Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Turning on to Easy Street

Here's what I've been thinking about:  abandoning struggle.  Not necessarily avoiding specific struggles, or pretending struggles don't exist and aren't useful sometimes, but abandoning those struggles that I myself unnecessarily produce.  No, not that.  Abandoning the idea of struggle as a dominant narrative in my life, as in "Life is hard," or as in, "You have to fight really hard for what you want."  Nah, I'm suggesting.  Nope.

For example, a key struggle in my life, detailed in excruciating minutia on this blog, has to do with the tension between working and raising my kids.  "Do you want to leave your job?" a friend asked the other night.  "Sometimes," I said.  "But in a lot of ways it's ideal for me--I get to work on stuff I really like, I get to teach, and I have enormous flexibility so that I can be home with the kids when they're sick, I take time off during the holidays and have a flexible summer schedule where I can work from home a lot.  And I'm getting better at what I do all the time."

"But?" she said.

Well, there's the rub.  There are all sorts of indicators that worry me, that indicate things aren't as rosy or balanced as I'd like to think.  I went to see Addie's ballet class yesterday--normally parents aren't allowed in, but it's parent watch week, so I came with all the other parents, and videotaped it, like all the other parents.  Addie was the only kid there, I noticed, who looked at her mom the whole time, making sure I was still there, that I hadn't left, that I approved of what she was doing.  Is this because I'm not around enough, I wondered?  Is it because I can't give her the attention she needs?

Or, there's the fact that Addie's been having wicked eczema, and the perennial runny nose and stopped-up ears, and reflux.  All good indicators, as her teacher pointed out to me last week, that she has some sort of milk allergy.  My God.  It's hard to even fathom cutting dairy out of her life, our lives.  This is a major reorientation of the routine, and I almost don't have the energy for it.  But here we are, on day three of soy yogurt and no string cheese.  Would I have taken the plunge on my own, without urging from Addie's teacher?  Probably not.  I've been too busy working.

Anyway, here's the thing.  I don't think I have to keep struggling like this.  I think that I can be successful at work and spend more time with the kids.  And I think it can be easy.  I know it's sacrilege to say that, but I really am seriously embracing the idea that such a major life shift can be done easily and joyously.  I think I can say no to more at work.  I think I can give up the guilt over not working 50 hours a week, or even 40, and just be thankful that I have a job where I can be successful and also have plenty of time and room left over for myself, my kids, and my husband.  I think I don't need to hesitate when I get a call from Addie's school saying I need to pick her up because she just puked ("It was heart-shaped, mama!" she tells me.  Heart-shaped puke, yum!).  I think I can just go and know, 100% that it's the best thing for me to be doing in that particular moment, and that everything else can wait.

This shift in thinking is maybe possible now, this year, only because last year was so miserable.  I felt so insecure, so behind the gun, that I felt I needed to be running every minute just to prove I was worthy of my job.  But a lot of that has fallen away this year, projects are rolling, and good things are happening easily and serendipitously.  And why shouldn't they?

Who says things have to be hard?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Dark Edges at Bay

Unchurch has a series of classes one can take in Science of Mind teachings--they teach you methods of centering and unification with spirit, like ways you can pray or meditate, and you do some readings from the founder, Ernest Holmes.  Anyway, after five years of attending unchurch, I decided it was time to take the first class. 

One of the things they encourage you to do in the class is to develop some affirmations, things you might want to develop in your life or about yourself.  Pretty basic positive psychology stuff.  Still, I was having a hard time formulating one.  They were either coming out too wordy, or hifalutin, or just didn't resonate in some way.  I've been meditating, praying, and doing the readings, but the affirmation was eluding me.

Part of it might be just the high static stuff:  the kids have been sick, I've been sick, work's been busy, I've had to deal with some family conflict, etc.  So I was just struggling for clarity (one affirmative prayer was about that--just affirming that I would have clarity on what to affirm.  I know, I know.  Roll your eyes all you like).

Then the gray edges of a little depression started to appear the last few days, and I felt dark and a little surly.  No, not so much dark and surly as self-pitying and victim-y.  Well, probably all of it.  Dark, surly, self-pitying, and  victim-y.  And also attacked and assailed, unfairly.  But I think this is good, maybe even just what I needed, because I woke up this morning with the affirmation, the just-right one, in my head:

I welcome love into my life.

Because while I'd like to affirm some other things--that my family be healthy, that work be easy and productive, that I radiate and feel peace and joy--the only thing that directly addresses the dark edges is love.  And I'd like to have more of it. 

This morning I sat in my cross legs and went through my prayer beads that way.  Exhale/I welcome love/inhale/into my life.  Around the beads.

And today, that's what I got, wouldn't you know it.  There was good news from my brother (great news!); a friend called me twice and gave me the giggles both times; students were extra open and gracious in class; Eric and I had a healing email exchange; I had a chance to check in with coworker friends who have been a little down lately.  There was love and love and love.

Would all those things have happened without the affirmation?  Who knows?  Probably.  Would I have noticed them, appreciated them?  Maybe not.  Maybe I needed some consciousness of these blessings, and to be aware of the way I'm cocooned in love, even on a regular day where it seems nothing particularly notable happens.

The minister who teaches my class told a story of one of the Vision Quests she went on (she practices with a Lakota tribe).  She was in a sacred circle on a mountain the night of the quest, after fasting four days and nights, and a terrible lightning storm hit.  When she awoke in the morning, the sun rising in the East, there were two patches of scorched earth, lightning strikes, right outside the circle.  The wise man had told her she would be safe in the circle, that nothing would touch her there.  And he was right.  She survived the night, unscathed, and received the blessing of a drink of water the next day.

So, that was my circle for today, that circle of love and blessings that protected me from the dark edges. 

Thursday, February 5, 2009


There's a great post over at the Mama PhD blog today, about having sick kids and then also trying to teach/give a good job interview/write.  I think my last post attested to what can happen when I'm sleep-deprived from getting up with sick kids all week:  I get weepy, sad, and even start seeing things. 

And, of course, being extra tired means you're more likely to get sick yourself, which is exactly what happened Tuesday.  I started getting weird tummy rumblings Tuesday afternoon, but didn't pay attention to them, no, instead choosing to go for a run (another post about running, or should I say, "running," is coming soon).  By that night, I was living in cramp-land, and by midnight, was throwing up both lungs.  Finally the fenergans kicked in and I was able to sleep.  I woke up this morning, a good 36 hours later, and find myself behind at work and needing to teach until 9pm tonight.  I'm still a little woozy and glassy-eyed, but well enough to work.

Which doesn't mean that I should be working.  Ideally, I'd take it easy today.


Monday, February 2, 2009

High Static

The thing about the sick kids is that I seem to process it as static.  We're going along and doing okay and I even make some strides being more present or gentle with them, and then we have a week like last week, where we had a severe croup and a cold and vomiting and ear infection with draining pus, and it's like there's this buzz in the back of my head.  Before I know it I'm crying and up at all hours worrying that it's some hidden illness we haven't identified yet and that it's all going to end badly, badly, and it will be my fault for not standing up for my children and their health!

Addie's okay.  True, there is a peanut butter-like substance leaking from her left ear, and she can't hear a thing from it.  But the ENT says the infection is not anything to be too worried about, that the tubes are doing their job because at least that crud isn't impacting in there, and use these antibiotic drops and it will clear up in no time.  "You're kidding," I said.  He looks at me like, what?  You were expecting a death sentence?

Well, maybe.  Maybe my sleep-deprived catastrophizing side got the better of me.

As I was falling asleep last night, sniffling and crying, I saw a blurry star dance across the night sky.  A plane, with its light blinking, but soft and twinkly because I'm near detail-blind without my glasses on.  It passed across the horizon and blinked out.  Come back, I thought.  Come back.

Then, today, after dropping the kids off at school and racing home to make the doctor's appointment, I swear a hundred blackbirds dropped from the trees above my car and dashed into the road in front of me, disappearing.  How could I have seen them and yet they weren't there?  But that's what happened, and didn't happen.

Things happening, and not happening.  That's how it works.