Calm, Cool and Collected

Thinking

It finally happened. I have been working with my 3 and 5 year old kids on naming emotions and finding coping mechanisms for anger and frustration from the time that they were wee babes, and wouldn’t you know it, they have gone and thrown it all right back in my face.

“Uhm, mom, I think… maybe you need to find something calm to do. You aren’t being a very Peaceful Piggy.”

Great. That’s all I need. My 5 year old trying to teach me a lesson. I don’t want to slow down. I am sure that everyone within a mile radius of me can feel my intensity today, but I don’t care. I just want to get everything on my to-do list done. Now. Yesterday. And who does that child think she is, anyway?

“Thanks for the reminder,” I am glaring at my 5 year old. “But it is time to get going. Now. Get. Your. Shoes. On.” 

Okay. To be fair, there really is no rush. It is just that I am tired and cranky and we just got back from an emotional trip out of town and there are loads of laundry to do and I desperately need a nap. I am also a fair bit hungry, so getting the kids to put back on the shoes they took off for lord knows what reason and leaving church for the comfort of home sounds oh-so-appealing at this moment. So… let’s get a move on.

“Maaaaayyybbeee try a deep breath. Or play with toys. I like to play with toys when I am angry.” My 5 year old keeps digging deeper as she ever so slowly puts on her shoes. Today’s lesson in church was on meditation and finding ways to calm down when we feel overwhelmed, frustrated or angry. It was about finding a peaceful place in your heart so that you can take on the day, feel powerful, and love yourself and your neighbor. I should know. I put the lesson together myself.

I am growing impatient. “I will give it a try when we get home. But we have to get there first. Now, let’s go!”

“If you feel so mad you can ROAR,” sings my 3 year old son, “Take a deep breath and count to 4! One… Two… Three… Four!” He repeats the lyrics from an episode of the PBS show Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood; lyrics that I have sung with him many times as he has come down from tantrums, usually involving not getting his favorite foods for dinner. He doesn’t always love hearing this song and it usually takes a while before he begrudgingly stops stomping his feet long enough to “use his words” and tell me that he is just heartbroken that we can’t have pizza for every meal of every day. Angry stomping feet, it seems, are a lot easier to muster than finding the words to express disappointment. Except right now he has a giant smile on his face; he just put his shoes on all by himself and put his mom in check all at the same time. The kid is over the moon.

By this time I am feeling some weird combination of complete exhaustion, pride, hunger, humility and love. I am beginning to understand why my kids would much rather throw a tantrum than “use their words.” It is like when an annoyingly chipper morning person wakes you up in the morning after you get a terrible night’s sleep. I’m happy for you that you love waking up so early and that you are feeling so refreshed and wonderful. Truly. I am. And I really do realize that my scroogy-ness is the problem and your positive attitude should serve as a reminder for me to open my heart to the possibilities of the new day. But can’t I just be the lesser person for once? It is kind of comfortable down here in the dumps…

But I do it anyway. I take a few deep breaths and try to remember that this state of feeling overwhelmed, stressed and tired is just temporary. I will eventually make it home. I will get to eat some lunch, and I will get to rest. Everything will be okay. It will.

I am now off the ledge just enough to realize that I need to dial my stress back a bit, check my ego and recognize that my children are right.

“You guys are right; I am starting to feel better. Sometimes I get frustrated, tired and angry, too. I think that because I wanted to get home so badly I forgot to be kind and loving with my words. Thank you for reminding me and helping me to find more loving words.” I am saying this to remind myself just as much as I am affirming my children and the lessons I know I want them to hang on to. I am thinking eating a little lunch and resting might help me reset a bit. Can you guys help me do that?”

Of course they will help. Kids love nothing more than to know that they are wise, important and needed; because they really are, and so are we. Sometimes we just need a little reminder.

Here are some great tools to help you and your family become “Peaceful Piggies.” Add your favorite resources in the comments section below:

Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood on PBS

Peaceful Piggy Meditation by Kerry Lee MacLean 

Time for Self

I am going to say what anyone reading this undoubtedly already knows: Life is busy. So busy, in fact, that sometimes we just can’t muster the energy at the end of the day to take care of ourselves in the way that we should.

But who am I kidding? This isn’t about you; this is about me.

I love to write. In fact, I have discovered after months of not keeping up on my blog that not only do I thoroughly miss writing and blogging, but that I am simply not functional when I skip out on this practice; even if it means staying up later and missing out on a little precious sleep. Even knowing this, somehow I allow life, schedules, stress, to-do lists to get in the way of what I most need to do to maintain my mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health.

Each day can feel like a race to the finish, and things that were once important get lost in the shuffle, especially when all you want to do is crash. And even though I know that I know better, I sometimes allow care-taker burnout to happen. You know, when your life revolves around the well-being of others so much so that you start pushing aside that really important thing you need to do “just this once.” Then pretty soon “just this once” turns into “maybe next week” and eventually into “it’s too late to do that now.” Before you know it the stress of missed opportunities seeps in and transforms a once fulfilling practice into something weighed down by the heavy baggage of resentment and regret.

Not only does neglecting my spiritual practice drag me down and stress me out, I have found that I become forgetful as my brain-space becomes cluttered and preoccupied with an epic inner tug-of-war for peace of mind.

You see, my writing process goes a little something like this:

Each day I take mental notes and file away my observations and reflections for future use (blogging). In the best of all possible worlds, I sit down in the quiet of a post-bedtime house and put it all into words. The problem is that my brain never stops taking these notes even if I never do anything with them.

Now picture a section of my brain covered with Post-It notes about big “Ah-ha” moments and earth-shattering paradigm shifts. Just go with me on this. (I would ask you to picture a file drawer, but let’s face it, even on my best days I am not that organized).

The more days go by the more Post-Its seem to litter my brain, leaving little room for other new, time-sensitive, important information, and my daughter shows up for a beloved school Pajama Day in her regular play clothes. Now not only am I stressed out, preoccupied, and forgetful, but my4 year old is heartbroken and I have nothing left to do but to leave myself an ironic Post-It note reminding myself to clear out some brainspace.

I always have great excuses for keeping these personal notes-to-self locked away in the cluttered mess of my brain, and they usually have something to do with “later.”

“The inspiration will hit me… later.”

“I’ll have time… later.”

“Things will be more quiet… later.”

Well, self, later isn’t coming. And pretty soon those Post-Its are going to be gone with the next strong breeze. Then you’re really going to miss out on some extremely important stuff that is infinitely more real than those little yellow pieces of paper you are running around trying to collect.

I am ready for a change.

About a week ago, my husband started a blog of his own sort of out of the blue. It is a lovely online gratitude journal documenting everyday events that he (we) might otherwise forget to appreciate. And so far, he has successfully written at least one post every day. It has really inspired me to get my stuff together and stop making excuses. I am not sure if this shift came about because of my competitive nature, because he just inspires me so much, or perhaps because in a moment of complete honesty he revealed to me that it was always his evil plan to kick my butt back into gear. Whatever the reason, I am ready to recommit myself to my spiritual practice, writing at least 2 times a week to start. Of course, I say this knowing that my spouse (and perhaps some of you) will hold me accountable. I have decided that while accountability can be at least a little bit scary, it is completely necessary.

I think we all need this; a support group of people who will hold you accountable to your commitments to self care. Without someone who has the audacity to hold up a mirror, it gets much too easy put ourselves last and forget to practice what we preach. We forget that we can tell our friends and family to love themselves all we want, but if we don’t show them what that means our words are lost. Taking care of ourselves means giving others the permission to do the same and it allows us to be fully present in our roles as parents, teachers, friends, neighbors.

For the foreseeable future, I am posting two times per week, and in the process I am going to do my best to shut down that little voice in my head that tries to tell me that self care is a selfish desire. I am going to nurture my spirit to recognize my worth and the worth of those around me.

I am ready to take the plunge. Who’s with me?

Aside