Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Inertia of Waiting

I'm not a patient person.  I never have been.  When I decide I want something, I want it now.  Waiting is not a game I'm good at.  The universe has been trying to teach me patience my whole life, but, as I often say, it's taking too long.  I recognize the value that patience has, and I truly admire those with the fortitude to accept that now is not always the right time, for whatever reason.  One of these days, I'm going to have to accept that too.  Just because it isn't now, doesn't mean it's never.  Soon is not the same as the wishful someday.  Soon implies an action that will happen and relatively quickly, albeit not quickly enough for my timetable.

Life has a way of forcing the impatient to sit still.  Calming the eager heart.  Putting to rest the overactive soul.  Circumstances don't always align the way we wish they would, and we are forced to sit on the sidelines when we are itching to get in the game.  In situations like these, we may not see the benefit of inaction.  We might feel that we're headed to that dreadful, most useless place, the waiting place.  It's somewhere we've been before, and it isn't somewhere we're interesting in visiting again.  So what if life forces us back there?

It seems to me that the disappointment of waiting doesn't have to mean sitting still.  That there are lessons to be learned, ways to grow, actions to be completed, even in the state of wait.  The key is opening our eyes and hearts up to finding the compensation in the disappointment.  Preparation is a great way to fill the waiting time.  As is personal development.  There's also the beauty of anticipation, which in many cases, is as good or better than the action being awaited.  I'm convincing myself that the patience I'm learning through the times life forces me to sit still when I want to spring ahead is well worth the discomfort of waiting.  That the sheer act of not getting the things I wish for in this moment will make those things even more rewarding when it's finally time.  That the inertia of waiting here isn't going to hold me down in the end, but it will surely shoot me on to bolder dreams, dreams I haven't even thought of dreaming up yet.

There will be little rubs and disappointments everywhere, and we are
all apt to expect too much; but then, if one scheme of happiness fails,
human nature turns to another; if the first calculation is wrong, we
make a second better: we find comfort somewhere.
-Jane Austen

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Stepping Out of the Shallows

As children, we were recklessly fearless.  Living mischievous lives of adventure, we'd seek out the unknown for the simple thrill of exploration.  Ignoring rules and disregarding safety empowered us to discover new things and overcome fears.  Along the path to adulthood, though, we start to lose some of that braveness.  Self-preservation is a learned behavior with suffering as it's teacher.  Each day's lessons draw us away from exploration and change, while reigning us back into our safe-zone, our comfort zone.

The tendency to fight against the current of change continues on, and, with all our strength, we push back against the waves of life, deceiving ourselves into believing we are harnessing them.  It's the way our brains are wired.

In our hearts, though, we yearn for change.  Happiness becomes an unreachable island, and though we may paddle toward it, at some point the inertia of the life's waves knock us down, hurling us right back to the actions we were trying to leave behind.  Nature has built into us the tendency to forgo the opportunities for meaningful change, insisting instead that we continue down the same weathered roads, which most often lead to nothing but regret.

Change is merciless; the unknown frightening.  So we oppose it, smothering the coals where the sparkle of new beginnings is trying desperately to ignite.  The work that comes along with monumental shift is arduous, tedious, and uncomfortable.

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.
-Neale Donald Walsch

With forceful resistance, we anchor ourselves to our comfort zone, and in the process attempt to numb the call to action.  We fill the void with anything that will fit, but at the end of the day, when we look around at all that we've amassed to silence the inner demons demanding change, we are left with little more than the emptiness we began with and a pile of baggage we've collected along the way.

This isn't the way true growth happens.  Growth comes from swimming against the current, from putting oneself in a place of discomfort, pain, fear, or uncertainty.  Learning to build ourselves up, to grow into new experiences, to alter our attitudes.  We may not be able to direct the tides of our lives, but we decide whether we will float into the unknown or drown trying to get back to shore.  Will we allow ourselves to be torn away from our comfort zones and embark on less-traveled, rocky, undiscovered shores?

Either you decide to stay in the shallow end of the pool, 
or you go out into the ocean.
-Christopher Reeve

Accepting and embracing life-altering change isn't easy, but swimming against the current never is.  Looking back nearly a decade after my personal evolution began, I am certain beyond measure that the pain of revolution is always worth what you get out of it.  I am a polished stone because of my trials, which have taught me to embrace newness, embrace change, embrace challenges.  I have welcomed change and made dramatic shifts in my life's trajectory, but I still carry around that visceral reaction to new experiences, the gut-wrenching fear of the unknown.  I expect that life will continue to pound this lesson into me for as long as I walk this Earth.  There will always be the lure of the safe, sandy shore up against the scary uncertainty of the sea.

There are always two choices.  Two paths to take.  
One is easy.  And its only reward is that it's easy.

For years now, I've felt a pull towards moving somewhere completely different than here, somewhere new with new landscapes, new people, a new city, a new way of life.  I've thought about it, talked about it, imagined what it might look like, envisioned uprooting my family and journeying blindly together into the unknown.

The excitement builds along with the worries, and after a few days, and the questions, concerns, reasons not to begin to flow in.  What about work?  What about our health challenges?  What if something bad happens and no one is around?  What if we don't like it?  What if?  What if?  What if?  In just a few moments with those couple words, all of the anticipation and hope of the transformations we will surely undergo as a result of this monumental change – that all vanishes and is replaced by doubts, which reassure us that this is where we need to be.  That the safety and comforts of home are too good to leave behind.

The beautiful things is that wherever I go, my true home goes with me.  Home isn't this place, it's the precious people in it.  We deserve to live a full life of adventures, missteps, obstacles, and triumphs.  We deserve to experience the beauty of different cultures, different ideologies, different backgrounds.  We deserve to discover and explore the big, beautiful masterpiece of this world.  I want the journey of my life to take me to unexpected places, to challenge me.  I want to feel the urge to resist change and fight through it to the other side, wading out past the shallows, where the serenity of new seas surely awaits me.

Be bold. When you embark for strange places, 
don't leave any of yourself safely on shore. 
Have the nerve to go into unexplored territory.
-Alan Alda

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Clearing Clutter to Create Clarity

Clutter lives here.  At least it tries to.  It fills up my closets, scatters its papers across my counters, pours its emptiness onto my calendar, spills out of my children's toy boxes, and buries my mind in its endless pursuits.

Clutter makes me antsy.  Forgetful.  Angry.  Irritated.  It paralyzes me; for with clutter as my companion, I struggle to accomplish the things I need to, while the tasks I want to do fall into the realm of regrets.  Clutter doesn't leave space for creation; it fills every nook with its uselessness, its busy tendencies, its acquisitions.  Clutter isn't a good friend, yet it has accompanied me, in one way or another, throughout my life.

I don't know where this idea comes from, the idea that life is about acquiring things.  I don't remember setting out to get more stuff, but as I look around, it seems this is the place almost everyone is headed.   The place of clutter.  It fills our homes, our cars, our schedules, our minds, our bodies.  It's everywhere.  Excess.  The desire for more.  The inevitable emptiness that comes with the things we expected would fill us up.  The cycle is never-ending, creating a numbing effect that ripples through the winding river of our lives.  Some people never recognize this feeling, they don't see that all their things are making them feel lost, out of control, fearful, bored, desperate.

Over the past few years, I made a concerted effort to declutter my life.  I fight the need to fill up every space, allowing instead for the beauty of bareness to shine its light into my life.  My shelves aren't stocked with things I've acquired just to fill them up, but rather, with things that I love, that inspire me, make me happy; things that actually mean something to me.  My closet isn't stuffed full of clothes I never wear, rather, it is sparsely filled with items that make me feel the most beautiful, the most comfortable, the most like myself.  My schedule isn't brimming with birthday parties, after-school activities, girls night outs, or adult-only parties, but rather, its often quite bare leaving room for the wondrous spontaneity of life to take over.  My counters aren't stacked high with papers and bills and magazines and last months receipts, rather, each of these has its own space so as not to take up additional space in my mind with each look.  My mind.

My mind - now there's a space that's more easily cluttered than any other.  Clutter burrows its way into my mind daily.  It's a constant struggle to keep things straight, to organize my thoughts, to keep my to-dos and want-to-dos accounted for.  I make lists.  I repeat things.  I sort.  I structure.  But I inevitably fail.  Clutter wins out.  Almost every time.  My mind is no match for the clutter that chaos creates.

So instead of fighting it, I decided to get rid of it.  Erase the chaos.  Or, when it can't be erased, embrace it instead.  Let go of the tendency toward perfection and float the river of my life, without regard to the end.  Let go of the clutter to create room for something far better.  The bare spots in my home, my closet, my schedule and most of all in my mind - the bare spaces leave room for me to see the beautiful, wonderful, magnificent things I cherish the most.  The things that I've collected because they mean something.  The memories.  The moments.  The mementos of times that can never be recreated.  The people I love most.  Clearing out the clutter leaves room for me to thrive.  I have room to create.  Room to breathe.  Room to relax.  Room to let go.  Room to be imperfect.  Room to become who I want to be.  I don't lose anything by giving up clutter.  I gain freedom to live a life worth living.  A life filled with things that truly mean something.  My life can be full of those kinds of things, if I choose to clear the clutter to leave some space for them to grow.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Cultivating Calm {A Confession}

I didn't really know I had a temper until I became a mom.  Something about trying to convince little people to put away their things, while simultaneously picking up the trail of clothes, shoes, legos, cups, paper shreds, and topless markers they leave behind in their wake brought seemed to have brought it out in me.  Today I had a moment of darkness.  I found my nearly two-year-old mischievous {on his best days} son cleaning the bathroom floor with the toilet brush, which was dripping wet with the pee that his oldest sister “forgot” to flush down... again...  Yelling is not something I'm proud of, and I want so badly to remain calm in these situations, knowing that at some point in the {very very distant} future, I will look back and laugh at the havoc he caused.

But despite my intentions to not be a yeller, there it was.  Loud and scary and not at all who I want to be or the kind of mother I want my children to have.  I was so angry in that moment, angry from the crazy crying that had been going on all morning, angry because my little guy is going through separation anxiety and has me getting up all night for the past week and I didn't sleep well again, angry because I must say twenty times a day to flush the potty {really how hard is it to remember???} and yet there it was – bright yellow pee covering the floor and my son and threatening to put me in cardiac arrest I was so upset!

Reflecting back on it now, I know I over-reacted.  Majorly.  I knew it at the time as well, but that didn't stop the yelling.  In fact, just moments after my tantrum, I apologized to all three of my kids, trying to take away some of the sting I'm sure they felt from my harsh, abrasive tone.  I could see in the eyes of my daughter, I had terrified her.  It was my eyes, my angry eyes that were enough to send her sobbing and running into her room, locking the door behind her.

It's not an easy thing to admit to these less-than-perfect moments of motherhood, but it's real.  We all have hard days, we all do things we regret, we all lose control of our emotions and act in ways we are ashamed of later.  It's part of being a parent.  It's part of being a human.

Tonight, we played a little longer than usual, and they had already forgotten everything about the incident this morning, but that doesn't ease my guilt.  I know I wasn't the mommy I want to be today.  But that's okay.  I have tomorrow with them to be better for them.  To cultivate calmness in myself for my own happiness sake, but mostly for the sake of my babies.  They deserve a calm mother.  Children are amazingly forgiving, I know mine have already moved on from the happenings of today.  Now so must I.

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