"Promise me you'll always remember: You're braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think." A.A. Milne

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Life of My Dreams

Yesterday morning I was out running. It was the quintessential autumn morning. The air was crisp and the smell of leaves and wood fires wafted on the breeze. In the distance, I could hear the announcer of an early morning football game. I was running on uneven cobblestones lined with homes any 1950's American family would have been proud to have. (Actually, there are a couple I would really like to have.) As I rounded the corner, I saw families hurrying into the football game with blankets and bench seats.

It was at that moment I had one of the most spiritual experiences of my life. It was at that moment I realized I was living the life of my dreams. Even better, a life that was better than I had dreamed. And I never thought I would. Amazing.

You see, before I had children I was a very different person. I was stressed. I was overweight. I was exhausted. Truthfully, I was neither a very nice nor a very fun person. I had myself firmly ensconced in the rat race of corporate America and I HATED it but I had no clue there was another way. I really didn't.

There was no miraculous moment. This has been an amalgamation of small, seemingly disconnected baby steps that finally came together to form this life, my life. I quit work when we had children and truthfully, we really couldn't afford it. After many missteps and some hugely lucky breaks, we were on track to doing okay with the finances. Then the hard work began.

Okay, see here is the thing. I knew that I would be the biggest influence on my children. I knew the words I saturated their waking days would some day be the internal dialogue that would replay in their heads. This scared the hell out of me. I didn't like who I was. I didn't like what came out of my mouth. I didn't like what I spent my time on. Ack!! I was going to ruin them. Then I took a deep breath and started the long process of change.

Here is the weird thing, I wasn't as much change who I was as I was peeling off the layers I had put on in order to fit into society's expectations. I was wearing so many masks, I didn't really know how I was anymore. That is who I wanted to be. That is who I wanted to mother my babies.

Here is a quick run down of what I did:

I started saying NO...a lot. Not to myself or my immediate family but everyone else. Whether they mean to or not, people will run you ragged if you let them. I grabbed our social calendar and started gutting it. At first it was to give me time to think and figure out who I was. Later, I just like the freedom and ability to spend time with just the family.

I started eating really healthy. It started out small but now I eat things like chia and drink green smoothies. I eat whole foods and leave the processed junk alone. This step is just huge. I cannot tell you how huge it is. Point blank, you eat crap, you are going to feel like crap. It is that simple. Learn what healthy food is.

I really reduced the stress in my life. You may know I love yoga and meditation but it is more than that. I don't do drama at all. I don't care if is a friend or family, ain't no drama queens allowed up in here. I just walk away. It is simply not worth the price you have to pay.

In relation to the above, I strive to really live in this moment. I don't fret over the past and I don't really worry about the future. It is here and now. I retrained my brain by constantly and gently bringing it back to the moment.

I exercise, I love it. This is another huge stress reliever and it makes you look great. Now that, of course, is not supposed to matter. (yeah, right) but I guarantee you will feel better when you look at your workout self in the mirror. Also, I love feeling how strong I am now. It was quite a lovely surprise.

I no longer multi-task. I focus on the task at hand and give it my full concentration. Yes, this is damn hard with young children but I work at it and I succeed most of the time. If you are so busy you cannot do this then perhaps you need to let things go. You cannot do everything.

I no longer care what "everyone else" thinks. I don't care if you agree with how I parent, what my house looks like, if I mop often enough to suit your sensibilities, if I wear nice enough clothes, none of it. I really don't. Caring about all of that was just layering other masks upon me that were suffocating me. I will have none of that. I like who I am too much to sacrifice myself.

We have made our home a sanctuary. We are extremely picky with whom we allow in our home. Argumentative or divisive people need not apply. I want our home to be a place of warmth, laughter, love, and safety for those who live here and for those we invite to share it. It is our refuge when the world starts turning to fast and crazy.

That is really just a mishmash of stuff that happened in starts and stops. It wasn't smooth and there were bumps and dead ends along the way. But I think in the end what truly makes me happy is that I am choosing this life of mine. I am not allowing any group or organization to decide my priorities are. I choose my priorities. They don't look very much like the norm and I am perfectly okay with that.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Life Changes

Recently, I have found my focus has shifted. I have been clearing away layers of social expectations, ideas not my own but others, and other pieces of flotsam no longer serving me. I want to peel back until I am looking at what is basic and necessary, what really matters in life. It is through this path I discovering meaning and purpose in my life. Pursuing this end has brought my passions to the surface. Although the process is hard, it is apparent it is making my life much easier.

One of the ways I have followed this direction is a daily yoga practice. I am not formal nor am I strict with myself. I have two little kids. I often stop to refill a juice or settle a dispute. My morning practice is often host to preschool visitors who practice with me a couple minutes here or there. One of my favorite “interruptions” is sitting in my final meditation with my 3 year old son quietly, peacefully curled in my lap.

But rather than proving to be a hindrance, these conditions have taught me a great deal about living and practicing yoga in the real world, on and off the mat. There is no perfect place nor a perfect time other than right here and right now. If you wait for all the stars to align then you are just not going to have a yoga practice and you will miss out. I am growing stronger physically. There are so many things I cannot believe I can do now. But the true growth in my practice is my mental strength, my sense of equanimity, and most important, my humor and refusal to take myself too seriously. It has turned into an AMAZING practice.

The next practice I am pursuing with great diligence is meditation. I have now meditated most days for several weeks now. This has proven to be just life changing. Again, I don’t have a great deal of time and just forget about perfect place. No, my meditation is normally done downstairs while my husband baths the kids at night upstairs. It is often loud and filled with laughter or tears, the kids not me so much. But again, it has taught me to seize THIS moment and just live it for all it is worth.

Since starting an earnestly sought meditation practice I have noticed my words and thoughts are softer, kinder. When I speak harshly or think unfairly, it is as if a great spotlight is shined upon the unkindness. Rather than beat myself up about these transgressions, I treat myself with love, grace, and compassion. I find the more I treat myself in such a loving manner, the more I treat others the same way. It has been just an astounding experience. I will not even begin to speculate what the future will bring with this but I find the idea just exhilarating.

I find myself more enamored with unschooling each day. The kids are just flourishing with this approach. They are so curious and their questions keep me busy enough. We wouldn't have time for a set curriculum. We “study” whatever they are curious about.  We follow rabbit trails of information and engage our imaginations. Most of the time, I just let them get on with the very important work of playing. It is more important than anything I could ever dream of teaching them.

My view of life and our home schooling paradigm has us spending more and more time outside. I do not regret this at all. In fact, I wish we lived closer to the forest so we could tromp through the underbrush daily. I find that after spending time outside we are all more centered and balanced. Our moods are better and there is an abundance of laughter and fewer episodes of tears. Nature has a way of connecting us with something deep inside ourselves, perhaps something primal. I don’t know what it is exactly but I know it is important and should be cultivated at every opportunity.

So that is what we have been up to lately. I hope to post here more often. I feel like I have rounded a corner and I find I have something I want to say again. I want to share our lives and experiences. I hope you enjoy them. We sure do.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Long Time, Huh?

Wow, I see I have not blogged in a very long time. Summer can be like that I think. This summer in particular was time of fairly heavy internal change. It was a good thing. I find myself rather different. The need to explain myself to others, my inner workings, appears to have subsided for the most part. The desire to be understood and heard, well it just isn't that strong anymore. I think I have come to a place in my own self confidence I don't need it anymore, well not as much anyway.

So really I haven't had a lot to write about. It has been more a time of being and doing rather than thinking about it.

This autumn feels different. It is a time to explore relationships, spirituality, well-being, many things actually and to think about them. It is time to dig new directions and let them mentally compost so to speak. I think I would like to share this journey here.

Ultimately, I strive to live in balance. The truth is, that rarely happens and I don't think that is a bad thing. If you were able to maintain balance and sameness, stagnation would quickly occur and there would not be growth. Growth is extremely important. Not so much how fast or how much just that it continues.I am growing in a multitude of ways.

I am an avid health nut. Working out, eating healthy, living well, all of these things are truly important to me. Right now I am training for my first marathon. Talk about an intense experience. Wow, I am pretty sure nothing will challenge my determination and mental toughness as much as this well. But this training is coinciding with the realization I have been putting too much time and energy into this whole thing. It has been robbing other parts of my life very much deserving my time and attention. Don't get me wrong, I am still eating really healthy but instead of constantly trying to find amazing new ways to create dinner  I am satisfied with a simple veggie stir fry. Simplicity. I have also cut back on working out. I do love to over-train if given half a chance.

The benefits to backing off have been immediate. I feel better and have less stress. Therefore, my family and friends get more of me and more quality time with me. It has been a great change.

I have incredibly bright children. They are amazing. The things they pick up and the imaginary worlds they create leave me speechless. I almost fell into the trap many parents with smarty pants kids fall into to without thinking: Pushing them academically rather than to trust the organic process of learning. Which is rather silly because it is that very process that has produced these results. So I backed off quickly. Our focus is to play and do that outside as much as possible. We read. We play puzzles. We pull out the workbooks when THEY ask. Otherwise, I leave them to the very serious business of playing. I thank one of John Holt's books for reminding me of this way of learning and living.

So there we are. Our journey continues. We make mistakes, corrections are made,  beauty is created, and most importantly, live is lived. .