pausing in the tender spots

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I am chasing my two-year-old around the park as she tearfully chases another little girl with hair the color of the sun, proclaiming that she needs her stick. Of course I try to show her all of the other desirable and lovely sticks on the ground. But she’s not having it. She is in full on tantrum mode.

The mother of the stick holder looks on, not with a frown per say, but not with a smile either. I look to her for comfort, praying that she will say, “Kooky kids, don’t you hate when they act like little asses?” But she says nothing of the sort and I am left to soothe myself. Let me be honest, I don’t looove playgrounds or the majority of interactions I have on them. So I wrangle my little lovey muffin hellcat into her car seat as she arches her back and I feel mean and like I am at a rodeo wrestling a wild boar. Are there wild boars at rodeos? Clearly, I have never been to one.

I am also working on a website, rewriting an article, watching a video of my sweet brother being traumatized as he is sung to by a drag queen dressed as Bea Arthur on his birthday and dealing with a menacing zit on my chin that looks like a mini boob. So it’s no surprise when my son asked if he could go to floor hockey tonight, that my answer was, “If the angels are conspiring.” I’m in no mood to drive anywhere or think about dinner. Baseball is outside and relatively quiet which my sensitive soul can handle but floor hockey is in a gym with loud buzzers. Not good for a gal like me. And Mercury is in retrograde (I think), and I am menstruating (that is the proper term because I learned this in a 5th grade sex ed video where the young lasses from yesteryear had to use pretty powder blue belts to hold up their feminine napkins).

On Tuesday during yoga (which feels like it was 10 months ago) I smiled deeply when I heard Charlotte tell us to pause in the tender spots. Of course this is easier to do when I am on a floor in a dimly lit room with sweet smells instead of diaper aromas wafting in the air. But I have paused a few times today and let whatever was happening tenderize me. And it helps. Pause. Breathe. Welcoming all. Feeling what is sacred. Breath again.

As for my sanity, I plopped my little noodle on the couch and put the T.V. on so I could write. And it was fine. I give thanks to the powers that be for surviving another day mostly intact and the angels that are conspiring and helping me take my son to hockey.

 

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let’s be real

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A mother at my children’s school sent out a text the other day requesting help. In a moment of vulnerability, she asked the other mothers if they could take her kids for an afternoon during what was to be the busiest work week of her year.

We all responded that we were happy to help.

Then, on a different text, a friend wrote that she too was feeling overwhelmed and had cried to someone she didn’t know very well earlier in the day.

It must have been in the air because I too felt a kind of overwhelmed and had sent out a request. I was feeling a bit lonely, sad, and disconnected. I needed a plan in place to see some friends. I needed to laugh, eat, and relax. To not do anything or accomplish anything other than connection.

It felt freeing to take the initiative. To speak up. To say what I needed and not wait for an invitation. So much can shift when we articulate what we need. It sounds easy but why does it feel so hard?

For me, I fear seeming too needy, too selfish, too sensitive, too not put together. And what if I am all of those things? So what?

Life is overwhelming. And sometimes it’s not. But when it is, we can only focus on doing the next right thing. The thing that feels true.

Glennon Doyle Melton, author of The New York Times bestseller, Love Warrior, talked recently to Oprah about divulging her true feelings when another mother at a play date asked her how she liked being a stay at home mom. Glennon revealed that she felt like a dormant volcano, calm on the outside but boiling on the inside with hot lava that could erupt at anytime and kill everyone in the vicinity.  The other women in the playgroup looked back at her wide eyed and speechless. So she backtracked and told them how grateful and fulfilling it all was.

“Ok so we’re not doing this here”, she thought to herself. We’re not doing real here.

I think we have all been there before, spoken up and then felt completely humiliated. But the thing is, I think we are ready to stop backtracking. It feels to me, whether it is our age or the age we live in, that we are really ready for real.

When I received that first text from the mom at my kid’s school, I was like hell yes I will be there for you. I was also like thank you for being honest and vulnerable and for letting me know when the tides turn and they always do, that I can call you and be real too.

Yesterday, real looked like my baby sitting on the floor putting tampons (straight from the box in case you are totally freaked out) in her mouth. Real looked like an oven mitt set on fire on the stove while I attempted to make dinner. Real looked like me missing my mom and missing my friends who I hadn’t seen in awhile. Real looked like shit all over the floor. Real looked like a disastrous mess.

But we survived and I can kind of smile at it now and feel thankful that my house didn’t burn down and that my baby didn’t swallow a tampon. And that in this instant, my mother-in-law has the baby, the older kids are at school, there is a candle glowing next to me and I can breathe.

Too often we struggle alone. We silence ourselves. We don’t want to talk about what is going on, we don’t want to bring it into the light. Maybe we fear looking bad. Or we don’t want pity. We don’t want to burden anyone. Or we feel guilty complaining because it could be so much worse.

And it could be so much worse! We are so fortunate in so many ways. But it doesn’t mean that our personal struggles and sorrows aren’t real.

I am grateful to the courageous trailblazers out there like Glennon. And my friends. And all of those before us who took risks to be real and speak their truth. Because real is beautiful. We need real. We need real desperately. We need intimacy, tears, connection, courage and kindness too. We need collaboration not competition. We need truth. We need empathy. Not, poor you, but I hear you. Because you matter and how you feel is real. And real is beautiful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

fire it up

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Today my therapist said these words to me, “Fire up your frontal lobe.”

A bell went off.

Why?

Because it helps deal with anxious thinking. And I deal with that from time to time. My hope in sharing this is that it will be of help to you too.

I’ll explain.

But first. Here is what is so wretched and cunning about anxiety, it is fear. It is just fear with a different name. It is fear manifesting itself in the body. In a million different ways. Shaky hands, racing heart, flushing face, irritability, sadness, stuck-ness, tiredness or buzzing can’t catch a breath energy. It is fear.

Fear of the unknown. Fear of death. Fear of illness. Fear of accidents. Fear of losing someone you love.

Anxiety for me is like this. I am perfectly happy. I am driving around town by myself or hanging out with my family on the couch feeling the quiet joy of a mellow evening at home when whoomp there it is. Oh no things are going smoothly, too smoothly, things are about to get real.

It’s not a full blown panic attack. It’s more insidious than that.

This anxiety is in the background. It is noise. It is internal. It is underneath. It is palpable and at the same time elusive.  It digs it’s teeth into negativity, darkness, and uncertainty.

It feels like something bad is going to happen. That’s it. In a nutshell, that for me is how I experience anxiety.

And it’s total and utter bullshit.

Here is the good thing about it. Anxiety is treatable. Here is where the “Fire up your frontal lobe” part comes in.

Anxiety does not like reason or logic. Anxiety resides in a different part of the brain than reasoning does and reasoning makes anxiety small. Logic, like magic, makes it vanish in a big bellowing cloud of smoke. POOF!

The frontal lobe is the part of the brain associated with analytical thinking and reasoning. So when anxiety starts to creep in, it can be helpful to talk to it. Engage this part of the brain because anxious thinking has no base in reality.

Anxious thinking doesn’t make any sense. Although, it feels very real.

Along with therapy, yoga, meditation, and writing helps me deal with anxiety. Avoiding an abundance of sugar, alcohol, and too many carbs helps too. Not watching the news or violent shows helps. Exercise helps. Distraction helps. Nature definitely helps. And medication too can help when needed.

And reasoning helps too. Reason with that shit. Fire up the frontal lobe, the analytical part of the brain that doesn’t bye into all of the fleeting emotional crazy talk . Catch yourself. Hear yourself going down that path. Observe it, become witness to it and then say Sayanora anxiety!

Anxiety, I hear you. But I am not listening. I‘m watching you go. Away in that puff of smoke. Away in a balloon. Thanks but no thanks. 

I’m going back to my breath and enjoying this beautiful sunshiny day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

happy mothering day

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“Mothering Myself” by Nancy McBrine Sheehan

In a society preoccupied with how best to raise a child I’m finding a need to mesh what’s best for my children with what’s necessary for a well balanced mother. I’m recognizing that ceaseless giving translates into giving yourself away. And when you give yourself away, you’re not a healthy mother and you’re not a healthy self.

So, now I’m learning to be a woman and a mother. I’m learning how to just experience my own emotions without robbing my children of their individual dignity by feeling their emotions too. I’m learning that a healthy child will have his own set of emotions and characteristics that are his alone. And, very different from mine. I’m learning the importance of honest exchanges of feelings because pretenses don’t fool children, they know their mother better than she knows herself.

I’m learning that no one overcomes her past unless she confronts it. Otherwise, her children will absorb exactly what she’s trying to overcome. I’m learning that words of wisdom fall on deaf ears if my actions contradict my deeds. Children tend to be better impersonators than listeners.

I’m learning that life is meant to be filled with as much pain as happiness and pleasure. And allowing ourselves to feel everything life has to offer is an indicator of fulfillment. I’m learning that fulfillment can’t be attained through giving myself away-but through giving to myself and sharing with others.

I’m learning that the best way to teach my children to live a fulfilling life is not by sacrificing my life. It’s through living a fulfilling life myself. I’m trying to teach my children that I have a lot to learn because I’m learning that letting go of them is the best way of holding on.

I came across this poem maybe a decade ago when reading  Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom; Creating Physical and Emotional Heath and Healing by Christiane Northrup, M.D. Every cell of my being screamed yes while I soaked up the words like a sponge. It is not selfish or indulgent to take care of ourselves and want to heal our past hurts, hang ups, and old wounds. Maybe it is selfish not to. It seemed like something I wanted to return to as a mother.

And return I do. Often.

This morning my babysitter came to watch the baby so I could exercise and run errands aka spend too much money at various stores. But the minute she walked through my front door, I felt like was about to crumble to the floor into a heap of pure exhaustion. So you know what I did? I said, “F off errands, I’ll get to you another day.”  I took off my sneakers and my confining exercise top with the built in bra situation, strolled into my bedroom, shut the blinds, turned on the white noise machine, and climbed back into bed. It felt rebellious and glorious and so good. And my two hour nap was complete with a dream featuring a magical baby miniature horse and crunchy carrots. An added bonus!

Taking care of ourselves may mean saying yes to sleep and no to errands. It may mean a trip to the therapist or the spa.Whatever it means to you, do it without guilt and enjoy yourself!

Because you are worth it and you deserve it!

Happy Mother’s Day and Happy Mothering Day!

 

 

 

 

 

a way to be here

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“It’s clear to me that a crisis like this requires us not even to think of G-d. Like the writer says, to go beyond thinking. Into a place of forgetting, even. Maybe even beyond creating, receiving, aligning. Maybe this sort of crisis requires the individual to unlayer down to our most true naked nature. Where there is just the beating of the heart. And the breath. Held by love.” – Laura Munson from This is not the Story You Think it is.

Yoga.

What I like most about yoga is this: My teacher’s soft voice like a lullaby.

And the sound of her feet sticking to the floor as she moves generously from student to student dropping lavender oil on our palms. I can’t help but hope she comes over and presses those healing hands onto my shoulders in savasana, melting the stress away with her alchemy and warmth.

In those moments, I am reminded of what it feels like to be a little girl, safe and secure as the adults work magic around you. Drifting off to sleep, you can hear them talk in hushed voices in the room down the hall. My dad is there too; big, soft palms gently caressing my face, putting me to sleep.

It works every time.

I like feeling stretched out like a lazy cat laying in the sun. Like there is more space between my shoulder blades and rib cage. I like feeling like there is room to breathe.Like I just grew three inches in length.

I like that my neck no longer feels stiff and my hamstrings no longer tight.

I like that when I am drowsily rolling up my yoga mat, the one that has a big bite mark on the side from when my rambunctious puppy ate it 3 years ago, that I feel like I have visited my therapist as well as the spa.

I like that yoga is a reset button so even if I had Heathbar Crunch yogurt yesterday and afterwards, I may just have a piece of pumpkin bread, I am still detoxifying and exercising now.

I like it best when my teacher says, “Find a way to be here.” Because sometimes here really hurts. Especially when attempting a split. But there is always a way to be here.

Find a way to be here. I repeat this to myself today in class as I smell the gardenia, and the lemongrass and ginger. Find a way to be here, I think, when here feels like my heart is breaking. Find a way to be here, I think, even when here is tight and chaotic. Find a way to be here, I think, choosing to pick a new narrator of my story because anxiety is no longer welcome.

But the soft ocean waves of others breathing as it rolls in and out around me, inviting in light, softness, authenticity, and grace certainly is.

This is the way to be here, through breath, through our beautiful breath that whispers to us, also in a hushed voice, that we are whole, and never truly broken.

Exploring Happiness, Sensitivity, and Medication

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“You seem to look upon your depression as the hand of an enemy trying to crush you,” he said. “Do you think you could see it instead as the hand of a friend, pressing you down to ground on which it is safe to stand?” – Parker Palmer’s therapist’s words from the book, Let Your Life Speak.

Studies indicate that while happiness is certainly in part due to our genetic makeup, it is also a choice. Our outlook on life is more linked to our happiness than our circumstances are.

Personally I identify myself as having a sunny disposition…most of the time, and I feel more joyful than not.

However, I am also very sensitive. And recently I have come to identify myself as a “Highly Sensitive Person” while reading a life-saving book with the same title written by Elaine Aron, Ph.D.

I’m not much for labels, but this one has helped me to understand and accept aspects of myself such as my tendency to get over stimulated easily, a trait very common in highly sensitive people.

I was a sensitive child too. Take for instance when I was little and my brother told me “Cone Heads” like the ones from Saturday Night Live were real. I had been making fun of a few kids who dressed up like them in his high school yearbook. I felt so terrible when he told me that these classmates of his had a condition that made them look that way. I could not believe I had made fun of anyone who had the terrible misfortune of having a head shaped like a cone! So I went into my room, bawled, and wrote in my journal about how badly I felt.

There have been many times both as a child and as an adult where my determined tears, my uncanny ability to blush at the worst timing possible, and my empathetic reaction to others’ pain has been so uncomfortable, I have wanted to jump out of my body.

And there have been times when no matter how hard I have worked at happiness, I still feel glum. There are days when I am plagued by worry and stubborn sadness that make normal daily activities feel like steep challenges.

I hoped these intense feelings would get better as I got older, but they haven’t. However, I have learned what I need in order to feel safe, healthy and whole, and that it probably looks different than the needs of my friends and family members. I now can identify these intense emotions knowing they are just like passing weather. What I once saw as a flaw doesn’t feel like one anymore.

As a highly sensitive person, I have had moments when I walked around in a state of constant hyper-arousal, feeling jumpy, jittery, and waiting for something terrible and unexpected to happen.

After reading the Highly Sensitive Person I understood what happens to our bodies when we reside in this kind of survival mode all of the time. This physiological reaction, also known as the “fight or flight” response, can have sobering effects. While this response serves an important function, not being able to bounce back to our center point of homeostasis, is a problem.

The cumulative impact of operating from this stressed out place can cause more stress hormones to surface and further deplete happy neurotransmitters resulting in insomnia, anxiety, and depression.

I have experienced how hugely beneficial deep breathing, seated and mindful meditation, yoga, nature, walking, and psychotherapy can be. A change in diet or adding supplements such as Vitamin B can also help enormously as can acupuncture and bio-feedback. I have tried many natural solutions because I believe very much in holistic medicine.

But I also believe in western medicine and sometimes natural options are just not enough. And trust me, as a yoga teacher I have judged myself harshly thinking silently, “If I can’t take care of myself with holistic measures, then I must really have a problem, and who am I to be giving advice to others about their emotional health when I may need the assistance of pharmaceuticals to keep me going?”

But a couple of years ago, after having a panic attack, and with the help of a doctor, I decided to try an anti-depressant. It was not the first time I tried them, but it had been a long time.

The results were positive and helped immensely. This decision came at a time when medication felt like the kindest and most humane way to help myself.

I tell this story not because I am a drug pusher; in fact, I believe it should be the last resort. There are side effects and risks with any drugs, and natural remedies are always my first choice.

But I want to share this truth because I don’t think any of us should suffer unnecessarily, and I also don’t want to feel shame for how I was made. There are way too many stigmas associated with mental health in our society, and there is nothing wrong with needing medication whether it is for our physical or mental well being.

And we have too much to risk as a society if we continue to ignore, be embarrassed, and fall silent about our mental, emotional and spiritual health.

A friend and therapist explained to me (in a way that made a great deal of sense) that anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication is not something we need forever, but can serve as a way to rewire our brain by restoring balance to our nervous system.  If the time comes to go off of medication, and with the guidance of a professional, we can actually begin to remember how we reacted to similar situations and triggers when we were on medication.

I have realized our unique challenges as human beings, whatever they may be, also present opportunities to learn more about how we are wired, what makes us tick, when we need to rest, and how we can best serve others. Experts across the field of psychology agree that altruism is one of the surest ways to increase our happiness.

Maybe our struggles remind us, too, that we are all dealing with different issues, and more times than not, we are in fact doing the best we can.

And last but not least, perhaps our unique challenges such as living life sensitively may indeed be one of our greatest gifts. Parker Palmer writes that the  great wisdom traditions teach us, “When we receive a gift, we keep it alive not by clinging to it but by passing it along.”

If you would like more information on sensitivity, check out the aforementioned book, The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You by Elaine N. Aron, Ph.D. And I highly recommend anything written by Parker Palmer!