May 6, 2016 § Leave a comment
If you are a mom, there is a good chance you have a very full definition of this term already in your head, and its resonance is why you are reading this now. It’s different for every mom, and as Mother’s Day approaches, I feel it deserves some real estate on my blog. Also because my kids were complaining about having nothing to put in their lunch this morning and mismatched socks on their feet because I had no time for groceries or laundry this week. My response was less about empathy, and more about weariness.
I saw a Facebook post the other day outlining What Moms Really Want on Mother’s Day. It included:
- sleeping in
- to pee uninterrupted
- somebody else to cook
- a clean house.
I read that and heavily exhaled. Yes, so true. And then it hit me. Isn’t it crazy that none of those things involve celebrating our children or spouse? Enter Mom Fatigue.
We love our children. We love them so much we compete with every other mom in the PTSA to show what good moms we are. Some days I imagine we are all greyhounds, chasing that artificial hare speeding around the track, and I think to myself, who picked the hare, and how fast it goes? Who decides that pace?
I see moms every day struggling with “not good enough” self-doubt, forever questioning how they could have done something better, been more organized, or how they missed a detail. Even on the good days, all it takes is one FB post or one Pinterest reference to send you into a tailspin of what you “should” be doing.
The word “should” just might be the most destructively–charged word in the English language.
I found reprieve this week in an exercise from Sanaya Roman’s book “Living With Joy”. In it, she offers:
“You may have been taught that being busy creates self-worth”.
(notice how there is no judgement in that statement? It just offers an idea for you to consider and decide if it aligns with your experience)
From this book, I learned to differentiate between Personality-driven activity (all the shoulds, and obligations we have created in our life) and Soul-driven activity – those activities done with your higher purpose in mind.
Weigh that for a minute in your mind, and as you do, gently walk yourself through your schedule today. For each activity, consider how it makes you feel and how it relates to your higher purpose? Keep in mind that your ego will try to step in and begin justifying your choices to help you feel better, but follow your intuition. Do you feel resistance and negative emotions in response to the activity, or do you feel excited about it, like it is aligned with your true nature?
And I hear what you are thinking…”Well that’s a neat exercise, but I can’t just drop my obligations cause they don’t feel good, I’ve made a commitment to them!” Right?
If you discover activity in your day that is creating resistance and negative emotion, it doesn’t mean you have to drop it. This new awareness is gifting you with choice. Perhaps the choice is to drop it, but more practically, maybe the choice is to shift your perception of it. Reach for a better feeling thought about the situation. Consider it from a different angle or perspective and see if there is a lens through which you can see the activity in a way that better aligns with your inner purpose.
For example, when I tried this for myself the other day, I lay in bed after hitting the snooze and walked myself through the planned activities of my upcoming day, applying the lens of Personality-driven vs Soul-driven. It was going very well at first, until I got snagged on washing the dishes (the ones I have left for several days). Hmm, I don’t love doing dishes and there is no way scraping day-old food off a frying pan is part of my higher purpose! The job still needed to be done, and seeing how it’s unlikely I will get a butler for Mother’s day, I chose to look at it from another angle. How do I feel when the dishes are clean, put away and available to me when I wish to use them? Way better than I feel when I go to make dinner and can’t find a clean pan anywhere in the drawer. I reached for the better feeling thought – the one that fills me up when things are where they are supposed to be when I need them. I also love the way the kitchen looks when it is clean. It brings me joy to see a clean kitchen, and living with joy is most definitely part of my higher purpose.
“You may have many reasons why you cannot change your life right now. If you do not begin to create reasons why you can, change will always be a future thought, and you will not be on the path of joy”.
You have a choice to live joyfully*! Learn not to be trapped by your own creations. Everyone around you will thank you for it, and feel liberated to do the same!
Wishing you a joyful Mother’s Day!
*If you need a little nudge on how to live more joyfully, see below for an exercise from Sanaya Roman’s book, “Living With Joy”.
- List seven things that you love to do, that feel joyful when you do them, and that you haven’t done in the last several months. They may be anything – lying in the sun, taking a trip, getting a massage, accomplishing a goal, exercising, reading a book.
- Beside each of these seven things, list what stops you from doing it – something either inside (such as your feelings) or outside (someone or something, such as lack of money, that keeps you from it).
- Take two or three things on your list that hold the most joy for you, and think of one step you can take toward each to bring it into your life.
- Mark your calendar with a date and a time that you will bring each of these joyful activities into your life.
November 16, 2015 § Leave a comment
I was chatting with one of the baristas at my favourite coffee shop this morning and was both surprised and excited to learn that she had aspirations to be an astronaut! Fully engaged in hearing how this came about, I asked her more questions. As I listened to her confidently tell the tale of how she has been a “space nerd” since the age of four, and how she is currently studying aerospace engineering, it was quite clear how lit up she was about her dream. As my friend and I asked more questions about her upcoming marriage however, I hear the words she uses to describe her dream start to spiral into uncertainty as she speaks about the next steps.
Her fiancé, currently based in Hawaii, is in the army, and they both want to begin flying. She talks further about the difficult logistics, how matching up bases when one spouse is the army and the other is in the air force is nearly impossible, and how they have decided that she will go for her private pilot’s license to better compliment her fiance’s career choices. By the time she finishes talking she is referring to her dream of being an astronaut as “maybe just a pipe dream”. My friend comforts the obvious shift in her energy by saying ““ah, the things we do for love, right?”
As she notices the line getting longer, she jumps back to work, leaving me feeling unfulfilled in the telling of this young girl’s story that started out so exciting and strong! Pipe dream? What happened to that four year old space nerd?
My friend comments to me about how lovely it is to know from such a young age what you want to do with your life, which I agree is fantastic but then I solemnly think to myself, “how sad that she has allowed these obstacles and boundaries to become larger than her dream!”
As I make the trek through the woods back home I keep thinking about this girl’s beautiful dream and how nice it would be if both she AND her husband could follow their dream. Upon arriving home I take advantage of a few quiet minutes before my next scheduled item in the day to do a meditation with Deepak and Oprah.
Of course it is all about removing obstacles and boundaries in your life.
As I recite the Sanskrit Mantra: Om Gum Namah, which means Expansive Consciousness Dissolves Obstacles, I am filled with thoughts about my barista friend. By the end of the meditation, my next step has become clear to me. I know what to do.
My fingers quickly type the author “Chris Hadfield” into the search bar on Amazon’s main page. In minutes, the book is ordered and due to my house next day. This book is Hadfield’s biography on the time he was a young “space nerd” through till his culminating experience as Commander on the International Space Station in 2013. It’s entitled An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth and it is his story of overcoming obstacles and boundaries to make his dream come true. I write a quick note of encouragement to “Follow your dreams, one goal at a time”, and on the back I inscribe the Sanskrit Mantra from my meditation, along with its translation.
I look forward to presenting this early wedding gift to this young dreamer. I am even more excited to one day see NASA’s announcement of their newest female astronaut, and remember what a great chai tea latte she made way back when.
October 5, 2015 § Leave a comment
As I sit at my computer, feeling the warmth of the early afternoon sun on my body, I feel joy. I take a minute to just notice the warmth from the sun: how it feels on my hand, on my leg, on my arm. I imagine it must feel the same as it does for a lizard basking on a stone, soaking up the warmth. I feel very much at one with that lizard, enjoying the present moment for what it is. Comforted and reassured by the notion that there is no “getting it wrong” when you are basking in the warmth of the sun. It doesn’t matter what you look like, how old you are, where you live, it is just pure enjoyment and expansion in that moment. A feeling of complete relief sweeps over my body as I breathe in deeply and exhale.
And I realize, that that is what every moment is. All the previous moments leading up to this one are past. Yes, there will be future moments, but they are not yet here. This moment is all that is. Which sounds small, but it’s actually a very, very big truth.
Imagine for a moment that you are in the midst of a really big project. There is pressure and stress to get it done on time and deliver it as close to expectations as possible. You work very hard and long to ensure that happens, because it is all on you. It feels heavy, but the reward will be worth it when you pull it all off, maybe even beyond what is expected. You know it’s what you are good at and you mistake that growing fatigue for proof that you have worked hard. Time is getting short, and there is still so much expected of you, how will you get it all done? It’s building, and building, heavier, faster, push harder, push through, lift more…
All of a sudden time has stopped. You are floating like a bubble among all of it. You feel a disconnectedness from it, like you are seeing it for the first time. As you gaze around at all the variables you were juggling, now frozen in the moment, a sense of wonderment comes over you. You notice things. The expressions on people’s faces, the energy in the room, the colour of the walls, the gorgeous fall colours on the trees outside the window you are standing near. You see that someone has brought their toddler to work with them that day, and how beautifully innocent the child is in contrast to the chaos you felt in the room before everything stopped. All of a sudden you hear a voice that says, none of what you thought matters, matters. The goal, the achievement, the expectations, the on-timeness, none of it matters. You suddenly understand that the entire experience has nothing to do with what you thought the end result should be. This experience is all about expansion.
And the pressure is off.
It all seems so clear now. The only true purpose in the project was your own growth and enjoyment.
Before you began the project, you knew no one involved. Now you have nurtured 6 new relationships that will ripple through your life bringing even more interesting people into your world. You have learned a whole new set of skills while pulling it all together that you are now very excited to know. You have brought into your perspective, a beautiful new viewpoint, and you are known by others differently now because of the interactions you have had with them. That is expansion.
Because that is why we are here. To grow and flourish, and live different experiences. And to find joy in them! To live in such a way that when we can compare our own “before” and “after” shots, we marvel at the vast number of experiences that we have allowed into our perspective, that have broadened our container, and that we have then used to fill it up even more.
This is your moment. Each and every one of ‘em. Feel the warmth of the sun and relax… it’s all about expansion.
February 11, 2015 § Leave a comment
When we were preparing to move to Seattle, I would tell people over a tea or coffee that it was the children I suspected would have the most challenging time. My husband knew people at work, and I would be fine anywhere, but it was the children who would have to walk into a brand new school environment, not knowing a single soul, and work out for themselves where they fit in.
The children have had their speed bumps and hurdles, but for the most part have managed beautifully, much better than my husband or I expected. My husband struggled a bit at first to find his personal bearings in a much larger company but seems to be navigating fairly well now. And then there is me. The one I thought would be fine, is not. I have been tripped up most unexpectedly.
Meeting new people through school, church and community – easy and enjoyable. Getting everything unpacked and the roots put down for the kids (doctor, dentist, etc.) – check. Figuring out what to do with my SELF. Work in progress. I say SELF because as far as filling time goes, no problem. As a mother of four, there is always lots to do…for others. Also as a mother of any number, it is very easy to get lost in ensuring everyone else is looked after, and misplace your own identity, your own purpose, your own passion.
From what I can tell, many mothers struggle with “balancing” what they call “work” and “home” (I see it more as “self” and “others”). There seems to be a paradigm that these two things must be separate.
When I look at my own family example, I see clear division of the workload. My husband and I each carry our share of the demands of a large family. Where it becomes “unbalanced” is when you look at the context of each side of the scale. Imagine both sides of the scale being of equal weight, but one side consists of apples, and the other of oranges.
When the kids were very young my husband and I used to argue repetitively about who had the greatest amount of “SELF time”, each one accusing the other of having more. Truth is when your children are newborns and toddlers, neither of you get that much personal time, but be re-assured that it is only for a season.
Now that we are out of diapers, sippy cups and strollers, from a task perspective, I would call it a wash. While sometimes managing a large family can still be overwhelming, my husband and I do a good job of conquering what needs to be done, and still find time for each other. However, when you look at the context of those tasks, the scales seem to have been blown off their centre.
My husband goes outside the house to work every weekday, and travels frequently. This means he gets less time with our children than I do, occasionally mourning moments in our children’s life for which he would have liked to be there, but he goes to great lengths, often at personal sacrifice, to be there when it counts and then some. The job that he goes to is his personal choice, intended to provide challenges to better develop his skills and experience and advance his exposure to new areas. His travel, while admittedly exhausting sometimes, has gifted him with tremendous adventures and sights he would have never had the opportunity to experience on his own dime. Many of the daily grind obligations common to most humans we know are looked after for him, such as buying groceries, preparing meals, sorting, cleaning, folding of laundry, house cleaning…you get the idea.
Myself. Well now, that’s a bit tougher to describe, cause it rather resembles the glue that holds everything else together. That last list of items that are looked after for my husband (and also our four children), that’s my job. Responding to tech support calls for their life routine from the lot of them, at any hour on any day, also my job. Ensuring that everyone is on their schedule (some days demanding much greater effort than others), another line in my job description. Volunteering at my kid’s school, that’s me too. And time with the kids, yes I get loads and am grateful to have it, but too many sweets will lead anyone to a sugar crash.
Do you see the pattern? My “work week” is curiously absent of self-betterment and skill developing challenges. A bit too heavy on the laundry and dishes side to be considered Dharma-infused.
Now please don’t get me wrong, a great part of my fulfillment is to see my family happy. I wouldn’t have embraced this “job” if that weren’t a significant piece for me. I cherish being my kid’s mother and my husband’s wife. Best gig I ever had!
I love it in the same way that my husband loves being a Dad and husband. And in the same way our kids love us as parents. And how we all love being a family together.
We aren’t talking about love.
We are talking about SELF fulfillment. Dharma. Purpose. Passion. Whichever term you relate best to. I am referring to the quality of tasks you busy yourself with each day that all mesh together at the end to become your life.
Now I have to tread lightly here, because all of those terms I just mentioned, they are not anyone’s responsibility but my own. It is not my husband’ job, or my kid’s job, or anyone else’s job to ensure my SELF is happy. That is also my job.
And I certainly don’t expect every day to be consciousness-expanding enlightenment, but there is a New Balance in order.
The epiphany that led to this post, is that is important to pay attention to more than just division of work. Running down a To-Do list is easy. The quality and context of those line items however, must always provide room for SELF. If it doesn’t, the train switches tracks very quickly from feeling “of service”, to feeling resentment. That is no good for anyone. I once read that in many cases the Mom is the barometer for the rest of the family. The metaphor runs along the same lines of the popular expression: Happy Wife, Happy Life. The idea being: If Mom is off kilter, that energy transfers to everyone else. I feel that goes for both sides of the equation: husband AND wife.
So my lesson learned today, I’m setting some goals. Each week, I intend to walk a few steps in line with my life purpose, and the highest good.
Not indulgence. Not, “I’m going to eat that second brownie cause I deserve it” kind of stuff. More like, committing to an hour of “study time” reading a book that will teach me something I want to learn, with the same unwavering devotion I give my family. Cause they weigh the same. That is the New Balance.
It’s a bit late for resolutions, but that is mine.