Monthly Archives: September 2013

Lesson #3: It’s 5 o’clock somewhere

Two unrelated things of note before I get into tonight’s lesson…

1. The epiphany-emotional-release-I’m-going-to-start-a-new-blog-project post happened to be my 200th post. Ever.  That seems pretty important.  One my 100th post I created the Self Love Challenge.  I guess my subconscious is now programmed to invent blog projects on significant post number.  Brains are fascinating.

2. I already forgot to use my hashtag last week… Let’s see if I remember this week.

The truth about tonight’s lessons is that it’s too early to call it “learned.”  In fact, we should probably just toss it onto the pile of “shit I need to work on” that we’re calling lessons now in the forward thinking hope/expectation that they’re going to get worked on and come to some resolution.

Earlier today I was texting J (my girlfriend/partner/lover/youpickatitle) and she shared she was having a glass of wine on the porch while doing some work (she works for herself… she can do these things <—see, I even have to justify her behavior) and I was all a flutter.

“THAT’S ALLOWED?!” my internal dialogue screamed, and then my live person texted.  It was timely because it was something I had considered several times over the last week.  I could sit at the computer in the evening while doing my room parent duties, writing this blog, proofreading J’s work and enjoy a glass of wine…  Except I didn’t.  Something stopped me.  Probably the same thing that made me download this the other day.

This is actually champagne, but we're working on imperfection here.

This is actually champagne, but we’re working on imperfection here.

Reasons why I didn’t have the wine:

  1. I wouldn’t feel great tomorrow: when I drink (even a little), I sleep like a rock, and then the next day feel a little sore and wrecked
  2. I was already dehydrated: the water bottle I carry around all day has mold in the straw.  I haven’t found the right tool to clean it and as a result my regular H20 intake is way down
  3. I would have to pour it: which involves standing up, reaching to the back of the refrigerator where it is, getting a glass, opening the bottle… all before pouring.  There’s cleanup after too

 

Real reason why I didn’t have the wine:

  1. I thought I shouldn’t have the wine.  There’s something wrong with having wine.

Why do I think that?  I don’t think there’s anything wrong with other people having wine (even alone, regularly, on a weeknight).  I just think there’s something wrong with me having wine.  I can’t even tell you why.  All I can tell you is that I have frequently started to type whine instead of wine in this post.  That is probably important in a freudian way.

Without any clarity or resolution about the source of this issue I am going to face it head on.  I’m having wine tonight.  Good girl, you’re on break.  Perfectionism, you’re about to get drowned out (because I’m a lightweight).

 

Lesson #2: The right thing and the easy thing are rarely the same thing

Yes–already.  It’s time for Lesson #2: The right thing and the easy thing are rarely the same thing (and I ain’t even talking about speaking up for the persecuted here… stick with me).

You’re not supposed to start a book with the weather, how about a blog story?

It’s 72 degrees, probably closer to 80 inside the apartment, because it baked all day, closed up, and getting steamy in here.  It’s after 7:30, the sun went down long enough ago for the sky to be black and it’s too late for it to be this warm.  I’m irritated about it.  The weather (read: temperature at any given moment.  The other day I was cold when it was 72 and hot when it was 74.  This girl: born, raised, and still residing in Southern California) seriously impacts my mood.

A few weeks ago my son told me he wanted me to play with him more.  That’s what’s come out of him transitioning to this new school, by the way.  He’s engaged in learning.  He’s lighter.  He’s more playful.  He’s more easygoing.  He’s staying connected instead of shutting down… and he tells me what he thinks and feels.  It’s exhausting.

So tonight as I’m trying to catch up on emails while he’s entertaining himself in his room and he calls me in, I slap on a smile and enter the room to admire the block towers he’s building (and I’m thrilled that he’s building block towers because it doesn’t involve pretend killing anyone and I’m still judgy about that).  I put my normal “I’m hot and therefore cranky” face on once I turn my face away from him and walk towards the bathroom when I hear, “Momma, will you play with me?”

This is the first time he’s asked me since he told me he wanted more… and I promised to deliver.  Sigh.  Smile.  “Yes, love.  Be right there after I pee.”

We play for a few minutes.  I get engaged.  I’m not even faking it.  We’re connecting.  I notice how tired I am.  The time registers.

“Five more minutes until bedtime, baby”

“Okay, momma.”  No mention that I’m not supposed to call him baby.  He lets me get away with a lot…

A few minutes later we start getting ready for bed but the calmness of our connection disintegrates as I’m trying to force my will on him (I’m asking him to put on his pajamas, you’d think I was asking him to cut off a toe).  It doesn’t necessarily escalate, but my irritation does.  I attempt a distraction.

“When’s the last time you went pee”

*giggle*

“Babe.  When is the last time you went pee?”

Then he proceeds to tell me a story about how he was playing in his room and needed to pee, but didn’t want to stop playing and go to the bathroom so he peed in the corner.  Then he shows me the pee.  IN.  THE.  CORNER.  And he erupts into a fit of giggles.

pissing in the corner of your bedroom because you're too busy playing to go to the bathroom gets a thumbs down...

pissing in the corner of your bedroom because you’re too busy playing to go to the bathroom gets a thumbs down…

“That’s disgusting” comes out of my mouth.  I have no idea what my face looks like, but it’s not pretty.  The fit of giggles rises again.  I repeat myself, foolishly expecting a different result–I don’t get one.  I can feel my chest tighten and my heart start to race.  My ears are getting hot.  I’m nauseated.  I want to scream.  I want to scream and demand and force immediate perfect cleanup as a remedy of this awful situation.  And there’s no way in hell I’m reading a story now.  Ew.

I walk out of the room.  I turn the light off as I do as a mature sign of passive aggression against my six year old son (I’m so proud).  I sit at my desk and resume my emails.  So gross.  I am angry.

A few minutes later he comes out of the room.  I notice he turns the light off on his way (so responsible, sweet boy).  He’s naked (that’s how far we got in the pajama debate).  He theatrically walks past me (I’ve used this attention getting technique before too).  I take him by the shoulders and hug him.  I ask him what he needs.  He explains that he was confused about how much time he had to get his pajamas on and that’s why he didn’t do it.  I’m back to doing the right thing (although leaving the room instead of screaming was probably also the right thing minus the room darkening punctuation).

I validate his experience with reflection statements… I continue the hug at his lead.  I invite him to get into his pajamas so we can talk about next steps.  Together, with calm, kind voices, I guide him through the cleaning of the piss in the corner of his room (which managed to seep under a bookshelf, soak a pillow pet, splash on the Imaginext bat cave, and really just be disgusting).  I also learn this isn’t the first offense and he “cleans up” the former pee site from an ill timed game of hide and seek as well.  The pee cleaning gets done, he gets into bed.  We authentically do not have time for a story tonight because we used our story time to clean up pee so he gets tucked in and the lights go out (I’m going to go ahead and say that’s the natural consequence… if I’m stretching you let me know).

He’s sleeping peacefully now… and I wish I felt good about how all this went.  I wish I had some sense of accomplishment that came from doing the right thing–maintaining the connection with my child, allowing him an experience free of shame, getting the pee cleaned up without having to touch it…  but I don’t.  I wish I was coming on here to brag and inspire (I don’t know why I wish that… perhaps because that’s what I was used to–without knowing it.  Oh, that’s why: I got validation about who I wanted to be through sharing that version of me, and only that version, with you) because that feels comfortable and easy.  But I’m not.

So, it feels a little bit pointless an experience because I’m not seeking the praise of anyone for it–which feels REALLY yucky to admit, but it’s true.  What’s the point in doing the right thing if it is #1, hard and #2, no one tells you how amazing you are for doing it that way?

I hear it has something to do with some intrinsic sense of accomplishment… I also hear the first step in finding that is by creating space for it by weaning off the praise.  Off I go…

Lesson #1: Be careful what you wish for.

Oy!  Does anyone really still need to learn that one?  Apparently me…

In case you missed it… Last week in a flurry of recovery from pretty stanky intense negative emotional experiences I did some yoga, cried A. LOT., had an idea, brought it here to the blog, and voila was smack dab in the middle of another blog project.

The theme: Life is for learning aka #justlessons (which by the way is something that a bunch of young folks tweet about all the time when breaking up with their boyfriend/girlfriend and expressed their lack of regrets.  Oy! x2)

For all intents and purposes I put out a big request for lessons…  Now, what I meant was that I wanted to start seeing life experiences as such again. I wanted every day to be rich with gratitude for opportunities to see myself, others, and more of myself in others in a clear, helpful way.  I was going to write every stinkin’ day.  I was going to write beautiful stories of seeing my daily happenings through the lens of learning about life and share them with you (at least some–the others I would save for the book that I’d publish later, at the height of my popularity) through charming anecdotes.

But, apparently I wasn’t clear… because instead of life experienced as lessons what came was an abundance of information about the shit I need to work on.  And it keeps coming!  And it comes with little or none of whatever is needed to work on it in a way that feels like a lesson instead of a punishment for being less than some more desirable status.  Urgh.

So, I waited.  And I didn’t write.  And I stopped taking notes.  And I started feeling even worse. The wisdom never came.  Shit just kept piling on and I was feeling swallowed by it rather than enlightened.  And I was aware that I could be learning things, but they weren’t the things (and I wasn’t learning them the way) I wanted and they weren’t coming in the pretty packages I expected.

Things like:

  • When you flippantly ask for lessons and you are in any way in tune with your own power you’re basically asking for a truck load of information about your weakest spots to be dumped in front of your door–without a shovel (you have to ask for the shovel too).  aka “Be careful what you wish for.”
  • You don’t really WANT to learn anything right now… if you did, you would have been doing it.  You don’t need a blog project for that.  In fact, designing one to try and force yourself into that space is probably not the most self compassionate route, dear one.

And I started to compile a mental list of my biggest/most present weak spots (again, without any insight into what to do about it) and how they’re showing up in my life:

  1. I care WAY too much what other people think of me.  I am terrified of their judgment, disapproval, disappointing them, etc., etc., etc.  Essentially, I think I need to be perfect.
  2. see above, and it stops me from saying what I think
  3. see #1, and it shuts me down and prevents me from being authentic in situations where people have made assumptions about me that aren’t true
  4. see #1, and it results in me emotionally clobbering myself for making tiny mistakes/missteps
  5. see #1, and it keeps me from connecting with people
  6. see #1, and it keeps me from feeling safe about getting excited about anything
  7. see #1, and it keeps me from sharing my true self/letting myself be seen
  8. see #1, and it amounts to hours and hours and hours of (completely self imposed) catastrophizing and suffering
  9. see #1, and it keeps me on the defense in situations and with people whose intentions are to connect and help
  10. see #1, and it’s debilitating

So, that’s what I know.  That’s it.  I don’t know what to do about it.  I’m annoyed that it’s still an issue.  I don’t have an answer for how not to be this way (although I am sobbing my way through “The Gifts of Imperfection” right now, it probably has the answer in it), I don’t have any inspiring stories for you about how I’ve tackled it.

Of course (disclaimer for my mom and other concerned citizens) this is a skewed view, I’m deep in sadness in this moment and writing and posting about it will help me float to the surface of this pool to start breathing air again… it will get better, but right now–Right now it’s not.  Part of the process is being okay with that… part of being okay with it is writing about it (and the cycle continues).

Why not include an unflattering picture of myself too, just for extra marks.

Why not include an unflattering picture of myself too, just for extra marks.

My best guess for how to proceed from here is to continue with what I said I was going to do, but shed the expectations for how it will go.  I guess I have to tell you the stories without the resolution.  Because resolution is not coming soon enough for me to live up to my promises and post regularly and maybe THAT’S because that’s what I’m supposed to learn.  To practice letting go of the perfection, I just have to be willing to tell you what’s happening without it being pretty, profound, or complete.  Let you see me as flawed in the moment rather than right after when it’s all pretty and clever like.  The kicker is that you probably won’t even see it as “flawed,” that’s the label I’m attaching.  Oy! x3.  Last one of the day (for now).

That’s the plan.  If nothing new comes up (HA!) I’ll go back and tell you about some of the most horrifying moments of last week…  I’m not sure which one to hope for.

Just lessons…

Out beyond ideas of wrong-doing and right-doing,
there is a field. 
I’ll meet you there. 

When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase
each other
doesn’t make any sense.

Rumi 

A few weeks ago J (my girlfriend, partner, lover, whatever you want to call her… I call her ‘baby’ most of the time.  She’s asked not to be called ‘beloved’ because it’s creepy) asked me what I thought my big lesson was in this lifetime.  I couldn’t answer right away, which was frustrating because my emotional superpower is supposed to be discovering the learning opportunity in every moment (especially the shitty ones), but ultimately at the time I was hijacked and feeling defensive and not wanting to talk about learning as much as I was interested in complaining.  But… what i came up with (that true self really pushes through some tough shit sometimes) is what stuck as I’ve asked myself over and over since that day:

There is no such thing as right or wrong.

I’ve been pretty clear about this for other people, and their choices, for a LONG time.  I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t saying “to each his/her own” with complete acceptance in response to things that others found outrageous.  I certainly have my moments when I have wanted someone else to be “wrong” (ahem, ex husband), but that was more about wanting to feel “right” than anything else… which is what this is really still about for me.

Anytime I get fearful, it’s because I’m afraid of doing something “wrong.”  Anytime I get defensive, it’s because I think someone’s telling me I’m “wrong.”  Anytime I  [insert undesirable emotional experience here] it’s connected to a sense of “wrong”-ness.  Even though I know there’s no such thing as “right” or “wrong,” I’ve read Rumi… I don’t KNOW it.  I don’t feel it completely in my bones.  I don’t have confidence in it.  I don’t trust it.  Yet the opportunity to do so keeps presenting itself…

I’ve had an emotionally exhausting week… I found out my son, who as you know has struggled in school since Kindergarten started last year, got accepted to another school where he’ll likely soar.  I knew it intuitively from the moment they told me they had a space for him.  Still, the fear of “wrong”ness held me back for a couple days, then the fear of looking “wrong” to staff/other parents at his current school when I told them the news paralyzed me, and now that he’s there and thriving two days in I am holding my breath waiting to hear that I was “wrong” for some reason I haven’t thought of yet.  And I’m exhausted.  I tried going to bed last night at 8:00p.m. to cure it–didn’t work.  Tonight I bawled through 40 minutes of yoga–I’m feeling a touch better.  But besides the tears shaken loose from my left shoulder and right hip… an idea came.

I’m better (define that however you want) when I have a project.  My ability to take advantage of my emotional superpower and my writing are better when they’re focused.  I will wear sweatpants in public was a great year for me (not easy–just great).  Since it’s ended, I’ve felt lost.  Too many options is not helpful to me, I get overwhelmed and can’t do anything… I thrive in structure.  Oh, how I WISH that writing a damn book could feel like a project right now… I’d love to write a book.  But it doesn’t.  At least not in a traditional sense.  So, what to do?

How about another blog project?  Yes?  YES!

Starting today… my newest blog project/writing project/life project begins.  You can totally join in (and you also don’t have to.  i get the appeal of voyeurism… I’m convinced it will make me rich someday).

new

THE PROJECT: Just Lessons…  (because there is no right or wrong, just lessons).

How it will work (in 10 simple steps–I know 10 is too many steps, but it makes a nice list):

1. Every evening I will take a few moments to reflect on what I learned that day as an opportunity to dissolve any sense of “right”-ness or “wrong”-ness into a lesson learned (or just introduced, because learned implies that I won’t need to re-learn it often… which I undoubtedly will)

2. At least once a week I will blog about the lessons (maybe a long post about a big one, maybe mini posts about little ones, probably a few lists, probably a few weeks where I’ll give myself a vacation)

3. I’ll post on Facebook and Twitter more often (maybe even daily!  ooh!) with the hashtag #justlessons

4. You’ll read.

5. You might even comment.

6. Again, you MIGHT even feel compelled to share your own… choose your own format for doing so.

7. I’ll learn stuff.

8. I’ll feel like I’m doing what I’m on this planet to do.

9. That will feel good.

10. I’ll probably lose weight (just like IWWSPIP, that’s not a goal… but I betcha it will happen…)

See you around, folks. xo

Olives, Rest, & Peace

This may require some stretching, but we’re going to try it anyway.  Stretching often feels good and is good for you too!

I recently read something about Olives being an “alternate bearing crop” which means they don’t produce fruit every year.  The produce, they rest, they produce, they rest, and so on and so forth as they move throughout their lives…  Here comes the stretch…

Olives (at least the olive branch and subsequent extension of it) symbolize peace, right?  There must be a connection then, between rest… and the essentiality of rest to production of fruit (replace fruit with whatever your purpose is on this earth)… and peace.

The peaceful ocean in Alaska.  Even it takes a break from making waves and just breathes through ripples instead...

The peaceful ocean in Alaska. Even it takes a break from making waves and just breathes through ripples instead…

My whole life peace is all I’ve ever wanted.  Happiness yes, but more than that–peace.  Love absolutely, but in that love–peace.  Every feeling I want to have or object I want to possess or status I want to achieve comes from a longing to feel peace.  To live without worry or frustration or the frantic numbness (yes, frantic numbness… it’s a thing) of overwhelm and stuckness.

And I’ve been convinced for far too long that peace is something to work towards… when really, as the olive trees know, perhaps it is something to rest for.  Perhaps, peace comes in the stillness, and while there certainly is stillness on the summit of a mountain trek, there is also stillness in hiding in your bedroom while your son plays a computer game because you’ve had enough stimulation and heard your own name (momma–i need, momma–i want, momma–i’m hungry, momma–my stomach hurts, momma–come praise the amazing thing i just did) enough for one day (lifetime).

So, that’s the stretch.  Because the olive tree knows that it needs to rest to bear its fruit and it’s fruitful purpose is to generate peace, if I want peace… I need to rest to.  I give myself permission to rest.  I give you permission to rest too.

Go do that.  now.