Bearable Lightness of Being

 

unbearable lightness of being, bearable lightness of being, being still, teens, parenting

I never quite know who I’m coming home to. There are two human beings in middle school who have the keys to the house and full run of the refrigerator. But I don’t know who I’ll encounter when I come home, or when I wake, or when I turn the corner.

There’s a heaviness in some moments, when individuating and testing out boundaries and personalities becomes a bit too much. There’s a lightness in some moments, when cuddling or silly puns and building forts is comforting and fun. There’s chaos in some moments when we all get whiplash with intense feelings and misunderstood intentions. There’s stillness in some moments when we feel validated and safe.

This rearing of Teens, it can be unsettling, fierce, confusing. If I’m never quite sure what’s around the corner and I’m the one supposedly in charge, it must be terrifying for the Not-So-Littles in this household. I’m finding it’s become more important to prioritize just being.

They need a home base where they can walk into from the rest of their worlds. Their worlds are filled with pressure to excel in academics, pressure to play well in their chosen sports, pressure to figure out who they are, and what they like and don’t like.

They need a home base that allows them to just sit and be, and shrug it all off before deciding what to do with each of these pressures. They need the space to be encouraged to use words, to find words, to describe what their insides feel like and to find and use words to ask that their needs be met. They need safety to be disappointed when their desires aren’t met, and safety to try out different coping skills to deal with that disappointment and frustration.

I am finding I need space to find the words to process how my initial parent reaction may not be the best response for each child. I am finding I need safety to feel disappointed that their desires and dreams aren’t what I expected or wanted for them. I am finding I need the space and safety to sit back and truly look at each child as an individual, and not “my baby” when deciding if I say “yes,” “no,” or “maybe so.”

I need stillness. I need to be heard. I need to feel safe. I need to be able to process how quickly my babies have grown up. I need to process who each of them are now, and how their passions and personalities and dreams have changed through the years. I need to process that all of these will continue to change. I need to process how best to keep them engaged in family activities to minimize teen angst and “omg everything is boring” while not catering to their every whim. There’s a fine balance in being firm while honoring who they are.

I know it is in the unscripted and unexpected moments between events and activities that are so important for teens to disclose or speak their truth. It’s also in these moments of stillness that feelings and thoughts distill and settle into our beings. I’m trying to add more of those gap moments into our lives by saying no to activities and invites, by putting away the phones and laptops, by slowing down the very pace of walking and talking and doing.

I’m starting to see the Teens examine and prioritize things in their lives now. I’m starting to see them become more mindful of their actions and decisions instead of reacting to things. I’m starting to see a mutual validation between the Teens and myself as we purposefully choose behaviors and decisions that honor each of us as individuals.

And in all of that, there’s become a lightness about us and with our family dynamics. We still fall prey to stress and over-commitments and hasty reactions, but we’re still practicing. We’re finding that there’s grace and kindness and empathy in this lightness of being. And this is very bearable.

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Be Your Hero

hero, tribe, authenticity, relationships

When people think of relationships in February, they usually think about intimate relationships–their spouse, significant other, ex-lover. Too often, people don’t examine the relationship you have with yourself. It’s precisely this relationship you have with yourself that dictates and frames the rest of the relationships in your life.

How much do you value yourself? What do you think you deserve? How do you expect to be treated? What will you accept in your life? What do you believe you deserve? All of these answers require you knowing who you are and what your values are. Knowing who you want to be is just as important as knowing who you don’t want to be.

“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with,” motivational speaker Jim Rohn once declared. You’ve also surely heard the saying that birds of a feather flock together. Then there’s the thought that one is guilty by association.

There’s something to be said for all of this. We know it’s easy to be influenced by peers. We see it all the time with youth and peer pressure. We never really escape peer or societal pressure, though you can learn to not react to it. But it’s easy to see how those we are closest to influence us.

Yet I reject the notion that who you are is merely an amalgamation of the people you are around the most. Sure, it can happen, but this notion implies a passive existence through life. We know there are plenty of people like this. But who do you want to be? Do you want to be a passive life liver? Do you want to be someone whereupon things happen to you, and you’re tossed around life like a ship in a storm?

To be the person you want to be, to have the relationships in life you want, you need to be an active and purposeful life liver. It’s more important to be mindful of the people you are closest to, rather than who you spend your time with. You don’t need to spend a lot of time with them. It matters more what these people mean to you.

Think about it–the people you’re closest to are people you love and respect. People you look up to. People who you seek approval from–you want them to like and respect you too. People who you seek advice from. People who support you in times of crises. People who can provide a different perspective for you rather than be a Yes friend.

This close tribe–you need to be mindful that each seat is taken by someone who makes you a better person. Someone whose values you agree with and admire. Someone whose disposition is one you’d like to emulate. Someone whose outlook is positive and energetic.

My close tribe–each one of them is kind and has a reservoir of grace. Each one is resilient and has good coping skills. None of my tribe runs away from their problems. They may whimper, but they’re no quitters. They each get up after getting knocked down. They take responsibility for their actions. They hold themselves accountable. They are reliable. They have integrity. They do and say hard things even when it’s uncomfortable. They are loyal and authentic and vulnerable. They don’t judge.

They inspire me. They are my heros. I ask myself all the time, how would my tribe members react to this, or view/interpret this? I act like the person I want to be because I surround myself with people who I want to be like–gracious, brave, kind people who share my values of accountability, reliability, and integrity. Because I know who I am and my relationship with myself is one of love, acceptance, and kindness. I’m able to have relationships in my life that honor me.

You are the sum of the people you are closest to. You are your heros. Be a purposeful life liver. Choose wisely who you pick to hold these roles in your life. Be your hero.

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When Your Heart Breaks Open

broken heart, spiritual journey, spiritual awakening

I tell you this
to break your heart,
by which I mean only
that it break open and never close again
to the rest of the world.
-Mary Oliver

There was a moment recently whereupon my heart broke wide open. And I tell you, it literally filled me with light and love and joy. That moment shifted my baseline of who I am. I understand now what it means to walk down the path of enlightenment. I’m further down the path today. Mindfulness and meditation have transformed me into the kindest, gentlest iteration of me yet, bringing me closer to the truth of me. For that I’m so grateful.

It’s provided me the space and strength to practice feeling hard things and doing hard things. I still have a long way to go. I oftentimes still get stuck in the anxiety that arises from the unknowns, the sadness that arises from endings and loss, the anger that arises from someone hurting me. Sometimes it can feel like a dark place.

I was recently coping with an ending, and because humans are messy, it was messy. It was filled with texts and emails and lunch and phone calls full of hurts, awkwardness, warmth, laughter, silences, vodka, and tears over several days. I was a complete mess. Because that’s part of my charm.

I was tired of being a mess, I don’t like who I am in that mess. I was tired of being in this space of anxiety and sadness. I’m on a quest to view life as opportunities to do things differently, so that I can find myself in another space. I found myself in the middle of band practice. I love my band. I love making music with this motley crew of quirks and intelligence and kindness. Making music with people is magical and vulnerable and holy for me.

Before our next song, I looked down at my phone and I saw an email. My heart did what it’s always done–it dropped. I could feel the familiar start of the roller coaster ride of sadness and anxiety once I’m hooked on the storylines about this person and this ending. And I made a conscious decision to do something different. I remembered I had a choice.

I got off that ride. In a split second, I knew I could soak up the storylines and suffering, and weep internally while powering through the last hour of band practice feeling battered and broken. I knew I could do that. I’ve done it before. And gone home to weep more. I had every right to feel battered and broken. But it is time to do something different.

I chose to open my heart to softness, open my heart to these wonderful, accepting, kind bandmates who show up for me every week even though I can’t count, people I am so grateful for. I chose to open my heart to the miracle and joy and peace that comes with making music with people, connecting with them to do something I find so magical and fills me. So I closed my eyes and breathed, and drummed with them for an hour with my heart bursting full of love and gratitude. I was in the music. I was in them. The music was in me. They were in me.

I could feel my heart opening wide and expanding. I could feel these people, their kindness and thoughtfulness and acceptance. I could feel the notes and beat and melodies. I could feel the magic and love and gentleness fill my heart, literally.

And in that band room, as my heart literally expanded, was my spiritual awakening. I realized I was so distraught because I just want to be loved by someone I cared for deeply, someone who is such a perfect fit for me in so many ways. I just want to love someone fiercely.

Wait, I do. How fortunate am I that I have so many people I love deeply and they love me deeply, who are perfect for me in so many ways. How fortunate am I to be able to do things that fill my soul with people I love. Yes, these aren’t romantic or sexual loves and feelings, but my God, these true connections are intimate in their own ways. I am bursting with all that and surrounded by it all. How grateful I am to have so many people in my life to share deep, intimate love.

So I did something different. I opened my heart up to be soft, I didn’t tense up and try to resist the hurt or pain. It became one of those a-ha moments that resets my baseline in my spiritual journey. This spiritual awakening had nothing to do with him or dating or relationships. It is about softening into life and occupying this space gently, mindfully, spiritually. It is about mindfully choosing to do things differently.

This was about choosing love, choosing light, choosing peace. This was about deciding not to choose darkness, sadness, despair. This was about choosing to open my heart to accepting and feeling it all, and you know what? The love and light brightened the darkness and lit the way for Grace and love to walk in. My heart has broken open wide to this world, never to be closed again.

.

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Grace in the Face of Betrayal

disappointment, betrayal, lies, grace

We’ve all felt betrayed or duped by people. We’ve all been hurt by people. We’ve all been disappointed by people we believed in, by people we trusted, by people we cared about.

I’ve believed in people I should not have. Through the years, I’ve gotten better at paying attention to red flags. I’ve gotten better at giving someone a fair chance with my eyes wide open. I’ve gotten better at deciding when I’m not going to accept certain behaviors anymore. Yet when I discover someone’s lied to me or betrayed me, it still shocks me.

First, I question my judgment. Then I realize if I didn’t ignore obvious signs, it’s not a bad thing to believe in the inherent goodness in people in spite of their flaws and messiness. It’s not a bad thing to give them the opportunity to do the next right thing. After all, people change. Or they don’t.

Does it hurt when they do not do the next right thing? Yes, it hurts something fierce. The disappointment is difficult to stomach without feeling like it wasn’t a betrayal. It’s hard to not personalize it.

But I’ve learned that someone’s decision whether or not they do the next right thing has nothing to do with me. If I personalize it, I am carrying a cross to bear that is not mine to carry, I am carrying responsibility for someone’s decisions that is not mine to take.

Believing in that person’s capacity to do hard things was not a bad judgment on my part. Everyone has the capacity to do the next right thing. Believing in someone while knowing we are all flawed is a sign of my softness in this hard world, is a sign that Grace does live in me, is a sign that I’m as messy as the next person and I won’t let someone’s flaws dictate my fate or sense of self.

I’ve learned that when I’m disappointed when someone shows me who he/she really is in this moment, I just need to honor myself and move him/her to another circle in my life. People need to earn the right to hear my story and earn the right to have access to my soul. Grace has taught me that when people show me they no longer have that right, I need not lash out in anger or wallow in despair. Grace has taught me lovingkindness, and that I just need to move those people into the periphery of my life, or out of my life.

Grace has taught me to not be a sucker. Grace has taught me to not be bitter. Grace has taught me that when someone lies to you, he/she is lying to him/herself, and those consequences are worse than any consequence I could bestow. I’ve learned that when someone decides to not do the hard work of being honest with you, it oftentimes means they’re not entirely honest with him or herself. I’ve learned that someone’s inability to do hard things in life has nothing to do with me. Grace has taught me to continue to be open to others trying to do the next right thing.

Grace has taught me to trust that I can and should remain open to allowing others to show me if they will do hard things in life, if they will do the next right thing. Grace has given me the strength to continue to believe in people while honoring and respecting myself enough to have boundaries if they do not honor or respect me.

I used to get really, really angry when I realized someone disappointed me or lied to me or was not the person I thought he/she was. I used to lash out in hurt because how dare this person do this to ME, I deserve better than this. I’ve since realized that when someone chooses to not do hard things, to not do the next right thing, he/she is hurting others too, not just me. More importantly, he/she is hurting him/herself. Grace gives me the empathy to understand and accept this, and move on in my life without this person, because I do deserve better than that. Because if I hold on to the anger, this person remains in my life.

It’s always sad to remove people from my life, but it’s a much sadder tale to tell if I allowed these people to remain in my life, if I allowed them to continue to disrespect my belief in them, my boundaries, my self-respect.

Grace has taught me that holding on to the anger, or holding on to the hurt, or holding on to the betrayal, is so heavy that it keeps me stuck in one place, in the past. Grace has taught me that it costs me nothing to put down such heavy things and move forward, into peace.

Grace has taught me some funny yet useful lessons, like I need not attend every argument I’m invited to. I also need not attend every pity party that hardens me when I’m betrayed, lied to, disappointed. I can send my regrets and attend other parties instead, parties that include lots of good wine and good food and good people who honor me and do the next right thing by me. Grace has taught me she throws one hell of a party.

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Life Lessons from Snow

nature, snow, life lessons

I am not a professional writer because I can’t write to assignment. Yet I didn’t argue with my friend when he gently told me to go for a walk in the snow, look for something special or inspiring or beautiful, send him a picture, and come home to write about it. I laced up my sneakers and threw on my Wonder Woman beanie hat because yesterday was not a good day despite good intentions. I woke up still carrying yesterday’s pain and I don’t want to keep holding it. It was getting heavy.

I love running in the snow. It brings me closer to God. It’s peaceful and quiet. There’s hope and new perspectives. So I head out to the trails and start looking for something inspiring, something beautiful, something special. I quickly realize that I cannot find one thing that is inspiring, beautiful, special. Because it all is. All of it.

All of this world is inspiring and beautiful and special. My friend nudged me out the door to remind me that this world is larger than me and my bad day and my pain. Perspective is everything, and when I’m sitting there crying and sobbing, feeling sorry for myself, it feels like my world is closing in on me. And it is. My sadness and my problems grow in between each tear that falls down my face. I feel overwhelmed, and I cry more.

I needed the reminder to do something different, and that is to actively widen my world back up. Perspective is everything. My pain is real and sad, and it is a glorious world with so much beauty and joy.

This curious little graveyard sits in the middle of nowhere, right off a trail. It’s over 160 years old, and holds a family of six. Of all things, this provides perspective. Our time here is short. It’s up to me to make it good, even when I have a bad day.

One of the things I love about running in the snow is that the world seems to soften. These rocks are hard, jagged, cold. Yet it becomes a canvas for snow, and the rocks seem to soften. This reminds me that every moment and interaction in life is an opportunity. And hard things happen. It’s up to me to decide if difficult or bad things harden my soul, or softens it. I want life’s trials to soften me, because fully feeling and holding the hurts and pain gives me the gift of empathy and compassion. This empathy and compassion connects me to all of the other messy humans, and it’s a beautiful thing.

Walking in the snow affords a different view than running. I notice more details. Nature is a funny thing, a wondrous thing. This reminds me that there’s always something bright, even in the midst of cold times. You just have to look for it.

I always marvel at how the trees look so different with a coat of snow. I can see their shapes in a different way. I can see how the forces of nature twisted their trunks and branches. I can see how the winds of life have blown and blown, and pushed and pushed some trees. And yet they still grow and thrive. These trees were certainly supposed to grow straight and tall like most of the other trees. But sometimes we don’t get what we want in life, and winds of life push us around and batter us a little. I can stand strongly and keep growing and thriving even with unexpected twists and storms that rage.

The snow, the woods, the raging storms life throws at me–I choose to allow them to soften me. This is how I grow and thrive in this vast world that is inspiring, beautiful, special. Choosing to allow life’s hardships to soften me make me inspiring, beautiful, special.

Posted in Meditation, Mindfulness, spirituality | 4 Comments

Grace: Always the Next Right Thing

grace, mercy

I’m processing the end of a relationship, and some moments are better than others. It didn’t work out, but he’s a kind, gentle soul full of grace. That’s what attracted me to him the most. Just because it didn’t work out doesn’t change the fact that he’s a good man. He asked if it’s possible for us to have some sort of friendship.

I was trying hard not to cry at that moment so I said it’s too soon. I told him I didn’t know when I could be a friend to him. Because I didn’t want to put myself in a position of feeling sad or angsty every time we had an interaction. He was clearly over me, but I wasn’t over him. And I just didn’t know when that might be. I needed to make sure I was in a good place where such a genuine friendship would be good for me.

The grief process is not linear. It vacillates between sadness, despair, anger, hope, acceptance, denial, bargaining. Back and forth, each one coming and going at different times. It reminds me of a pinball machine–how the ball randomly hits at different points.

First I was sad because it was over. Then I was angry because he didn’t slow his roll from the second we met, until his roll stopped and he took his roll and went home. Yesterday I missed him because I cared about him. I’m trying not to attach any storylines to each emotion (such as “I miss him, but he’s already over me.” or “Ugh, it’s so hard for me to find someone I click with, and when I do, it hasn’t lasted.”). These storylines create the suffering. Suffering is optional. Sitting with the emotions is a very different experience. I can do that.

Then my frenemy Grace whispers to me. She tells me it’s time soon. I tell her no, it’s too painful still. And I don’t want to reach out to be friends if the intention is to keep ties with him in some desperate way. I don’t want to engage in the bargaining stage. She whispers to me that I know better than to make up such stories. She tells me I know this will help set me free too. She tells me I know this is the next right thing to do.

I used to think I was always right. My teenage son thinks he’s always right. Neither of us are. But Grace is always right. Today is the day I reach out and offer grace and mercy and true friendship. Because I need to act like the person I want to be. And I want to be a kind, gentle woman full of grace and mercy. I do not want to be an angry or despairing woman.

I know being friends with him would help him process as well, and when he first asked, I was filled with both indignation and anger. I wanted the lone spotlight, I was the one hurting, enough about you, what about me?? And in my anger I wanted to withhold grace and mercy if it would hurt him just a little. Why should I be the only one suffering here?

Grace reminds me I do not get to decide who is deserving of grace and mercy. Because we all deserve both. Grace reminds me I can do hard things; this is an opportunity to start to do things differently. Grace reminds me I’ve been mindful to surround myself with a tribe of kind, gracious people in my life, and isn’t he a kind, gracious soul? Grace reminds me I get what I get and I don’t get upset. Grace reminds me to trust in life unfolding as it does.

It’s easy to offer grace to pleasant people, it’s easy to offer grace in positive times, it’s easy to offer grace when everyone’s happy. It’s the hard work of life that offers opportunities to practice offering grace when you least want to offer it, when you’re feeling stingy about grace. The times when you don’t want to embrace and offer grace is precisely when you need to.

My heart tells me it might be too soon. My soul tells me today is the day. Grace is kind and reminds me I can grieve and simultaneously do the next right thing, and by doing so, it’s transformative. I’m learning that offering grace is always the next right thing.

“I do not understand the mystery of grace — only that it meets us where we are and does not leave us where it found us.”― Anne Lamott

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Gratitude for When Darkness Falls

grief, darkness, sad, sadness

I lay here listening to the world wake up slowly. Cars start driving down the road on the way to work. Footsteps shuffle to the bathroom. I can almost hear the black of night turn to grey as light slowly brightens the room. The sounds start to fill the air. The silence thru the night was so comforting, enveloping me, hugging me as I sit here alternating between crying and being all cried out. I resent these sounds of the world waking, they’re telling me I need to put on my appropriate face and act like a normal human being when I just want to curl into the fetal position and wail.

I’m also grateful for these sounds. They ground me and remind me that no matter what, the sun rises each day and this life is bigger than me and my grief, and that I need to get over myself. I vacillate between these two extremes. I wonder why. Why despite a truly wonderful life do I want more? Why despite a truly wonderful life does one facet of life evade me?

I know it doesn’t matter why. I know this too shall pass. I know memories will fade. I know I will survive and thrive. I know this world can be cruel and unfair. I know I will cry more than is necessary. I know I will miss the darkness of the night, when I can stop pretending everything is alright and I can be the visceral animal I am and feel too much. The darkness of night allows me to do this.

I know I will put on my brave face for the light of day and live my good life. But some moments I’m tired. Sometimes it’s all too much. My head throbs from too much wine, because I’d rather feel the pain in my head than the pain in my heart.

I lay here with too many thoughts, and I lay here empty, void of feelings, because I’ve felt too much. I try to shut it all out, this day, this pain, this loss. But responsibility beckons and pushes me to my feet. And I am so grateful. Yet I look forward to the darkness when I can fall to my knees again under the weight of it all.

Some days it hurts. Some days you realize things didn’t turn out the way you wanted. “Some days” reminds me I’ve been given the gift of another day. So it doesn’t matter why. It doesn’t matter why I was given another day. It doesn’t matter why I suffer a loss. It doesn’t matter why good things come to an end.

It doesn’t matter why the sun slowly fills the room every morning. I must get up and make my own noises in the light of day. The darkness allows me to make other noises. I’m grateful for both, and I’m grateful for the things that make me create these noises, the things that make me laugh and cry. Today I’m looking forward to the comfort of darkness. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.

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