sunshine and read my mail on my phone. I felt a deep sense of calm. I didn’t have anything I could get done in that ten minutes. I had given myself the time off and I just sat there, basked in the sun. I felt so calm and peaceful.

After I found out the meeting had been cancelled, I drove home and told myself that I would do more of these stolen ten minutes in my day. It’s not good enough to let myself of the hook at home, I need to go out, be in the sun, and just be in that very moment.

And I do think I can do that.

But it’s not enough. What I want to know is how to be calm when everything is happening at once. When people from work are contacting me over IM and my kids are running around making a lot of noise and one of them starts crying and I spill my drink on myself all at the same time. Because these things happen. I seem to have at least four of these every day. Some are smaller moments and others are bigger. But each of them cause me to completely go over the edge. I scream, I feel instantly frustrated, I start seeing black and I lose all sense of reason.

Not to mention calm.

I want to get better at handling these moments. I have two young children. Two boys. I have a demanding job which I am proud of but working hard at. I choose to work from home. I am grateful to work from home. So, since I am marrying my two worlds, and since I love the advantages of that, I’m going to have to find a way to start becoming calmer in the face of chaos.

It’s not even about taking a breath or two (or three). Though I know that helps. But I think I need a more fundamental shift in the way I look at things, in the way I handle things. A combination of changing some things and letting other things go. I haven’t figured out the magic yet. (Far from it.)

But from what I felt of that sense of pure calm and peace today for those ten minutes, I know I want more of it. And even if I can’t be that great during those chaotic moments, I can at least not go to that “bad place.”

Though I’m gonna aim for calm.

Secretly, that’s what I truly want to be.